More helpful articles 2

Kids and Mathematics

A Foundation for maths is laid in the early years and building a positive attitude to all mathematics things then, will help throughout kidís lives. Research shows that neurones are imprinted by all kinds of sensations and activities, so early maths games and opportunities, will help develop thinking processes that will be important for solving problems later.

Playing with lego, which most children enjoy, can be helpful in developing a mathematical mind. Lego can help children learn the concepts of scale, size, length and position. I recently watched a father playing Lego with his young son. This was a time both of them thoroughly enjoyed. They moved figures around, inside and outside the lego house, they talked about lifting things up to the rooftop. They were constantly solving problems together using trial and error.

Many other toys we buy for kids can be used in a mathematical way. Joining in games and asking kids questions that encourage problem solving using their toys, will help them come up with creative ideas. Listen to what kids say when solving problems and encourage them to trial different ways to solve problems.

Using history to show kids how people solved problems in the past and comparing that to the way problems are solved now will interest many kids. Linking maths to our lives now  can keep older kids motivated. Sporting activities can be used to calculate all kinds of information about weight, speed, time, travel, communication, crowd control etc.  


After-school-hours care

Recently a report was issued about the use of after-school-hours care. It revealed that 30% of school aged children use some kind of after-school-care. There are many single parent families, as well as families with both parents working, so child care is necessary after school. However, only 10% of the children needing care, attend formal child care.  Other children are minded by grandparents or relatives, friends, or neighbours. Some children go home to empty houses to wait. 

Cost of care is a major consideration for parents of children in the 5 to 12 age group. Parents in lower income groups find out-of-school hours care expensive even with government subsidies. Children from this income group are often the most needy. Good quality programs offering sports and lifestyle activities are important to keep children occupied and safe, so an even greater effort should be made to lower costs. Older children from 12 to 14 also need organized activities after school if both parents are working as this group is the most likely to take risks. They need challenging, varied and well supervised activities.



The new state government:  What does it mean for Early Childhood?

First action has been to move Childrensí Services to the Department of Education and community which is under Adrian Piccoli. This shows that early childhood work is now correctly considered as education.

Early childhood is a very important area of education as the basis for learning and relationships are formed in the early years. A sense of belonging in the community can begin at a long day child care centre or a pre-school. Belonging to a group and feeling included there, helps children to

  • maintain good mental health

  • avoid or minimize stress

  • learn the skills needed for becoming part of the wider community.

Our Early Childhood teachers aim to make all parents and families welcome by inclusion policies so that differences and diversity become strengths instead of problems. In an inclusive environment,

  • children feel safe and happy

  • they can make friends

  • parents will feel welcome to visit

  • kids feel cared for

  • the staff show will show interest in what the children do and say

  • problems are discussed instead of ignored or denied.

Policies are one thing and implementing them is another. It is up to everyone, staff, parents, children and government to make our early childhood places the best they can possibly be.

As a grandparent, I remember how different school used to be. Right from the beginning I felt different at school. I cringed and withdrew when children made fun of the way I spoke. I lacked confidence. I feared failure. I feared teachers. Yet I did make friends and I did succeed. How much happier Iíd have been in a school today. 

Teacher training is much improved these days. In 2014 new regulations come into effect that require many child care workers to upgrade their qualifications. 30,000 of these workers across Australia will have to upgrade. Some highly efficient workers will lose their jobs, and numerous centres may be closed if staff members donít have the right qualifications. If you are a former child care worker hoping to re-join the workforce by 2014, now is the time to undertake that extra study. Places may be available at a TAFE near you, or at a university that offers distance study.


Music helps parenting

A special music program for young parents with their children at the Childrenís and Families research centre at Macquarie university has had positive effects on parenting. The program was started for disadvantaged parents who were isolated in the community without a network of friends or support people.

At first the music was intended for the children with the parents present, but it soon became obvious that the parents wanted to be actively involved. Once they began to sing the songs and move to the music, the relationships between parents and children changed. These parents were not accustomed to doing things WITH their children. They did things TO their children. There was a definite barrier between kidsíplay and adultsíactivities. Once shown how to hold their child or how to interact with the child during a music activity, parents became more confident and more observant. They reported to the research team what they had done during the time away from the centre, and what their childís reaction had been. This also

  • strengthened social relationships between parents

  • encouraged conversations and built self esteem as staff reinforced the behaviours that were emerging.

The result was not only enjoyment of music by families, but better parenting skills. 


Building language skills in pre-school

Have you noticed how children come out with new words, sometimes in the wrong context? Helping kids to use new words and phrases in the pre-school years helps them in their reading skills once they begin school. Richness in spoken language also carries over into the following years at school. When you read to children, notice new words in the text. Talk about the meaning of the word and use it regularly so it becomes familiar to the children. Use rich or sophisticated language when talking to children rather than always using simple words.


 Positive and Negative talking

Have you heard a child say he/ she hates something or someone? This is an example of negative talking. The child is frustrated, probably angry about something Do you find yourself telling children Ďdonít touch, stop that, leave that alone, youíre not old enough to do that, you are hopeless, careless, clumsy, stupidí? These are all negative ways of talking and while it is necessary to talk this way sometimes, positive talking is a better option.

If you learn to positive talk about yourself, you will be able to teach your child to do it too. For example,

  • Iím sure I can do this if I slow down and take the time.
  • I need to take a deep breath.
  • Iíll come back to try this later.
  • Iíll ask for more help to do this
  • Iím frustrated because Iím too tired.
  • I canít concentrate because of the noise.

To help the child who is frustrated, help him to acknowledge the feeling and deal with it. For example

  • I think you are feeling angry right now. Letís decide what to do next.
  • You can do it. You just need more practice.
  • Youíll do better next time.
  • You made a mistake but you can try again.
  • You have made a good effort. Watch again and Iíll show you how to do it.


Art in hospitals

I noted a TV news story about an art initiative at the Childrenís Hospital at Randwick in NSW. The corridors are hung with a variety of art works of different styles. In fact emerging artists can approach the hospital to have their works hung there. The works are changed often. I understand that the artists are responsible for hanging so that there is no extra work involved for hospital staff. The item showed a child who has spent many months on frequent visits to the hospital for treatment, looking at the pictures and talking about them. Seeing the new pictures hanging is something that child looks forward to in what is often a day of uncomfortable procedures. It is a great idea that could be taken up in towns everywhere that would benefit patients and artists alike.


Working Women and Family Life

The norm for most young women these days is to work full time and have a family too. They are well aware that the clock is ticking as far as having children is concerned, so after maternity leave, they return to their jobs in 6 months or at the latest, in a year. More leave than that and theyíve most likely had it as regards professional advancement. Women are encouraged to work, and most want to work away from home because they enjoy it and need that kind of stimulating life as well as a mothering role. However, in many jobs, it isnít possible for women to Ďhave it allí. Lately there have been articles and talks about having both a high powered job and a satisfactory family life. The same goes for men. Men who devote their whole energies to work, miss out on a fulfilling parenting role. The following quote from an American newspaper article applies to women everywhere.

ĎMillions of other working women face much more difficult life circumstances. Some are single mothers; many struggle to find any job; others support husbands who cannot find jobs. Many cope with a work life in which good day care is either unavailable or very expensive; school schedules do not match work schedules; and schools themselves are failing to educate their children.í

 To read the interesting article here is the link:

How can both parents be at home for their families as well as fulfilling their potentials at paid work? Compromises may have to be made.

What kind of compromises must be made?

  • One important one is to work at something you enjoy. Money isnít the only thing. If youíre unhappy at work, this will affect your relationships with partners and children.
    • A woman isnít the only person who can make compromises. I know couples where both partners work part time to really share the parenting.
    • Work for someone who recognises your worth.
    • Donít be afraid to have ambition and to make demands for a reasonable schedule at work so that your family doesnít suffer.
    • If youíve stopped enjoying your work or are feeling stressed all the time it is best to demand re-organization or to look for another job.
    • Realise that the job you have may not suit you for ever. Lifestyles change and priorities change. Fit your job to the current you.
    • As children grow older they may still need you to be available often. Take this into consideration when looking at the demands of a particular job.
    • Look at where you live. Perhaps changing the location or the size of your house will reduce the stress.

    The world is still mainly geared to men as full time workers, and women as part time workers or stay-at-home mothers. Only 13% of all the parliamentarians in the world are women. Only 16% of all people at the top of corporations in the world are women. Australian women and girls are the best educated in the world. These are significant statistics and show us that a new direction is needed so that women donít just disappear once they are educated.


Isolated families

Good health includes the opportunity to meet people and do activities with others. Lonely people develop health problems. Are you aware of isolated families in your community?

There are many isolated families in our communities. They may be isolated because they live where there is no public transport, or because they speak little English, or because of culture differences they might be unable to go out alone into the community. Often mothers  canít drive or have no access to a car and are home alone all day with small children and this is isolating. Even adults who do get out to the supermarket can be isolated as they donít have friends and only speak to the checkout people in the shops. Their only conversations are with their kids. Isolation is bad for adults as well as children as we all need socialising opportunities frequently.

Iíve just learnt about an organization that helps families especially in the year before a child goes to school. This organization is called HIPPY which stands for Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters. Trained people will visit homes to help parents with reading skills and play ideas for their children. Children whose parents have been involved in the organization have found it much easier when it is time for kids tostart and settle at school. Parents too get a better understanding of school education and how to become involved in it. After all, parents are the earliest teachers children have, and it is good to maintain an interest after our kids go to school. If you know someone who could benefit from this organization  go to for more information.

If you know of a family who is isolated for some reason, see what you can do to offer friendship.


Electronic games

We re all aware of how important electronic devices are in the education of our kids, but how do you decide if your child is playing too many electronic games? Of course the games industry gives positive information, but research shows both positive and negative impacts. There are many violent games available and these do impact on kidsí behaviour, increasing their use of violence to solve conflicts. However, using games helps kids to develop the skills in information technology, fine motor skills, reasoning, and in social interactions with their peers. Games may also get the kids interested in history, sport, leadership and hobbies that they would otherwise have no access to.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Rent or watch  games with your child before  buying.
  • Regularly spend time playing the games with your child.
  • Choose ones that include positive learning skills such as solving problems and making decisions without violence (punching, hurting, eliminating).
  • Make rules about the amount of time and when the games can be played.
  • Listen to what your child is saying about the games.
  • Always have the games played where you can monitor what is happening.
  • Balance time spent on electronic games with outdoor activities, family based activities, discussions, and in encouraging creativity.



Is there a playgroup near you? If not and you know several families whose kids would benefit from one, you could begin one yourself. Having a playgroup at your home isnít really satisfactory. It may work a few times but then youíll begin to wilt just at the thought of the playgroup day coming around, so you will need another venue. Here are a few of the reasons why playgroups are important:

        They enable mothers, fathers or carers to socialize with others who are also caring for babies and young children

        They help break down isolation that can lead to depression

        They take carers away from home to interact with their children in a different setting

        They allow carers to socialize with people who will empathize with them

        a baby is never too young for playgroup

        the whole family can attend playgroup

        families who lack resources such as books and educational toys, will have access to these resources at playgroup

        kids whoíve attended playgroup tend to improve in vocabulary, social and emotional skills, and school readiness skills

        playgroups help people who come from different cultures to interact and share skills and experiences.

Playgroups are often held in Community centres and can be held anywhere that it is safe for children. They need toilet facilities, safe play spaces both indoors and outside, and somewhere to store the gear the kids will use. Here is a link to a manual all about getting started with a playgroup.


Manus Island

Early Childhood Australiaís WebWatch always has interesting news, but in mid March webwatch had videos of drawings done by children in detention on Manus Island as well as an interview done by phone with one of the refugees. These are forgotten children. Forgotten by most Australians because there is a ban on media visits so no news is getting out. The drawings the children have done are overwhelmingly of sad people behind big bars. Some have drawn their idea of life in Australia where kids play and go to school and people smile, but at Manus Island they are locked up with nothing to do and no place to walk or swim although they can see the ocean not far away.  Often there is not any electricity or water. No water for toilets for 7 days. Imagine if it was your family in that depressing situation for month after month and no idea of when theyíd be released. What would you do? Is this fair? Is this humane? The Salvation Armyís Major Paul Moulds has worked on Manus Island and is appealing for a more humane policy. For more information about what we can do see


 The dangers of lithium batteries

Did you know that every week in Australia, a child is rushed to hospital for swallowing a tiny, lithium battery? In July a four year old Queensland girl died as a result of swallowing one of these. The tiny, shiny batteries are found in many products such as remote controls, car keys, watches, hearing aids, bathroom scales, calculators, some torches, toys, singing cards, and many more common products.

Many people donít know about the dangers of these batteries. They are only dangerous if swallowed or if poked into an ear or nose where moisture could also activate the battery. If they become stuck, saliva or sweat in the body quickly activates the battery and it burns through organs. This can cause death within an hour.


Coughing, vomiting, chest and stomach pain, fever, diarrhoea

Emergency measures

  • Ring the hospital emergency number
  • Take your child immediately to hospital for an e-ray that will show where the battery is. If it is stuck it must be removed at once. If it has gone into the stomach it will probably pass through.
  • Donít allow your child to eat or drink if you suspect a battery has been swallowed
  • donít inducer vomiting.

Safety measures

  • Store spare batteries in secure places as you do poisons and medicines.
  • Toys that have these batteries are screwed down securely so make sure that children are not put at risk when you change toy batteries
  • Dispose of batteries safely and immediately.

Authorities are looking into ways to make products that use these batteries safer. Warning labels on products would be a start.


Fatherís Day

The first Sunday in September is celebrated as Fatherís Day in Australia. Fathers are certainly important in my family. All the fathers I have known personally have been hard working, loving men who were devoted to their families. My own father was away at war from the time I was two years old, so I knew him mainly through the stories of others. He has lived in my memory as a wonderful Dad. His son and grandsons have been real family men too. I have written about my Dad and my brother in Reluctant Heroes. You can find out more about them from my websites and

My husband and his father too were ideal fathers, closely involved with their children. This year Iím lucky to see my eldest son parenting his young daughter. He is patient, kind, inspiring and a wonderful role model for her. No request for him to ĎCome and look Dad,í is ever ignored and both their faces light up as he comes in the door each evening.

On September 1st Iíll be celebrating all those generation of men in my family, who kept and are keeping wives, partners and children in safe, loving homes.

This year Western Australian Cpl Ben Robert-Smith has been chosen as Australian Father of the Year. He was awarded the VC for courageous actions in Afghanistan. He is a father of three year old twin girls. The Father of the Year is chosen by the Shepherd Centre which helps children who are deaf or hearing impaired. The award began in 1957 and is usually made to a high profile man often a judge, a politician, or a sportsman. The public takes an interest in the man chosen each year, but it is the fathers in our own families who will have our special thoughts on Sunday.


An e-online service to help new mums

This service has started in South Australia and was developed by the University of Adelaide and the Child and Family Health Service. It is a trial with 800 mothers taking part in it. All of those mothers will get routine care to evaluate their confidence, how well they are managing and attaching to their baby,  as well as the overall development of the baby and the motherís  stress level. 400 of the mothers will have access to 24 hours service seven days a week through the e-Mums part and nurses are able to give one on one advice.  Mothers can contact other mothers in the program. So far mothers are finding this is excellent support.


Tragic death

In Western Australia an 11month old boy died when his father forgot he was in the car and went to work. He didnít realise his mistake  until he called at the day care centre for his son many hours later and then found him still in his car. It was too late for the baby to be resuscitated. Imagine the heart ache of that family. Heartache that will never end.

You may think that this could never happen to you, but it does happen in countries throughout the world. Dozens of children die through being shut in cars each year. It is not bad parents that forget their kids but bad memories. A change in routine or a change in the cues you have to remember things makes us all vulnerable. People tend to drive on auto pilot with their minds on other things. It is common to drive past your destination, take the wrong road, forget to buy some essential thing and only discover when you get home. Children who are older sometimes alert their parents to the fact that they havenít been dropped at school. Some parents find the worst time of day is after work and discover theyíve forgotten to collect their child from school or day care. We all forget things. Thankfully not many people make a fatal mistake of this kind, but it is easy to forget to turn off a heater, to forget what is cooking until it is ruined, leave the iron or the hose turned on. Some of these mistakes can also have drastic consequences.  

In a follow up news story an American mother was interviewed about a similar tragedy. She spoke about the long term affect this has on a family and the importance of the parents and extended family supporting rather than blaming each other. She also made suggestions about what people should do to prevent similar tragedies.

Here are suggestions

  • Always ring the child care centre if your child is not attending
  • Have an agreement with the child care centre that if your child doesnít arrive by a certain time, they will ring you
  • If someone else is dropping your child off at day care, ring the centre to check the child has arrived.
  • Have an alarm installed in the car so that it alerts you to the baby or child being there
  • Have a system in place so that you never leave your car without checking the back seat. You could always put your wallet, handbag or phone on the back seat.
  • Donít let your child play in the car or in any closed spaces
  • Never leave the keys in the ignition as a child may get locked in
  • Talk aloud to yourself as you drive about what you have to do first.

    Remember that it is NEVER safe to leave a child in a car night or day even if the window is down. You donít know how you may be delayed and there is no guarantee that you mind wonít forget. In a closed car, the temperature can rise very high within a few minutes even in winter time. In 30 minutes your childís body organs can be destroyed. Remember too that pets should never be left in cars as they too will die very quickly.

    If you see a child left in a closed car, immediately ring emergency which in Australia is 000


Good teachers

Can you remember the name of the best teacher you had as a child? A good teacher can bring out hidden potential in children and help them to look forward to school and to learning. Dani Rocca, the music teacher at Tate Street Primary School in East Geelong in Victoria, Australia is such a teacher. Children at this school were disadvantaged and their academic rating was in the bottom 20% of the state. Then Dani arrived and began a music program that involved the children in moving to music, seeing the musical patterns, making and playing marimba. They not only made their instruments but now compose pieces, sing and attend music festivals. Their academic performance has risen to the top 20% of the state in only three years. The School Principal says it is all down to Daniís excellent teaching.

Every school needs some inspirational teachers and I hope your children are lucky enough to have not only one but several throughout their schooling. The teacher of the recognized academic subjects may not be the one your child relates to most, but every subject is important and can be the way to take your child forward in reading and maths or in life skills.

Remember that teachers are often stressed by the amount of work they have to do and they appreciate some positive feedback. Make parent teacher meetings an opportunity to do that as it makes teaching all worth while.


Domestic Violence

The murder of a child affects people deeply and recently there have been some very distressing cases in which fathers murdered their children. The mother of one child has spoken out, saying that she knows that her former husband planned this terrible deed so that she would witness her sonís death. This was her punishment for ending the relationship. She doesnít want her sonís death to be in vain, so she is warning others and helping to spread the word that domestic violence is at present accepted in society and it must never be excused. People who research domestic violence or work with the victims say that when a woman leaves a violent relationship she is at most risk of harm and her children too are at risk.

Unfortunately domestic violence crimes are increasing. In Australia these crimes have reached a 15 year peak with an increase of 2.9%. In NSW alone there are 94 cases of domestic violence reported each day and many acts go unreported. In rural areas such as Bourke and Moree there is from 4 to 11 times more domestic violence than in the city.  Help is very limited as there are few womenís shelters and these are for short term stays. Safe affordable housing where victims can move to live, is very scarce.

How can domestic violence be stopped? The most effective ways are by

  • proving secure shelters
  • building safe housing for victims to move to
  • giving more support for women who want to leave their homes
  • including more education for women about domestic violence before they become victims
  • training more police to deal with the issues
  • including education in schools that teaches that sexist behaviour is never alright
  • encouraging men to educate men.
  • teaching men how to remain in control of their actions.

All too often men say they are sorry, that it wonít happen again and women accept that assurance, return to the relationship only to be abused again. Menís mates who could have a big influence on each other excuse violent behaviour. There is a loud call now for both men and women to show zero tolerance to anyone who is violent. Sporting groups can have an important role here. Children, especially boys, must be taught from the beginning that violence is not acceptable.

Domestic violence doesnít only apply to acts of physical violence, but it can take the form of emotional violence and threats of harm that leave women isolated from friends and family, or deprived of money or fearful of speaking out because of the threatened consequences, and believing that it is all their own fault. Here are some links that will help you to recognize symptoms of domestic violence and how to help victims and the perpetrators: , ,


Bring your own device

The government in Australia last year abandoned a project which had every student in secondary school provided with a laptop computer for school use. This means that many schools which had turned their computer rooms into other necessary accommodation, no longer have computers available for class use. Students must bring their own laptops to use in classes. There is one very big disadvantage to this in that there are many homes where there are no laptops for students to take to school. Teachers also must take their own laptops from home to use in the classroom. They have to plan both for the students with laptops and for those without. There is no way that this puts all kids on an equal level of advantage.

Now a new policy has been suggested in which students will bring in whatever electronic device they wish. Inequality will be even greater and teaching will be much harder. The educationalist from Melbourne university whom I heard talking about the future direction, said that kids learn best from the mobile devices they are most used to and for some that will be mobile phones, for others iPads etc. He said that ďkids have control over their own devices everywhere except in the classroom.Ē And ďSchools have to trust the studentsí choice of technology.Ē He complained that teachers lack the skills to use digital technology now available, but had no suggestions for how they would cope with half a dozen different types in each class. He also had no answer to how teachers will cope with internet security.

Australian school Principals are already under enormous stress trying to balance their school budgets. Teachers are stressed with more and more administrative tasks as well as teaching their students. Students are under stress too. For those from disadvantaged families and especially those attending disadvantaged schools, the future for their education looks bleak if this system is introduced.


Children, death and conflict

People around the world have been shocked and saddened by the death of 298 people on the Malaysian MH17 airlcraft disaster in the Ukraine on July 18th. Particularly sad is the fact that there were numbers of young children lost. A great number of families are affected by the deaths of parents or children or siblings or grandparents or friends.

This disaster has come at a time when world news was focused on war zones in Syria, Israel, the occupied Gaza strip. as well as the Ukraine. The nightly news bulletin seems to be nothing but death, injuries, weeping families and ruined homes. What is the best course of action regarding our own small children? My personal opinion is that they should be protected from these images by turning off the TV. Adults can keep up to date by reading newspapers or watching news when the children are elsewhere. There should be discussion with school aged children about war, its dangers and the sadness it brings. Talk about ways in which the United Nations and humanitarian and charity groups such as Save the Children, help children/families who live in conflict and war zones. Talk about what your own local charity groups are doing to help refugees and families who have lost loved ones. Children learn compassion by example. Turning off the graphic pictures doesnít mean we should turn away from what is happening in the world.



Copyright 2012

Music helps parenting
Building language skills
Positive and negative talking
Art in hospitals
Working women and family life
Isolated families
Electronic games

 Articles and news 1

ARTICLES and News3
Manus Island
The dangers of lithium batteries
Father's Day

An e-online service to help new mums

Tragic death
Good teachers
Domestic violence
Bring your own device
Children, death and conflict
© Copyright HELENEVANS 2006