July 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  - What is a meaningful Life?

To most of us a meaningful life is one with a high degree of satisfaction. A happy life isn’t quite the same thing, but it is closely related. I have read that a person with an easy life, good health and no money worries will be happy. Happiness is more focused on the present and that feeling of happiness, might be fleeting. A meaningful life focuses on a larger part of life; life in general with satisfaction and happy moments. It may include difficult challenges. Happiness is often related to what a person receives, while meaningfulness is also related to what a person does for others.

The success of services designed to aid people with disabilities used to be measured by the frequency of use. Services didn’t differentiate between the number of users and happiness or meaningfulness. However, that is changing. There is more emphasis on helping a disabled person to have a  meaningful and a happy life, not just a busy one. The best services now plan for individuals instead of for groups. People confined to wheelchairs don’t all like the same activities. People with Down’s Syndrome don’t all love going to football matches for example. They are individuals with their own passions. So they and their families should be involved in designing plans and programs that will allow them to have meaningful lives.

People can be occupied and busy without being happy or without feeling their life is meaningful. I had an uncle who said in later life, that he’d always hated his work. He waited till his retirement to find satisfaction in everyday living. Nowadays young people won’t accept that kind of situation. There is more freedom of choice to find a job that suits their personality and gives satisfaction and meaning to life.

Someone with a disability, should have the opportunity to be engaged with people they like and in activities that they like. Being busy is not necessarily an answer. Even when disability includes lack of communication skills, there are ways to discover what that people like. Real attempts must be made to find out what will suit each one. Consider each individual's likes, interests and skills. A well designed plan will connect a person to the community even when support staff are not there.

For everyone relationships are important, usually the most important part of our lives. We also need to find satisfaction in our work, paid or unpaid, and many moments of happiness. Are the people in your life fulfilled, or are they merely busy?



Ages and Stages - Statistics

Statistics are interesting, but often raise more questions than they answer. I was surprised to find that in NSW Australia, only 80% of children are attending preschool in the year before they go to school. The government aim was for all children to have that opportunity. In Victoria for example, attendance is 100%. My questions is what factors are keeping children out of preschool? The answer is partly that the statistics are difficult to interpret. In NSW more than 100 preschools that are attached to state schools and perhaps as many again that are attached to private schools, are not included in the statistics.

The statistics about child abuse are also interesting. Here the states are much more even for children between 0 and 12, except for Indigenous children where the rates are unacceptably high in every state and territory. These statistics are certainly thought provoking. Children are included in the figures, who have not been harmed, but are at risk, sometimes because of alcohol abuse in the home. I hope that state and federal governments are asking why child abuse is so high and are looking at the reasons and are working at finding solutions.


Kids in the news Kids and digital technology

When my first granddaughter was nine months old, her mother took a photo of her sitting up turning the pages of a book she loved. It was obvious that was excited by books. I’ve just seen a photo of a nine month old baby who has taught herself to swipe an iPhone and then to use her fingers to work and view the apps on it. I wonder if she is also excited by books? From what I read, this baby isn’t exceptionally smart. It is quite common now for babies to be operating iPhones, iPads and other digital devices before they are one year old.What a change in direction there has been in what we give to babies in the last 22years.

It is normal for young children to want to touch and do what older siblings or their parents do so is it harmful to let babies play with iPhones, computers etc? Parents will make up their own minds about that, but

  • monitoring length of access is important.
  • unrestricted screen time is probably bad for eyes that are still maturing
  • access to printed books is still necessary and gives pleasure
  • don’t use these devices as baby sitters
  • stimulate your child’s imagination and creativity. Games on iPhones and computers must not take the place of traditional types of stimulation.


Kids 'n Gardening  Windy winter weather

This last week has been extremely windy and no one has wanted to go outside. Even the birds have disappeared. In some parts of the state trees have been uprooted and tree branches have fallen. Even where nothing significant has fallen, paths and grass are littered with twigs because of the wind. Where have the birds gone in this wild weather? A friend tells me they’ve gone to the forest, but will be back feeding in our gardens as soon as they can fly straight and safely.

School holidays began yesterday and the wild weather means that it is safest for our kids to be inside unless you have a sheltered courtyard type garden where loose objects aren’t likely to fly around and cause an accident. It might be a good time for the kids to make a bird feeder or an inside window-sill pot.

Bird feeder:

  1. Fill the bottom half of a recyclable plastic bottle with wild bird seed. Cut a section out of one side of the bottle so that birds will be able to access the seeds.
  2. Cut a slit either side of the bottle to slide through a wooden spoon or a sturdy twig for the birds to perch on.
  3. Screw the top on the bottle and tie a string or some wire under the top to hang your feeder from.
  4. Tie the feeder to a tree branch or from a beam on a pergola.

Inside window-sill pot

Make sure the pot has a saucer before filling with potting mix. Visit the nursery with your kids to find either herbs or mini flowers that will grow in a pot inside. Plant the herbs or flowers and place the pot on a window sill that gets plenty of light. Water every couple of days or when the soil is dry.


Healthy Living Healthy snacks for winter

When the kids arrive home cold and starving after school in winter give them a nutritional snack such as

  • a hot jacket potato topped with reduced fat cheese
  • a piece of wholegrain raisin toast spread with margarine
  • hot fruit scones or pikelets with margarine
  • a cup of vegetable soup
  • toasted reduced fat cheese and creamed corn sandwich
  • a cob of freshly boiled corn
  • Mashed banana and dates on toast


Indigenous news - The Wall of Hands again

Every year I donate to the Wall of Hands organization. This organization raises funds to help improve the literacy and numeracy skills of Aboriginal and Torres Strait kids. At present only 1 in 5 Indigenous kids living in remote communities, is able to read at the minimum level. Two of the best ways to help these wonderful Australia children are by donating to the Wall of Hands and sending a book to the Share-a-Book program. You can donate on my section of the wall here The Australian Literacy and Numeracy foundation is helping one community at a time. This year they are helping kids at Indulkana and Mimili located about 400 km south of Alice Springs, but will continue to help kids in the other communities where programs have been set up. Most people reading this will have books in their homes and know how vital reading skills are. If you have a pre-loved book in excellent condition, you can donate it to Alnf and it will be sent to an early childhood group.  Go to


Book Review: When I see Grandma by Debra Tidball

Illustrated by Leigh Hedstrom

Wombat Books 2014

This is a gently story of love and memories and how a family helps a loved one who lives in a nursing home. The words, spoken by a child of about six years old, are simple and link her interests to what her Grandma likes. Family life is cleverly linked to activities in the nursing home too. We see Dad going away to work, Mum helping at school, music practise and little brother never far away.

The illustrations, though simple in style, are complex in the ideas they successfully present. It is through the illustrations that we glimpse Grandma’s life as a young wife and mother. We see her dancing, at the beach, and her delight at holding her newly born son many years ago. Indeed so long ago that hospital regulations were strict and the nurse we see in the background does not approve of father kissing his wife!

These cameos of Grandma’s dreams of the past as well as her present life at the nursing home, are meaningful for all of us. They make the book suitable for all ages. Families who know someone in a nursing home will find When I See Grandma especially helpful. Use it to help children enjoy visits to a grandparent. Use it to see the delight toddlers can bring into hospitals and nursing homes. Use it to chat to people with failing memories. Their memories of the past are often very good.

This is a book that needs careful examination. At first glance it is a simple picture book for the very young. The reader who goes back again and again, will be rewarded. Both the author and the illustrator have combined to make a book that can both move and delight one. Congratulations Debra and Leigh.


Play ideas Sequencing games

As preparation for school four-year-olds enjoy sequencing games. These games will help them with both number and literacy. The games involve counting, identifying shapes, colours and sizes, classifying objects in different ways, comparing objects, and putting pictures in the right order to tell a known story.

At preschools many different cards, games, types of equipment and materials are available for the children to play with that help them to improve their skills. At home you can create games at little cost that your children will also enjoy.

Here are some ideas. Use

  •  matchbox cars – sort in colour, according to uses, for counting, parking in different positions e.g. under, beside or behind, for estimating how many are in the group before actually counting.
  • felt or coloured paper shapes to make repetitive patterns. Make a pattern and ask your child to copy it
  • small dolls or animals to count or classify, put in different positions or compare sizes
  • play dough and cutters - copy shapes to make patterns, to count or classify in sizes, colours
  • stickers
  • three simple pictures to illustrate stories or rhymes e.g.

a) eggs, hen on eggs, chickens

b)3 bears, Goldilocks eating porridge, bears looking at Goldilocks asleep

c)boy asleep, boy dressing, boy eating breakfast

It isn’t necessary to be good at drawing to make these pictures. They can be drawn as stick figures as the child watches, or you can trace them, cut them from magazines or use stickers

Enjoy being creative and involve your child in making the games too.


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

If you have enjoyed this e-zine, please tell your friends about it. 

Back to Home Page

Click here to contact Helen if you would like to make suggestions or have comments to make.

Copyright 2009-2013



© Copyright HELENEVANS 2006




KIDS in the  NEWS






Parenting Express     

Parenting Press


Indigenous news