April Issue 2014

Welcome to this issue of my free parenting E-zine in which I bring you small snapshots of the joys and problems of raising children.



SPECIALS  - Single parents

All parents have challenges and become stressed from time to time, but single parents, particularly single mothers, have big challenges to meet. The most worrying of these is the financial challenge. In Australia the laws recently changed so that a single parent whose youngest child turns 8 can no longer get the parenting allowance which is like a pension, but must change to the Newstart allowance which is about $160 less per fortnight than the allowance they’ve been managing on. The Newstart allowance is meant to encourage more people to begin working. The law doesn’t take into account that 3 out of every 5 single mothers were already in paid part time work. They are even worse off now as the amount of money they are allowed to earn before the allowance is cut, has dropped from $176 to $62. The number of hours they have to work in order to make up the differences has risen from 15 hours per week to 28 hours. Managing with one child let alone two or three children on $ 270 per week is almost impossible. It is sending more children into poverty with little chance of improvement in their lives.

The main difficulties are it is

  1. difficult to find work
  2. hard to find work that fits in with school hours
  3. expensive to pay for after school hours care
  4. hard to pay fees required to study to improve qualifications
  5. stressful coping with paying rent and bills such as electricity
  6.  impossible to pay for extras like glasses or dental care
  7. hard to juggle appointments, study, time off to see schools about children’s progress etc

About 63,000 parents have been adversely affected by the new laws. Not only that, but single parents have no respite in their lives. Two parent families share lots of responsibilities. A single parent comes home after work to do the household chores, listen to the children, help with homework, settle disputes, pay the bills, cook, deal with sickness etc. and is often chronically tired. Children in these families miss out on many things that other children take for granted e.g. out of school sport, learning a musical instrument or gymnastics or dancing, school excursions, new clothes, special treats, school camps, computers.  Those who benefited from the government grant for laptops for all kids in High school are now again disadvantaged as the new government withdrew that grant. Now kids must take their own laptops to school and those whose parents can’t afford them are left without. This makes the teachers’ job much harder as computer rooms usually no longer exist. They were allocated for other purposes when laptops were supplied. There is no easy solution to most of these problems. Do you know a single mother with children? Don’t judge her. She is no doubt doing a brilliant job, but will do even better if you can offer some time so she can have a short time to herself to relax or to study.


Ages and Stages - Early maths

The foundations for early maths go side by side with early literacy through parents talking, using vocabulary, telling stories, reading, playing games and doing routine activities.  The lives of babies and toddlers are full of opportunities for experiencing mathematical concepts such as counting, reciting of rhymes e.g.Ten little fingers… Five little rabbits. Help you toddler to look for

  • big and small things

  • halves and quarters

  • patterns of two colours

  • pairs of socks or shoes

  • positions such as on, under, beside, right, left, above and below.

In their picture books point out colours that match and count animals, fruit and a big variety of food that can be counted or shared.

For preschoolers there are the numbers themselves too that they can learn to recognize from many places each day e.g. from the letterbox and the car number plate, to the remote control for the TV. On TV a program called The Number Jacks engages children in numbers through using humorous mistakes that must be resolved by the Number Jacks. If you don'ty know it, look for this program.


Kids in the news 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 Dani’s 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.


Kids 'n Gardening Bulb time again

It is autumn in the southern hemisphere and an ideal time to plant some bulbs. While tulips and daffodils give spectacular displays they need more preparation than charming little grape hyacinths. Another bonus of grape hyacinths is that they multiply quickly and once planted don’t have to be lifted like tulips. They will continue blooming year after year. They don’t like real extremes of wetness or dryness, but they don’t mind shade and will come up in the lawn if you plant them there. When summer comes you can mow them off and they’ll appear again in autumn. Children love their bright blue colour and the tiny flowers that cluster on each stem. They will make a wonderful addition to a fairy garden. Buy a handful and help your child to plant them close together or plant in a pot. The leaves will appear very quickly, but the flowers won’t come till mid spring.


Healthy Living  Food glorious food

The attitude to food has changed a lot during my lifetime. My mother did very well to put three veggies and meat on our plates each day. Special meals were only necessary at Christmas and perhaps birthdays. Everyone seemed to have a vegetable garden and shared the produce when possible. As few people even had fridges only enough was cooked for each meal, but there was never any waste. Meals these days are much larger, especially at restaurants. The cook in the family is often expected to prepare gourmet meals every night. When families expect a different menu each night, leftovers often stay in the fridge forgotten and end up in the garbage bin. There is a real danger  that food will be reheated more times than it should and in this way food poisoning can occur.

Takeaway food is also something new to the generations in the last three decades. Many children expect takeaway food or to eat out at a fast food place at least once a week. Fatty, rich and sweet foods that were once a rare treat have become regular food fare and wholesome meals are not seen as important in many families hence the obese generation.

School canteens have certainly improved their role by banning lollies and soft drinks, but good, nutritious food messages are only just beginning as part of school education. Some schools have garden projects and regularly have cooking sessions using the produce grown. However, in many preschools and in cook books for kids most of the recipes are sweets, biscuits and cakes. More education about nutrition and healthy food choices is necessary.


Indigenous news - Curriculum review

The Federal Minister for education, Christopher Pine, has appointed people to oversee a review of the national education curriculum, stating that he wants more emphasis on Western civilization. He thinks there is too much focus on Aboriginal culture and history. The NSW Education Department says that Aboriginal history and culture are essentials in any national curriculum. The Department of Education, the Association of Independent Schools and the Catholic Education Commission have written highly critical submissions to the review board. It took many years to get Aboriginal content into the curriculum and cutting it will not only be a blow to Aboriginal people, but make the education of all Australians poorer .


Book Review: Mrs Pepperpot and the Treasure

By Alf Proysen, illustrated by Hilda Offen

Published by Red Fox 2013

ISBN 978-1-849-41866-9

This delightful story was first published in 1960. Alf Proysen was a Norwegian author, and musician who died in 1970 and his Mrs Pepperpot stories have become classics. I was looking for chapter books for young children and came across a series of Pepperpot stories that I remembered had been favourites of my daughter years ago. Not only are they available in their original form with black and white illustrations but now also as lovely picture books with illustrations to delight children on every page.

Mrs Pepperpot shrinks to the size of a pepperpot at unexpected moments. While shrunk she can talk to and understand animals and is often taken on adventures by her cat. There are many dangers and challenges that such a tiny person has to face, but she manages to overcome them and to arrive back home before her absence is discovered. Children of four are usually ready for longer stories as their concentration is good and stories like this picture book are an ideal way to introduce storybooks. You can follow up by finding other Pepperpot storybooks such as Mrs Pepperpot’s Year in which there are 12 stories.


Play ideas Easter painting ideas

I have seen some easy painting ideas recently. These are ideal to use for decorating wrapping paper or painting the background of cards.

  1. mix green paint and let your child make hand prints all over the paper
  2. mix yellow paint and let your child make handprints all over the same paper. The result will be like a green and yellow field. Let the paper dry.
  3. On the dry paper, show your child how to make rabbits in brown paint or chickens in yellow by using just a finger dipped in paint,. You can both make these all over the paper by making first a thumb print for the body and a dab of paint for the head. Carefully draw ears and legs on your rabbits or beaks on the chickens either in paint or with texta colours.
  4. Alternatively make the rabbits or chickens on a separate piece of paper and when dry, cut them out and past onto the hand printed paper or cards.
  5. Use the paper or the cards to wish family and friends a happy Easter.


Between three to five years of age children are very busy little people. Their questions, energy and enthusiasm are amazing.

This book will help parents, carers and educators to plan fun activities in essential learning areas. Ideas include cooking, music, storytelling, maths, science, outdoor games and craft. There are also hints on organizing play spaces.

 Available as an E-book from Amazon at this link:

see all three book in my Mothers' Guides series at my Author's page

The Busy Mothers’ Guide to Happy Toddlers

by Helen Evans

Toddlers are delightful little people who will both charm and challenge their parents and carers. They thrive on being busy, playing, exploring, helping, creating and talking. What are the best toys to buy? Which games and activities will help toddlers to develop skills?

This book suggests toys and games that toddlers love. It outlines safe activities for toddlers from 18 to 36 months that will help develop physical, social, emotional, cognitive and language skills.

Available as an E-book from Amazon at this link. 


The Busy Mothers' Guide to Happy Babies

by Helen Evans

Talking to and playing with your baby is one of the delights of being a parent. But what can you do what your baby cries? How can you communicate? Can you help your baby to develop skills? This book outlines easy to follow, safe, sensory activities babies will love. 

Mobiles, tickling rhymes, toys, books, music, messy play and creative ideas are suggested for each stage of development. These activities will keep your baby happy. Mums and dads, family members and child educators will love these ideas for babies from birth to 17 months of age.

Available as an E-book from Amazon at the link below.

Helen's  books, Everyday learning about storytelling and Simply Storytelling, will help you to tell stories to your children. For Everyday learning, go to and look at the catalogue


For Simply Storytelling (ISBN 9780864588104 published by Tertiary Press)  go to and search

Three of Helen's picture books are available as downloads or CD's from Writer's Exchange . Children from 3 to 10 will love them.
Here is the link:
 This will take you to my author's

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