Previous e-zines

June Issue 2017

SPECIALS - The War on Waste


SPECIALS  - The War on Waste

ABC TV has just run a three part documentary about how wasteful we are in Australia. In fact we are one of the most wasteful nations in the world with the amount of waste growing at twice the rate of our population each year. It was horrifying to see the amount of food waste that we generate when there are people starving in the world and much of that waste is because the supermarkets reject fruits and vegetables that don't look perfect. Not only that, but we use twelve million plastic bags each day which are destroying the oceans and endangering animals. Why do we do that? And what can we do about it?

The three programs tried to answer those questions. People interviewed during the making of the films were shocked and had no idea of the extent of the problems and wanted to change their habits and to turn around the habits of the nation. If you have not seen the programs, I urge you to look now at the links  At this link you will see links to each program.

Each family throws away nearly a ton of food each year which means they are wasting $3,500 on food alone. The rotting food in landfill makes damaging greenhouse gases 25 times more poisonous than that which cars produce. So each of us is contributing a big amount to climate change just by buying more food than we need.

 Plastic material was only been introduced 50 years ago, but what is already in the oceans will take up to 1,000 years to degrade.

We can

  • stop using plastic bags when we shop
  • take our own drink container for coffee
  • stop buying bottles of water
  • put pressure on organizations to use recyclable containers
  • organize groups like  Clean Coast Collective to focus on showing by example how to live plastic free lives. Click here for their story.

 At my granddaughter's school, teachers have shown parts of the documentaries and discussed it with the children.  Education is the key to a sustainable future and reduction of waste is certainly part of that. Waste is not a pretty sight.

Ages and Stages - Do you sing with your kids?

Singing in primary school as a child is one of my most enjoyable memories. Every day began with songs and I am sad that that tradition seems to be a thing of the past for young children today. At home my sister and I were always teaching each other the songs we learned at school. Every night after reading at least one chapter of a book  to my granddaughter and as soon as the light goes out, I sing to her. I started this tradition when I came into her daily life when she was three. Now if I don't automatically begin to sing she requests it. Perhaps it is a goodnight delaying ritual, but we both seem to enjoy it. It started with nursery rhymes and in no time she knew all the words to a lot of them. Then I added songs I remember from school and even ones that I have learned as an adult. Singing is also an automatic addition to many activities around the home and when I do storytelling at the early childhood centres I go to. Do you sing around the house? Do you sing to your children? Try it if you don't already sing as it is a lovely way to make the chores go quickly and it is good exercise too.

Kids in the news Children in rural areas

Because Australia is such a vast land many rural communities are isolated regarding health, education and transport as well as many other services. In the Central west of NSW one rural town, Coonamble has been in the news to report on a successfully run early childhood program that attempts to overcome the isolation problems. Coonamble has a population of around 3,000 people and a third  is Aboriginal. The preschool has introduced a nutrition program for all children providing a healthy breakfast to ensure that all those attending the centre are ready to learn each day. As well as this Aboriginal students from the High School are regular volunteers at the centre. As a result there is a close bond between students, teachers, parents, volunteers and children at the preschool and all benefit from learning good health practices. An occupational therapist visits too to help children with skills they need for school.  A program like this helps in Reconciliation and parents are always welcome to volunteer, to watch their children playing and to give advice or to guide cultural activities. Great work Coonamble.

Kids 'n Gardening - Planting for winter

The last of the autumn leaves are falling here following rain at the weekend and today we have our first frost- a heavy one. We were taken by surprise as the weather has been warm so long. When the weather forecast came up last night for a -4 degree frost we rushed out to move the chilli plant inside and to put a screen cover up to protect the begonias that have flowered all summer. It was definitely time to visit the nursery to select some plants and bulbs to grow over winter. I chose a packet of four daffodils and one of 4 Dutch Iris as well as a couple of polyanthus plants and some dianthus. After school my granddaughter will help me to plant these in the large containers that we had tomatoes in for the summer. We will add compost and worm casting to the potting mix to rejuvenate it before planting.

A job that children find enjoyable is raking leaves. They can rake a big pile in a short time so it is rewarding for them. Working in the garden together is always more fun that being there on your own, so gather the family and have some raking, barrowing and leaf spreading fun this month.

Healthy Living Winter foods kids will love

While sandwiches are good all year round, on cold winter days kids will welcome something hot for lunch especially if there is no canteen at their school. Mince, sausages and chicken are meats most Aussie kids love. When there are leftovers they can be heated and served  in a small thermos for school lunches. Just dice the already cooked chicken or sausages, add flour and chicken stock to make a thick sauce. Alternatively make up a cup of chicken or mushroom soup from a 'cup o'soup' packet that also has noodles. In a small amount of oil slightly cook diced vegetables such as carrot, broccoli, cabbage, spring onions, corn cornels, zucchini or any vegetable you have. When still crisp add to the sauce and stir. Instant noodles are a great addition if you are making a sauce rather than using instant soup and curry powder can be used or herbs to enhance the taste. Cherry tomatoes cut in half can be added raw to add to the flavour. You can make enough for two or three days and save yourself some time.

After the warm snack, the kids will still like their fruit and  mandarins, oranges and apples are juicy and tasty right now.

Indigenous news - Little Island of hope

As I write this it is National Sorry Day and 20 years since the Bringing Them Home report that detailed the effects of the Stolen Generation on Aboriginal and Torres Strait people. Since the report was published, sadly very few of the recommendations made have been implemented. It is also the 25th anniversary of the Mabo decision which recognised Native Title. There is so much that must still be done to improve the health and the lives of Indigenous people. Remote communities in particular, are disadvantaged in the kinds of services that are provided. Children have very few amusements to keep them busy and crime rates are often high as kids look for something to do. To set up programs in these communities is costly, but a report shows that they are definitely worth that cost with lower crime rates and better school attendance. Well set up programs help young people socially, educationally and with developing employment skills. The programs have been described as providing little islands of hope not just for families but for whole communities.

In my town an annual Bridge Walk is held at this time of year to draw people from all parts of the community together to show we are sorry for the way Aboriginal and Torres Strait people were treated in the past and to help everyone to continue working towards Reconciliation.  

Book Review: –  Our World -Life at Ardiyooloon

by the children at One Arm Point Community School

Published byMagabala Books 2015

This is a beautifully produced book of information and stories from the the community at One Arm Point in north east Western Australia. There is information about the history of the area and the people, about the animals and sea creatures and about the way of life of the traditional owners of the area. There are also stories and cultural information. It is indeed a treasure trove of interest to both children and adults and would be a valuable teaching resource in all our schools.                                                                     

Play ideas - Leafy puppets

With autumn over and winter just beginning, it is good to make use of the fallen autumn leaves in craft as well as in the garden. On Pinterest I found some delightful puppets using the leaves for heads and toilet rolls for bodies. With twigs or pipe cleaners for arms and some stuck on eyes, the puppets are ready in no time and can give the children hours of fun. If the leaves are already gone in your area, use petals from artificial flowers in the same way as leaves. Here is the picture from Amanda at Pinterest


Leaves can also be pressed, laid under a sheet of paper and rubbed, traced around, sewn together to make hats or crowns, laminated, and stuck on paper or card in patterns. Leaves are wonderful to count and sort in colours or shapes. Enjoy leaves both autumn and green ones to do a variety of crafts.


May Issue 2017

SPECIALS - Teachers and teaching today

FEATURES Teachers and teaching today

SPECIALS  - Teachers and teaching today

I saw a documentary program called Testing Teachers on SBS TV and found it confronting and unsettling. This was the first of a three part program about teaching at schools in disadvantaged areas of Australia. The six teachers beginning work at three public schools, are themselves high achievers and are motivated and full of enthusiasm to make a difference to kids through education. The three schools are from the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Victoria. The teachers are already university graduates and are completing a further two year qualification with Teach For Australia. Almost half of the new teachers in Australia quit after their first year of teaching. I can understand why after viewing the first episode of this documentary.

These dedicated young teachers find that

  • kids from low income families are three years behind those from well off households
  • indigenous kids are six times more likely to be behind the national average
  • kids from refugee families are behind in literacy and language skills, but are put in classes according to age not their educational level
  • in some areas there are many kids from non English speaking households and more ESL support is necessary
  • many kids come from troubled, unstable homes with emotional problems that impact on their lives and their ability to concentrate or to see the relevance of school to them.

Teach for Australia gives ongoing support to their teachers, but even so the classroom situations they find themselves in are alarming. At the school in Tennant Creek the teacher found herself with only three students present instead of 28  and the content of her maths lesson on ratios was totally inappropriate for those students. The year 8 students at the second school in Victoria took no notice of the teacher at all. Their behaviour was horrid and this continued when they went into the playground. All three teachers we saw on the first program were required to concentrate on behaviour management rather than lessons.

Our educators are underpaid and expected to not only to teach but be social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists and counsellors too. The teachers featured in this series are chosen for their abilities as well as their enthusiasm, but will they succeed? Is our education system designed to help students from disadvantaged places? What is happening in our society that there are so many situations like this? Are parents getting the help they need to parent successfully in the modern world?

Watch this series. It will give you important insight into young people and the challenges of teaching in 2017.

Here is the link:



Ages and Stages - Kids and trauma

In April North  Queensland and island communities experienced a severe cyclone. Many homes and businesses were wrecked and most of the crops on the adjacent farmland were ruined. There was good information to help communities to prepare and this lessened damage and loss of life but life will not return to normal for many months. In Northern NSW as a result of the cyclone, there was much flooding as the rain continued and the rivers flowed down from the north. Levee banks were not high enough even though they had been increased and strengthened. Places that had been safe from flooding before were inundated with hardly any warning. Unexpected conditions resulted in some drowning deaths. Many families have lost everything because of the cyclone so families are still recovering from the trauma. Early Childhood Australia has suggested some ways to help young children and their families to deal with the effects of trauma.

Watch for

  • changes in children's behaviour and play

  • anxiety

  • nightmares

  • poor concentration

What you can do

  • show affection and spend time with the children

  • listen to children and talk to them about the facts

  • return to routines in family and school life even though it may be in temporary housing

  • see that all family have healthy food and sufficient rest

  • let children know it is okay to express their feelings

  • accept help and ask for help

clink   here to read more about the effects of cyclones on children and how you can help them.


Kids in the news Positive behaviour programs

In March Australia had a National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence. This followed concern about the level of bullying and domestic violence in our society. In some Queensland schools a Positive Behaviour for Learning program is in place.  Focusing on positive instead of negative behaviour has had a significant affect on all students. Of course this is easy to say but hard to do when difficult behaviour is in progress. It should not mean we ignore bad behaviour.

A different study, Programme for International Student Assessment, has shown that there is a high level of noise and disruptive behaviour in Australian schools. In fact Australia is ranked as one of the worst in the OECD nations. Our students seem to have lost respect for teachers and many students don't listen at all. The high level of noise means that those students who do want to learn, have their lessons disrupted. This was certainly evident in the Testing Teachers program I mentioned above. In disadvantaged schools behaviour is much worse than in schools where kids are not disadvantaged. Where unemployment is high and poverty is also high, education often seems irrelevant to both parents and kids. This is a sad fact and when kids leave school with no skills they have little chance of getting a job. It really comes down to a social issue and the values our society holds and respect for others is certainly important. However, I don't think that means we should accept bad behaviour or bad language from anyone whatever their age.

Families are the key to success. Show love and teach our children from an early age by example to be kind, thoughtful, respectful, tolerant and patient. What young children experience has such a profound affect on their development and on how they will act as adults. We know that if children experience violence at home they will almost certainly be violent against their own children. If their parents and teachers don't show interest in and respect for their ideas and  efforts what is the use of trying? Education and community support must be there for families and must be delivered in culturally appropriate ways. Let us value each person in our multicultural nation and help each other develop a more respectful society.


Kids 'n Gardening - Science in the garden

Autumn is a great time for you and the kids to enjoy being in the garden and doing some simple science activities. Here are some ideas.

  • Flower  pounding: Help children to collect  a number of flowers so they can pull petals from them and arrange on a piece of card the size to make a book mark. Cover the card and petals with paper and then pound with a hammer. The colours from the petals will be transferred to the card. write a message on the plain side of the card and give the bookmark to someone as a gift.

  • Bug searches: After dark spread a sheet of white cardboard of just a piece of white cloth in the garden near a garden light. Moths and other flying creatures will be attracted to the light and will land on the card or cloth. Count the number of creatures that land in a short time, capture some in a bug catcher to examine closely, draw or photograph the ones that interest you most.

  • Tree observation: Observe a deciduous tree. Record the date and if the leaves have begun to turn. Record leaf colours. Record the date again when many of the leaves have fallen. Record the date when all the leaves have fallen. Take a photograph of the tree at each stage and make leaf rubbings. Look for the buds that will burst into leaf in the spring.


Healthy Living Running Miles

Five hundred schools in Britain have introduced a run a mile program for Primary school children. The program was begun four years ago by a school in Scotland and has been so popular that it may soon be introduced to schools nationally. There are now no overweight children in the school in Stirling where the scheme began. Teachers have noticed the children concentrate better and their behaviour has also improved as a result of this exercise program. Teachers and other staff often join in the run which takes only fifteen minutes each day and it is done in all weathers.

What a great idea this is for schools world wide to adopt. It can be done during outdoor time and can be done just by running around the play or sports areas. However, it could be done around the community if kids are accompanied by staff.

In the meantime parents, please start a similar outdoor activity with your family. At one stage I recommended that all children should have fifteen minutes outside each day. That time could be extended to include a running time at the beginning and then conclude by observing something that they have flashed past on the run.

Go ahead and ask your school to follow the example set in Britain. You can see from the photo what enjoyment the children get.

Indigenous news - Little J and Big Cuz

I'm very excited to read about this new series for kids that starts on April 28th. It is the first animated series of an Australian Indigenous children's show and it has been made by some of our best known Indigenous actors. Little J and Big Cuz are Aboriginal kids living with their Nanna and going to school in the outback. The series is about their lives at home, in the bush, at school and in the community. It will help all children to learn about Aboriginal culture, about classrooms and their backyards. The series offers excellent teacher resources so that teachers of K-2  can use the series to understand Aboriginal and Torres strait culture and perspectives as well as helping teachers to engage with Aboriginal and Torres strait families.

I feel that this is a must watch series for all early childhood services and should be incorporated into K-2 teachers' training and professional skills so that they can use the series with their classes. The series can only help understanding and respect for all.

 See  to read about it and meet the actors and the thirteen characters. You will especially love Old Dog.

There are 13 episodes in the first series and I hope there will be another series. You can help Little J and Big Cuz to succeed by watching and spreading the word to friends and to your schools. See SBS Catchup or

P.S. I've now seen the first episode and its brilliant.

Book Review: – Lighter than Air

Written by Matthew Clark Smith and Illustrated by Matt Tavares

Candlewick Press , 2017

ISBN 978-0-7636-7732-9

This is the story of Sophie Blanchard, the first woman pilot. Sophie didn't pilot a plane but a balloon. She had been mad about balloons since she was a small child and heard of men  making the first balloon flight in 1783. When grown up she met Jean-Pierre Blanchard, a daredevil balloonist who had been one of the first men to cross the English Channel by balloon. They married and Sophie made two flights with her husband before deciding to go up alone. Most people disapproved of this thinking that a woman's place was in the home and what's more a woman would never have the physical power to manage a balloon. Sophie was courageous and not deterred. After her husband's death she developed a business selling tickets to people who wanted to watch her balloon flights. She became so famous that Napoleon invited her to his palace and made her Chief Air Minister of Ballooning.

This beautifully illustrated book in which the sky is so magically painted, will inspire girls to reach for the sky knowing that anything is possible to them. Girls today are encouraged to follow their hearts, but even so there are obstacles and prejudices to overcome. Most people will never have heard of Sophie Blanchard and I hope this book will help her to be remembered in the history of flight. 

Play ideas - Autumn games

  • Toss handfuls of leaves into the air just for the pleasure of watching how they float down
  • blow a leaf across a table to a partner
  • hold a treasure hunt in a pile of leaves
  • have a guessing game about what is hidden in the leaf pile
  • rake up leaf piles to jump over or jump into
  • dance in the leaves
  • fill baskets, buckets or barrows with leaves and spread as mulch on the garden beds
  • collect a variety of leaf shapes to make collages and cover with contact plastic
  • hide soft toys in a leaf pile and children take turns to find a toy there then tell a story about it
  • hide small plastic animals under a number of large leaves and take turns to remove a leaf then recite a rhyme or sing a song about the animal e.g. Goosey Goosey Gander

Autumn leaves are just so wonderful, have fun with them.


April Issue 2017

SPECIALS - Changing Climate


SPECIALS  -  Changing Climate

The last few days of March and the beginning of April has seen Cyclone Debbie causing millions of dollars damage in Queensland and into New South Wales. Flood damage alone will take months to repair once the water has receded. In the far north damage to crops and the destruction of entire homes will take years to rebuild. Communities had good warning that the cyclone was coming and would be severe so people were able to buy food supplies and prepare for isolation and cuts in electricity and for evacuation. Shop keepers sold out of perishables and moved stock above the predicted level of water but even so businesses were inundated and cleaning up will take a major effort.

This year has seen severe weather events in many places in the world and as climate change is a reality, these events just give us a taste of what experts predict will become more common as the years progress towards 2050. Some countries are preparing well for climate change, but Australia is lagging behind. Industry in particular is slow to turn to renewable energy. The longer that fossil fuels are used and pollution increases, the more severe climate change will be. The government should not be waiting for disaster to strike before putting mitigating systems in place. One in a hundred year floods and droughts are already coming about every 25 years or even sooner. Instead of regular rain and seasonal rain we are having up to 10 inches or 800 mls. dumped in a couple of days. Our water catchment systems can't cope and levees around towns or on river banks are not high enough. As the temperature warms crops will be harder to grow, people and animals will be more stressed. Because the seas will rise with melting of the glaciers and ice packs, significant areas of coast will be lost. People are still uncertain of what will happen in their part of the world, but when you think that babies born this year will have to deal with a very different climate when they are middle aged, we must pressure governments everywhere to take action now for the future. A big step forward would be to start closing down coal mines and turn to renewable energy.


Ages and Stages -More about moving

My friend Marlene Rattigan  of  was pleased that I had written about crossing the midline in my March e-zine. She sent me this further information about Move to Learn which she finds so important in her own work with children.

'Move to Learn, is a developmental program. Through them I learnt that in addition to the midline going straight down the middle separating right and left sides of the body, there is also a midline across the waist separating top from bottom and finally one straight through the middle separating front from back. Sadly, these days, motor dysfunction is often because of lack of sufficient stimulation. If children had more tummy time as babies, for example, it would make ALL the difference to their outcomes. If parents allowed lots of opportunities for children to explore all by themselves with pulling themselves along, rolling from side to side and most especially crawling for as long as possible, they would be set up well for future physical activities. I have noticed a huge difference when our grandchildren started swimming lessons which has been a boon to their co-ordination, fitness and confidence, not to mention the socialisation aspect and the sheer joy it brings them. This has been an activity they have both been able to do weekly from only a few months of age. This ‘add on’ physical stimulation reinforces what they did as babies. Not enough kids get this. I hate to say ‘in our day’ but it really does apply here – we were always very physical because we had to make our own fun. Life today needs to be more restricted due to safety but that doesn’t mean the kids should miss out. Sadly, it is what happens in too many cases.

Marlene has written a number of books and produced DVDs and other products such as Scarf Magic. You can find them by looking under products on the Kidzfizbiz pageat

Here is a link to Move to Learn ,

  The exercises are fun to do at home or at school and have been very successful in helping children to concentrate and to improve all aspects of their learning.

Kids in the news Childcare support

The government has just passed new childcare support legislation that is very disappointing to many parents and a backward step that will leave many vulnerable families much worse off. Some families will benefit with an increased subsidy. However, parents who are unemployed or have only part time work will be the worst affected as the subsidy will be tied to study or work. Both parents must be working, studying or volunteering for 8 hours per fortnight to qualify.  In communities where there is high unemployment this will certainly impact negatively. Early Childhood Australia estimates that 30,000 children may now miss out on early learning opportunities altogether. Even worse, Indigenous children who vitally need early education in order to help close the gap in education and health, won't get the recommended 22.5 hours of subsidy to attend preschool each week and will be lucky to receive 12 hours.

Access to early childhood services are vital especially for children in disadvantaged communities. The benefits are proven and the impact of cutting services will be far reaching.

Kids 'n Gardening - Music in the Garden

Autumn is a great time to enjoy the garden with the children especially if you include music to listen to or move to. Take a radio or a  digital device into the garden and take it in turns with the children to select music, some for moving some for relaxing and stimulating your  imagination. Activities such as dancing with scarves, reading, painting and drawing are fun to do while enjoying autumn weather. If you have grown or can buy some gourds, they can be made into instruments. Help kids to put seeds or pebbles inside and then seal the gourd. Beads or shells can be threaded together on the outside of the gourd too to make attractive shakers. Here is a picture to inspire you from Pinterest.

Healthy Living  Hot cross buns

The bakeries and supermarkets do a roaring trade in hot cross buns at Easter time but it is fun for children to make their own. You will need

  • 150 mls milk
  • 50grms butter
  • 1 egg
  • 400gms bread flour
  • 7 gms of dried yeast (1packet)
  • 150gms of sultanas
  • heat the milk, butter and sultanas together
  • add the yeast to the flour
  • beat the egg into the milk and add to the dry ingredients
  • mix gently. Turn onto floured board and knead till it has all come together
  • turn into a slightly greased bowl. Cover with clingwrap and leave in a warm place to rise 1to 1.5hours.
  • when risen punch out air and knead again.
  • turn onto floured board and cut into 12 squares
  • put onto tray close but not touching.
  • Leave to rise 45mins.
  • bake 15 to 20 mins in oven at 220 degrees.
  • brush with sugar glaze when still hot or decorate with icing cross


Much of the preparation can be done by children and they will be learning about yeast, measurements, how ingredients change when mixed together and heated as they are practising manipulative skills too.

Indigenous news - Zach's Ceremony

Last night I went to see Zach's Ceremony, a film made in 2016 by a National Indigenous film group. It was produced by Alec Doomadgee and Sarah Linton and directed by Aaron Peterson. This was an excellent film telling of Zach's journey from a 10 year old boy in Sydney to his initiation at 16 in Doomadgee in the far north of Australia. Zach, like many Aboriginal people, lives in two worlds, his city life where he is just another Australian, and his traditional life where he is learning his Aboriginal culture. From age 10 it was his wish to learn all the knowledge that would enable him to become a Doomadgee man like his father. In the city Zach meets all the problems, including racism, that are common to boys growing up. His strong love of his father and his family is tested when he wants to do his own thing and not what his Dad feels is right. He is often taken back to north Queensland to learn about traditional life from the elders, but there he is not always accepted because he is 'not black enough.'

In the early part of the film animation is effectively used to show traditional life before 1788 and how this changed life forever with the coming of the British. Film from archives is also used to show how Missionaries who went to the area, forbid many aspects of Traditional life to be practised. It took many generations before Aboriginal rights were recognised and Aboriginal culture could be embraced again. Alec was lucky that his ancestors taught him and he knows how important it is for his son to gain the knowledge.

Non Aboriginal people viewing this film are privileged that the elders of the region have shared the traditional journey they take young people on to reach manhood. During the 10 years of filming many of the Elders passed away and their contribution is acknowledged in pictures. Sadly some of the young were unable to cope with the stresses of life and also passed away. Zach is to be congratulated on his bravery in sharing his intimate thoughts throughout his journey to manhood. In the final scenes we see him performing in Sydney a confident young man and an inspiration to other young people.

Do try to see this film. It can be booked for screening at schools as well as communities.

  • Book Review: – Budburra's Garden

    Budburra Books


    Published in 2013

    This book is illustrated by children at Cherbourg Community. The simple story of foods that are chosen from the colours of the rainbow can be used as an introduction to healthy food choices - a very important topic  for everyone. Each fruit or vegetable is described by the use of appropriate adjectives such as juicy, spiky, flowery, crunchy etc. There are 24 fruits or vegetables that Sammy can make his choices from and each page requires the reader to look carefully in order to see which choice Sammy did make. Some of the pictures show the inside of the fruit of the one that was chosen. The fruits and vegetables are chosen for their nutritional value and the children are learning in a fun way. The book gives good opportunities for conversation about food as well as about cultural aspects of food. At the end of the book there is a bush tucker section that explains in detail what each of the indigenous foods is and also suggestions for use in a classroom.  The illustrations are very colourful and have been made from a collage of pictures that the children made.

    More books have been made made by this Indigenous group. Here is the link so you can see more titles.

    Play ideas - Easter is coming

    Lots of early childhood centres and schools have Easter hat parades and simple ideas are best as they are quick and inexpensive. Simple cardboard bands decorated with bunny ears, egg shapes, or chickens will satisfy most kids especially if they help with painting or decorating. Glitter is great to add a touch of magic. Even a circle made with a piece of willow with real or artificial flowers tied around it can be very attractive.

    These three designs will please either boys or girls and the one using felt could be easily simplified. These pictures come from Pinterest.

    Happy Easter to everyone.


    March Issue 2017

    SPECIALS - Practising optimism


    SPECIALS  -  Practising optimism

    Are you an optimistic person? Encouraging people to be optimistic is important at all stages of life and nothing is more depressing than having winging or grumpy kids. This kind of behavoiur spreads like an infection. Helping children to look for the positive aspects of whatever they are engaged in will help them to see the glass half full instead of the glass half empty. Everyone has different temperaments - some are very sociable, others quiet or shy, some are patient others find it very hard to wait or to share. Some are competitive while others work slowly at their own pace. Children who give up easily when a task is challenging may have a negative approach to learning or changes in their lives. Your own attitude will affect how the children in your care respond. Building resilience will help children to deal with disappointments in a positive way.

    When you have a challenging day take time to think about it and focus on the good that came out of it rather than on the disappointments. Help the children to do the same. If the weather is poor when you want sunshine, you can still get a feeling of satisfaction if you adjust your timetable instead of moaning about the lack of sun. If something spills set about cleaning it up and focus on how good it will be to have that area cleaned. I read yesterday about a family who moved into an old, untidy house that needed many repairs before it could become a proper home. Everyone who saw the place commented on the dirt, the poor conditions, the pollution nearby. But the family looked beyond the present to the possibilities in the future. They saw the tall weeds as evidence of fertile ground for a garden, The location as a place for walking to get fit, the unpainted walls as a canvas on which to try out their creativity. The girl, now an adult, remembers that time in her life with affection and each achievement like  a shining light. Help your family to look for positives every day.


    Ages and Stages - Crossing the midline

    The midline is the imaginary line that runs down the middle of the body. Crossing the midline is about brain connections that enable us to do things with both sides of the body so that one side reaches across to do tasks on the opposite side.  I'd never heard of it until I was teaching some children with delay in motor and speech development. Sometimes children who have not developed a dominant hand to write with or do other fine motor activities, need exercises to help them cross the midline. I found that I generally pass things from my left hand to my right hand in order to do things. I try to get my left hand to do more tasks as it seems silly to be passing objects to my other hand. Probably I needed crossing the midline exercises when I was a child.

    Without the ability to cross the midline, children can have difficulty with co-ordination, with reading, with writing, spelling and sometimes with speaking catching, throwing and kicking. Give your child simple tasks that require both hands to work together help such as

    •  threading

    • stacking blocks

    • finger painting

    • cutting out with scissors

    • wiping down the table putting on socks and shoes,

    • clapping games where the right hand claps the right hand of the person opposite

    • rolling over then rolling back again

    • waving scarves from side to side

    Kids in the news Hidden dangers

    In late February a 10 year old boy from Gosford, New South Wales was bitten on a finger by a deadly Funnel Web spider.  Funnel Webs are the most dangerous spiders in Australia and this one was inside a shoe that Matthew Mitchell picked up. It latched onto the boy's finger and would not let go. This is typical behaviour of this type of spider. Matthew's Dad used a shirt to act as a tourniquet before rushing him to a chemist where Paramedics took him to Gosford hospital. He suffered several seizures before antivenene stabilized him. He needed 12 vials of the antivenene which is more than any previously used on a patient and doctors say he was very lucky to survive. Matthew was well enough to go home the next day and the spider has been sent to the Australian Reptile Park where it will be milked for more venom to make antivenene in case of other emergencies.

    Male spiders are five times more venomous than females and are found mainly on the East coast between Wollongong and Newcastle. February and March are the main breeding times and they like dark, moist places to hide. Gardeners should always be wary, but when the spiders get into the house, they hide inside shoes or under piles of clothes on the floor. In January a woman was bitten by one that had got into her bed! These spiders are aggressive. The Australia Reptile Park has a milking program and are always pleased to receive a spider, but warn people to take great care if catching one.

    Warn children to always shake shoes and look inside before putting them on and always keep clothes up off the floor.

    Kids 'n Gardening - Time in the garden

    This summer has been very hot in most parts of Australia. In my area we have had about three weeks of continuous days with temperatures about 33 degrees, but in the central west of NSW towns like Moree had over 53 continuous days over 35 degrees with many days of 40 or more. It was not possible for kids to be out playing in the heat and just keeping plants alive was a drag. However, the very early mornings were fresh where I live. One morning after watering before sun-up, I decided to take my granddaughter on a breakfast picnic. I carried a mat for us to sit on and we each carried our cereal plates, spoons and milk to drink. Maria chose the spot partly in shade, partly sun and we sat down. It was a lovely experience. From where we sat we could see dragon flies dipping and hovering over the dam, dew sparkling on the trees, spider webs strung between trees and hear ducks and birds. Once the food was eaten we went down to the dam to observe the dragon flies more closely and to see what water beetles were busy there. Then we climbed through the fence to see the big dam and were lucky to see a pair of ducks preening themselves, quite unaware of our presence. It was a perfect way to start the day.

    The evenings too are a special place to eat. My house was too hot by evening to sit inside to enjoy the meal. Shady trees over a barbecue area were cooler and night after night we ate there. Just the meat was cooked and we enjoyed salad vegetables with it. There was not a breath of wind in the tree tops, and the different hues of green leaves, the birds, the clouds were amazing and a helped us to feel cooler and relaxed.. We did need spray to keep the mosquitoes away, but this I feel will be a summer to remember.

    Healthy Living  Getting enough sleep

    Enough sleep is essential for everyone in the family. When there is a new baby both parents may quickly become sleep deprived but usually it is not long before the baby is into a routine and sleep patterns develop. The average baby needs 17 hours of sleep over a full day. 

    •  Children of two years of age need only about 12 hours of sleep

    • At five they need 10 to 13 hours sleep

    • At eight years they need 9 to 11 hours sleep

    • Teenagers need 9.5 hours sleep. 

    The problem for most parents is that as children grow they become more reluctant to go to bed and even when obviously tired they fight sleep because they think they'll miss something if they go to bed. Without enough sleep kids will be grumpy, lack concentration and find it hard to learn, have behaviour problems and lack of sleep can even be a factor in obesity.

    Help your child to get enough sleep by having a consistent bedtime routine that is calming, enjoyable has choices and is at the same time each night. Children will beg for one more story or just five more minutes of play or watching TV but the adult needs to be firm. Children must learn to put themselves to sleep and stay in their own bed. The parent who lets a child come into their bed in the middle of the night will very quickly have a problem. Be consistent. Make sure that your child is safe and make the routine happy but quiet and be firm that it is definitely bedtime. A bedroom lamp will help kids who fear the dark but make sure the light isn't shining on the child's head. Read stories that won't excite or worry your child or give her nightmares.

    A child who has had enough sleep will wake consistently at the same time each morning refreshed and ready to learn.

    Indigenous news - The Little Ones Museum

    This is an exhibition of children's pictures created during special workshops. The children have created pictures about their lives and growing up today. Adults so often only look at life through their own eyes and children see things differently. The project has been organized by Inala Wangarra and the Queensland Performing Arts Centre. Local artist, Rocco Langton,  Chairperson of Budburra Books, works with the children. The result is that Cherboug State School has produced a series of 11  beautifully illustrated books and five films. These have a big impact on fostering a love of learning and literacy in the children. The books 'celebrate Indigenjous storytelling, culture and the arts'.

    In the process of making books, the children learn and use many skills including listening, concentrating, doing research, performing, using technology, making films, writing and reading scripts. There is a great deal of community involvement and everyone can be proud of the achievements. Here is a link to see both books and the creative process.

  • Book Review: – Five Friendly Dinosaurs

    Written and Illustrated by Helen Evans

    ISBN:9781524 5 1868Published by Xlibris 2016

    Five dinosaur friends see a rainbow and one dinosaur sets off to find the gold that must be at the end. When he doesn't come back the others search in the forest, by a river and even up a volcano without success.

    I wrote this story because so many children love hearing about dinosaurs. They certainly were not on the syllabus when I was at school and I think that teachers then were not aware that fossils of dinosaurs existed or that they had ever been  in Australia. From my own reading I became interested in the fact that some dinosaur fossils have been discovered by young children and have even been named after them.

    Because I am a textile artist, my illustrations are all sewn instead of painted. The pictures took a whole year to complete and are currently displayed in the gallery at 42 Bridge Street, Uralla.   The pictures were all photographed for the publication.  In a few weeks I will sew them together to form a fabric book. People have described the pictures as charming, delightful and amazing. The book is particularly appropriate for children from 4 to 9 years old. Encourage children to look carefully in the pictures as some dinosaurs are well camouflaged.

    The published copies of Five Friendly Dinosaurs are available from Xlibris at or email me HERE

    Play ideasDrawing ideas

    Drawing is a very good skill to encourage as it is something that will be used throughout life. It costs very little for equipment, is quiet and can be done individually or as a group activity. Drawing can be done with chalk on cement, on wet sand with a stick, with a brush and water on cement or wood, with crayons, pencils or pen or coloured markers on paper or cardboard. Many different papers can be used including long paper rolls and coloured squares.

    To encourage children of 4+ to draw, show them drawings done by others and also set targets to draw particular objects such as trees, machines, animals, planes and buildings. Children often copy one another so praise the ideas in all the pictures. Some children have to be helped to extend the topics they draw or they will keep drawing the same figures over and over. Another interesting and challenging exercise is to use cut out clothes from clothing catalogues. Paste the clothing onto paper and get children to draw a person wearing that clothing.  Another challenge is to cut out a shape, (a hole) such as a circle or square and get the kids to draw what they imagine would have been on that part of the paper if it was a picture. What has fallen onto the hole? How will it get out again? Was this incident funny or a disaster? Draw what you think is in the bottom of the hole, draw what you can see in the hole.


    February Issue 2017

    SPECIALS -  Back to school


    SPECIALS  - Back to school

    As I take a break in January this is my first ezine for the year. I hope all of you have had a good holiday this summer and that 2017 will be an interesting and successful one for parents and children. This week it is back to school for NSW kids and Queensland schools are already back. There are bound to be expenses like new clothes, books and writing equipment. Kids may not know who their teacher will be or which room they'll be in. They may feel nervous the first day back and will need reassurance that they will know what to do. Some kids think that they have forgotten how to do their school work but teachers expect their memories will need refreshing and there will be lots of revision. To help everyone start off well here are some tips:

    • See that your kids have plenty of sleep especially that first week
    • make sure they eat a nutritious breakfast
    • pack a healthy lunch and make sure it will be good despite not being kept in a fridge at school
    • concentrate on positive ideas about school e.g. seeing their friends again
    • find out the requirements and buy the supplies right away
    • speak to the teacher if at all possible the first week to build a rapport
    • quickly settle the family into a routine for before school and after school times.

    Best wishes for a year of learning fun with your kids.



    Ages and Stages - Learning another language

    Starting this month children at preschool in Australia will have the chance to learn another language. The program is called ELLA which means Early Learning Languages Australia.Four year olds will easily learn a language and their teacher can be learning it alongside them in a fun, play-based way. The Federal government has spent over $9 million on developing the program and has successfully trialled it. Now it  has committed another $5.9million to present this program which is free. Apps for preschools which have registered for the program are free although devices must be provided by the schools but grants are available for disadvantaged ones. I have only just heard about this program but around 30,000 preschoolers will be learning from it this year.

    Languages available so far are Chinese, Arabic, Indonesian, Japanese,  French, Italian and Spanish. Families can join the program so that the experiences are continued at home. As they learn words, sentences and songs  the children's overall  language, literacy, problem solving, cultural understanding, social skills and confidence will be enhanced.

    I hope your child's school has registered in time. I hope too that the program will soon be extended to school-age kids as knowledge of another language is a very important skill in the modern world where populations are so diverse and world business and travel is part of our lives.


    Kids in the news Using sunscreen

    Always be very careful when using sunscreen on a baby or toddler. There have been cases lately where babies and toddlers have had allergic reactions to Peppa Pig suncsreen that is approved by the Australia Cancer Council. The Council has tested the sunscreen carefully and it meets all requirements but even careful testing cannot eliminate allergic reactions in some cases. It is important not to put babies or toddlers in direct sun and the parents whose children have been affected had been careful. Older toddlers are sometimes allowed to rub in their own sunscreen and this is best avoided as it may not be rubbed in uniformly so that some skin gets too much while other parts don't get enough.

    When applying sunscreen

    • Test on the child's skin first on a small area.

    • Keep well away from eyes and lips.

    • Do not apply too thickly.

    • Apply about 15 minutes before the child goes into the sun.

    • Re-apply every two hours.

    For babies and toddlers using hats and clothing that blocks the sun's harmful rays is the safest thing to do. Also watch that when in a stroller, your child is shaded from the sun.


    Kids 'n Gardening - Little water gardens

    Nothing beats water play for children in hot weather and creating a miniature water garden will keep them occupied and cool at the same time. If the days are very hot at your place the children can be out before the sun is too hot or as the shadows fall towards evening. Any container will do from a an old saucepan or dish to plastic trays. The kids can dig a hole for the container to sit in so that it looks natural. Let the little gardener collect stones to go in the water and bigger stones and rocks to go around the edge.  Shells are a good addition. Little figurines or animals are fun to place around the pool. Flower heads like dandelions and tiny flowers  from native grasses as well as leaves are fun to float on the water. Let the children take pictures of their creations and encourage them to learn the names of the flowers and plants.


    Healthy Living  The deliciousness of fruit

     Over Christmas and New Year families tend to eat too many party  things like biscuits, cake, fast food, sweet drinks, cordial and lollies. In my family I noticed that we were all wanting to end our meals with some kind of sweet. It had quickly become a habit. Now I want to change this especially for my granddaughter, as it is important for health that she likes healthy food best.

    There is nothing like the deliciousness of fruit, especially in summer. The colours, the textures, the smell of fruit are all delicious. The supermarkets do a good job of promoting a big variety of fruit with displays in the front of their shops. Some even allow children to take one piece of fruit free of charge.

    Juicy fruits like pineapple and melon are great snacks on hot days. Peaches, nectarines, plums and mangoes are good instead of cereal for breakfast or as an accompaniment to cereal. Berries like strawberries and raspberries are also good morning or afternoon snacks. Apples, which are available all year round are an ideal fruit for school lunches and kiwi fruit also packs well. So let's buy fruit instead of biscuits and lollies and help our own health to improve, our waistlines to stay trim and our teeth to stay strong. Remember that old saying 'An apple a day keeps the doctor away.'


    Indigenous news - Reconciliation plan

    There is no doubt that all Australians want all the children of our nation to have good health, education,  respect, justice, confidence and freedom from fear. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people this has not always been the case. Following more than 200 years of colonization, reconciliation is still going forward. It isn't something that can be completed in the short term and we must remember that the hurts from that period of our history are still being felt. We have just celebrated Australia Day but many indigenous people, think of it as Invasion Day and a time for mourning. There is still much inequality in our communities, much fear and injustice.

    Early Childhood Australia is committed to an ongoing plan of action that will see

    •  indigenous languages and cultures valued

    •  participation by Aboriginal and Torres Strait people in all aspects of the education of their children

    • more representation on decision making groups

    • more partnerships

    • better, more numerous resources to inform communities of what is available and how these resources can best be used.

    Each one of us can do something to show that we value and respect the First Australians. We can start by reading about and acknowledging the past history and the hurt that has been felt. Look at what is being done in your community and make an effort to be involved.


  • Book Review: –  Disney Colouring Books

    Published by Disney Enterprises

    About the age of seven girls begin to like colouring in activities and become quite skilled at it. Disney Enterprises produces a series of colouring books featuring characters from fairy tales that have been made into Disney films e.g. Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin etc.  Other popular films for children like Frozen also have colouring books. Some books are purely for colouring but others have phrases under the pictures that early readers can read. These books and sticker books are cheap to buy and will keep children occupied for many happy hours.


    Play ideasWater safety games

    Learning to swim is almost as important as learning to walk. In the week before Christmas in NSW, there were 18 people who drowned. Most of these were adult men but some were children. If the adults can't swim the children most probably won't be able to either. There is much that can be done at home to teach water safety that may save your child's life. It is never too early to teach your child to be confident in water. Start with

    • Blowing bubbles under water. Show your child how to blow with his mouth under water and to take a breathe when the bubbles are gone
    • Pick up toys that are under water. Have the water just deep enough so the child has to get her face wet to reach the toys. 
    • Encourage splashing with both hands so you and the child both get wet. React to getting wet with smiles and laughter so the child knows it is for fun.
    • Bigger children can play in water that comes to their waists. Play red light green light with children walking or jumping forward in the water. They must stop for the red light call.
    • Encourage children walk backwards and around in a circle to feel the pull of the water.
    • Play ball games
    • lie on their back in the paddling pool and kick
    • practise swimming arm movements

    Once you get to a pool with your child play lots of games of pulling him/her forward in the water and kicking practise while holding onto the side. Learning to swim is a necessary life skill so if you can't swim set an example and learn yourself. And always , ALWAYS supervise water activities.


    December Issue 2016

    SPECIALS - Thanksgiving



    SPECIALS  - Thanksgiving

    In the United States and in Canada, there is a special thanksgiving day each year in November. It was originally to give thanks for a successful harvest way back in 1601. In Australia we don't have a special day like that, but I have been thinking about all the things in my life that I give thanks for and for all that we have as a society to be thankful for in Australia. My thoughts have been triggered by a book I am reading: Billy, My life as a Teenage POW This book is co-authored by Billy Young and Lynette Silver. Billy is now 91 years old and his book has been recently launched.

    Billy was an orphan and only 15 when he enlisted in the AIF. Soon after he arrived in Singapore, the country fell to the Japanese and he became a Prisoner of War. The conditions in the prison camps where he lived in Sandakan in Borneo, and then in Outram Road gaol in Singapore were horrific. Somehow, perhaps because of his youth, Billy could see beyond the horror to be thankful for life. He was thankful for his daily plate of rice, for the tiny scrap of paper he saved, for the pencil stub he hid in his small cell, for the tapping sounds he learnt to understand that came on the wall. He was thankful for the friendship of his fellow prisoners whom he talked to when solitary confinement finally ended. Adjusting to life after the war was very difficult for all those POWs, but Billy has always had a positive attitude to life. I give thanks for my fortunate life and for the fact that Billy overcame all the sadness and the terrors he faced. I thank him for this book and how he has shared his memories.

    Let us all give thanks every day and look for the positive things rather than the negative in our lives.



    Ages and Stages - Kindness

    I think there is nothing more important than that children be kind. We hear a lot about children being bullied or bullying others, but we don't hear much about their acts of kindness. I'm sure though that most children are kind to each other and regularly do something kind within the family. However, many parents are more concerned that their children be happy and achieving academically than that they learn to be kind and thoughtful about others. 

    Do you thank your kids when they do something kind? Do you talk to them about how they can do something kind for someone in the family or for a neighbour or friend? Do you talk about feelings and respect?

    Children need help to be caring for others because they are self focused as young people. We can help them by suggesting that they comfort someone who is feeling sad or hurt. Talk about acts of kindness they may see on TV or read about in books. Ask them to recall something kind that they did during the day as well as something kind that was done for them. Toddlers can be taught to be kind to their toys as a start. Suggest hugging a teddy bear instead of throwing it or acting roughly. Comment on the kind act of sharing toys and how happy that makes you feel. Older children will be aware of news items about other children who need help because they are hurt, hungry, sick or alone. Talk about things that you can do to help these people even though they are far away or talk a different language. Talk about how to be kind to newcomers to the school or community. Plan acts of kindness that you can do together.

    My granddaughter sent a letter to her friend who was away from school for several days. When her friend received the letter saying how much she was missed, it really made a difference to her recovery. The idea below of a kindness tree is lovely I think. You can read about it at


    Kids in the news Praising kids

    Did you know that the way you praise your kids can affect how successful they are? Some studies have recently been done in which kids were praised in a way that made them focus on how clever/ intelligent they are while others were praised in a manner that focused on how they persevered after initially failing to achieve their goal and solved problems by thinking of strategies. The studies showed that children develop fixed mindsets or growth mindsets. Those with fixed mindsets are most likely say they are bored while those with growth mindsets find plenty of activities to do without complaint. Failure is not a bad thing. It can encourage the child to learn to do more and to keep expanding their learning. So praise your child specifically for what they did e.g. 'You tidied your toys away onto the shelves so neatly,' instead of 'what a clever girl you are.'


    Kids 'n Gardening - Coolness in the Christmas garden

    In Australia Christmas is the hottest time of year and also the kids' long summer holiday time.  If you have a cool spot where kids can play, it will  be used a lot. I've been walking each evening with my son and my 7-year-old granddaughter as November comes to an end and we've been moving seats into sheltered, shady areas where we can sit, look and listen. We are lucky to have lots of trees. We have huge gums, a couple of Chinese Elms, some plum and cherry trees, a Golden Cyprus, Cassurinas, wattles of different sizes and we also have an umbrella. However, my granddaughter's favourite spot in the twilight is a big old tree stump. She needs help to climb onto it and has to take care as it is hollow inside. She stands on top to gaze into the neighbours' paddock and watch for kangaroos and for ducks both swimming on the dam and grazing in the long grass. We are lucky that in Armidale the evenings are almost always just a perfect temperature for outside strolls and sitting. We must however remember to spray for mosquitoes and wear protective clothing.

    As Christmas approaches we will have our evening dessert and drinks outside after finishing the main meal, then we'll sit on chairs beside at a small table somewhere in the garden. Probably we'll choose a different location each night to relax in and to enjoy the night sounds. It is a perfect end to the day to relax and enjoy family talk. 


    Healthy Living Air pollution

    I was alarmed to read recently that around 600,00 kids under five around the world are at risk of dying because of air pollution where they live. One million children die from pneumonia each year that is directly connected to air pollution. One out of eight children currently die from air pollution factors. Those figures are scary, right? But, you think, those must be kids in Bangladesh or India or Latin America. Think again. What causes air pollution? Some of those pollution agents are present in your community and in your country.

    The rate of outdoor air pollution is increasing and may double within the next 40 years. This is because industrialization is increasing. Just think of the number of cars on the roads today. Think of the time families spend on the roads each day and the air we breathe while travelling or sitting in the traffic, is full of fumes. Children breathe twice as fast as adults so are more vulnerable to pollution. Pregnant women breathing polluted air also affects the foetus.

    So what can you do about it?

    • Cut back on the use of fossil fuels. Pressure governments to use alternative energy. 

    • Preserve forests also to give cleaner air

    • Protect water ways and water sources from pollution

    • Plan housing better so it is not near industry that pollutes

    • See that kids are not exposed to smoking

    • Be aware of times of day or month when pollution is worst and keep kids indoors at those times

    • Be aware of the weather patterns that impact on the level of pollution -e.g. wind

    • Mould, dust mites, paint fumes, pollen, can all be pollutants

    • Immunize children against diseases so that their health is good. Good health keeps respiratory infections at minimal level.


    Indigenous news - The role of Families

    As Christmas approaches, I think of my family- members who are present or who are far away and those who have died. Family is always important to me. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, one's  family is particularly significant. It isn't just the biological parents who take responsibility for raising children, but the extended family and whole communities. Special individuals related through kinship have roles in guiding and raising children and in handing on cultural aspects. Elders are key people in explaining cultural practises and the spirits of those who have passed away are always remembered with respect. At the core of family relationships is the idea of building the child's confidence and trust while keeping them safe. In the  general Australian community, parents often think of relatives, friends or neighbours as busybodies if they comment on the way a child is being raised, or if they try to guide or influence parenting practises. In our communities there is often misunderstanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander approaches to parenting too.

    The one thing we can be certain of is that there are many ways to bring up a child and instead of judging, one must try to be accepting and respectful especially of cultural differences.


  • Book Review: My First Magic Book

    By Paul MegramPublished by CICO Kidz 2014


    The book is divided into 6 chapters with magic tricks for cards, everyday objects, puzzles and 'betchas', money, mind and pranks.  There are most tricks in the puzzles and betchas section but all chapters have a good selection. There are 50 tricks in all. The book is designed for children from 7 years on. It is well illustrated with photos and sketches and the items needed are easy to find. I have bought it as a birthday gift for an 8 year old and feel it will be ideal. Children of 8 usually have a lot of toys and this will be something different and also offer a challenge and encourage the child to concentrate and persevere to learn and become proficient in presenting the tricks.

    Cost in Australia was $22.95


    Play ideasChristmas crafts.

    Children love Christmas and thrive on making crafty objects to decorate the home or classroom. For supervising adults the simpler the craft the better. Very simple Christmas trees can be made from popsicle sticks. Here are two ideas I found on Pinterest at These are so easy yet so attractive. Details are at  Little preparation is necessary and while the kids are making them they are developing their manipulative skills as well as counting,  learning about colour, vocab etc. Cutting the sticks is the only thing that will take some time in the first trees, as it will have to be done by an adult with a craft knife. There are many things that can be used to decorate the trees.

    Happy Christmas everyone. I'm looking forward to the break. In January I don't send out an e-zine so I hope to catch my readers at the start of February 2017. Happy New Year too.



    November Issue 2016

    SPECIALS - Can we learn from Dreams?


    SPECIALS  - Can we learn from dreams?

    Dreams can be worrying even when they are not nightmares. Recently in my dream some children were letting the water overflow from the bath. The mess really upset me and when they wouldn't stop I held the head of the nearest child underwater! When I woke the details of the dream were still clear and I was shocked at my violent reaction. In real life I certainly wouldn't hold a child's head under water and threaten him with a repeat of the action. I am not a violent person and I don't agree with severe or extreme punishments for misbehaviour. I couldn't think of anything that had triggered this dream. It made me think about how unpredictable people can be. Society is very critical of parents who hurt their children and we each think that we would never do that - never assault or kill our child. However, when things build up we all have our breaking point and some people cope better than others when stressed, worried, tired, frustrated or ill. Life is full of stress and children can be very frustrating. They seem to live in a different time zone from adults. Now is the time that matters to a young child. From my dream I learnt that anyone can be violent and that it is important to consider how best to overcome frustrations before they escalate. How often do you shout at and  threaten your children? Do the punishments you give fit the crimes or are they too severe? Are your children frightened of you? Are you able to consider the consequences of the punishment before you apply it?

    Yes, I think we can learn from dreams.

    Ages and Stages - Music and movement

    Moving to music is something that comes naturally to children from the earliest age. Expectant mothers will tell you how their baby moves when certain rhythms and tunes are heard. The unborn baby remembers tunes that are part of daily routine from TV,  radio or other devices in the home. After birth babies kick and smile and jig up and down to tunes they like. Music is part of everyday  family life. We all have our favourite songs and music, but it is good to step outside these and introduce children to different kinds of music. Classical music as well as pop music is great for rhythm. Music from other cultures that features different instruments and songs in different languages can be enjoyed by the whole family.  There is so much movement that we can motivate with simple props. Give your toddlers as well as the older children scarves, ribbons and hankies to wave,  balloons to throw, feathers, leaves, bubbles to toss or feel while listening to music. Incorporate music into stories too by choosing music to introduce a story or to help the children dramatize after story time or to encourage imaginative play. Music at bath time and during painting or using dough helps us to move hands, fingers, toes and whole bodies.

    Music helps children to listen, to concentrate, to speak. It helps their language skills, it can help their muscle development. It can help them to run, march, skip and hop and move in many more ways. It can calm them or excite them.  If you don't have a variety of music try your library and take home some different music this week. 

    Kids in the news Water - life-growth

    Water-life-growth is the theme for this year's National Water Week. At school children are learning the best ways to save water and how to become responsible water users as well as learning about why water is so essential to all life. Water keeps us healthy and happy but so many of us take safe clean water for granted. Clean water is still not available in many developing countries. Some schools have studied a river in their area and how to keep the river environment healthy with fish and other water creatures thriving. They look at

    • planting the right trees and plants along the river

    • taking only fish of legal size

    • investigating what happens when there is run-off from crops

    • recognising water pollution and thinking of ways to prevent it

    • travelling on the river

    • the history of the river

    • irrigation and its effect on the land and the river

    Even if there isn't a river, creek or dam near you, it is helpful to learn about the habitat and what risks there are and how we can contribute to keeping our water safe and healthy.

    Kids 'n Gardening - Succulents

    If you start growing a plant now you'll have it looking nice to give to grandma or the teacher for Christmas. Succulents are a great idea as they don't need a lot of water and over Christmas holidays will survive if well established by then. In the picture below the succulents are planted in pieces of hollow log and look great I think. If you take the children out bush they are sure to fine a small piece of wood that is suitable to plant up. However if not, you could plant a piece in one of those small pots that seem to accumulate after potting out something from  a nursery. I have successfully grown a Calandiva which comes with red, pink or orange flowers. It has leaves like a succulent although I don't know if it is classified as such.  It must be kept indoors in winter or cold weather although it needs good light. In summer it should not be put in strong sunlight. It is long flowering and very attractive. It is pictured below too.

    The children will love to help you select plants to grow and will be keen to help with the planting too. If using potting mix it is best for them to wear gloves and be sure to wash well after handling the soil.

    Healthy Living Outdoors with the kids

    One of the best things about living where I do is that we have daylight saving in the summer. This means time can be spent outdoors before dark after dinner in the evening. This is a real health benefit as it gives everyone time to unwind and time to enjoy all the sensory parts of the environment. Even five minutes outside breathing calmly, stretching, turning in every direction to look, listen, smell, touch and if appropriate, to taste, can give the day a positive closure. It can give you sound sleep and that is what we all need to start a new day.

    • We can walk around the garden to see new plants flowering or growing taller

    • inspect gardens for weeds, snails,  plants requiring staking, which areas should be mowed, pruned etc.

    • make a plan for garden work

    • draw a plan of the whole environment

    • chase butterflies

    • play ball games

    • pick flowers

    • water

    • sit in the shade and just listen to the night noises beginning - frogs, beetles, birds flying overhead looking for roosting places

    • take photos

    • encourage the kids to talk about what they did - listen instead of talking

    • close your eyes and unwind. Give thanks for the day, for loved ones, for kindness received, for health, for the strength to meet unexpected challenges that arise. Give thanks for the environment and for life itself.

    Indigenous news - The Doctrine of Discovery

    I have been reading about the Doctrine of Discovery which was written in 1452 by Pope Nicholas 5th and stated that all lands that were not governed by Christian people could be claimed and colonised by Christians. The Doctrine became international law and enabled Discoverers such as Christopher Columbus and Captain James Cook to claim lands for their Kings. Countries such as Portugal, England, France and Germany then established Empires, sending people to occupy the lands. In the following years the world was divided up between the powers without any agreements with the peoples already occupying these lands. Hence Africa, America,  India, Indonesia, Australia and other nations were claimed and colonised by Europeans. The Indigenous peoples lost their ownership of their land and in many cases became slaves. That law had ramifications that continue today. In Australia for example Aboriginal and Torres Strait people are the recognised owners of only small sections of land. It was only in 1967 that they were recognised as Australian citizens and gained the right to vote. The Constitution still fails to acknowledge the Indigenous people and the Constitution of the United States of America fails to recognise the rights of the Indigenous people of that continent.

    Laws that are old and historic does not mean they are good laws. It is important to look and read carefully and try to understand our laws and where they are unfair because of race, religion or gender, we must speak up in order for them to be corrected.

    Book Review: Ella and Olivia - Zoo Rescue

    by Yvette Poshoglian, illustrated by Danielle McDonald

    Published by Scholastic 2016

    This is an ideal read alone book for seven-year-olds both boys and girls. It is about a class visit to the zoo. Each child in the class has done a project about animals and is hoping to see their favourite animal during their zoo visit. Children of this age will be familiar with the type of routine that the teacher follows on the excursion and will probably have done similar projects in class. They will be able to read the vocabulary easily and as the script is quite large, it is not daunting to a child who is only just attempting to read a whole book alone. Some important words are in bigger print to make them stand out on the page. The line drawings illustrate important information in the text.

    I selected this book at a school book fair at which Scholastic provided the books. My granddaughter had marked some books she hoped I might buy, on a list, but when I looked at her choices I felt that it would be best to move away from fairy themes just to broaden her reading topics. We took turns in reading a chapter before bed and she enjoyed the story. She impressed me with her ability to attempt words that she hadn't read before. The book cost only $8 and was value for money.

    Play ideasIdeas for using leaves and flowers

    In  spring gardens there are lots of fallen petals and such an abundance of pretty pieces has motivated me to think of ways to use them.

    Pressing flowers

    We collect blossoms from under trees and shrubs and tiny flowers and grasses or ferns from the bushland. My granddaughter comes home across the paddock when she gets off the bus each afternoon and has found many different flowers some very tiny growing in the grass. She understands that she mustn't pull the plant or it will come up roots and all and that would be bad. A small pair of scissors is the answer. It only takes a few days for small flowers to be flattened between papers and then they can be used to make gift cards or book marks. Pressing the flowers between the pages of a phone book is an easy way to do it, but any book can be used as long as a good weight is put on the book after. Plain paper such as tissue paper is better than news print as the marking ink may be transferred to the flower. Put a small amount of glue on each flower or leaf to keep it in place. It is possible to dry petals or flowers using the microwave, but this will need adult supervision.

    Making potpourri

    Collect  petals and leaves of sweet smelling and colourful flowers such as roses, carnations, geraniums, daisies lavender, rosemary. Spread out on  baking paper on a baking tray. Add some thin slices of lemon and orange. To a tablespoon of water, add 10 to 15  drops of essential oil or some cloves or a cinnamon stick and spray over the collection. Dry in a slow oven for at least two hours till the petals are brittle, but not burnt. When cool and dry, mix in a bowl to display and the arrangement can be resprayed with the oil to refresh it anytime. I found these simple directions at

    Cards or pictures

    When you and the children have dried your leaves and flowers making cards is easy. Use paper that is thicker than normal computer paper, and fold it to the size card you want. Paper from an art book is ideal. Arrange the plant material to decide which way it looks best. Then remove and put a small amount of glue on one piece at a time, placing each piece and pressing down in turn. Cover with waxed paper and press again until dry. A card mount of the right size can turn a card like this into a lovely picture to pop in a frame to hang on the wall. These make lovely gifts for grandmothers or friends.


    October Issue 2016

    SPECIALS - How the weather affects us



    SPECIALS  - How the weather affects us

    After several years of drought we are at last having rain, but as the saying goes, it never rains but it pours. Where I live, the ground is sodden, the dams are overflowing and the landscape is a vivid green. To have so much rain early in spring has lifted everyone's spirits. I cannot believe the green that is stretching to the horizon. It is not just the grass and crops that have responded to the rain, but trees have burst into leaf or blossom and the wattle has been spectacular. Gardens are transformed as the spring beauties open. We are the lucky ones.

    However, some parts of Australia are already flooding with paddocks under water, crops ruined, stock marooned, houses inundated and roads washed away. People in those areas are despondent as they see years of hard work ruined. More rain is to come and with it strong, gale force winds. Trees are coming down in the wind and in South Australia yesterday the whole state lost its electricity as a result of the storms. Loss of power is a real headache for everyone and safety is one of the issues. Trains and trams were unable to operate and traffic lights were out making road travel slow and dangerous. Some parts of N.S.W. too  have severe flooding despite sand-bagging and it will be weeks before the water drains away. People are affected by loss of income, difficulties with transport, problems with health services, loss of personal effects, isolation or the problems that follow evacuation. Flooding is the worst for 60 years in some areas and some children  will be cut off from school for extended periods. There is no possibility of flooding where I live but I feel for people who are experiencing it.

    How do people cope with extremes in weather? Every year we hear of drought, floods, fire, extreme heat or extreme cold. We hear of cyclones, tsunamis, rough seas and once in a century weather conditions. So what can we do to help?

    • make an evacuation plan. Sometimes water rises so fast or fire travels so quickly that there is little time to escape
    • join community groups that will plan action and carry out preventative tasks such as filling sandbags or cutting fire breaks
    • keep vehicles in good repair
    • heed warnings about never driving through flood waters
    • evacuate when recommendations are made. Don't wait too long
    • have vital documents and medical supplies ready
    • check on weather conditions regularly if there has been a warning
    • instruct the children in what to do
    • make sure children understand the situation
    • volunteer or train as a emergency worker
    • give generously to relief efforts with money, goods, accommodation
    • help to clean up after an extreme weather event
    • research well before buying a place in an area that experiences floods or fire
    • try to keep positive, remembering that every cloud has a silver lining.

    I hope that you and your family are having good weather right now.


    Ages and Stages - Nightmares

    Why do children have nightmares? There can be many different reasons such as anxiety about something that has happened in the family or at school, hearing a scary story, watching real life news about bad things that have happened on TV or watching a movie, or listening to other children talking about nightmares.

    When children under four years have a nightmare, they usually wake up crying and fearful and unable to say what has worried them. They often can't get back to sleep.. I remember my first son waking  and crying. He was two years old and just moved out of the cot into a bed. As I cuddled him he told me, 'Someone was taking my low bed away.' I responded, 'Oh, it was only a dream.' 'Yes,' he said, 'a dream was taking my low bed away.'

     Dreams may be so real that the child thinks it is true and that they weren't asleep. This happened recently to a friend of my granddaughter's. She is seven and  told her friends about the black, bad thing that was coming at her in the dark room and her real fear was transmitted to the others. I talked to my granddaughter when she told me about it, explaining that dreams can seem really true. She was frightened to go to bed in case the thing came to our house. I explained that bad or scary things that happen in a dream are part of our imagination which keeps working while we are asleep. This satisfied her especially when I told her that sometimes even I am not sure if I dreamed a thing or if it really happened. I reassured her that she was safe and I was just in the next room and she can call me if she wakes up. I saw that she had her favourite cuddly toy in bed and before she went to sleep, I read her a happy story and sang her favourite sons to her.

    If your child has nightmares,

    •  make the going to bed time calm

    • Rub her back and cuddle her if she is upset during the night, offer a sip of water, remind her of something happy that she can think of while going back to sleep

    • talk about imagination and how lucky we are that we can imagine things

    • discuss worrying news the child has heard and give reassurance or comfort or discuss together how a situation can be fixed

    • encourage the child to tell you what happened in the dream and you will often find a link between what he/she has seen or heard that you can give reassurance about

    • demonstrate that there are no monsters in the room or the house

    • have a night light in the room 

    Nightmares usually take place in second half of the night. Get the child back to sleep as soon as possible as sleep is important. Seek medical help if the nightmares are regular and check at child care or school to see if there are problems such as bullying or worry about work that the child is finding too hard.

    Kids in the news Drowning tragedy

    Most drownings seem to happen at the beach or in rivers so it came as a shock to the community when a preschool child drowned in the centre of town in the shallow creek that runs through the creekland park. It was a sunny Sunday and the park had numerous family groups picnicking and playing on the grass and the play equipment. No one seems to know exactly what happened but a three-year-old girl fell into the water and was unconscious when pulled out. She could not be revived. Families at the park quickly became aware of what had happened and of course everyone was upset. The family was from overseas which made it worse as there was no extended family to comfort the parents.

    This tragedy underlines again that constant supervision is needed wherever you take your children. They move so quickly and if there are other children present they can run off to see what is happening and be lost sight of.  Even losing a child for a minute may be too long. This is a lovely park with good facilities for children of a wide age group and the creek does not appear to be dangerous. But water is always a danger as is traffic of which there is a lot nearby. All those parents who witnessed the tragedy realized how easily it could have been their child. They have not been critical, but have offered their support to the grieving parents.

    Kids 'n Gardening - Spring is sprung

    Spring is sprung here and vivid green is the predominant colour. How wonderful it is after the years of drought and the dull yellows and browns of winter. I see green as far as the horizon wherever I drive this week. I couldn't resist a trip to the nursery to get a punnet of petunias and then I saw an interesting succulent which I bought too as summer might again be very hot and dry. Petunias are great for children to plant as they grow quickly, flower for a long time, and are very hardy. Succulents are a good choice for the kids to plant too for the same reasons.

    My family gardening activities at the moment are walking around to see what surprises are flowering. Today it was the first white irises and the crab apple which is full of bees. Take a basket or a plastic bag with you on such a walk and allow the kids  to collect some blossoms and flowers. At preschool age they pull separate flowers off the stalks, but some people can't bear to see heads pulled off. It you are like that encourage the use of scissors. Little hands can't manage secateurs. A magnifying glass is great in the garden too so kids can look right into the flowers. Weeds are sprouting at an amazing rate and there are so many different kinds of grasses that will interest the kids too. I'm sure you won't object to them being yanked out. Once back in the house or on the veranda, lay out all the finds from your walk and help the kids to press examples of each between paper. A book with blank pages is good for this and later, when the plants are well pressed, these can be used in craft to make delightful small greeting cards. Happy spring everyone.

    Our picnic at Iwata Gully

    Spring flowers we picked around the garden

    Healthy Living Picnics

    There is no better time for a picnic than spring. Fresh air, lots to see, and exercise is so good for everyone. No fuss, spur of the moment picnics are great as they mean the preparations are minimal and the adult won't be tired out before the main event starts. If the weather is uncertain or you have limited time, a picnic at home can be just as much fun as one further off. Each day choose to have the picnic in a different place. It might be on the terrace or patio, behind the shed, beside the bird bath, under a vine or tree, in a sunny spot or shade, along a path, over in the next paddock near the wood pile etc. There are endless possibilities. Or go further afield, cycle, walk or drive to a park. There are a lot of parks in my town including the lovely arboretum where there is a bridge to walk over a big pond that ducks frequent. They love to be fed too. A picnic doesn't have to be a whole meal. It can be a morning tea break or afternoon tea or surprise the family instead of driving home go straight after the shopping. Just grab a piece of fruit for each person, a bottle of water and some plastic mugs. Books would be a great addition and hats of course.

    Today I'm keeping the idea secret, but for morning tea I'll grab my granddaughter and bundle her into the car. We'll drive a couple of kilometres down the road  to Iwata Gully (Echidna Gully), park there and explore the bush, walking, running, climbing searching. Although it is close by, my granddaughter has never been there. I'm excited about the picnic already and it is only 6am.

    Indigenous news - A new website

    The Queensland government has launched a new website called Foundations for Success which is all about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and early learning. This site is really appealing as all the images are of children from these cultures. Children talk about the importance of Country and inspiring adults talk confidently about their training and working with children. It is clear that these well trained Aboriginal and Torres Strait people will arouse curiosity and enthusiasm in the children they teach.

    Here is a link to the site:  There you will see links to guiding principles, building learning bridges and more.

    Book Review - Ned the Lonely Donkey

     by Noel Barr

    Illustrated by P. B. Hickling

    Published by Ladybird Books, series 497

    Available from Amazon

    When my children were small we bought the Ladybird learn to read books and then some from their other series (e.g. history and fairytales). They were excellent books and so loved. Ned the Lonely Donkey is one from series 497. It is a tale about a donkey who has no one to play with as all the farm animals he meets are busy. However, with the help of the Wise Owl and the Magpie, he finds Timothy a small boy who is lonely too. This week I found it on the shelf and gave it to my granddaughter. She was able to read it herself, very pleased that it had been one of her father's favourite books.

    Ladybird has been publishing books since 1915 and in the 1950's began publishing beautifully illustrated books for children that were both educational and entertaining. The books were hardcover, small and cheap to buy. My copy of Ned is marked at 26 cents. From the Ladybird site I read that there are still about 70 new titles published every year and over 600 titles are still in print.

    Do you read books from your childhood to the children and grandchildren? My family has a great collection of books from the past that are still loved.

    Play ideas Balancing games

    Most kids want to be able to balance like a circus performer or a gymnast and starting with simple balancing games is the trick.

    • A easy, fun game is to move while balancing something on the head. Start with  a bean bag and then see how many your kids can balance while walking. Other things to balance on the head are paper plates, cushions books and soft toys. Progress to moving faster or dancing while carrying these things.
    • Walking  along a line on the floor. Walk one foot in front of the other then walk sideways and backwards.
    • Walking along a beam laid on the ground
    •  Walking along a higher log or fallen tree in the bush.
    • Step between the rungs of a ladde3r that is laid flat on the ground.
    • Get the idea of balancing and walking while up high, by stand on a board or beam that is held firmly on two saw horses.
    • Improvise a surfboard with a breadboard or kitchen cutting board and encourage the child to turn around, bend down and pick something up, pretending to be surfing.
    • Balancing doesn't have to be done standing. Encourage sitting, lying, and kneeling on a skateboard before a child learns to stand on it. Help him/her to stand and balance on a  skateboard while holding onto your hands first to gain confidence before attempting to balance while moving.
    • use a board that has no wheels that can be balanced on a block of wood. Help the child to stand on the board and tip it from side to side by moving weight from one foot to the other.

    These games are really fun to do. Praise your child for good balancing feats. Balancing helps the brain as well as the body.


    September Issue 2016

    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 - Positive attitudes


    SPECIALS  - Positive attitudes

    Having a positive attitude to life is certainly the best approach as it helps us in work, in bringing up children, in getting through each day, in education, and it helps us in our relationships. I remember a poem we heard at school about a man who was always full of gloom. The weather was woeful, the crops were failing, and he could never see the bright side of life. The poem, Said Hanrahan, by John O'Brien, is a classic in Australian literature. It is worth reading and will make most people laugh as surely there can never be such a pessimist. Here is the link.

    However, there are pessimists and all of us probably know one.  I am disappointed if someone says to me, 'You look tired today', or 'You don't look well.' No doubt I might not be looking my best, but I'll feel better and do a better job if I'm greeted with a bright voice and a positive message such as, 'How nice to see you' or 'Did you see the beautiful blossoms along the street this morning?' Sometimes it is hard to think positively about situations in the world today, but things would never improve if people were not working positively towards making the world a better place. Each one of us can do this in our own homes and in our communities. People who concentrate on positive aspects of life are happier than those who always see problems in situations. 

    While we can't change the world we can all do something to make people happier and we can start in our own families. Here are some ideas

    • smile at each other and do an act of kindness every day
    • tell the family members that you love them
    • show interest in what others say and do
    • volunteer to do something for others
    • speak and act respectfully to everyone
    • get a pet  if you are lonely. Pets help people to fee contented
    • compliment someone on their efforts
    • donate to a worthy cause
    • speak up to support people who are not as fortunate as you are. Bullying happens all the time and we can stop its bad effects by speaking up
    • give someone some flowers or plant something in the garden
    • sing a song, listen to birds, look at pictures, read about people who are making a difference in their communities
    • try not to say don't .to the children


    Ages and Stages - Teaching values

    The best way to teach children values is to be a good role model as they will copy you. Love, kindness, helpfulness, patience, empathy,  fairness,  and  forgiveness are important values in my family.  Also willingness to try, persistence in the face of challenges, resilience, taking responsibility and creative thinking. In fact the more I think about values, the longer the list gets. Can these things really be taught? Rather than setting out a list and a timetable to teach, look at your own behaviour as well as what is happening in the family and especially at how you talk to others. This ties in with positive thinking and speaking. If you ask children in a pleasant voice to do something they are more likely to do it happily than if you shout and sound angry. How much better that a child does something for you because they like and respect you rather than because they fear you.

    Talking about kind acts even to toddlers, will help them to be kind. Thank them when they help you, ask them to help you or others and show that you value their help and their attempts to help. Recall acts of kindness e.g. 'You were very kind today when you helped mummy pick up all the papers that blew off the desk', or 'Thank you for wiping the table. Now it is clean we can see the photos there'.

    Sharing and taking turns happily is usually achieved by children around three years of age. Sharing attention is often harder than sharing toys. If you have a baby in the family, a toddler or preschool child can be praised for helping do many small things for the baby and you can show you value that help and kindness by remembering to say 'thank you' and by giving the older child special attention at a time when you can focus just on that child.

    Kindness to animals is very important for all children to learn and if you have a pet in the family children can learn how to hold or stroke the pet properly so it can enjoy attention from the children. Talk about incidents that you may hear of when people have not been kind and how sad it makes you feel, as well as how kindness makes you feel happy. 

    Kids in the news Keeping Kids safe

    Two recent accidents involving toddlers highlight the importance of supervising play and also making sure that equipment where your children play is age appropriate for them. The first accident involved a tyre swing that was suspended by a single rope. The little girl was playing there alone while her mother attended to farm animals. When mother returned to check on her child, she was hanging by her neck and was unconscious. The critically injured child was airlifted to hospital but remains in a critical condition.

    Accidents relating to ropes on swings are rare, but before any child is left alone to swing, an adult must be confident that the child will use the equipment the way it is meant to be used and is competent in using it. When two or more children are playing they may become more adventurous and try different ways of playing with normally safe play things.

    Another farm accident occurred a week earlier than the swing one. An older child accidentally put the quod bike he was on, into reverse running over his small sister. She was also airlifted to hospital and has undergone surgery for serious injuries. The age of the child who was riding the quod bike was not mentioned, but children don't have the physical power or the mental experience to handle high powered machinery designed for farm use.

    There have been many quod bike accidents over the years, often fatal. Some of these occurred on bikes that had been designed for children, but safety conscious people don't recommend that even these bikes are suitable for pre-teenage children. Farmsafe organization in Australia recommends that children under 16 should not ride quod bikes.

    Kids 'n Gardening - Spring scents

    As I write it is the first day of spring in Australia and with recent rain in the district where I live, the landscape is turning green and replacing the browns of winter. The wattle trees are in full bloom all along the roads and they make the drive to town a golden delight. Here there are a number of different varieties so that as the earliest ones finish, others appear so that wattle season lasts for over a month. I love the honey scent of wattle. Now the blossom trees and the magnolias are bursting into flower and my granddaughter has asked to borrow the camera so she can take photos of her favourite trees. I know I'll be stopping the car several times on the run to school so she can do just that. This weekend we will take our 15 minutes outdoors to go on a scent walk looking at flowers in people's gardens and where ever possible we will stop to smell the different blooms. In my own garden the there are a number of bushes with sweet scented flowers already in bloom. I'm not sure of the names of these except for the Budlia bush.  Another which blooms in winter when all the other shrubs are bare, was called Sheringa by my mother, but I can't find it on the internet. It will be fun to collect  tiny specimens to smell and inspect with the magnifying glass. I'm quite sure 15 minutes won't be nearly long enough.

    Healthy Living Fifteen minutes outside

     Most people know the importance of outside time for children. In some schools the program is organized so that children get several quarter hour time blocks outside each day. This outside benefits children and all of us in several ways including improved eyesight as lack of sufficient outdoor light can cause short sightedness. In the cold weather however, one often has to make a special effort to go out and to get the children out too. It is easier to provide activities inside, but it is healthy to go out even in the cold or wet weather.

    The title of the book here, 15 Minutes Outside, got me thinking. While it might be handy to have a list of 365 activities throughout the year, I was sure I could think of a lot myself. I called my granddaughter aged 7 and said we were going outside for 15 minutes. She came reluctantly from a Barbie doll game, but before we reached the paddock fence, she was chatting  brightly and suggested we could find 15 things and if I got a pad and paper we could record the things we would find. What an interesting time we had including launching a bark boat skippered by a little stick person. The boat was guided back to land and the stick man was put safely up in his tree house. We observed birds, ants, wild flowers, clouds etc. and we balanced on logs, jumped and skipped along, looked for beetles and of course talked and talked. The next day it was not I who suggested it was time to go out for 15 minutes, I tagged along instead of leading and again we recorded fifteen interesting things. While we don't do this on school days, it has become an important part of the weekends. So although I've not read Rebecca Cohen's book, I thank her for the idea. I hope too you will take this up to walk with your children or grandchildren or your partner or even by yourself and enjoy that time. P.S. I haven't managed to shorten it into fifteen minutes yet. There is always enough going on to last for at least 30 minutes.

    Indigenous news - National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children's Day

    This day, usually celebrated on August 4th is a day to celebrate the culture and strengths of all the Aboriginal and Islander people in Australia. It is a day to show children that they can be proud of their heritage and of the way their people have kept the culture alive over thousands of years despite many challenges. At Minimbah school in Armidale where I live, Invitations went out to other schools for children to join Minimbah students for a day of sharing crafts and sports. It began with a smoking ceremony to cleanse the area and included singing, dancing,  storytelling, and  all children could choose from a number of activities.

    Book Review: Clementine Rose and the Ballet Break -In

    By Jacqueline Harvey

    Illustrations by by J.Yi

    ISBN: 978-1-74275-757-5 Published by Random House Australia

    This book about Clementine Rose, her first ballet lesson and preparations for a concert,  will be very familiar to children who have also started ballet and perhaps heard there will be a performance at the end of the year. Getting the dance uniform and waiting for the great day for that first lesson is an exciting time for girls. There never seem to be many boys involved at an early age and sadly they are often bullied by other boys. This happens in Clementine's story too, but everything is resolved satisfactorily. There is also a visit to see Swan Lake which is a ballet that most young ballet lovers will have heard about. This was one of the ballet books my granddaughter got for her seventh birthday and it really was appropriate. I read it with her, often taking turns to read a page but for 8 to 10 year- olds, it could all be read by the child. Chapters are short and the vocabulary not hard. The illustrations are cartoon style.

    The book is one in a series and I can see that we'll be looking in the town library for more adventures of Clementine Rose's and her ballet group.

    Play ideasMini Olympics

    While the Olympics were on in Rio, the TV was taken over by sports events in many families. Some schools held their own version of Olympic games and the children were very excited about them. For younger children there were egg and spoon races, three-legged races, tumbling and dancing with rings, jumping and hopping. Medals were chocolate coins. Many kinds of ball games could be included in sports events of this kind for young children. It was also a great time for kids to learn their National anthems. Now the Olympics are over keep the children's interest in many sports going by helping them to organize their own races and events. 

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------August issue 2016

    SPECIALS - Domestic violence


    SPECIALS  - Domestic violence

    Domestic violence is often in the news and I recently read a report pointing out that when police are called to domestic violence incidents women are three times more likely to be arrested than men. This is despite the fact that men were using violence in 92 % of cases. How can this be so? Reasons include

    •  women are more likely to use a weapon than the men who just use physical force. The weapon might be a knife, a stick or bat, a bottle or even a saucepan or anything that she has handy to throw in self defence. It is rarely a gun as that has to be planned for and is usually the mark of a very desperate woman.
    •  the man is often more confident and more convincing.
    • The police can't make an arrest without evidence and the male often accuses the woman of striking the first blow.
    • the female partner often fears consequences to herself and backs down, failing to go ahead with a description of what happened

    All children will be affected in some way by witnessing domestic violence. It is not good for them to be brought up in an atmosphere in which domestic violence is a part of life, but it is often very difficult to break away. All children need love and help in  understanding their feelings and encouragement to communicate with significant people in their network.

    There was a conference in Victoria at the end of July that focused on breaking the cycle of family violence and strengthening frontline defences to prevent violence. It also focused on the justice system and how police and family protection bodies can respond to and manage family violence. I look forward to reading about it.



    Ages and Stages - Teaching life skills

    Do you get tired of telling the kids to clean their teeth, put on sunscreen, pack their toys away, bring their empty lunch boxes to the sink etc.? I do, but I realize that I must persevere as kids need these life skills. Aim to create habits in the children that will save you from unnecessary work and teach them skills. Your attitude is important. You can

    • Do things together - e.g. 'Come on, it is time for us to clean our shoes'

    • have routines in place especially when your children are school-age, so they know just what to do when they get up in the morning

    • speak in your happy voice about tasks as you work

    • work out the best way to clean up and teach that system

    • start teaching the skills when the kids are toddlers. They are never too young and toddlers LOVE helping

    • be patient as they learn the skills and praise effort and help e.g.'You have poured that milk without spilling a drop; well done'

    • thank them when the job is done

    • use the word responsible - at school it is a key learning skill

    • teach about consequences e.g. forgetting her hat for school means no hat no play.

    Teaching kids to take responsibility for their own belongings is really important. Everything has its own place and if we put things away, it will save a lot of time. If we teach this early, maybe the car keys won't get lost so often when that child grows up!


    Kids in the news Tragic fatal mistake

    Life for two families was tragically changed from excitement at the birth of their babies to devastation when nitrous oxide gas was given to the babies just after their births instead of oxygen. One baby died and the other is thought to have sustained brain damage. Details of how the accident happened are not yet known and of course it is difficult for people hearing about it not to blame someone within the hospital system. The government has ordered that all units built within the last five years must be checked and the unit in Bankstown hospital where the event took place has been closed. These incidents must act as a warning to all hospitals and all hospital staffs. There can never be too many checks before equipment is used or substances are given. 

    While this accident happened in a public hospital and it could not have happened at home, many accidents do happen at home usually through human error. In the same week a small child fell from an open window at a relative's place and was hospitalized with serious injuries. Our homes are full of potentially lethal electrical appliances, poisons, tools and structures which can kill, especially when most children are adventurous or curious about their surroundings.

    Adults need to be informed as well as vigilant when caring for children.


    Kids 'n Gardening - Dinosaurs in the garden

    Most people with small girls will have come across pictures of fairy gardens and might have gone ahead and made one too, but what about a dinosaur garden? If you have small children or friends with children making a dinosaur area in your garden will be fun both as you create it and for any visiting children to play in. Making it as a family project is an ideal activity.

    Your first dinosaur garden can be easily made with  pebbles, rocks, leaves, bark, mulch or chips and even weeds. In fact a part of the garden that has weeds in it would make it easy to start on as a nice clump of weeds is an excellent place for model dinosaurs to hide in or peer out from. Plastic dinosaurs are inexpensive to buy and come in various sizes so for a few dollars you can have some that can live outside while your child's loved treasures can be kept for indoor play.

    Groundcovers are usually very tough so transferring some into the dinosaur area won't be difficult. A couple of inexpensive succulents will also fit in well. Moss will thrive if the dinosaurs are going to live in a shady area and if you are not wanting to put real water in, a piece of plastic or blue pebbles can be used instead.

    For those whose children like to construct with hammer and nails, a larger dinosaur would be fun to build in a bigger section of the garden.

    Here is the start of my dinosaur garden.

    To see more of my dinosaur garden go to my Gardens and Kids board on Pinterest.

    Healthy Living Parent involvement in sport

     Preschoolers seem to be forever saying 'Look at me,' and once kids get to school that desire to be watched doesn't go away. They like their parents to watch them swim, do ahletics, play football and other team sports,  ride, climb, dance and do everything. They want parents to drive them to matches or help out at school sports carnivals. Many parents volunteer to coach teams and schools certainly appreciate the help parents can give. There are times though when parents get in the way especially when they want to run the show, shout instructions or abuse from the sidelines or distract the children from the tasks in hand. I was reminded of this at the end of July when my granddaughter who is almost seven now, went to her first ballet lesson. There was a notice on the door of the hall saying that Parents were welcome to wait in the vestibule, but were not to enter the dance room during lessons. I was surprised to see at least 15 adults sitting along the wall inside when I left my granddaughter at the door. When I returned for her, the class had just finished and the teacher was asking adults to 'please wait outside next week as your presence distracts the children.' I hope they respond to her wishes. My granddaughter loved her lesson and can hardly wait for next week.

    When your children are choosing a sport or physical activity, take into consideration how you will need to be involved. Consider initial costs,  ongoing costs, travel time, practise times, and also the temperament of the child and yourself. Will you be patient, will the child persevere if it is harder than he/she expected? Have you met and talked to the coach? Are there other children of the same age and size involved? Some games e.g. football, are aggressive with the potential for kids to be injured and for tempers to get frayed both on and off the field. Physical activities have health benefits if we choose the right ones for each individual and set a good example when speaking to the teacher and watching the matches. 

    Indigenous news - This week in Australia

    As I write this in the last few days in July, the Indigenous news in Australia is shocking as it is all about human rights violation towards Aboriginal youths in custody in the Northern Territory. It is impossible to ignore as it is in every news bulletin. I hope that appropriate action will follow immediately. People are calling for a complete inquiry that will take in all states, and force changes to laws that at present seem to allow torture both physical and mental with isolation in solitary confinement, beatings and use of gas and restraints used almost routinely.

    So what positive, good news can I find to report ? In Victoria a new Murrang: Aboriginal Education Plan to cover the next 10 years, was launched in July. The school-based programs will support students in a culturally appropriate and safe way. It will also extend the Koori literacy and numeracy program that helps children in the early years, and  into classes 4 and 5. Koori kids who have to go to court will be helped to continue learning. This seems a positive way forward. 

    The conference mentioned in the domestic violence article above also has big significance for Indigenous families. In the Northern Territory in particular, anti-social behaviour is a significant cause of  children facing the criminal justice department. Before imprisonment and removing kids from their homes the causes of bad behaviour must be dealt with. Using violence as punishment never works; it just leads to worse violence and more anti social behaviour. Rehabilitation of kids who have acted badly must replace brutal punishments.

    P.S. 1/8/16 Yesterday large protests about the treatment of Indigenous children were held throughout the country and a Royal Commission is to be held. An inquiry won't change the system. Injustices must cease at once.

    Book Review: Flat Stanley

    By Jeff Brown

    ISBN 978-0-06-009792-9

    Published by Harper 1996

    Flat Stanley is the first in a series of books about Stanley Lambchop. He was flattened when a notice board fell on him one night, but as he wasn't hurt he doesn't mind being flat, in fact there are advantages. His brother Arthur, however gets jealous because Stanley gets all the attention and even goes on a holiday. The two brothers are really fond of each other and despite Arthur's jealousy they help each other out of difficult situations. When Stanley tires of being flat and people begin to make fun of him, Arthur comes to the rescue with a plan that fixes him.

    The silliness of  the plot will appeal to children in the 6 to 10 age group. Eight-year-olds will be able to read the books alone and the humour and the sketch-style illustrations on most double spread pages will appeal to them. The text is of good size and the chapters are short and will keep kids turning pages to find out what will happen next. I bought a boxed set of four Flat Stanley books from  and I recommend them as good early chapter books for both boys and girls.

    Play ideasMatching and sorting activities

    Matching and sorting activities can be very simple yet lots of fun and are great as 'one to one' activities to do with your child. They need little preparation and can be part of tidying up and organization around the house. Here are some ideas to get your child having fun while helping.

    • sort the socks when you bring the washing in
    • sort clothes into piles for kids and parents
    • tidy the cutlery into types, sizes, pairs (knives with forks)
    • lids with bottles, saucers and cups, saucepans that fit into each other
    • recycling papers and plastic
    • sorting tins and packets in the grocery cupboard
    • sorting seeds - some to dry, some to plant, some to thread or use in collage, or to make patterns with


    July 2016

    SPECIALS - What happens if someone in the family gets dementia?


    SPECIALS  - What happens if someone in the family gets dementia?

    I've been reading sections on a website about dementia. The website has been prepared especially for children who may have a member of family or someone else they know who has this disease. Dementia affects many, many older people and sometimes people who are not old at all. It is often hard to diagnose and the symptoms are not noticed for some time. It can affect people in different ways and for most people the onset is very slow. In some families children are kept away from the affected person or parents just don't know how to react or what to tell the children. At there are separate sections for children from preschool age up to 16 years that explain about the disease in clear, interesting and informative ways. I have read the sections for preschoolers and for the 5 to 8 age group and they are excellent. There is also an info library in which you can find out about books that will help young children to understand more in an appropriate way. If you are a parent, a teacher or work with children this website will help you even if you don't have contact with any person suffering from dementia. I think the section about the brain would benefit every class of children from 4 onwards. In the preschool section someone reads the text aloud in a pleasant voice.

    I don't currently have contact with anyone who has dementia but one of my grandmothers had it. When I forget where I have put something, or can't remember information or a name, I hope that this isn't a warning sign that dementia is around the corner for me. I have already told my family that if I develop dementia I would be happy to go into a nursing home. I would rather do that than upset the lives of my children and my grandchildren. It is hard to plan ahead for changes in old age, but giving our children and grandchildren information such as in the website I have referred you to, is a good start.



    Ages and Stages - Sibling rivalry

    When parents have more than one child it is their hope that the children will be companions and even best friends to each other, but fights between them is very common and there can be quite intense rivalry. The age of the children affects their attitude to each other. Toddlers may grab toys or act aggressively towards one another because it isn't possible for them emotionally to share yet. So providing duplicate toys and simultaneous activities will help them to play alongside each other without competing for toys or attention. Preschoolers may resent attention given to a younger or older child and feel that parents have a favourite. They may say unkind things to each other, break or hide their toys, tell tales or blame their sibling for things that go wrong or refuse to help them. Fights can be very disruptive in the family so what is the best approach?

    • Be a role model by sharing and solving problems by quiet discussion instead of shouting

    • provide activities that both or all children can do at the same time and at different levels for their skills

    • suggest the children use words instead of hitting when there is a problem

    • intervene only occasionally. Listen to both sides of the argument instead of blaming one child and ask each one for a solution

    • accept the feelings the children have at the moment and help them to calm down

    • give the children individual attention regularly

    • avoid competition and comparisons and recognise that each child will have individual interests and skills

    • do enjoyable activities the whole family can engage in and if possible join in community activities too.


    Kids in the news Dance and music

    This morning I went to one of the local schools to show support for the NAIDOC week activities. The whole school was assembled to meet Mr Kristian Page an Aboriginal dancer, singer storyteller and musician. It was great to see how he involved all the students when teaching them a song with movements. He explained how important song-lines have been in the past and will continue to be in the future. Five girls and five boys then volunteered to learn a dance about kangaroos and eagles. The rest of the audience provided the rhythmic clapping music. Six students had been preparing to play didgeridoos with him  and this was probably the highlight of the 30 minute program with Mr Page demonstrating his big didgeridoo from Frazer Island and the boys joining in. Finally each boy played individually to show his level of skill. The double breathing technique is very difficult to master and interestingly the youngest boy was the most skilled at this.

    The school is very supportive of families of different cultures both by holding special activity days like this one and by providing a homework centre for children with English as a second language, and through encouraging parents from different cultures to share ideas and skills with all children in the school environment. Every fortnight also, parents and friends are invited to attend school assembly or gathering where a wide spectrum of awards are given to children from each class. It seems to me that this school strives to be inclusive so that every child is valued for what he/she can do.


    Kids 'n Gardening - School gardens

    There are many benefits to having school gardens especially from the health point of view. The best school gardens integrate gardening into every aspect of the syllabus and involve the community too. Some schools have used funding from the Gonski scheme to begin gardens while other schools have found local nurseries or Bunnings have supplied equipment, plants and knowhow to get the projects started.

    At the school my granddaughter attends, the gardening project has been great in involving Aboriginal children as a Bush Tucker garden has been started and parents and friends have just attended the opening of the garden to celebrate NAIDOC week. The garden is evolving with new plants going in regularly. The children have also created sculptures to decorate it.



    Healthy Living Living with stress

    This week I had to juggle a number of appointments as well as car service, shopping, going to the gym and paying bills and to make things more difficult without the car, the weather was very cold with sleet and rain. It was meeting the times for each job that made me feel rather stressed. I had just decided that I'd have to ring a taxi as each appointment finished, when my grandson stepped in with the offer of driving me to each place and waiting if necessary to ferry me to the next place. How lucky I am to have him here at the moment. I'm lucky too that I don't often feel stressed, but how do others manage?

    Is your life hectic with high levels of stress? Or is it calm, and peaceful with minimum stress? I'm sure that all parents get stressed just because of the many demands on our time and energy. In fact all people can suffer from stress even if there are no children about. Recent research finds that although there is no evidence that stress can cause cancer, it has been proved that cancers grow quickly when patients are put in stressful situations. It seems too that people are more likely to get ill if they are stressed.

    We often say that troubles come in threes but perhaps when one thing goes wrong, we don't face the next challenge as well as we could, so instead of coping, we look on it as trouble and stress ourselves about it.

    How can we minimize stress?

    • plan ahead and allow enough time to complete activities

    • Do less and do it well rather than cramming as much as possible into a day

    • communicate calmly when giving the kids instructions

    • consider changing priorities e.g. with regard to neatness, routines, time allowed to kids for completing  jobs 

    • delegate jobs and teach skills to a standard that is acceptable to you e.g. kids tidying rooms

    • keep warm in winter and cool in summer. If you are too cold or too hot you will get stressed

    • Keep happy, positive pictures in your mind instead of worrying, negative ones

    • talk to friends as a trouble shared is usually a trouble halved

    • get plenty of sleep, exercise, fresh air, good food and avoid too much caffeine and alcohol.

    When a stressful day is over, think through how you coped and praise yourself. If you feel that you didn't do too well, accept that we all make mistakes and think of how you can improve next time.


    Indigenous news - NAIDOC Week

    NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee and is celebrated throughout Australia in the first week of July. Many aspects of Aboriginal and Islander culture and history are celebrated during this time. In 2016 the theme is Songlines –The living narrative of our nation. The theme is reflected in art, handcrafts, dance, songs and stories that everyone can share.

    In many schools special Aboriginal or Islander guests speak to the children telling them dreamtime stories, teaching them traditional dances and providing live music for them to listen to. In New South Wales as it is school holidays in the first week of July, the celebrations are held the last week of June.

    At the end of NAIDOC week, awards will be announced for Aboriginal and Islander people who have made outstanding contributions to our nation.


    Book Review: Anzac Ted

    by Belinda Landsberry

    Published by EK Books, an imprint of Exisle Publishing Pty. Ltd. Australia., 2014


    I found this book too late for Anzac Day but you may like to get it now so you'll have it on hand next year to read to children on 25th April. The text is written in verse and I think this works well. Anzac Ted is a very old, raggedy teddy bear who was packed into a soldier's luggage to bring him luck and safely home from the First World War. Ted became a mascot for the troops. Now he has been handed down to a small boy who knows his story and loves Ted. The story begins sadly as none of the other children appreciate how special Ted is. I can sense the stillness that will settle over the class as the book is read and the listeners feel for poor Ted and also his owner as his toy is rejected  each time he is shown. This is a book about rejection because of being different and can be used for discussion with children from 5 to 10 from that point of view as well as being a good book to introduce the meaning of Anzac to the children.

    The illustrations, also by Belinda Landsbury,  are in soft pastel tones for the first section and the later ones are all in soft browns to evoke old photos. The author's note in the front of the book explains that symbols such as the Red Cross and the military emblems are used with the permission of the right authorities. Some pictures are based on photos of actual soldiers and battle scenes. I appreciate the trouble and research Belinda has done to bring this special book to the children of Australia and New Zealand and their families. Like Ted himself, this is a book to treasure.


    Play ideasBoard games

    It was only 2 degrees here most of yesterday and the hottest it got was 4 degrees, so when I visited the two child care centres I go to on Mondays, all the children were playing inside. What busyness there was. Some children were making bracelets by threading small beads onto pipe cleaners others were in the home corner and others with all kinds of construction sets. I didn't have a chance to see all the variety. We have had a week of very cold days here and it hasn't been suitable for the children to be outside for long at a time. For small groups and for children at home board games are a good way to spend time with the whole family. Try some of the following:

    • card games - there are many, many of these just for kids
    • Snakes and ladders or Chutes and ladders
    • Trouble
    • Memory- Frozen is a new one
    • Dominoes
    • Tiddleywinks
    • Mousie-mousie
    • Hoot Owl Hoot
    • Scrabble - good for school-age kids from 8 years up
    • Chinese checkers

    Board games and card games help kids to share, take turns, to follow rules, accept that they can't always do what they like or win, recognise numbers, count, read simple instructions, learn colours, remember, and practise fine motor skills. Look online for board games that suit your child's age. Jigsaw puzzles are another great way for families to spend winter time together. There are even some that can be done as electronic games, but the best are those you can do physically and what a variety there are for every age from toddlers to old age.  They help build concepts of shape and size and colour that will help with reading and maths ability too.


    June issue 2016


    SPECIALS  -The cultural diversity of our children

    In  Western Australia a report has been released about the culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds of children in the state, and it is fascinating. Twelve young people between 18 and 25 years of age surveyed  or interviewed 300 children from eight different countries about their lives in Australia. The children were asked about the positive things in their lives as well as the negatives. Some of the children have experienced trauma in their lives, especially those from refugee backgrounds. Other challenges include language barriers, bullying, racism and discrimination and finding their place in a different culture while retaining their own.

    Most of the children had moved here with their families although a few had come alone. The best things they said are family, friends, school, sport, freedom and safety. A lot of the children talked about freedom from war and the freedom to be involved in the wider community. This was especially important to girls who came from countries where women are very restricted in what they can do. Some girls were still restricted because of their family expectations. They all appreciated the opportunities of education here.

    The children felt that they needed more support in learning English and in fitting into Australian culture as most felt they were very different and are often isolated in the community. There is a lot of stereotyping in the media that makes life difficult at times. Making friends was often hard as they looked different, and didn't understand English for some time. Children who attended schools where there was a big multicultural group and there were classes to help them learn English, found it easier as they could support each other and make friendships within the group. Where there were few  from other background, bullying and racism were more prevalent. They thought that more  education about multicultural society is necessary to reduce racism. Many of the children had been made fun of.  

    Most of the young people and children felt positive about their futures and have goals about what they will do. Employment is usually hard for their parents to find as their qualifications may not be recognised here and many don't speak English. The young people worried about this. They often acted as interpreters for their parents. Most found that they were happy once they had settled in, learnt English and made some friends, but reflected that it had been very hard at first. For some who needed support from outside the family, it was difficult to find culturally appropriate support.


    Ages and Stages - Autism

    World autism awareness day was in April and in Australia the Queensland government is providing considerable funding to help support over 130 children with an autism spectrum disorder over the next four years. This is the most common childhood disorder in Australia and funding will help the children to develop communication and social skills which are so vital. Children with autism spectrum disorder need support both in their homes and in early childhood programs to develop these skills. Parents of children in the autistic spectrum, benefit from training and also many require respite services so funding is necessary especially when the child is young.

    The Autism Foundation (AEIOU) has eight centres in Queensland and one in Adelaide . The therapists work with children from age two to six on speech and language, life skills and behaviour management.  When children in the early intervention program reach school age they will generally enter a formal schooling program but will still need support in their classroom  to reach their potential.


    Kids in the news Technology to the rescue

    Kids with disabilities can often use technology to improve their lives. The latest Catalyst program on ABC TV shows just how life changing that can be. Thirteen year old Riley Saban was born with Cerebral Palsy. So far technology has helped him with a body suit that keeps his body  comfortable, a wheelchair and a special computer that allows him to use his eyes to select letters so he can spell out words to communicate. Now scientists are helping Riley to use his eyes to give him more independence. He wants to be able to turn on the TV, to open the fridge, to turn on lights and more. Dr. Nguyen and his science team will find a way to use the electrical impulses in Riley's brain to do this. They seek help from a scientist at the sleep lab so that the impulses can be tested then go ahead to invent a small machine that will read Riley's eye movements. He has to practise turning his eyes right, left, up and down and his dream is to be able to drive a car.

    This program is in two parts and at the end of part 1 Riley achieved one ambition - that of turning on several devices including the TV just by wearing a headband that read the impulses in his brain when he used his eyes. I look forward to the second program.  You can catch the program at

    It is wonderful that so much can be done to help kids like Riley interact with their families and to attend school. Scientists like Dr Nguyen need funding on a much larger scale than it is at present. 

    In the second program Riley achieved the great result of driving a specially built buggy around a soccer field. He was really, really determined and excited at the result.


    Kids 'n Gardening - Sowing the Seeds of Wonder

    I downloaded a book about seeds and kids in May and it stresses the importance of preparing yourself to let the kids experiment in the garden. Sowing the Seeds of Wonder is avalialable as a download from  by author, Marnie Randall Craycroft.  There really isn't one right way to do things in the garden. So if your toddler loves to get covered in mud or your preschooler can't stand to be dirty, it doesn't matter as long as they are having the experience and beginning to wonder why things are so. The first step in teaching a child about the delights of gardening is to  is get him looking, feeling and doing something with actual plants or seeds. It might be through animals or insects and observing what they eat and how they find food. It might be through pulling carrots or picking leaves from herbs already growing, it might be about watching the roots develop on a bean seed that is placed in a glass on damp cotton wool. Some of the activities can be done indoors whatever the weather. Here in South Eastern Australia the long autumn is almost over. We've had our first frost and the autumn leaves are nearly all blown away. However, we can collect apple, orange, pear and mandarine seeds from the fruits in season as we eat them and  compare their sizes etc. We could plan a spring garden and buy the bulbs we love. We could make a garden path get busy with rake and barrow and take piles of leaves to the compost. We could take a picnic into the garden and paint a picture while there, and collect berries, seeds and pods to decorate the house. There is just so much to do in a garden whether it is small or large. Let the kids take you outside today to show you amazing things that you may never have seen before.


    Healthy Living Good eating habits

    We all want our kids to grow up strong and healthy and to avoid bad eating habits. The best way to do this is to start early by showing by our own example. Small children and toddlers like to eat the same things as their parents and will choose titbits from their parents plates. It is best to prepare food for the whole family and even if you have a fussy eater in the family, that child can be expected to eat some of the food everyone else will be eating. I've read that it can take 40 times that a child is given a food before he/she will eat it. So perseverance is the best way forward. If we never give our kids green vegetable like broccoli, spinach or beans, they won't eat them as adults. Remember that too much food even if it is good nutritious food, is not good for anyone. Keep helpings on the small side, remembering that children's stomachs are not as big as adults'. Allow treats and deserts, but make the meat and vegetable and fruit the main part of the meals. 

    A great deal can be learnt at the dinner table. Kids can learn colours, sizes, numbers, vocabulary, manners, socializing skills, information about how things grow, where they came from, the seasons, manipulative skills like mashing, cutting, using cutlery and organization. How effective is your dinner table as a learning centre?


    Indigenous news - National Reconciliation Week

    National Reconciliation Week (NRW) begins May 27th and celebrates and builds on the respectful relationships shared by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians. The dates mark  important milestones in Australian history - the 1967 referendum the passing of which recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at last and gave them the right to vote, the 1992 High Court Mabo Decision that recognised  Land Rights, and the first Sorry Day of 1998.

    The theme this year is Our History, Our Story, Our Future. Reconciliation is something all Australians can be involved in. There is still much to be done to stop inequality. Our local community holds a bridge walk followed by speeches and  big family picnics for everyone to join on the creeklands on the last Sunday of May.

    For more about Reconciliation see


    Book Review: Felicity Wishes, Perfect Ponies

    by Emma Thomson

    Published in 2007 by Hatchette Childrens' Books ISBN978-0-340-94394-6 which is a part of Hodder Children's Books

    Many six-year-old girls like playing with fairy things and enjoy stories about fairies. This story combines fairies with ponies which should be extra popular with the 6 to 8 year-old bracket of girls. This book has three quite long stories in it, perfect for bedtime reading. It is too hard for most children of six to read alone, but an eight-year-old would manage it with ease. There are small but clear and interesting illustrations  on most double pages.

    The book began with a page of instructions of how to make a wish with your best friend and this really appealed to my granddaughter and she read this by herself. Each story has the same five fairies sharing an adventure with their ponies who they are hoping they can teach to fly. The fairies groom and exercise their ponies each day just as real girls must. They go to school and encourage each other when one makes a mistake or needs help. There are many books in the Felicity Wishes series and I think another one from the library will soon make it's way to my house.


    Play ideas Folding, cutting and pasting

    I remember from my childhood making pretty mats by folding paper and cutting out v's and other tiny snippets. Using scissors is a very useful skill for preschoolers to master. Be sure to get easy-to-use scissors of the right size for your child's hands. It is possible to get small scissors that make serrated edges too-like pinking shears - and these would be fun for kids. Coloured squares are nice but plain paper is good too. If your child is just getting started, draw shapes using straight lines for him to cut along. Make one fold and show the child what can happen when a piece is cut out from the fold. Show also how to make shapes that are joined together when the fold isn't cut e.g. a line of people or a line of eggs or animals.

    Children who are good at cutting can have a load of fun making a whole scene e.g. a town with coloured houses, trees and animals and by using glue these houses and figures can be made three dimensional.

    Children of 5 or 6 will be able to follow origami instructions while you are folding at the same time. There are also simple origami books that will get your child interested in the art. Give it a go. These paper activities are good any time of day or any kind of weather.


    May issue 2016

    SPECIALS  - Myopia

    At the end of April I saw a TV program about Myopia, short sightedness. According to the Catalyst program, the incidence of myopia is increasing at a very fast rate. and this means that more and more people, especially children, are needing to wear glasses. In China myopia has increased from 20% thirty years ago, to 80% of the population now. It is increasing in all the western nations too. Doctors in the past thought that people who had myopia had inherited the condition, but now it is known that it is caused when the eyeballs becoming elongated. This happens because of the environment and especially because of the amount of light people are exposed to.  A recent study of 4000 children in 55 schools in Sydney has shown that although the amount of time spent watching electronic devices has no bearing on short sightedness, the amount of time that children spend outdoors does. It doesn't matter what kind of activity is done during that time outdoors, it is the amount of light that is important. The study concluded that children can do close work and look at TV or computers etc as long as they balance that with time outdoors. As part of the research children in China and Taiwan were given between 40 and 80 minutes extra outdoor time over a three year period and  the number of children developing short sightedness fell by up to 50%.

    Wearing hats and sunglasses still allows enough light to enter the eyes. The solution of more time outdoors seems simple and without it, by the year 2050 80% of the world population may be myopic!



    Ages and Stages - Whining kids

    I think everyone who has children is familiar with the whining stage and if we let it get established it will be in for a long time. What can we do about it?

    •  Sometimes it means your child needs your attention so give it before she starts whining

    • Sometimes it means your child is tired or bored so attend to this

    • Tell the child to ask in a pleasant voice

    • explain that you don't understand whining so the child needs to use a different tone of voice

    • ask the whiner to tell others that no whining is allowed in this house

    • make a sign -no whining, no frowning no complaining

    • suggest the child saves up to buy the wanted toy herself

    • praise your child when he/she uses a pleasant voice

    • advise kids beforehand if you'll not be buying treats at the shops.

    Whining can become a habbit so nip it in the bud.


    Kids in the news Child abduction

    Last month an Australian mother was accused of abducting her children from their Lebanese father who had taken them to Lebanon and refused to return them to their her. The mother had received sole custody rights from an Australian court, but the father had visiting rights. In Lebanon custody is always given to the father when a marriage breaks down. Two Australian media people were involved in grabbing the children in the street and putting them into a car but their attempt to help the mother get her children back failed. Arrests were quickly made and the children returned to their father. In order to avoid imprisonment for a long time, the mother had to agree that the children live from now on with their father. She will be able to see them occasionally. While some of the media personell have been freed, others of the team have not.

    Our government has stressed that when people travel overseas it is vital that they obey the laws of the country they are visiting.  The father was wrong to take his children away without permission, but the mother was wrong to try to take the children back by force. Two wrongs cannot make a right.

    Custody battles are sad as someone always loses. The best interests of the children should always be the main focus. In this abduction case the feelings of the children and the impact on them of what happened, was not considered carefully before action was taken. They must be very confused about what happened.


    Kids 'n Gardening - Animals in the garden

    While most of us are aware that we must provide a safe garden environment for children, not everyone is aware of how to keep animals safe in the garden. Poisons are a very real danger that are often found in our gardens. Do you use snail baits? Do you use mouse and rat bait or rabbit bait? Dogs and cats can die  from the poisons in these baits even if only a tiny amount is eaten. Eating a poisoned animal can also be fatal. Even licking bait from  the paws after walking on it can cause death. Some of the baits are mixed with food that attracts dogs or look like dry pellet food.

    Baits should always be put into containers that your dog or cat cannot open and should be placed in places where the animal is unlikely to go.

    Many plants are also poisonous to pets, especially lilies; all parts of lilies are poisonous. The seeds, stones and berries of some plants are also toxic to dogs and cats so should be cleared away and not left under the trees where they might attract a pet. Fertilzers and pest sprays are also poisonous.

    Also watch for bindiis and other sharp prickles and grass seeds that can get embedded in your pets feet, between the toes and even in the body fur. Some grass seeds get into ears and can cause real pain so be alert especially if the animal is shaking its head.  If an animal is unwell it needs immediate attention from a Vet to give it the best chance of survival.


    Healthy Living Autumn weather activities

    Cooler days have certainly begun and where I live the town pool has closed until October. A heated pool is available in the community, but it isn't so accessible so my family is unlikely to swim in autumn or winter. It is a good time to encourage ball skills and skipping with your family. At my granddaughter's school the Gonski funding has meant that portable soccer nets have been purchased and each day children are practising kicking skills. There is also a basketball ring with an area to practise and the youngest children are being encouraged to play handball. Yesterday I noticed that a couple of children were playing elastics and I hope that idea spreads as jumping is an excellent way to keep fit, take turns and socialize. At home my granddaughter is learning to use a rope to skip and she can use a light racquet to  hit a ball thrown to her both indoors and outside. Simple ball games are great for the whole family to join in. Bike riding is also wonderful exercise for families if you all have wheels.

    In the garden there are lots of leaves to rake up now and we have begun collecting sticks for lighting the fire in the evenings. After exercise remind children to put on a jacket so that they don't get chilled. 


    Indigenous news - My Country, Our country-We All Belong

    On 4th August Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children's Day will be held and planning is underway.  The theme this year is My Country, Our Country - We all Belong. This is a big, important day for indigenous kids so help all children to celebrate it by planning ahead now.

    The Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) has prepared theme bags that can be ordered at $6 each from The bags contain several things including an activity book, tatoos, pencils, a cap and seeds to grow indigenous plants. However, it could be fun to prepare your own bags. You could ask some Elders in your community for ideas and perhaps they would help to make drawings that can be photocopied to use for colouring pages in simple books for the children in your class or group. I'm sure they will suggest ways to celebrate the day so that the whole community can take part. The website mentioned above also has celebration ideas.


    Book Review: Princess Tales

    Princess Stories -Favourite Fairy Tales is a library book that we've been reading in the last week. They are retold by Jackie Andrews and illustrated by Kate Davies and published by Award Publications Ltd.

    The book has seven tales in it and includes Rumpelstiltskin and The Princes and the Pea which are not often in editions of Fairy stories. Both of these were favourites of mine when I was six or seven.

    Every page has an illustration and the text is set out clearly so that beginning readers will enjoy reading the tales or taking turns to read a page with an adult to help. Familiar tales are good for children to attempt to read as they can often work out an unfamiliar word from the context or their knowledge of the story.


    Play ideas Sticks, leaves, seeds and cones

    It is time to gather autumn leaves once more and use them inside and out. Let the kids rake them then jump into leaf heaps or roll in them or fling into the air. Collect barrow loads of leaves and dump them on the compost heap or spread on the gardens. Gathering and using sticks in the garden is fun too. Kids love to draw in the dirt or sand with a stick. My granddaughter has been writing numbers in the sand on the tennis court this week. She was hitting a ball with a light plastic racquet when her Dad threw it to her. Every time she hit the ball, she ran to write the number on the ground and she ended up with a long line of numbers from 1 to 25. The next afternoon, as the numbers were still plain to see, she placed a tick beside each one as she hit the ball. I can see other pictures and marks being made each afternoon. We began these late afternoon games after watching the Catalyst program about myopia and decided that we should make sure that there is some outside time each day after school. It benefits the whole family too.

    In the weekend we will walk around town where there are wonderful colours at the moment, and collect leaves to use in craft activities.

    I pinned a great poster of kids' tree paintings on my Pinterest board of Kids and Nature and then looked at the source at the Immagination tree. The paintings there, all done by kids, are breathtaking. Here is the link A number of different mediums have been used such as textas, paint, crayon, pencils and also different methods of applying the colour. The pictures are so vibrant and each one so different.  I'm sure you will be inspired. As the former teacher who has collected the art works says, each is worthy of a frame. How about getting your kids painting trees for their mothers and either framing them or making them into cards for Mothers' Day next Sunday?


    April Issue 2016


    SPECIALS  - Public Education

    In Australia everyone with school aged kids has heard of the Gonski plan and how its implementation has helped schools so that every child can get the maximum benefit from education. With a change of government however, funding has been cut, is no longer guaranteed for the full four years, and will end next year. This is bad news for disadvantaged schools many of which are in regional towns. On 1st April the Prime Minister announced another radical change that the government is thinking about that has shocked teachers everywhere.  He suggests that the Federal Government stop funds to Public schools and only funds Private schools!  This was no April Fools prank.

    At the moment Gonski funding has made significant improvements but much more is needed. One in seven fifteen-year-olds still doesn't have basic reading skills at present. Australia has fallen way behind in world standing for education achievements and if funding is left to the states alone for Public schools where most of our kids are educated, the future will be bleak. Gonski has improved literacy, implemented cultural programs, improved Indigenous attendance and literacy levels, and given one-on-one student support where necessary to improve learning outcomes as well as providing vital resources to schools nation wide. Its goal has been to lift every school out of disadvantage and give every child an equal chance to achieve his/her potential. When funding is cut as it already has been, this goal cannot be met.

    We must all speak up to protect our Public schools from further funding cuts.  This is an election year so let's stand up for the education of ALL our children.

    Ages and Stages -Getting chores done

    I recently met parents who have eight children five of whom are still at school, yet the mother has found time to study business management at Tafe and the father works. It set me wondering how parents with big families manage the work load of cooking, cleaning, washing and shopping and all the other things parents have to do and still manage to study or work outside the home. It must all be because of effective time management and the sharing of chores.

    Even toddlers can help in a meaningful way. They can put clothes into the clothes basket ready for washing, put shoes or hats into baskets to keep them tidy, put vegetables on the bench ready for preparing dinner. They can wash their own hands and take their own clothes off.

    Five-year-olds can find their own clothes to wear and put the dirty ones out to wash. They can set the table, run messages about the home, spread their own bread at meal time and take dirty plates to the kitchen sink.

    Eight and nine-year-olds can prepare their own snacks and make their lunches for school. They can unload the shopping and put it away in the right places. They can make their own beds.

    At nine they can sort clothes for washing  and load the machine and turn on the cycle. While twelve-year-olds can hang the washing out and bring it in. They can also take the garbage to the bin and put scraps in the worm farm. 

    Parents today often don't expect their kids to be responsible for much around the home. Instead of being given regular jobs to do, they are allowed to play electronic games or watch TV while Mums struggle to cook, iron, clean, tidy up and keep in a good mood too. Dads seem still to do most of the mowing and outdoor jobs and are more likely to be called on to help Mum than the kids are.

    When getting the kids to do the chores it is best to show them exactly what to do until they learn. For example to put clothes into a draw, show how to fold them or they will be stuffed into a drawer in a lump. When wiping the cutlery,  put the spoon into the section for spoons and the forks into their section etc. Have set places for brooms, dusters, keys etc. and insist that things are put back in place.

    Families will be happier when everyone helps by sharing the chores so making more time for leisure. Everyone will appreciate each other more too. Encourage kids to help willingly and grow in independence as they take responsibility for themselves.

    Kids in the news Car accidents

    I noticed a news headline about four children who received slight injuries in a car accident in which their mother was killed. It is tragic when children lose a parent and traffic accidents can so often be avoided. The newspaper report didn't mention what the weather conditions were at the time, or what kind of car or the time of day, or what the road was like, but it was a single vehicle accident. There are so many factors including speed that we must consider when driving especially when driving with children.

    Here are some factors to remember that will help us keep children and ourselves safe in cars:

    • Use the right kind of restraint for the age of each child

    • make sure the restrains are properly fastened

    • seat children under 13 in the back of the car

    • never leave children in a car unsupervised.  They can accidentally set it in motion by releasing the brake

    • set rules about what kids can do in the car so that the driver is not distracted

    • know the road rules and watch for changes in traffic conditions

    • watch your speed especially on unfamiliar roads and in poor visibility, rain and at night

    • don't drive when tired or your risk falling asleep or making errors

    • take special care when backing as kids move so fast that a child can be inside one second and out behind the car next. Kids are so small too that you may not even see a child who is in front of a vehicle.

    • Kids should never be allowed to use a car as a play space. Never leave the keys in the car.

    • Power windows can trap children's hands or even heads.  

    • Car keys should be kept in a safe place. Don't allow kids to use the car keys.

    Kids 'n Gardening - Autumn again

    Autumn is my favourite time of year as the weather is still warm but not too hot. This year the autumn colours are very late and tomorrow is the Autumn Festival and hardly any colours around the town. It has been very, very dry too so some trees have shed their leaves without colouring. If only the dark sky today would translate in to storms tonight or tomorrow, the farmers, graziers and gardeners would be happy. There are lots of jobs in the garden at this time of year and although there may not be colours, there will be leaves to rake. Get the kids competing on collecting piles of leaves to go into the compost or onto garden beds. Collect autumn leaves for craft activities too.

    Healthy Living Autumn is apple time

    Apples have just begun to come into the shops crisp, juicy and delicious so it is a great time to encourage the kids to eat them. They are an ideal fruit for school lunch boxes as they are not messy like nectarines or have pips like mandarins. For children with wobbly teeth it is necessary to cut them into quarters or smaller, but if wrapped in foil they don't go brown, but remain crisp. Apple pieces go well with pineapple pieces or grapes and can be added to cheese, olives, tomatoes, tuna chunks or egg slices and coleslaw to make a tasty salad for school. This kind of lunch plus a whole meal biscuit or slice of wholemeal pocket bread is eaten well by my sis-year-old who rarely ate any lunch at school last year.

    Indigenous news - Close the Gap health services

    Oral or dental health is very important to the overall health of both children and adults. More Aboriginal and Torres Strait people suffer from poor dental health than non Indigenous people. Children with holes in their teeth are likely to suffer from pain, loss of teeth, have speech difficulties and lose confidence in social interactions with their peers and teachers at school. Decayed teeth make eating difficult and often result in too many soft foods in the diet thus increasing the risk of obesity, diabetes and kidney disease which are higher in the Indigenous population than in the non indigenous population. As well as tooth decay, poor diet can lead to gum disease that also interferes with eating. Prevention of both cavities and gum disease is much better than treating the problems.

    Aboriginal health services are spread throughout the country and Aboriginal health workers are also employed in regional areas as hospital Assistants in maternity, dental, renal, physiotherapy and emergency health work. These services are very important to help Indigenous people to feel comfortable attending a hospital and in learning how to look after themselves and family members. Learning about nutrition will help mothers to provide healthier snacks for their children and this will in turn help their dental health. There is a big need for more Aboriginal health services and health workers and especially for fully qualified workers.  People who can find treatment close to their homes will attend regularly when they are sick and will take children into the centre before problems get out of control.

    Although all Australians support the closing the gap strategies, the rate of progress is slow. There is still much too big a gap in the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait people.  

    Book Review: Start Early. Respectful relationships for life

    This is not a book review but a message about a free online course that has just been launched and is supported by the NSW government.  I am writing to alert people to this important initiative in the hope that all readers will look into it and take this opportunity to increase their knowledge about helping children to develop respectful behaviours and attitudes  It has three online modules that include videos that look at respectful relations in early childhood. It includes the role of gender and respect in children’s lives from  when the baby is born. It will give us strategies to use whether we are parents, carers, educators or others (sports coachers for example). Strategies to increase the positive influence of fathers in their young child’s learning environments.

    The course has been developed because domestic violence is getting worse each year. Last year one woman each week in Australia was killed by her partner or ex-partner. This year the number has increased to two women each week. The effect on children of domestic violence is immense and affects their whole life, but they are often ignored when action is taken to protect adult victims. All children, including toddlers, need to learn how to get their needs met without hitting, biting and screaming. Preschoolers need constant reminders of how to express their feelings in non violent ways. Gender is not an excuse that allows boys to hit and be violent and girls to be suppressed and feel that they are to blame for the actions of others. We need gender equality. All people must learn respectful behaviours. Remember domestic violence includes emotional violence in which the woman's life is controlled by her partner so that she feels worthless and is unable to act on her own initiative. We all need to help prevent domestic violence.

    Click here  to find out more and to register

    I have registered and it wasn't as straight forward as I hoped as I had to give an organization. For that I said 'research.' I also needed to select a group and I selected educators for that although I am no longer in paid work. You could always say your group is 'parent'. My registration was accepted and an account made, but the training modules have not yet started. I feel it will be a worthwhile course, especially as it is free.

    Here is an email address where you can receive updates

    Play ideas Learning with apples

    This month I'm really enthusiastic about apples so I'm using them in play too.

    • shop for apples of different kinds and look at their colours, sizes and then taste them.
    • draw apples. This shape is easy for kids. Encourage older kids to put in the detail of shades or stripes that some apples have
    • cut out apple shapes and paste onto a painted tree
    • look for a real apple tree and pick some apples
    • tell the story of the Little red, round house with a star inside. Cut an apple around the middle to show the star
    • count the seeds in an apple. Soak some seeds and see what happens.
    • put a whole apple into a bucket of water and see what happens. Cut the apple into pieces and see what happens then.
    • cut an apple into quarters and cut out the core. Find an apple corer and take the core out that way, then stuff a date into the apple and bake it in a little water
    • cook apples by stewing them. Slice apples and bake a pie
    • peel an apple without breaking the peel and measure how long the peel is
    • weigh apples
    • arrange slices of apple in as many patterns as you can think of
    • blindfold your child and get her to identify apple by smell  from banana, pear and orange
    • what other ideas can you think of?
    • -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    March Issue 2016


    SPECIALS  - Kids, Music and Movement

    I've been delighted with the progress that my granddaughter has made in reading and writing at her school, but I've been disappointed with the lack of initiatives with music, singing and dance which she enjoys so much. These activities that young children seem to love and have natural ability in, were core subjects years ago. Now they seem to be considered only for special occasions. I look back on my own primary school education where every day began with singing and folk dancing was part of the physical education curriculum. It was all so much fun. Each year in the Infants and Primary years children had what was called a frolic night when we all dressed up and danced in the Town Hall. Many of the costumes kids wore were made from crepe paper and were a one night only costume. The Parents and Citizen Committe provided supper so it was a real party atmosphere.

    In my school visits as a storyteller in recent years I found some of the schools did movement and exercises every morning because it stimulated the children and their concentration was better in lessons as a result. I was thinking about the fun today's children are missing out on a couple of weeks ago and then received a newsletter from Marlene Rattigan about the benefits of music and movement. If you look at her website you will learn more about how the brain benefits from movement and about resources that the Move to Learn movement uses.


    Ages and Stages - Teaching kids about money

    Parents tend to think that understanding money is something that children will learn after they go to school. However, the earlier that we encourage them to handle money and explore it, the quicker their skills will develop. There is much that even a three year old can learn. Playing with pretend money or play money is something that most pre-schoolers enjoy, but with supervision real money can be used. Here are some ideas:

    • teach your children to recognise the coins by the numbers and symbols on them and to name them correctly

    • encourage counting coins and sorting them into groups or into stacks.

    • let them study the paper notes and talk to them about the symbols on them

    • help your child to count out coins to the same value as a note

    • talk about using money to buy food, petrol etc.

    • look with your child at the way prices are shown in the shops

    • compare prices - what does one banana cost compared with a peach?

    • start your child saving money in a piggy bank or purse. This money should be kept safely in a special place so that the child begins to understand that money has value

    • many children of eight and older like to earn money by doing chores, but most chores at home should be done happily without payment.

    Kids in the news National Day for action against bullying

    March 20th is a day across the nation for action against bullying. The campaign is called Behind You and is to encourage kids to take action, to stand up for those who experience bullying at school or online. In the campaign kids do simple role play situations with a victim, a bully and others who step forward with support and suggestions for both the bully and the victim. If one child steps forward to give support to the victim often others will follow that example instead of being a bystander. As many as 40% of school kids get mean messages when they are alone by text or on social media like Facebook. The campaign gives kids the opportunity to reply to hurtful messages or to report the bullying to the social media website, teachers and parents.

    Of course we should stand up and take action every time we witness bullying, not just on one day of the year. Schools can order special wristbands for students to wear when they register their school at

    Kids 'n Gardening - Games in hot, hot weather

    Officially it is the beginning of autumn in the southern hemisphere, but it is still very hot with many districts having temperatures in the 40's. The kids still need to get outdoors and if you can spare a bit of water that will keep them cool and having fun.

    Body painting is fun for everyone. Use vegetable type dye that will wash off easily. When every one is in swimmers, the fun begins. Give a set time to apply the paint to each other and admire the works of art,  then someone will turn on the hose and wash everyone clean.

    Balloon fun:  Fill a balloon with water, make a small hole in it and toss it from one to another  until all the water is out.

    Water pistols or spay bottles are easy for most kids to use. They will get great pleasure out of scoring parents or grandparents with a spray of water.

    Wet sponge fights Instead of pillow fights have wet sponge fights. Set the rules so that no one get's hurt. It is best to  throw sponges to hit someone only below the waist.

    Bubble blowing blowing bubbles of all sizes is fun for all. Make up a story about bubbles as you blow.

    Tree climbing If there's a shady tree in your garden it is the place to be on hot days or evenings. Encourage the kids to climb up using a stump, a stool or even a ladder if necessary. Sit under the tree to eat water melon or sip cool drinks.

    Warning: no one should drink from the garden hose especially after it's been in the hot sun as toxic chemicals build up and go into the water from the hose.

    Healthy Living Summer kebabs

    It has been a very hot summer in some parts of Australia and while parts have been very dry other areas have been very wet and humid Cooking a hot dinner at the end of a hot day is not enjoyable and the family usually doesn't want to sit down to something hot either. Kebabs are quick to cook and can be combined with tasty cool foods.

    Thread chicken, ham or turkey on skewers with tomato, cheese, watermelon, pineapple, olives, crusty bread, avocado, radishes, cucumber and celery. Fruit kebabs or salad ones are a great way to get the kids eating their school lunch too. Grapes and pineapple go well with cheese, small pieces of bread, olives, capsicum,  and avocado.  The kids will probably like making their own lunches this way too.

    Grilled chops or stirfry steak only takes a few minutes to grill and will combine well with potato salad too for those hot evenings. Make the most of all those delicious summer fruits and vegetables before summer comes to an end.  

    Indigenous news - Indigenous netball teams

    Netball training helps young Aboriginal girls to develop fitness, skills and teamwork and to feel safe, respected and valued as they train. The Emus, Dingoes, Budgies and Diamonds are some of the Indigenous netball teams for girls under 16. Players are selected during carnivals and competitions some of which draw players from all over Australia. Three girls from my own town have recently been selected in the Budgies Australian Indigenous Schoolgirls Squad. They love the challenges and the teamwork the games give them. Congratulations to these girls and may more young players have the opportunity to excel at netball too.

    Book Review: The Cat in the Hat 

    By Dr Seuss

    Published by Dr Seuss Enterprises 1957. This edition published by Harper Collins Children's Books 2016


    I'd forgotten about The Cat in the Hat but saw a number of Dr Seuss books advertised in a newspaper with this book free just for presenting a coupon from the newspaper. It is a book for beginner readers and just perfect for my granddaughter who is in grade 1. The text is full of rhyme, short words, short sentences and crazy ideas with crazy pictures that match the text. Most of the words can be sounded out too and phonetics is an important part of learning to read. There are 61 pages in the book but the nonsense of the cat misbehaving and the fish trying to keep order continues right to the end. My granddaughter and I took turns reading pages the first night and then she went on by herself. On the third night she came running out so thrilled to tell me that she'd finished the book and wanted to read me the last couple of pages.

    We missed the opportunity to buy any other books in the series with coupons, but there is a list of 22 books in the back and I know Dr Seuss wrote many more. I'll look in the library and failing that a bookshop. If you have a beginning reader look for some Dr Seuss books and the best one to start with is definitely The Cat in the Hat.

    Play ideas Floating, sinking and water walls

    A large dish of water has lots of possibilities for play. Little boats made from plastic lids or corks can be blown across the dish. Decorate the water with leaves or flowers then see what they can carry before they sink  Small plastic people or animals such as frogs, spiders and insects will  sit on the leaf boats but will sink if just put into the water.

    On my Pinterest board I have pinned a great idea for a water wall that I found on the web. Take a look and see what you can come up with in the garden for your kids. I think they'd have such fun helping you to make it. I like the idea of the dishes or barrows underneath to catch the water so it can be used over and over again. Please let me know when you've made a water wall of your own.


    February Issue 2016

    SPECIALS  - That angry feeling

    Everyone feels angry sometimes and what angers one person may not affect someone else. However, it is our kids whom we love, who most often seem to get us feeling really angry and over reacting, shouting and setting unfair punishments. What can we do about it?

    1. Make a rule : Don’t act when angry. Hitting and shouting and swearing will just tell the child that it is okay to do these things. Take time to think before acting.

    2. Don’t make threats that you can’t follow through with.

    3. Recognise that you have the power to calm the situation or to make it worse.

    4. Make rules before you get angry. If mess upsets you, make a rule about where the kids can be messy and when things must be tidied up. Kids under 6 need help to clean up toys or their room. Have a special time when clean up happens as part of the daily routine. Help kids to organize spaces so cleaning up is easy.

    If you get angry when the kids don’t come when called, make a rule about that. Set time limits so they know how long they have to do tasks.

    5. Instead of using anger to control the behaviour of kids, look for other ways.

    Often it isn't what the kids have done that makes us angry, but it is something else like tiredness or a build up of tension caused by events. Then we unfairly take our feeling out on the kids. The best way to avoid this is to take care of ourselves. Do this by having enough rest, by organizing our lives and  by remembering each day something positive about how we coped. Remember something positive about what the kids did each day too. Writing these positives down is even better than just thinking about them.



    Ages and Stages - The new school year

    School is back for 2016 and starting school is a big step in every child’s life. It takes time for your child to learn the class routine and to get to know the teacher and the other children in the class. Parents can help by also making an effort to get to know the teacher and other parents. If your child is starting back at school after the Christmas holidays, he/she will probably be in a new class with a new teacher. Although the school rules will be the same, your child still has to get used to the new teacher and any new class rules. There will often be some different children in the class too.

    Each day talk about the positive things at school such as playing with other children, making friends, and looking on the experience as a big adventure. Give your child a confident beginning by making sure you provide all the right food and clothing. In Australian schools children must wear hats to protect them from harmful sun rays during outside time. Most schools will provide hats for children who don’t already have one.

    Eating food at school seems to be a problem for children during that first year. Time after time I found that my granddaughter had not eaten her snack time fruit or her lunch and on checking with other parents found that this was common. It seemed to be that playing and talking were much more important to the children. Most didn’t realize they were hungry until going home time. The food was eaten on the journey! I’m hoping that this year eating will be part of her routine.

    Kids in the news Drownings

    Sadly more toddlers have drowned this summer. More than half those drowned were as the result of the toddler falling into a pool at home even though the pools were fenced as required by law. The drowning numbers in Australia are shocking with about 300 people drowning each year and average a drowning each week. Far too many of those are children under five years. In fact drowning is the major cause of preventable death in this age group and two out of three children who drown are boys.

    Some of the reasons why toddlers drown are because

    • they are attracted to water

    • they are top heavy and overbalance easily into water

    • they don’t have a concept that water can be dangerous

    • those who can swim may forget how to if they fall in

    • they are not strong enough to save themselves

    • they don’t call out but sink quickly

            Prevent drownings by following the information at The Keep Watch Program . See

    This program says four things are necessary

    Supervision – that means being close by not answering the phone or getting the dinner while supervising

    Restricing access to water –Have self closing gates and keep them in good condition

    Teaching water awareness –teach rules such as no going near the water without an adult. Have a designated adult watch children when they go to the water

    Learning to resuscitate – learn or update your CPR skills and remember having a go is better than no action.

    There are also fact sheets you can print at

    Kids 'n Gardening -Storybook gardens

    While searching for an idea for kids in the garden I saw a heading storybook gardens. The article suggested that one only needs to look at your child’s favourite stories to be inspired. Look at the pictures in their story books and think about the characters and decide what kind of plants they would have in their world. Perhaps there is an area in your garden already that needs only a pathway of stones and a stump or too to turn it into a storybook place.  

    Big plants such as sunflowers or drumstick alliums with their big, round, colourful flower heads and tall stalks are just the thing to appeal to children. Look for unusual weeds too that have nodding or shivery seeds. Weeds can be very ornamental and just the thing to fill in spaces in the kids’ garden corners. For bright colours nasturtiums are wonderful and need little care. The children can easily manage planting their large seeds and they thrive in hot sunny positions. Their flowers suggest fairy dresses. Help your children to make some fairies from pipe cleaners and artificial flowers to put in between the nasturtiums while they are growing. A little dish of water and some furniture from the dolls’ house plus some imagination and the garden will become a favourite place for the children.

    Healthy Living Fun and fitness

    I think that it is important to have fun in any fitness program. Of course fun doesn't mean the same thing to everyone. This year I’ve joined up to use equipment at a Healthy Inspirations Gym for women. I go three times a week and have been going now for three weeks. I’d never used gym equipment before and find it rather a boring way to keep fit after the interesting walks I’ve had for years around my local area first walking the donkeys and then just walking myself while watching an interesting environment. However, I decided that my fitness had dropped a lot since I’ve had sore feet and been unable to walk my five klms early every day. At the gym I only walk 2 ks on the walking machine and then use a variety of equipment that I hope will strengthen other parts of the body. One morning I can also fit in an exercise class for a group of ladies. That is quite fun and I wish I could do it on the other mornings. I was surprised to find so many grandmothers using the gym.

    For families I think it is really important to have interesting activities and fun activities for all members to do otherwise exercising becomes a drag not a pleasure. Swimming, dancing, walking, ball games, skipping, bike riding and trampoline games are my pick for families. Make a time each day for outside exercise weather permitting. If you have a baby or toddler, you can get great exercise pushing the pram or stroller to the park or shops or just around the block and back. The important thing is to just do it.

    Indigenous news - Jessica Mauboy

    On Australia Day this year Jessica sang the National Anthem in both her Indigenous language and in English from on top of the Harbour Bridge and this image went around the world. She has a wonderful voice and a sparkling personality and is an inspiration to thousands of young people in the way she meets every challenge. She knew that some Aboriginal people would not like her taking part in official celebrations of Australia day because it marks the arrival of the First Fleet. This Date is mourned by many Indigenous people as Invasion Day while others now look forward instead of to the past. Jessica saw the occasion as one to show her pride in being both Aboriginal and a modern Australian.

    Jessica works hard for the Australian Literacy Foundation which does a great deal to help children's journey towards literacy in remote communities. She says "I passionately support ILF’s belief that literacy opens the door to a world of opportunities – including jobs, better health and general wellbeing and I am very much looking forward to doing what I can to work with them to make a real difference.”

    All Australians can be proud of this young woman.

    Book Review: Frozen - A Tale of Two Sisters

    By Melissa Lagonegro, llustrated by Maria Naggi, Studio IBOIX and Disney Storybook Artists

    Published by Scholastic Australia 2014

    The movie Frozen has been very popular for girls aged between 5 and 10. My family discovered that the Disney learning series has developed a set of graded books about the film that will encourage children who are learning to read, to read the story from simple books. There are three levels and each level has three books. The first is A Tale of Two Sisters. My granddaughter, who is 6 years old, can read the three books in the first two levels. Her father bought them for her and is giving them out one at a time to make them a treat to look forward to. Each page has only a few sentences of text and illustrations that wrap around it. For Christmas My granddaughter got the DVD and has watched it several times. We restrict the number of viewings as it is important to do active things during the day and bed time comes early in the evenings. However, having the books is very satisfying as the illustrations encourage her to relate to the details of what happened in the film as well as encouraging reading the text. The next book after A Tale of two Sisters is Anna's Sleepover and the third is The Ice Games.

    The books are available in hard back or soft cover and are not expensive and as encouragement to reading are truly worth the money.

    Play ideas trying out new art ideas

    When I was in sixth class in primary school I was lucky to have a teacher who was interested in art. She took us to the art gallery regularly and talked to us about the paintings, the use of colour and the composition of the pictures. Every day she had us begin the morning with a quick sketch. Things she taught us have stayed with me and with others in the class, all our lives. We were discussing this when we met recently.

    Then I read an article about art and craft activities for young children that suggested that leaving children to explore art materials without suggestions is preferable to pre-planned activities. It depends on the children and circumstances I think. Many children don’t have encouragement or materials to explore at home. They don’t have role models and given the opportunity at day care or school, will learn a lot from taking part in planned activities such as painting a particular scene or personas, well as spontaneous individual projects.

    I am inspired by many Mothers who write blogs or pin information and ideas for art and craft activities on the internet in Pinterest for example. The ideas these mothers are sharing will inspire others to be creative and encourage kids to explore a variety of techniques and materials too. My granddaughter loves me to find an idea on the internet and then to try it out. This week we found out how to make a lava lamp. Fill a glass 2/3rds full of water, colour it with food colouring, then fill to the top with oil. Add spoons full of common salt and watch as the bubbles rise. We found it  fascinating.


    December Issue 2015

    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  - Keeping hope in our lives.

    There has been a lot of despair in the world recently. Despair about the terrorism in France, despair about Syria, despair about the huge number refugees pouring into Europe, despair about the number of women who face domestic violence, despair about poverty, climate change and much more. With so many struggles facing the world, it is easy to turn away feeling that it is impossible to help, the solutions are too hard to find. Some people though are motivated to take action. Instead of despair they see hope in each situation and although they realize that they may not see change or solutions in their lifetime, they strive to make a difference.

    We need to remind ourselves that there is also kindness and courage and reaching out to others with kindness does make a difference. When we read about or see the results of war and cruelty, look for the actions that have been taken to work for peace and the help given to those in despair. Some people find hope through religion, others find hope by focusing on the positive and by finding ways to be kind and to take small steps in a positive direction. You can do this by

    • becoming informed
    • making donations of money or time
    • signing petitions
    • speaking up against discrimination and violence
    • compromising in difficult situations
    • standing up for those who haven't the courage to do it themselves
    • carrying out acts of kindness in your own lives
    • never giving up on people and their right for freedom, justice and peace.

    When there are troubles in your life and the days seem dark, look around at the wonders of nature. I'm lifted up by the blue of the sky, the patterns of clouds, the colour of sunset, cows peacefully grazing, the warm rub of a cat against my leg, birds flying or perching, the amazing tenacity of weeds and insects and above all the laughter of children and the touch of a little warm hand seeking mine. Christmas is coming and is a time when people in every corner of the world will work and pray  for a peaceful and loving world.



    Ages and Stages - Sharing and taking turns

    This week I was telling a story to the three-year-old group at a centre. I love the threes as they are so keen to communicate, so full of ideas and have great enthusiasm for taking part in activities of all kinds. As they are hands-on kids, I try to have something that each child can do. The larger the group, the harder this is and this week the group was over twenty children. The children helped me to prepare the story setting by taking turns to put shells or sea creatures onto the story mat, telling me about their own beach experiences as they did so. A couple of the younger children found it really difficult to let others take a turn. The teacher assisting me knew each child well and was able to quietly help those children return to their places so the story could begin.  Then all listened to what happened to the three bears at the beach.  As I have only been storytelling a few times with this group, I find it invaluable to have the assistant there to help.

    There was a brief conversation about good manners and sharing at the end of the story session. Little bear had cried instead of using words and I asked 'Do you like sharing?' I was surprised that every child answered with an emphatic 'NO'. The teacher and I were impressed with the honesty of the response and we wondered what the four-year-olds would have replied. Sharing and turn taking is definitely easier for older preschoolers. Between three and four children need lots of encouragement to take turns and to share and praise when they do it. Opportunities and practise helps them to develop this skill. When children are playing, provide plenty of choices with both toys and activities so that sharing and turn taking doesn't mean waiting for long.


    Kids in the news Immunisation

    From the beginning of January 2016 all parents in Australia will need proof of their child's up to date immunisation in order to get the Child Care Benefit. This will apply until up to 7 years, but another supplement which applies up to 19 years of age may also be affected by this new legislation. . This Legislation has just been passed. Parents can check whether their child is up to date from the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register.

    Immunisation helps to prevent outbreaks of serious disease such as whooping cough and measles which can cause death because of complications. Polio caused so many deaths and major disabilities in the years before a vaccine was developed and now it is almost eradicated world wide. If people neglect to have their children immunised, there is a risk of certain diseases again becoming widespread. It isn't just one child who may be affected, but all children who have been in contact and their families. It is because of this risk that the government wants to encourage parents to have their children vaccinated on time by introducing this law.

    If there is a medical risk through vaccination, you can apply for exemption. However, exemptions because of religious beliefs will no longer be valid from 1st January 2016.


    Kids 'n Gardening -Making a scarecrow

    Summer is just beginning and at my place the cherries are ripening each day. Already the rosellas and parrots are sitting in the trees busily eating the fruit. Next it will be the plums. Last year the family got no cherries, the birds getting the lot. My six-year-old granddaughter is going to the trees with me each day to pick the ripest cherries, and today we made a scarecrow in the hope that it will frighten off the birds. She helped me to stuff paper into the legs of an old pair of panty for arms. We stuffed the body part of the pantyhose for a head and she drew on the face. We used an old t-shirt and old pyjama trousers and tied on an old straw hat. As the ground was very hard near the cherry trees we hung the scarecrow up on a branch using the hook of the hanger we had dressed.  We had a lot of fun with this project.


    Healthy Living Safety tips for summer

    While we all welcome hot, sunny weather to enjoy outdoor activities in the summer holidays, we need to remember there are dangers.

    1. Prepare everyone well for sun by applying suncsreen and wearing protective clothing including hats.

    2. Use sunglasses and see that kids' eyes are protected especially when playing on glary surfaces like sand.

    3. The sun can burn even on cloudy days. If there is sunburn, treat it promptly and keep the skin protected until fully healed

    4. Use insect repellent to guard against mosquitoes which can carry disease such as Ross River fever. But keep repellent away from  eyes and make sure children don't get it on food. Depending on the ingredients of the repellent it will be active from one to six hours, so will need refreshing. 

    5. Make sure kids don't get dehydrated. They need water during and after physical exertion. Sweetened drinks are not as effective as plain water. Sick children need plenty of fluids.

    6. Bacteria grows faster in hot weather. Keep food refrigerated or eat as soon as prepared. Wash hands before eating whenever possible. Cover picnic foods to protect them from the inevitable flies while you are eating outdoors.

    7. Supervise all water activities. A toddler can fall into a bucket of water and drown. Pool gates must be shut at all times and kids at any beach or river activity must be watched all the time.

    8. Bikes, scooters and skate boards are fun, but kids often fall off. Have the first aid pack ready for grazes. Use helmets and tough clothing when kids might be at risk.

    9. Animals can also be a risk. Helmets are necessary when horse riding. Be aware of the danger of bites and scratches from dogs, cats even rabbits. Be sure to provide your pet with water, shade, and food and make good provision for its care if you are going away.

    10. See that kids are supervised on equipment in parks or playgrounds. Not all equipment will be appropriate for their age and may fall or get pushed by older kids.

    Preparation and supervision are the key to happy, active and successful holidays with the family.


    Indigenous news - Taking a stand against domestic violence

    Domestic violence is a big problem in Aboriginal communities. Sadly 18% of Aboriginal women who face domestic violence are hospitalized compared with 5% of other women. Their injuries are often horrendous. In late November Aboriginal women came together in a summit called Tackle Domestic Violence and to speak out about it. Women who had never shared their stories before did so and realized that speaking out is necessary. They claimed that an angry partner always hits first at the woman's face. Domestic violence has a life long affect not just on the woman victim, but on her children too. The culture has to change with men learning to respect women and children. Boys need to learn from an early age that hitting is never okay. There is no excuse. Saying the woman provoked an attack is no excuse. Being angry or drunk is no excuse. But unless there are safe places for women to go with their children, unless men receive education and re-habilitation after domestic violence, things are not going to change. The good news is that many of the women have found help and are re-building meaningful lives for themselves and their kids.


    Book Review: The Children's Illustrated Treasury of Christmas Carols and Stories

    Published by Hinkler, 2015

    ISBN 978-1-7428-1969-3

    This treasury includes many of the traditional carols that I knew as a child as well as stories and poems. It isn't a book to read from front to back cover, but one to select a story from at random. Some of the stories are suitable for five and six year olds while some are for much older children. The illustrations are colourful and charming and can be used tell a story from your own imagination instead of reading the accompanying text. I feel that it is a book that will grow with the child. In one section the stories are from Germany, Mexico, Russia The West Indies, Zambia, Italy, Australia and America.


    Play ideasChristmas crafts

    1.Busy bags. Make a number of small bags and fill each with different Christmassy things for your children to do. e.g. a bag may have small Christmas cards or tags each with a different picture, some Christmas bells to count and jingle, a set of mix and match fabric squares of Christmas print material, little wooden animals or stars to paint. Another bag might have coloured paper squares glitter, glue, markers and stickers to make cards. Look for cheap and interesting things at the reject shops.

    2.Cut felt Christmas trees and small felt shapes of different colours for your child to decorate them.

    3. Do some Christmas cooking with the children e.g. chocolate crackles -no cooking and suitably messy and yummy.

    4. Make pipe cleaner ornaments with the children. Thread colourful beads onto pipe cleaners and hang these up around the room or on a Christmas tree. Twist sparkly pipe cleaners together, they are easy for all ages to use.

    Look at the many decorations in the shops and use the ideas to create simple, cheap things with the children that will keep them busy and delighted. Encourage their creativity rather than spending money on expensive things.


    November Issue 2015

    SPECIALS  -Sugar in the diet

    A group of kids who had high cholesterol, high blood pressure and too much fat on their livers were put on a diet that removed only the sugar from their foods and drinks. The types of food and the size of helpings remained the same. In nine days their blood pressure, liver fat and cholesteral had all improved significantly. Their weight also dropped and kids were not as hungry as before. Eating a lot of sugar causes the liver to turn it immediately into fat. In this study there was no control group of kids who continued to eat sweets and sugar so a further study using a bigger group of children should be done. Most of us realize that sugar causes weight gain, but this study showed that there is more that it does and it is actually harmful.

    With the silly season of parties, sugary drinks and lollies on the way as the year ends, think more than twice before buying foods that will increase your child’s sugar intake.


    Ages and Stages-Caring for pets

    During my visits to child care centres children often talk about the pets they have at home. Pets are very important in their lives, but for preschool children caring for a pet is really the responsibility of the adults in the family. Your children might be begging for a puppy, a kitten or even a fish, but consider carefully

    ·         Do you have time to look after it including exercise?

    ·         Can you afford to have it desexed?

    ·         Can you afford its food?

    ·         Have you a suitable place for it to live?

    When children are young they can’t be expected to remember to feed an animal correctly or to groom it regularly. It is often better to wait until they are old enough to take on some of the responsibility before you get a pet. In the meantime they can learn about caring for the kind of pet they really want to own. Raising money for the RSPCA is something that can appeal to school age children. The Happy Tails program encourages school kids to raise money to help rescued dogs. There are lovely plush toy dogs and other merchandise and the sale of each one will help the wonderful work of the society. See

     In Australia the RSPCA (the Royal Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), looks after abandoned or neglected animals. Every year the society suggests that people think carefully before getting a pet for the family especially as a Christmas present when you might be going away and not have a reliable person to care for it. 

    Kids in the news Grandparents' Day

    October 25th is Grandparents Day and it recognizes the contribution that grandparents make to the lives of the wider community as well as to the lives of their grandchildren. The grandparents of the year in NSW this year are Marjorie and Graham Elphick who have been volunteering at their local school for 25 years. There were also Recognition certificates awarded to Carol Underwood from Parkes. Violet Lord from Nowra and Ian Gilfeather from Batemans Bay. Carol has been caring for her three young grandchildren as well as caring for her elderly parents. This is a mammoth job but one that Carol does with much love. Violet serves breakfast with her husband’s help, to over 100 children at her local school every week day. Ian works in Bateman’s Bay to prevent child abuse and also has put in place mental health programs for children. It is great to see these dedicated grandparents helping their communities. Each state has made similar awards. Congratulations to all of them.

    There are countless grandparents everywhere who are doing similar work and most schools have held special events to recognize the grandparents of their school community. This morning I attended my granddaughter’s school and met other grandparents there. We went into see our grandchildren in class to see their work and later to enjoy a special morning tea in our honour. The grandparents in the kindergarten class I visited were amazed at the variety of activities the children did while we were there and how independent they were in carrying out each task. It was a great opportunity to see modern education in progress

    Kids 'n Gardening - Christmas plants

    As November begins many of us begin to consider Christmas. When children make a present for family or friends it is appreciated even more and growing a special plant is a great idea. Starting in November means it should be growing well by Christmas. Herbs and salad vegetables are very useful as they can be started in small containers and I don’t think a person can ever have too many. Seeds or seedlings are cheap and will be easy for the children to plant. Basil, chives, mint and sage lettuce, beans tomatoes and cucumbers are easy and quick to grow. Children can plant them in seedling pots or recycled food containers that they can paint in bright colours.

    Healthy Living Research of BMI or body fat in children

    The (BMI) or body mass index is a measure of body fat based on height. Boys and girls have different weights and heights according to their sex and this will change every month for young children so it isn’t possible to have an average BMI.

    When this measurement is used on children it often classes tall or small children as obese when in fact they are not. Scientists have suggested a different way to measure the fat on children because they are very sensitive about their body image from as young as 8 years old. For teens obesity can be an indication of health problems to come. The research is part of a four year study that includes looking at the lifestyle of children, their success in school work and whether specialist physical education teachers in primary schools will improve physical outcomes for children.

    Indigenous news - Indigenous sports stars

    The football season has ended and in both NRL and AFL finals there were Indidenous fooball stars. These young players inspire lots of kids to play football and to dream of having careers as players too. Kids from outback and remote communities all over Australia have great football skills, but there isn’t much opportunity for them to be coached or to have experience in the city or in big towns even if their talent is spotted. In Western Australia there is the North West Football Academy at Broome where young footballers can train. Players who move away from home struggle with homesickness so the academy is a great idea although the boys still have to leave their communities but they can go home several times a year.

    The AFL has football programs in schools in every state to encourage kids, both girls and boys, to play footy. As well as ball handling, kicking and marking the training works on fair play, teamwork, respect and leadership. Let’s hope there are even more Indigenous football stars in the next generation of players, including girls.

    Book Review: The Naked Boy and the Crocodile

    Edited by andy Griffiths

    Published by The Indigenous Literacy Foundation

    ISBN 978-1-742-61057-3


    This book is a collection of stories by Aboriginal children who live and go to school in remote communities. In these communities English is only a third language as the people speak their local language and at least one other Indigenous language. Children usually don’t begin learning English until they begin school. There are few books in their homes and few in their schools, but all the people are storytellers. The stories have been written by children from the Northern Territory, Western Australia and outback New South Wales. Andy Griffiths says in his introduction that all the stories in this book were written by the children in no more than 90 minutes. There are funny ones and stories of everyday life like playing with friends or riding motor bikes. The children are to be congratulated on their stories and their illustrations. May this project be repeated each year to give other children an insight into life in remote areas and to stimulate all children to write.

    To buy the book go to

    Play ideasFlower crafts

    At the moment there are flowers in gardens everywhere I walk as it is late spring in Australia. At school the kinder children made an indoor garden using their craft skills. Each child cut out flowers from coloured paper of their choice and pasted them on an A4 sheet on which they wrote their own little story about their picture. They were very proud when the pictures were pinned to a board and were put up to give their room a spring feel. At preschool the children in my story group loved the artificial flowers I took in. I provided polystyrene pieces that acted as a garden when the children poked the flower stalks in. Older children have collected petals and small flowers to press between sheets of paper and will use these later to make pretty cards to give out to senior citizens on grandparents day. There is so much to learn about flowers as they are so sensory. Get children picking and arranging them in vases, smelling the perfumes, sorting them into colours and shades, threading them in daisy chains, copying them with paint of pencils, or examining their structure under magnifying glasses.


    October Issue 2015

    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.



    Cutting down toy clutter.

    In my house at the moment, there are too many toys making such a clutter that my granddaughter can't find the toy she wants. Children value toys more when they don't have so many. How many toys is too many and what can one do to cut down the number?

    There are too many toys if your children are not playing creatively or constructively, or if they are squabbling about them and not concentrating.

    To cut down on toy numbers

    ·         pack some away for a time and bring them out later when they will be greeted with delight and seem as fresh as new

    ·         Take excess toys to recycling shops

    ·         Exchange or lend some to friends

    ·         Give some to charities

    ·         Sell some

    ·         Keep the most constructive toys and ones that encourage activity and creativity.

    Children can be involved in selecting toys to give away. Some children find it difficult to give anything away, but it is necessary for them to learn that no one can keep everything. Let them select least favourite ones to give away or ones that they had as a baby. They will relate to the fact that they have outgrown certain toys. Keep quality toys rather than cheap plastic ones that have a short life.


    Ages and Stages- Mixed age groups at story time

    This year I'm telling stories at three centres. Two of the centres have mixed age groups for storytime. These children are between 2 ½ to almost five year olds. In the other centre three year and four year olds have separate story sessions. I can certainly tell a more complex story to the four year olds, but in the other sessions I have found that the younger children are concentrating and able to take an active part. I sometimes adapt the story for the benefit of the younger ones. I choose older children to help first so that younger ones will see what they are expected to do. For example my latest story was about Spring time and the children took a flower each and poked it into the polystyrene box that was acting as a garden. All children were able to follow instructions. In my storytelling all children have something to do and with the younger ones I see that they don't have to wait long to have a turn. If everyone can be doing something at the same time, it is even better e.g. in the spring story we all sat in a pretend bus and sang on our way to the farm. The activities within the stories help children to gain confidence, help one another, take turns, remember, learn vocabulary, practise counting and much more.

    Kids in the news Dangerous creepy crawlies

    Recently a man discovered a long snake in his small daughter's bedroom in Sydney NSW. The snake must have slipped inside through an open doorway or under a door. It is spring time here in Australia and the time that snakes come out of hibernation. People living in or near bushland areas are usually alert to watch for snakes at this time of year, but to have one enter a house is certainly unusual and alarming.

    Spiders are also a threat especially round Sydney where Funnel Web spiders are common. They will come in from the garden during rain and hide in corners, creep into shoes or into piles of clothes left on the floor. These spiders are highly dangerous and a bite can be fatal. Remember to always check shoes and boots before putting them on if you live in an area where these spiders are found.

    This week in my story session I included a snake that come into the garden and we talked about what children should do if they saw one. First step is to stop, then retreat slowly while watching the snake and calling for help. As snakes are protected creatures we cannot kill them, but adults should call for a snake handler. At my story session, a member of staff came as the snake person, to remove the snake (a plastic one) and to tie it firmly in a bag to be released far away from people, in the bush.

    Kids 'n Gardening -Using recycled containers

    Sometimes digging a spot in the garden is too hard or takes too long. You don’t want your little gardener to lose enthusiasm while you are dilly dallying, so a container from the recycling box might be just the thing to get your spring garden started. Milk bottles,, juice bottles and cartons, boxes, baskets, old buckets, cans, shoes and boots, can all be used for planting. You will need to cut off the tops of bottles and put in drainage holes, but if you buy a bag of potting mix, most of the work can be done by the kids. They might like to paint and decorate the containers, but they are just as good left plain.  Many plants such as strawberries, flowers, mint and other herbs, will thrive in a container garden if you remember to water them. They can be hung up if you attach string, or moved to a better place to protect them from too much sun or wind. A container garden can be made so quickly, why not get started today? 

    Healthy Living  Montessori suggestions

    We all know how much children love to help in the kitchen, but do you help them to develop real skills there like slicing, chopping and stirring food as it cooks? Children who are educated under the Montessori system learn very early to use sharp knives and to cook on the stove using the heat that is necessary for real cooking. Gadgets are a great help and can be used safely by kids after demonstration and training. Montessori believes in allowing children to make mistakes too. So if the child doesn’t want to follow instructions and consequently spills juice or breaks a glass for example, she learns from that mistake and cleans up the mess. Encouraging young children to help prepare food can be a great way for them to try more of our healthy foods, especially vegetable like carrot, broccoli, peas and beans that can be enjoyed raw. Eggs are also good for the kids to learn to cook with. They can cook boiled, poached and scrambled eggs and learn to make omelets very easily or to add an egg to milk and banana or other fruit in the blender to make a smoothie. Begin teaching your child to cook safely today.

    Indigenous news - New Indigenous Protected Area

    In a remote corner of the Northern Territory and Western Australia five million hectares of land is the newest area to be declared an Indigenous Protected area. This area will be known as the Katiti Petermann IPA and like other IPAs will be managed and run by traditional owners. The elders are happy about the project as it will not only provide work for Indigenous people, but help children to learn about their culture and keep it strong for future generations. They will work on removing feral animals and strengthening the populations of indigenous animals. At the moment endangered species in the area include Black-footed Rock Wallaby, a Brushtail Possum and the Great Desert Skink Many children danced at the ceremony that marked the signing of the declaration.

    Book Review: No Way Yirrikipayi!

    By The children from Milikapiti school, Melville Island and Alison Lester

    Published by the Indigenous Literacy Foundation 2015.


    This delightful book is the result of workshops in writing and illustration held by Alison Lester at Milikapiti school on Melville Island. Alison worked with the students and assistant teachers and the book they wrote was translated into the local Tiwi language. When one first reads the story it is hard to pronounce the names of the animals that the hungry crocodile is chasing. However, it won’t take long to learn them. Each animal uses humour and rhyme to explain why it shouldn’t be eaten.

    I hope the Indigenous Literacy Foundation continues to fund work like this as the children must have been really thrilled to see their work in print. The quality of the illustrations and of the book as a whole, is excellent. Children of four to 8 will love the story and children between 8 and 12 may be excited by this book and be inspired to produce books in their own schools..

    Play ideas Using craft sticks

    Craft sticks are easy to get especially in summer when kids love to eat icypoles. The kids can colour them  and use them in many different ways. Here are a few suggestions.

    1. Use the sticks to make squares, triangles, rectangles, hexagons etc.
    2. Who lives in my house? Make house shapes on the table and  put a small felt figure in each house
    3. Colour sorting
    4. Number counting - match a number card to each row of sticks
    5. puppets. draw faces on sticks and add  paper or fabric clothes and hair to tell stories
    6. stick coloured dots on each end of the sticks and use as dominoes
    7. Use coloured sticks with playdough
    8. Use in water games e.g.who can blow their boat across the pond first?
    9. Place together in fantastic shapes. This can be used for a cooperative construction or individual constructions


    September 2015



    Partnerships between home and school

    A child’s education begins in the family. A major step forward in that education begins when your child starts preschool and then school. Close partnerships of trust and respect between educators and family will help every child’s learning. In effective partnerships, family members will know what is happening at school and will be able to discuss concerns, and achievements with teachers. Parents and carers have many concerns about their children at school such as

    will their child

    • adjust socially to the size of the group?

    • be ready to to learn to read, write and understand numbers?

    • understand the teaching style?

    • worry about cultural differences that interfere with learning?

    •   behave appropriately?

    • be safe?

    •  be disciplined in a different way?

    • be bullied by other children?

    Involvement in your child’s school education isn’t always easy and will often require special effort by both parents/carers and teachers. This is especially so when

    • family members are working full time

    • the child travels to school by bus

    • a different language is spoken at home

    •   parents are not able to read

    • the family has a different cultural background

    Each school is different because of its size, the community it serves, the personnel working there, the resources it has etc. The most vital thing in developing a partnership with your school is communication. Communication is a two way thing so that teachers let you know what is happening and you respond. This is the key to building family/school relationships

    Every family will have different expectations for their children and indeed for each of their children. Some parents/carers have negative feelings about education because of their own school experiences. Teachers today make a big effort to make all learning a positive experience for children, and families are encouraged to have regular contact with schools.

    Many schools become the focal point for the communities to come together to celebrate, discuss, share cultural traditions and make decisions. At my granddaughter’s school there are regular gatherings of parents to hear about the achievements of children and see class work. Parents are always welcome to talk to the teachers and a school newsletter goes home each week. At the end of each term there is an individual review between parents and teachers so that goals can be set and discussed. There are also special events both formal e.g. concerts, and informal e.g. sausage sizzle breakfasts, to encourage families to communicate with teachers.

    Are you happy with the level of communication and the partnership that is being created between your family and your schoo


    Ages and Stages -How much food is enough?

     I found a very useful article this week. I’d been worried to find, when I picked my grandchild up from school, that she had eaten nothing since breakfast. That is certainly not ideal, but when I checked on the amount of food she needs in one day, I was somewhat relieved. The following chart comes from

    Food groups



    9-12years   daily

    Milk yoghurt, cheese

    ½ to ¾ cups

    2-3 cups

    ½ -1 cup       3daily

    Meat,fish,dry beans, eggs, nuts

    1-2 oz

    3 oz

    5oz daily


    3-4 tablespoons

    1 ½ cups

    ¼ to ½ cups several pieces raw

    2cups daily


    ½ -1 pieces

    Tablespoon canned fruit

    4oz juice

    3-4 tbsp few pieces raw


    1medium piece

    ½ cup canned

    4oz juice daily


    1slice bread, ½ cup cooked cereal

    1cup dry cereal

    4 oz

    1 slice bread

    ½ cup cooked cereal

    cup dry cereal

    1 ½ cups daily

    Children in Kindergarten class seem to have trouble eating their lunches. I have asked several parents and all report that regularly no food has been eaten. After school though, the food is often eaten on the trip home. I think the reason is that play is so important to kids of this age. Often for the first time they are independently making friends and working out for themselves how to maintain friendships.

    Growth is rapid in this first year at school too, so getting nutritious food and enough of it is vital. If your child seems well and gets plenty of sleep at night and eats roughly the required amount, I guess missing lunch isn’t critical for development.

    Kids in the news Whooping cough vaccinations

    Did you know that it is now possible for pregnant women to have a vaccination that will give their newborn baby 90% protection against whooping cough? The disease is life threatening for any young baby, so a vaccine that the mother can have, is a step in the right direction. In some states of Australia, this is free.  Babies who died from whooping cough last year had not been vaccinated.

    Most parents realize that vaccination against serious diseases is important and that the risk from the vaccine itself is minimal. Those who don’t have their children vaccinated put other children at risk. At present there is a worldwide shortage of the vaccine against whooping cough because there has been an increase of the disease in older children and adults. The vaccine doesn’t give lifelong protection so it is important to update your children’s vaccines at the ages recommended by the Health Authorities. Last year in Australia there were more than 1,000 cases of whooping cough recorded.

    Kids 'n Gardening -  Drawing in the garden

    There are hundreds of interesting things in the garden for the whole family to draw. As the spring approaches and before all the spring garden jobs become urgent, it is an ideal time to encourage the kids to search for something to draw in the garden. Set an example yourself by collecting pencils and paper and a magnifying glass for closer view, and set out on an insect search. A bug catcher would be useful too. Encourage the kids to see who is first to find an insect. Get them to describe what the insect looks like and what it is doing. Then draw it. Sitting down in a pleasant little nook to sketch will increase your pleasure. Look at the environment the creature was in and draw that too. It may be a plant stem or a leaf. Look for insects that are camouflaged.

    Here are some more drawing suggestions:

    The pattern of bare branches against the sky, a flower, stones or rocks, something you find on the path, a dandelion, the hose or watering can, a tree, a leaf, a spiderweb, garden tools. You could even climb a tree and sketch something as seen from above

    Time in the garden like this helps language development, cognitive development, creativity and imagination as well as physical skills. There are countless possibilities from counting, comparing sizes and shapes, to telling a story about what you have found and drawn. My granddaughter and I really enjoyed drawing in the garden and I was surprised by the variety of objects she drew.

    Healthy Living  Time to do their own thing

    As children get older, there is often a busy schedule and there doesn’t seem to be enough time to fit in everything. How do you decide how much time is scheduled for out of school activities? Some organized activities or classes are good as long as your child is interested in the activity selected. Some kids have so much happening that they have no time to just relax and discover their own creativity.

    Organized activities and sport are fun as the kids play with their mates and peers. They are good for building teamwork, discipline, fitness and problem solving, but every afternoon and all weekend is too much. If your child is tired, has headaches, stomach aches and seems stressed, depressed, or edgy, he/she probably needs to wind down and have more free time and probably more sleep.

    If kids are used to having every minute filled, they may complain of being bored if left to their own devices. So it is best to see right from a very young age that they can amuse themselves and not be dependent on playing with others. Balls, skipping ropes, trees, access to paint and water, construction sets, dolls, dough, clay, craft activities that allow free expression and books are all excellent materials that kids can follow their own ideas without the pressure of competition or time restraints.

    Indigenous news - Redfern Tent Embassy

    For the past few years Aboriginal people have been evicted from Redfern’s Block as commercial interests have been trying to go ahead with development. Housing for Aboriginal people was to be a first priority, but it just hasn’t happened. The Aboriginal Housing Company set up a tent embassy in Sydney 15 months ago in support of the people of Redfern who need low cost housing and the end of August saw a break through. The Federal government has agreed to a $5million grant for the beginning of construction of 62 houses for Aboriginal families in this area. A $65 million bank loan will also be necessary.

    This area of Sydney has long been recognized as an Aboriginal area and in 1972 they won rights to buy housing there. Unfortunately, not all the Aboriginal people can agree on the current development. One thing that is certain is that affordable housing for families is needed and that includes housing of different types as one type of housing isn’t suitable for all.

    Book Review: Lifetime by Lola M. Schaefer

    Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

    Published by Chronicle Books 2013

    ISBN 978-1-4521-0714-1

     This book has a subtitle of The Amazing Numbers in Animal Lives and it is facts about the chosen animals that are so interesting.  Amazing illustrations go with each animal. For example in a lifetime one male seahorse will give birth to 1,000 baby seahorses and the page is filled with 1,000 seahorses each with little bubbles. Eleven animals are shown in the book, including a giraffe, a spider and a butterfly. I wish there were more.

    There is a brief explanation on each double page, with the numbers shown in large print so that young children will immediately be aware of the importance of the numerals. While the book begins with a spider that spins only one egg sack in her lifetime, this is not a conventional counting book.

     There is a section at the end of the book with information about each of the featured animals. Also included is an explanation about averages. Finally, there are some mathematical problems for students to attempt about other animals that Lola had researched. This book might be a great aid to teachers aiming to interest their students in ways to use numbers. It is also of interest to children of all ages, and their parents.

    Play ideas Sensory bottles

    Sensory bottles are easy to make and are suitable for babies as well as toddlers. While everyone must be very careful about letting babies and young children touch small objects because of the danger of swallowing them, even tiny things can be enjoyed when safely sealed in a sensory bottle.

    Choose clear plastic bottles and put inside a variety of colourful beads, buttons and glitter. Small bottles are good so that they can be held by little hands. These are also wonderful shakers to use at rhythm, or music time with toddlers and pre-schoolers. Rice, sand, small shells, buttons, beans, dried peas, pasta, tiddlywinks, little toys etc. will make different sounds when shaken. When you have put the objects into the bottles, secure the lids by using superglue so that the bottles can’t be opened.

    Here is a link to a site where you can get more ideas and see pictures.


    August 2015


    SPECIALS  - Helping children who have experienced trauma

    Children and families experience trauma through different circumstances such as bushfire, domestic violence, poverty, accident, terrorism and war. After bushfires in Australia, communities rally to help. There is an understanding that trauma is not overcome in a short time and that children and adults need help in the long term to cope. Help is also available to families who have experienced domestic violence or other trauma if they know where to ask for help. But help for refugees is much harder to find.

    There are well over 300 children detained within Australia and in the detention centres in Nauru and on Manus Island. In Every Child, the leading Early Childhood publication in Australia, it is stated that research shows that after 43 days in detention, children show symptoms of stress and trauma. When these children first went into detention they were ‘bright and bubbly’. After six months they had become withdrawn, silent and had developed behavioural problems. As the average time in detention is 438 days, damage to these children will be severe and long lasting. What a tragedy.

    In the present global situation millions of refugee families are affected by the trauma of escaping from war or torture and then coping with resettlement in camps or travelling by unsafe means to foreign destinations in the hope of finding safety. Helping these families is a global problem and the UNHCR cannot solve the problems without the cooperation of many, many countries.

    It is distressing to see on the daily news that refugees are streaming into Turkey and Greece or crowded onto boats in the Pacific Ocean where they will often drown. It is sad to know that many people in our country think refugees belong in detention centres and that they have no rights at all.

    The Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture is working closely with refugees at Foundation House. They are particularly involved in forming partnerships between parents and schools to educate children from refugee backgrounds. Many refugee students have never attended school before, have no English and their parents often have poor literacy skills and no understanding of the Australian education system. Schools involved in the project are developing skills to enable whole-school support of refugee students in whole-child education. There must be an awareness of culture and the experiences that children have gone through. I hope that other states are doing similar things and that schools Australia wide are following this excellent way forward.

    The Publication Schools and Families in Partnership: A Desktop Guide to Engaging Families from Refugee Backgrounds in their Children’s Learning, is worth reading, as it is relevant to all children’s learning. Here is the link:


    Ages and Stages - Practice makes perfect

    Did you know that it takes about 10,000 hours to become good at something?  That’s around six years! No wonder parents need patience when reminding their kids to make their beds, tidy their rooms, say please and thank you, and do many of the tasks we like our kids to do around the house. I’ve noticed a big improvement in my five-year-old granddaughter’s manners this year. I guess she’s been learning through reminders for nearly six years now. At school the kinder teachers have to remind the children constantly about the classroom rules, but half way through the year the kids are becoming more reliable at remembering them.

    Learning to write and to read need lots of practice and encouragement. Fine motor activities like painting, drawing, playing with small toys, dressing dolls, doing up buttons, doing puzzles, using scissors and dough and sorting small objects will help with writing and reading too as shape recognition is a pre-reading necessity. The reading books used in Kinder are excellent with great pictures and simple, small vocabulary that is gradually expanded. Topics range over a wide area of interest. Be patient when your child reads to you and show an interest every day. Continue to read to your child too from both familiar books and new ones from the library.  

    Kids in the news Cross Country Championships

    Many sports are encouraged in Australian schools and interstate competitions are held in a number of sports.  Cross Country is quite a challenging competition for Primary aged children, but preparation of the course is thorough and must be designed to meet the skills of the age groups.

    The race is held over four days. Water, toilets and a vehicle for emergencies must always be available. Before it begins, participating members of the host state must walk the course with the visiting teams in order to answer questions.

    There are strict rules and regulations, but cross country is a sport that every school can do as equipment is minimal. It can be an individual sport or for teams. In July 1,000 athletes attended the Little Athletics Victoria State Cross Country Championship in Yarra Ranges. There were many outstanding performances. Many competitors gave their personal best performances and teams of students will go on to the National championships in Melbourne on 29th August.

    Students with disabilities can also take part when suitable courses are prepared. Here is a link to School Sport Australia where you can find more information about Cross-Country events.

    Kids 'n Gardening -  Plant markers

    During winter it’s a great time to get the kids making plant markers for the garden. Icy pole sticks can be painted by even the youngest children in bright paint. Adults or older children can write in permanent marker for each type of plant or seedling tray. Kids will also love making different families of rocks for markers or decorations in the garden. Try a family of rock ladybug markers, or a group of rocks painted in bright colours with googly eyes stuck on. Paint them in vegetable colours e.g. orange to mark the carrots and green for zucchinis and cucumbers, round and red for tomatoes etc. Other things from the kitchen like empty cans or lids and kebab sticks can also be used as markers. Make holes in plastic bottle tops for threading and get the children threading them onto the kebab skewers to make colourful markers.

    Healthy Living  Little Athletics

    The motto of Little Athletics is family, fun and fitness. The goal is to help children aged between 5 and 16 to have fun running, throwing, jumping and walking while making friends in family situations. The emphasis is not on winning, but on fun while doing healthy exercise and developing age appropriate skills. There are branches in each state and many towns run their own clubs. Coaching clinics with qualified and experienced coaches, and camps are also run in holidays and on special dates.

    At the regular meetings there are lots of roles for parents as Little Athletics is a voluntary organization. Parents help supervise the kids, record results, carry equipment, give encouragement, provide refreshments, and do countless other tasks to make each meeting a fun time. In NSW in the past year more than 36,500 children were registered as Little Athletics members.

    Here is the link for more information:

    Indigenous news - NAIDOC awards

    NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. It is a special week during which all Australians celebrate the culture, achievements and long history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This year the theme was: We all Stand on Sacred Ground: Learn, Respect and Celebrate. This year the award for the Person of the year went to Rosalie Kunoth Monks from the Northern Territory. She has worked tirelessly for her people especially in human rights and is passionate about her people having access to their land, language and culture. All important areas if the people are to thrive.

    There were ten awards in all including an award for caring for country. In that project traditional knowledge and modern science combine to help maintain a healthy environment in an enormous area of Arnhem Land. They work on controlling weeds, fire, feral animals and engage people of all ages in spreading knowledge and developing skills to keep the environment sustainable. What a great example to people everywhere.

    Book Review: Yellow Dog

    by Lyndall Stavrou

    Published by Lyndall Stavrou

    ISBN 978-0-9807969-3-3

    This is a simple story of a stray dog in a remote community in Australia. The dog, a part Dingo, adopts a family and has happy as well as sad days. The unusual features include the text in different colours with Yellow Dog’s name always appearing in yellow, and the comments of whether the day was happy or sad.  The simple paintings used as illustrations, are in the bright reds and oranges, colours that would be found in the Northern Territory landscape where the story is set. I thought that Jenny Taylor may be an Aboriginal artist as her paintings are in the style of many books by Aboriginal artists, but she was born in England and came as a child to Australia.

    At first reading the story seems too simple to hold the attention of a child for long, but the five-year-old I read it to, asked for me to re-read it and spent a long time examining the illustrations. There is really a lot to talk about from looking at the illustrations about feelings as well as lifestyle. It is based on a real dog’s life.

    Play ideas First aid ideas using toys and puppets

    Children learn to solve problems through play. Practicing first aid measures with dolls, teddies and puppets as well as playmates, can be fun as well as a learning experience. Four-year-olds can learn how to treat bumps, bites, burns and bleeds, by practicing first aid after pretend accidents. Here are some ideas to use with children or to use in imaginative play with dolls, action figures, bears or puppets

    ·         take your child shopping for some first aid supplies and explain the importance of keeping the pack in a place where it can be found at once

    ·         use ice for bumps, water to bathe grazes, cold water for burns, bandages and bandaids to cover grazes

    ·         let your child get the ice pack from the fridge in real situations

    ·         paint red colours or stick red patches on a to show the injured part

    ·         show how to apply pressure for a nosebleed and any bleeding area

    ·         get the child to tell you what should be done

    ·         use puppets to explain from one toy to another what should be done and what is happening

    ·         get the child to practice calming explanations too so that he will learn to reassure a playmate in a real situation.

    ·         talk about situations they see on TV and whether the best treatment was carried out

    ·         let kids get some first aid knowledge  and skill in treating things that might happen in any home before going on to talk about treatment for less common injuries like snake and spider bite or dog bites.

    July 2015


    SPECIALS  - Enjoying parenting

    Over the last couple of weeks I've been listening to some interviews about what parents can do to enjoy parenting. The most recurrent idea has been that parents need to stop worrying about whether they are doing the right thing and enjoy the moments. While it is good to read the advice of experts, it is important to do what you find works for you. The most interesting talks to me were about 1) listening, really listening and 2) choosing organic food for our families.

    In the talk about listening it was suggested that if a child has a tantrum we should do nothing but listen to him/her because a tantrum is a way of getting rid of fears, stress and frustration and after the tantrum the child will become calm and act reasonably again. As parents we should set limits when both we and our children are connected not wait until both are stressed. I can see the benefits of really listening because by doing that we see the triggers for a tantrum and can fix it before it begins. It may be that the child needs a snack or needs just a small bit of help to get started on a task, or needs a choice of what to do or wear or eat. The same speaker suggested that if adults have a listening partner, rather than a partner who gives advice or makes suggestions, we are able to work out solutions ourselves and return to calm after a period of frustration or stress. This listening partner would ideally be someone who is not involved with the family and must not be judgemental. Further information about this approach to parenting is here

    The organic food expert, a naturopathic doctor, explained that so many of our foods now give us antibiotic doses as well as food as animals and crops have been treated with antibiotics to treat infections or insecticides to prevent insect damage to crops. She suggests that we should buy meat that has been fed on grass instead of grain. Thick skinned fruit like pineapples, bananas and avocados may not have absorbed insecticide but apples and other thin skinned fruit will have, so organic is best if we are to avoid allergies and conditions such as ADHD which are often associated with diet. She recommends that kids be encouraged to play outside and that dirt is good for them and their immune system. More information at


    Ages and Stages -Problem solving starts early

    Parents are often so busy that they do more for their children than is necessary. They take over jobs because it is quicker and more efficient, but by doing this we are affecting the child's ability to solve problems. Even a young baby  can be encouraged to problem solve. When a toy has dropped from her hand or has rolled away, encourage her to get it herself. Encourage reaching by rolling, crawling, climbing in safe places

    Children can also learn to solve problems in the kitchen.

    • prepare a snack dish for morning or afternoon tea so that children can serve themselves.

    • role model how to spread butter on the bread and correct the way the knife should be held then your child will be able to do it.

    • teach pouring and measuring as even two and three year olds can do it with the right utensils

    • allow them to break up beans or tear lettuce or use the lettuce spinner to help prepare a family meal.

    Three, four and five year olds need a lot of encouragement to dress themselves, but can do it when you teach the steps and lay clothes out to make it easy. Be patient and allow enough time for the tasks. With five-year-olds you may have to keep them on task or they get distracted doing their own play thing.

    Kids in the news When fostering kids goes wrong

    Every day there are reports of child abuse in Australia and sometimes the news reports that toddlers or young children have died as a result. Some of the deaths could have been avoided if action had been taken by the government department that is meant to investigate reports of neglect or abuse.

    Not all children have loving or suitable homes to live in. In fact there are over 43,000 children between 0 and 18 who are living away from home because of neglect, abuse or violence. Of these 48.5% are in relative or kinship care and 41.5% in Foster homes. Drug and alcohol abuse are often reasons for removing children from their own homes. Most of these children have been in care for more than twelve months and have been moved from home to home so there is little stability. This can have adverse affects on the children such as emotional and behavioural affects and poor academic progress. It is thought that Kinship care minimises the problems for children.

    Sadly there have been cases of child abuse in foster care that have recently been reported in the media. Recent coronial reports into the death of a toddler indicated that the home into which he had been placed was not suitable and the foster mother had left the child unsupervised except for another young child. As a result the toddler drowned.

    Being a foster parent is demanding and can be very stressful but can also be rewarding Often there is not enough support by the government agencies and foster parents do not have sufficient training. More should be done to remedy this.

    Kids 'n Gardening Flower pots

    Where I live it is really cold now and gardens mostly neglected except by committed gardeners. When the kids go outdoors they need to be very active or will get cold but I want to keep the gardening spirit alive with jobs that don't take long, but will be rewarding. We are off to the nursery to buy some plants suitable for pots. My granddaughter has some money saved up has been wondering what to buy. She will love to buy a plant or two with that. I will add some funds so that we can plan a flower corner in a warm spot on the terrace which is sheltered from wind.

    Kids really like instant colour so we will get a couple of polyanthus and a couple of pansy plants already flowering. a calendular for the bigger pot will soon grow. A hyacinth for perfume will be lovely if not too expensive. Potted plants need regular watering and fertilizing but won't like to be drowned. When summer comes we may plant these out in the garden or move them to a different place.

    Our visit to the nursery has taken place and my granddaughter was very excited about it. The polyanthus colours were so vibrant that she chose five in separate pots and she didn't want any pansies. There were no fragrant plants except herbs and as they came three in a pot and she didn't like the smell of the mint, we bought a lavender plant that will give fragrance later. Back at home she dug holes enthusiastically and planted three into one big pot and two into the other. The lavender went into the ground. Then off to the stock reserve across the main road, to fill a bucket with cow manure. That night she described the gardening experience to her Dad in detail. At her suggestion next morning, I moved one of the pots over near the deciduous tree that she likes to climb and she spent much of the morning up the tree singing.

    A bit of time and a few dollars and there is one happy child in the garden.

    Healthy Living  Getting kids to eat healthy food

    When babies begin solid food they are usually offered good healthy food but often around two years of age, they turn into fussy eaters, turning away from food they've accepted before. The key to them returning to these foods is

    • to be persistent but not pushy

    • be good role models

    • offer healthy snacks between meals before the kids are too hungry

    • have regular times for meals

    • offer a variety of good food but new foods will take time to get used to 

    • keep away from sweet snacks

    • get the kids helping with food preparation and the shopping too, or picking snacks from the garden

    • give choices so that they can choose some raw vegetable instead of cooked, or egg instead of fish

    • present food in a fun way using cutters to make fruit or bread shapes

    • compromise – eat some of the food they don't like then eat what they do like

    • keep serves small. It may take many tries before the child will eat the lot

    • sometimes prepare food that everyone will serve themselves, so that there is choice of how much the child takes

    • make meal time relaxed. 

    Indigenous news -Indigenous Literacy Foundation

    June is the month when the Indigenous Literacy Foundation raises money to provide additional learning resources for kids who live in remote communities in Australia. At eight years old a lot of the kids have poorer reading and numeracy skills than kids who live in big regional centres or in cities. Without help, by 15 years, their poor literacy skills will impact on their ability to get a job.

    Up to 70% of these kids have chronic middle ear disease which impacts on their ability to hear when they are at school. In remote communities English is not their first language and not enough resources are provided to teach English as a second language. Kids are likely to be absent for 28 days in a year compared with only 8 days for non indigenous kids. Reasons for absence are varied but include lack of transport, problems at home, adults not seeing the importance of education, lack of books and computers at home

    The foundation is committed to working in and with communities to support culture and provision of books in local languages as well as English. This year Alison Lester, Australian Children's Laureate, visited some remote schools to help children to write stories. Her visits to Milikapiti school and to Tiwi College were a highlight for the children who were working on writing and illustrating books that will be published. The website is at   

    Book Review: The little Gardeners Guide

    by Niki Horin

    Images by  and

    Published by Alicat, Melbourne, Australia

    I found this book at the Post Office and it is a little treasure. It is hardback with quite thick, glossy pages and a spiral back so the pages lie flat, a great idea for kids who want to use it alone. The book is divided into four sections:

    1) Be a garden explorer

    2) Get into gardening

    3) Grow it and Gobble it

    4) Make-and-do gardening fun.

    Each section is interesting, colourful and informative. There is information about trees, grasses, fruit and vegetable, flowers, ferns and succulents on a double page about types of plants. There is a double page about making a worm farm, information about which creatures in the garden are good and which are harmful and how to protect your plants and many more topics. There are 60 pages of beautifully presented pictures and information and children from 3 to 10 years will find it fascinating. 

    Play ideas Making a Frozen palace.

    This will be cold, but such fun for the kids. Let them pour water into icy pole moulds or even plain ice-block trays. Have enough blocks or shapes for kids to arrange them in interesting ways. Before freezing, sprinkle glitter onto the water. Set the ice blocks overnight. Then you will probably need to run the ice blocks under a tap to loosen the ice. Lay a towel on the table where the ice palace will be built. Any small plastic figures or animals can be the characters in the story. It may be the child's own re-enactment of the tale Frozen that is popular at the moment, or it may be a completely original story that your child will come up with. Have a bowl of hot water nearby for warming little frozen fingers.


    June issue 2015

    The Frustrations of Time

    It is certainly true that children in the one family can have very different personalities and no one really knows why this is. There are no doubt many factors that contribute to making  people the way they are. One of the most frustrating things that I found as a mother, and still have as a grandmother, is the waiting for children to carry out tasks. Walking, dressing, washing, eating, gathering things together, seem to take three times as long as necessary. I'm sure that many parents get frustrated and try to hurry the children along. If there is a bus or train to catch or an appointment at a special time, lectures or school to go to, time is important. Time rules much of our lives and we should teach children by example that certain things have to be done within a time frame set by adults. However, it is not good to rush children all the time especially over food. I think that creative tasks like drawing, painting, constructing, writing, sewing,music etc. should also be given lots of time.

    I was a child who was rarely still and when I was moving I liked to move fast. I remember how tired I'd get as a preschooler going shopping with my Mum. Waiting in the shops to be served, and standing while she talked to a friend in the street seemed to make my legs ache and my mouth begin to yawn. I had one dear friend I could walk home from school with who walked at my pace. All the others dawdled so much that I'd give up and run off by myself. I did train my own kids to keep up to me and I now I have trained myself to walk at my small granddaughter's pace usually though I admit that sometimes I ask her to hurry along. I really try not to hurry her with dressing and washing as the alternative would be to take over and she must become self reliant in those tasks. I keep asking myself, 'Is it necessary to hurry ? How long can I let her spend at this activity?

    It is disappointing for a child to have a creation they have spent time and thought on, tidied away because of a routine or because it looks messy. Encourage creative play and messy activities in an area that can be left for a lengthy period. Comment positively on creative pieces and also on time managed. e.g. I like the way you wiped you hands quickly for dinner tonight.


    Ages and Stages -Learning to Read

    After a child learns to crawl, walk and talk, there is no more exciting stage of development than when that child learns to read. This process is quite complex and comes about a small bit at a time. To read, a child has to recognize that the sounds of words are linked to the print on a page and that words are made up of individual sounds like the C-A-T of cat. Parents who make fun sounds such as bbbb, tttt, lalalala, to entertain their young baby, are actually presenting a pre-reading activity. The earlier you play sound games and read stories to your baby, the easier the task of reading will become to your child. Playing rhyming games is also a vital step in learning to read. Your child must be able to hear that mat rhymes with sat. This happens when the language part of the brain understands it, not the ears. For some children this is easier than for others.

    There are 44 sounds or phonemes, in English and only 26 letters in the alphabet. The printed forms of those sounds are called phonics. Understanding that the sounds or phonemes are in the print or phonics, is necessary for a child or any person,to learn to read. This takes time and when your child begins school, the teacher will spend a lot of time with sound games and teaching the sounds of the alphabet as well as the names of the letters.

    Your child will learn to sound out simple words like run and hop, but of course many words can't be sounded out so simply because some sounds are combinations of letters such as sh, ch, th, oo and more. Soon the child begins to recognize patterns in words and whole words and this too is a very necessary skill so that reading will become fluent. The more times a child sees a word the faster it will become familiar so that the word is known and part of that child's reading vocabulary. That is why simple books that teachers use to help a child to learn to read use the same words in different stories.

    My five year old granddaughter is in kindergarten this year and is just beginning to be excited about reading. She brings home a different simple story several times a week and reads it to me. She now understands she can sound out words she isn't sure of and is also recognizing the basic words e.g. 'Here comes the girl. Look at her. She is happy.'. The illustrations match the words on the page and as she reads she runs her finger under the words as the teacher has shown her. She has suddenly found that she can sound out words on packets and on shop signs and shows me her discoveries. This is certainly an exciting time for the family and I'm sure that reading will become one of the great pleasures of her life. 

    To learn more about the process of reading, here is a link to an excellent article. Kids in the news Education

    In 2000 there was a World Education forum and it was agreed that by 2015 there would be education for all children. This year there is a report on how well that target has been met. The results are both encouraging but also disappointing. An extra 34 million children are receiving education but there are still 58 million children not able to go to school. And 100 million who don't complete primary education.

    Funding remains a big problem. This is of concern and the Australian Aid budget has just been slashed once more. Almost no aid will now go from Australia to Africa which is one of the most needy places. Here in Australia, Indigenous children are still not receiving the opportunities for education that are available to most of the children in the nation. The report is not only interesting for all people concerned about education, but it holds vital information that should influence governments, organizations, charities, individuals and agencie3s that are working on human rights, poverty health, employment, training, and social issues such as gender equality.

    Early childhood education has made good steps forward. The best progress occurred when parents were supported right from the time of the baby's birth through home visits to show how to stimulate their children as well as feeding them with an adequate diet. When this is done, children will benefit6 more when school education begins.

    The summary says 'There is simply no more powerful or longer-lasting investment in human rights and dignity, in social inclusion and sustainable development. Experience since 2000 shows what can be done – we need to draw on this to do more.'

    The full report is available at

    Kids 'n Gardening Jobs in the Garden

    There are a lot of jobs that kids can help with in the garden such as clipping, weeding, raking composting, watering and planting. Even toddlers love to work with dirt and mud and this is the first step towards a love of plants, the outdoors and gardening. If you start showing them how to help when they are young they will love to work alongside you. Kids like showing adults how skilled and strong they are so take advantage of that and give praise for their help. If your feeling about gardening is that it is enjoyable and gives you pleasure, the kids will look on it that way too, not as an unwelcome chore.

    Three-and four-year-olds will love to plant bulbs, flowers or vegetables. Give them only three or four plants to put in a tub or pot or old wheel barrow. and choose some that will come up soon so that they can feel the satisfaction of growing something without a long wait. I have seen old wheel barrows looking really spectacular as garden features.

    Benefits of using old wheel barrows:

    • it is a good height to work at

    • it can be easily moved to a new location

    • it is a good size for a child to start gardening– not too big, but big enough to display the plants.

    Healthy Living  Walk to School Day

    This week on Monday (25th May)it was National Walk to School day. This is an annual event to promote fitness and safety and every family was encouraged to let their child walk to school. The activity was well promoted by a lot of schools with suggestions for how kids who usually travelled by bus or train, could take part by walking part of the distance. One or two parents could supervise small groups of kids walking from bus stops for example. Some schools arranged breakfast clubs early so parents and kids could walk, arrive early enough for parents to eat and still get to work on time.

    In my school days, almost all kids always walked to school, but times have changed. For families who live within walking distance, it would be good to have a walk to school day each week. Here are some ideas of how it could be arranged:

    • get up earlier or prepare more fully the night before so there is time to walk with your child

    • enlist the services of a grandparent or trusted friend who can walk one day a week with your child

    • get to know an older child who can be trusted to call for and walk with your child

    • make exercising the family dog part of the routine while walking to school

    • walk with your child then go on further to improve your own fitness

    • drive the car a certain distance then park it and walk to school from several blocks away.

    Safety is an important part of the Walk to School idea. Children of primary school age need many reminders about

    • finding a safe place to cross the road

    • stopping, looking and listening before crossing

    • holding hands with an adult when walking

    • waiting at crossings

    • never getting into a car with a stranger

    • holding an adults hand when walking in a carpark

    Remember that kids focus on one thing at a time and are easily distracted. They should not be carrying a ball when they are walking on the footpath, and they can't judge how fast or how far away traffic is.

    Indigenous news - Aboriginal Girls' Circle

    The Girls' Circle is a program operated by the University of Western Sydney at Delroy Campus at Dubbo. Since the program began in 2010 it has seen the confidence of the girls grow. Its aim is to give girls a voice in the community, to encourage them to take steps to realize their dreams, and to help them with communication skills so that they can do all that they want to do. Respect for others including Elders, peers and our multicultural country, is at the heart of the program. Each session begins with the girls sitting in a circle as this reinforces their cultural heritage. It is important that each person has a fair say and feels safe to express their ideas and views on issues discussed. Elders are also involved and feel that the circle has also taught them important skills. The Circle is helping everyone to make friendships and to strengthen relationships with parents and carers too. It is hoped that this program will be expanded across Australia.For more information go to  .

    Book Review: Activity booksThere are a lot of activity books for preschoolers and up to about 8 years of age. They are attractive to adults because they are inexpensive and colourful and will keep children occupied and are often given as presents. These books are very handy to have on hand to keep kids busy and quiet in wet weather or when they are confined to home with a cold.

    What makes a good activity book?

     The most successful books I have seen of this type had a variety of activites. Some needed significant adult help but others children could work out most of what to do. I like  

    • a book that includes a story

    • plenty of stickers including some that can be placed anywhere by the child as well as some that go in specific places

    • some colouring activities

    • some counting activities

    • pages to concentrate on or games including dice games

    • clear instructions if something is to be made or played

    • good quality paper and figures that will stand and are strong enough to withstand many games if it is something like fashion dolls

    •  pocket at the back to store pieces that will be needed when the child revisits the activity.

    Books of this kind that I have seen were about fairies, dolls, Easter, Christmas, visiting grandparents, going to the zoo and starting school. Take the time to look through the book before you buy it to see if the child you have in mind will have the necessary skills and will find plenty to do.

    Play ideas Sensory Tubs

    Sensory tubs are lots of fun for your toddlers or preschoolers. The tub doesn't have to be big. It can be a washing up size and can be filled with sand or clean earth, grain or even paper clippings. I have seen preschoolers fascinated by sieving grain of different sizes through sieves and the grains run like liquid through their fingers. The tub can be like a treasure container if you bury sensory things there for them to find such as rocks, stones, cones, plastic food such as carrots, potatoes and onions and pieces of plants such as leafy twigs pine needles, lavender and herbs with different aromatic odours. Another sensory tub could be about the ocean using a base of coloured gravel usually sold for a fish tank. Into this tub put shells, plastic fish and other sea creatures, sea weed and coral. Let your imagination run wild and see what other sensory tubs you can set up with a feast of colour and textures.


    May Issue 2015


    SPECIALS  - Conversations with children

    Through conversations with children we learn what they know and understand. It is so easy to think one is having a conversation when in fact we are often telling children what to do, what to think and how to act. Conversations are important. Think about how you talk to your child and your group of children. Do you

    • give them an opportunity to think before you continue?

    • encourage the children to respond to your words?

    • take turns as adults do when having a conversation?

    • allow them to question what you have said ?

    • accept the opinions of children as legitimate or do you dismiss them as wrong or insignificant?

    • speak calmly?

    • really listen to what your children are saying?

    Through careful listening we can plan how to act and what to say so that our child or children will gain a better understanding of how the world works. This is especially important as our kids grow. They come under the influence of more adults, more of their peers and in this digital age, they will be influenced by what they see, hear and read on TV and on computers. Real discussions are necessary if children and adults are to develop and maintain trust between them.

    Caroline Cohrssen, a lecturer at the University of Melbourne, suggests that pausing both before we respond to a child's remark and after we ask a question, helps adults to get a clearer picture of what the child means. When we focus this way, we can give a more thoughtful answers, plan activities to interest him/her, help children to problem solve and help them to learn.

    As digital technology is used more and more by children, we need to be aware of what they are learning and how they are interacting with others. We need to keep them safe. That means we need to be up to date with the technology ourselves. Through listening, pausing, discussing, trust can be built so that we can guide our children to make good decisions and keep them safe.


    Ages and Stages - Siblings who fight

    Fights between siblings seem inevitable, but children can learn to solve their problems with the help of parents instead of relying on adults doing the solving. Many problems occur because children have to share toys so see that there are enough toys to go around. This is a first step in preventing arguments and fights. It isn't nesessary for each child to have the same toys as owership of individual toys is okay. When kids are little the older child will often have some toys that are not appropriate for younger siblings. For example tiny Lego sets are not safe for under threes who may put the small pieces into mouth or nose, so an older child needs to have a special place to keep and use that toy.

    Sharing space, clothes and attention can also lead to tension. Try to have separate areas in the shared bedroom and individual places for clothes to be kept.

    I have recently noticed some younger siblings making a fuss when their older sisters are collected after school. Most likely this is because the Mother addresses her attention to the school age girls and the younger ones who have had her attention all day, don't want to lose it. if the older siblings made a point of talking to the younger ones as soon as they come from their class, perhaps squeals and cries could be avoided.

    When one child tells on another about some quarrel, it is good to ask each child to tell you his/her version. Then ask each for ideas on how they think the argument can be solved. Asking nicely for a turn with a toy very often works and if it doesn't setting a time limit before the toy changes hands is another option. It is good to encourage problem solving attempts by all children from a young age.

    Kids in the News - Children with Autism

    When a boy with autism was restrained in a 2 metre square cage in a classroom recently, people were horrified and it made National Headlines. There is no doubt that some children in the autism spectrum can be very difficult and the school concerned must have been desperate. The cage was removed after protests. A National Policy for teaching children suffering from autism has now been called for. Teaching children in mainstream classes calls for support so that the child will benefit and so that the class isn't disrupted if difficult behaviour takes place.

    Shortly after the above incident an 11year old boy with autism became lost while on a camping holiday with his family. Despite search teams working through dense scrubland on the ground, the boy was lost for four nights and was spotted early on the fifth day by a helicopter. He was suffering from some hyperthermia, hunger and exhaustion and was airlifted to hospital. The person in charge of the search team said that the boy, “challenged as he is with his autism, is a courageous, resilient, strong young man.” The parents were overjoyed.

    Surely more can be done to help parents of children with autism as well as the children themselves.

    Kids 'n Gardening - Playing in parks and gardens

    In Australia it is autumn and I always delight in the colours of leaves at this time of year. If you are lucky enough to have a garden with trees, it is fun to do garden collecting. You may find feathers, seeds, leaves, stones, and cones. You can also rake leaves into piles and takes them to the compost heap or the worm farm.

    I took my granddaughter to a big park/sportsfield area to play in the leaves and to collect them. We spent an hour there, running, jumping, feeling leaves and trees, listening for birds and other sounds, and collecting leaves and seeds of different shapes, sizes and colours. We danced in the fallen leaves in one area and jumped over the stream nearby then listened to frogs in a pool. We stared through the fence at the Community garden too – it wasn't open that day. We counted 15 pumpkins on the vine there and looked at the different materials that had been used to make a sign about the garden. After returning home with a bag of leaves we'd gathered, my granddaughter used paint to attach leaves to her art work. Next day we made nature people too, stuck to paper with sticky tape. This called for a trip around the garden to find appropriate sticks to go with the leaves. An activity I've heard of since is to take a long chenille stick into the garden on a leaf hunt and thread leaves onto the stick. It can be used as a mobile or decoration wherever your child likes. Remember gardens are great places for fun.

    Healthy Living - Exercising in winter

    Did you know that children under five should be moving almost continuously? Then between 5 and 18 they need a whole hour of cardiovascular exercise each day. The exercise doesn't have to be done in one burst, but it has to be strenuous enough to get the heart pumping and the child puffing. That means exercise like running, jumping, skipping hopping trotting or walking fast, not dawdling along. It means dancing, climbing, using a trampoline, playing ball games, riding bikes or going swimming.

    Even in cold wet weather kids should get outside for short periods. Yesterday we plunged straight from pleasant autumn weather to a freezing day with a maximum of 6 degrees. At school the children ate their lunch indoors but then went out to run around. It is good to see that schools see that our kids do get exercise whatever the weather. It is good too if when your children get home all the family can do some kind of exercise together.

    Indigenous news -Role models in Football

    The oldest Aboriginal football club in Australia, located at Koonibba in South Australia, hopes that Daryl Dudley from their club will be selected to play in a match at the MCG later in the season. Daryl has been selected to take part in a program called Footy Means Business. It aims to use sport to create work and education opportunities for young Indigenous people. Players from across the country are chosen to take part in the leadership program and it is hoped that these young people will be role models for their communities.

    In North West NSW, Dean Widders, a former NRL player with the Roosters and the Rabbitohs, is also acting as a role model for communities. He is visiting schools to highlight the importance of good nutritious food and regular exercise for all young people not just those interested in playing football.

    Thank you Dean.

    Book Review - Anzac Biscuits by Phil Cummings

    illustrated by Owen Swan.

    Published by Scholastic Australia 2013

    ISBN: 978-1742833460

    This year marks the 100th anniversary of the landing of Australian and New Zealand troops in Gallipoli, Turkey. Leading up to 25th April, there has been a lot of media coverage about the terrible consequences of the landing. Documentary films of World War 1 as well as coverage of the battle sites today is dominating the TV, culminating in many hours of coverage of the Anzac Day services at Gallipoli and here in Australia. For young children this focus on war can be confusing.

    Anzac Biscuits isn't necessarily about World War 1. I particularly like the way the author and illustrator have worked together to link the battle field with home through simple words and pictures. The muted tones of the illustrations somehow reflect the love the home family of mother and child feels as they set about making biscuits to send to their husband /father. The double page spreads alternate between home and abroad. Dad is lying in the snow, his family is spreading flour like snow on the table; the soldier hears the explosions of mortars, at home the pots and pans tumble out of the cupboard at home. There is even a link between daisies in a field and the pattern of flowers on mother's apron. When the biscuits are cooked and tasted, they are posted off and received with love by the soldier.

    I read the book to my five year old granddaughter as an introduction to Anzac Day. At her suggestion, we followed up by making Anzac biscuits as a gift for her parents on their wedding anniversary. This book can be used for older children and students as an example of how text and illustrations meld so well together.

    Play ideas - Mothers' Day gifts.

    These ideas are for Dads or teachers to use to help the kids get ready for Mothers' Day. The ideas can be used for Grandmothers too. Cards and gifts made by kids are treasures to keep. I searched for ideas on the web and the ideas below are some I found.

    • Kids can put painty hand or foot prints on a card. You can even recycle paintings to make a colourful card and put a special message from the child.

    • 'I love Mum because... ' cards are great.

    • Take 8 photos of the child holding the letters from the message I LOVE YOU. Print the photos and use tape to stick them together into a concertina card that unfolds.

    • Let your child put coloured fingerprints in a small circle and put a yellow print in the centre to make a flower pattern card

    • Take photos of the kids and add a message to Mum from each child

    • Give the kids pasta to colour and thread onto chenille craft stems. These can look very pretty in a bunch tied with ribbon or arranged into a small plastic milk bottle that can be decorated as a vase with permanent markers.

    • Kids love hearts. Cut two from felt to make a useful pincushion for Mum. Show your child how to decorate them with simple sewing stitches using stranded cotton of different colours. Then show your child how to sew them together leaving a space so it can be filled with pillow stuffing. Sew up the gap and stick in pins to complete a lovely pincushion.

    • Help your child to make cup cakes and decorate with icing hearts.


    April Issue 2015


    SPECIALS  - Frustrated parents

    Parents try very hard to be very patient with babies, but it is harder to be patient with a toddler's demands for instant action and it is even harder to be patient with a 5 or 6 year old. At that age a child can do so many life skills like washing, dressing, putting things away, fetching and carrying etc. and doing simple chores, but has no concept of time. Between four and eight years, children can be occupied without supervision for extensive lengths of time with jobs such as bathing, hand washing, and dressing and often get sidetracked from the task in hand and begin games quite unrelated to the task. I think it is at this stage that parents start to nag their kids. Pick up your clothes, eat your food, put your shoes on, clean your teeth, go to the car. DO IT NOW! Are you a nagger? Do you shout? The tighter the parents' schedule each day, the more at least one parent nags and shouts. Unfortunately nagging makes both kids and adults cross and stressed. What is the alternative?

    • Motivate the kids so they like to please

    • Thank kids when they do things when asked the first time. Express thanks for the specific task. e.g. Thank you for putting your pyjamas away so smartly this morning.

    • Reward by praising them. e.g.You are dressed so quickly this morning that there is time for you to play before we go.

    • Be a good role model doing tasks yourself as soon as asked.

    • Do the job yourself, but this won't help your child to learn responsible behaviour.

    • Ask patiently several times, making sure that your child is listening

    • Set tasks for each child alongside you so that you are both doing similar things together

    • Set time limits with rewards when the task is completed on time. The rewards should be related to the task e.g. play a special game together or read an extra story at bedtime

    • Set age and skill appropriate tasks

    • Let the kids bear the consequences of not doing the tasks and of making mistakes e.g.miss out on a treat if they are not ready in time.


    Ages and Stages - Getting the kids to bed and to sleep

    My granddaughter is now aged five and this year she and her parents are livingwith me. At the end of the day there are many routine activities that should be done before bed. Although kids TV ends before our 6pm meal, it is always 8pm or later before the light is out and my granddaughter'is finally asleep. She tries to delay the last kiss and cuddle and I'm sure that is quite a common ploy with all small children. Books and storytelling are a part of the bedtime ritual that she really enjoys. Her storytelling skills have come on amazingly in the last month and she now spins out her bathtime so that she can create a story to tell me while she is still in the water. After she's in her pyjamas, books are collected and I read to her, then she calls for her father to read another. Usually she likes her mother to sing songs too. My evening program has changed as a result of the bigger family too.

    Children do need lots of sleep. Getting to bed early is better than sleeping in late in the morning. Most children don't lke to be hurried when dressing, eating, drinking, tooth cleaning, brushing hair, packing school bags etc. I find myself getting frustrated sometimes when games and toys delay dressing. The length of time spent in mirror gazing while teeth are being brushed or hair clips are put in would be more appropriate for a film star. Such tasks are never done in the twinkling of an eye but I am practising being patient. Instead of trying to hurry her unduly I find a task that I can do and I set a time limit for her to finish.

    Kids in the News - Run 4 the Kids Good Friday Appeal

    This fun run each year raises money for the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne and this year takes place on March 22nd. There is both a long course and a short course which makes it ideal for families to take part. The hospital does wonderful work for sick children and funds go to research and to technological improvements that will help the many thousands of children who go into the hospital each year.

    Some of the tireless workers to raise funds have posted stories about the special child in their family who has needed the care the hospital gives. Sometimes care is for short illnesses, but sometimes it is for ongoing care and treatment so necessary when a child has complex health needs. We are so fortunate in Australia to have many wonderful hospitals where children receive life saving treatment. There is no such help for parents of sick children in many countries.

    By the time you read this message, the run will be over but it won't be too late to donate and make a difference to the lives of our precious children. Go to

    Kids 'n Gardening - A garden competition

    Children of 8 and over love competitions and something with a gardening theme will motivate them to be creative outdoors. Here are some ideas. Ask children to

    • create moss gardens

    • plant vegetables gardens in boxes

    • create gardens using succulents

    • plant something in an old shoe or boot

    • plant bulbs in a pot

    • grow herbs in pots

    • grow potatoes in a bucket

    As a group project many different types of gardens can be grown with prizes being given for each category and a grand showing of plants when the gardens are at their best. It is autumn here now and time to plant bulbs for spring so why not take the kids shopping for bulbs and the competition can start by recording which child's bulb is the first to shoot.

    Healthy Living - Walking at night

    Walking at night can be a great way to prepare for bed and a good night's sleep. At my house several members of family including my five-year-old granddaughter and the cat, like to wander around the garden at sunset. Soon the evening will be dark after the evening meal and we may bring walking forward to dusk. However, we may just take torches as we enjoy the peace at that time of day and begin to relax in the cool air. It is interesting to see the birds taking up roosting positions for the night and the kangaroos are often beginning to feed. People who live in cities have different sights and sounds to interest them. As a child I often walked to the main street with my Mum after dark. We loved window shopping and could stand as long as we liked to enjoy the window displays without feeling guilty that we were not spending.

    Some people walk out on the road or pavements and take the dog on a lead at dusk or after dark, but it is important to follow safety guidelines. Drivers are not expecting to see people on the road so it is your responsibility to watch out and keep yourself and your companions safe.

    • Reflective clothing is a must with strips front, back and down the sides

    • Use lights such as torches or a cap with a LED light built into it

    • Walk facing the traffic so you can see if cars are coming

    • don't talk rough paths where you can trip and fall

    • Go with companions as there is safety in numbers

    • If there is a suspicious person following you, change course at once and seek an area where there are plenty of people around.

    • Don't stop to talk to strangers when walking at night

    • Don't wear headphones while walking

    • Join a night walking group.

    Indigenous news - Connection to Country

    This month there has been disturbing news about the proposed closure of many remote communities. It is not the people who live there who want to close the communities, but the governments of Western Australia and the Federal government. By cutting money for essential services like electricity, health and roads the government hopes to force people to relocate to bigger towns. What effect will this have on young Aboriginal people? It will have a profound affect on their relationship to their land, knowledge of culture and their confidence as well as on their overall health and emotional well being. The importance of Country to Aboriginal and Torres Strait people is well known. People living in remote places are there because of their spiritual connection to the land. Take away this ability to connect and the people suffer emotionally. Why does the Government once more mean to force decisions on Indigenous people without consultation, without any attempt to understand why people choose to live there?

    While thinking about this I caught a talk on ABC radio about the significance of Country in an interview with writer Maya Ward. Maya is not Aboriginal, but had researched the life of Barak an important historical figure of the Wurundjeri people of the Yarra district in Victoria. Barak pressured the government from the 1860's to the 1890's. He even wrote to Queen Victoria demanding rights of Country for his people as they were forced from their land by white settlers. Maya Ward set out on a pilgrimage walking along the Yarra River from the mouth to the source. She sought permission from 300 separate landholders to walk on their land. As she covered 250 miles on foot along the course of the Yarra River in Victoria, Maya felt the power of the land and her connection to. She reflected on the 40,000 years that the Yarra had been the spiritual Country of Barak's Wurundjeri people.

    We all feel a connection to our homelands. It cannot be right or just to force people to leave.

    Book Review - First Encyclopedia of Science By Rachel Firth,

    designed by Helen Wood and illustrated by David Hancock

    Published by Usborne 2010

    This is a very useful book for children from 5 to 12 years of age as well as teachers and parents. There are 29 subjects in the contents page and each subject has a double page spread with excellent, bright illustrations. The subjects range includes living things, the weather, energy, gravity magnets, computers and much more including a double page of scientific words with simple definitions. An extra feature are the links to the Usbourne website where there is more information on any subject that is marked with a star. For example on the page about bones and muscles, there are stars against Biceps and Triceps, the skull and the rib cage. The layout of the book is very clear and there are also simple experiments that kids can do.

    This book would be an excellent addition to your library of childrens' books as it is not only full of interesting facts, but will whet your appetite for more.

    Play ideas - Using light

    I found some lovely ideas in a search on the internet for using light with babies and children. From Science at Home for babies, toddlers and kids ( I liked the idea for babies of a torch hidden under a blanket or sheet with the light shining through. This encourages baby to reach out to find the light. For preschoolers I loved the simple, clear plastic box with a lid that was perfect as a light box. All you need to provide then are strips of different coloured cellophane laid in turn or in layers on top of the lid, and your child can experiment with mixing colours to his hearts content.

    Other ideas on this site were playing hide and seek in a dark room using a torch. A great idea to help kids who are timid of the dark to gain confidence. Use it too for an I spy game in the dark. See how many moths and insects you can attract to a lighted window at your place. Make sure the doors are shut or you may get some unwelcome visitors inside.


    March Issue 2015

    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  - Benefits of outdoor play

    Many kids these days are prevented from taking risks in their play as their parents look first at the risks instead of the benefits. So much time is spent doing games with electronic equipment that gross motor skills are not as good as those of children a generation ago. Many more families are now living in high rise housing too where there is no space for running and ball games. Our roads are so crowded with cars that few kids go out on bikes to get from their home to a friend's place. Parents are worried about the risk of strangers so don't let kids go off wandering on their own. How are we to overcome these problems, keep our kids safe but let them explore and experiment and take risks so they can solve problems themselves?

    Schools and child care centres can help by giving kids plenty of physical activities and instead of providing standard play equipment, provide materials that allow kids to create themselves. For example, instead of slides and built cubbies, put out planks, boxes and fabric so kids can make their own cubbies. A voluntary organization called Honk Pop-up play, has started a very successful pop-up play service that provides large materials like nets, pipes, rods, planks, tyres, ropes, and tools and encourages kids to construct their own cubbies, machines and inventions.  The organization has been overwhelmed by hundreds of kids turning up for adventure play at different locations. What a great idea.  See pictures and some comments on Facebook


    Ages and Stages - Making friends

    Once children start school, having friends is very important and will help them to have a positive attitude to school and to learning. The early classes at school are arranged so that small groups of children sit together sharing learning materials. Often the kids in that group will develop strong links as friends together and it is very common for each child to have a best friend.

    At preschool age age groups of two to six children play games together with rules for the games decided on by a couple of kids who become leaders. The teachers encourage all the children in the centre to be friends, but to have one or more special friends. It is often up to the parents to form a friendship with another parent with a child of the same age. Then parents get together socially the children play together and become friends. Being able to share toys and to take turns is an important skill that leads to friendship.

    On starting big school, a child may not know any of the children in the class and may need help to start friendships. Conversation is a great way to start friendships. One of my granddaughters was an expert in this way. Wherever her mother took her to the pool, a park, a shopping centre, she'd have a friend within a few minutes and would spend the time engaging with that child, talking, laughing, playing sharing, taking turns. Telling another child her name and asking for the name of the child she'd approached was usually the first step.

    As with preschoollers, parents of school age kids can play an important role by starting friendships with other parents. Inviting a child to play with your child after school is a good start. Watch them play so that you can see if they get along well and be on hand to make suggestions about sharing. .

    If you take your child to school each morning, see that he/she has someone to play with before leaving. If your child is shy or hesitant to go off with another child ask the teacher who your child likes to partner with or sits with at lunch time.

    Help your child to understand that it is okay to play with different people or more than one person at a time and that saying, 'No I don't want to play,' doesn't mean the end of a friendship, but just that the child didn't want to play that particular game and may want to play next time.

    Kids in the News - Taking action to help the environment

    It is vital that everyone cares for our environment by recycling, by disposing of rubbish in sensible ways, by not wasting resources by using sustainable materials whenever possible. At school children learn a lot about these things so it is good to talk about it at home too.

    What can families do to make sure that the world our children and grandchildren inherit is still a place where we can live well? We can do simple things in our everyday life.

    We can:

    • talk to children about how the climate is changing and which products we should avoid

    • talk about why we shouldn't cut down trees

    • we can help them to plant trees

    • use recycled paper

    • talk about the rights of animals and how we can help by using free range eggs and pig products that are not from caged pigs

    • raise money for groups that help animals in the wild as well as well as domestic animals

    • take our children into the outdoors often and help them to be aware of beauty

    • always be kind to animals

    • help to look after our oceans, forests, streams, flora and fauna

    • always put litter in bins not into waterways or onto streets

    • turn off lights and electricity while not in use, to conserve energy

    • research topics with the children so you are well informed

    • talk about protests and demonstrations that you see reported on TV or in papers and look at both sides of the arguments.

    Some parents involve their children actively in peaceful protests about environmental issues. One protest was especially organized for children. They made giant Arctic animals from Lego blocks to protest that Lego supported Shell Oil's bid to drill in the Arctic. One oil spill there would decimate arctic animals. Many children are worried about what the world will be like by the time they grow up. Will there still be an Arctic? Will there still be jungles where orang-utans can live? Will there still be wild African animals? Will there still be water for our Australian farms?

    Let's do our best to leave a sustainable, wonderful world for future generations.

    Kids 'n Gardening - Making a natural history museum

    The garden is a great place to begin a natural history museum with the kids. Begin with a few rocks and pebbles as they come in such a variety of shapes, sizes and colours and invite touching. Help the kids to select grass, moss, succulents and a variety of plants, to plant between the rocks. Look for feathers, bones, bark, leaves, cones and seeds too. There may even be a small sheltered area for a cicada shell, a dead beetle or a snail shell. Remember that nothing should be taken from a National Park, but driftwood often washes up on beaches. Only take shells from areas where collecting is allowed. I have found kangaroo bones along the roadside as a result of car accidents and I collected some quills from an echidna that had also been a victim of a car. Use books and the internet to find out about the things you collect and to name them correctly. Encourage the children to ask questions about where the items have originated, how old they might be, what use they are or were, etc.

    Healthy Living - Iced treats

    It is March 1st and the first day of autumn but there will still be a lot of hot days this month. When the children come home from school they are usually thirsty, hot and hungry so iced fruity treats are very welcome. Try blending strawberries or banana with diluted apple or orange juice. Pour into small plastic cups and stick in a craft stick and freeze. When frozen just hold under the tap long enough for the icicle to come out of the cup. Remember to use diluted juice as fruit juice is high in sugar.

    Indigenous news -Dance groups mentored by Bangarra

    At a High school in Orange there is an enthusiastic dance group of 8 students who are being mentored by members of the famous Bangarra Dance theatre through the Rekindling Youth program which operates around Australia. Students have been taught traditional movements by elders from Dubbo and are now passing on their knowledge to younger dancers. Storytelling is an important part of the culture and the young dancers are keen to hear and understand more and to help choreograph it into dance. Bangarra workshops will take place in Dubbo during March.


    Book Review - Where to find minibeasts in a pond

    by Sarah Ridley

    Published by Franklin Wattts 2010

    Information books are a great resource to encourage children to read and are especially useful in helping boys to get into reading. This book is a fascinating look at 10 different kinds of minibeast that are found in ponds. Some of the minibeasts live on the water surface, some under water and some in the mud at the bottom.

    Each beast has a double page spread of short, clear information with several detailed photographs and a top tip to help the young enthusiast to find actual specimens. There are also lines to show the actual  size of the creatures as the photos show up close details. Safety measures such as washing hands after pond dipping, are highlighted and there is a clear identification guide.

    The book also has a glossary and websites for more information. I was unable to go to the sites mentioned but found very interesting. This is a book in a series about minibeasts and is suitable for children from 4 upwards and especially good for 8 to 10 year olds who can read and research for themselves.

    Play ideas - Outdoor activities


    Nature Play and Pop up playgrounds have some good  suggestions . Look at for a list of 51 things that kids should do before they are 12 in the outdoors. There is also a list of 49 things that kids should do before they are 5. One that appealed to me was to play shops under a tree with leaves, pods, sticks, stones and other natural objects. The shop game can lead on to cooking if you provide water and some containers.  Dirt, sand or sawdust makes mixing concoctions fun and messy enough to please kids and they will stay occupied for hours. Bring a picnic lunch out and let the kids wash their hands first under the hose or a garden tap. 


    February Issue 2015

    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  - Stranger Danger

    Last October I wrote about three year old William Tyrell disappearing from his grandmother's home. No trace of William has been found and police are investigating the possibility that he didn't wander into the bush, but was abducted. Perhaps no answer will ever be found, but as this case returns to the news everyone is reminded that children need to know about stranger danger even when they are very young.

    Preschool children pick up information through stories, TV and games that there are goodies and baddies. They may think that bad people can be recognized by the way they look. Adults should help children gain better understanding.

    Help kids to understand that

    • a stranger is anyone they don't know

    • most people are good

    • bad people don't look bad

    Basic rules for children are:

    • never get in a car with a stranger without checking with your parents

    • never go away with a stranger even if that person asks for help to do something e.g.look for a pet

    • never take anything from a stranger without checking with your parents first

    • don't open the door to let a stranger into your house. Instead, tell your parent there is someone at the door

    • play with other kids, don't go off by yourself to play unless you are in your own yard

    • if  you are lost and need help look for a mum with kids to ask for help. Safe places to go for help are police stations, schools, shops ambulance and fire stations

    • if you feel unsafe or if a stranger scares you, shout, scream and yell STOP, HELP, DON'T TOUCH ME

    • Tell your parents what happened

    Here are some helpful websites.


    Ages and Stages - Taking medicine

    One of the hardest things to do if your child is sick is to make sure they have their medicine. Trying to force medicine into a child is upsetting to both child and parent. There is a great deal of truth in the famous song that begins 'A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, medicine go a most delightful way.'

    If you are required to give medicine to a baby probably the best way is to give it via syringe into the back part of the cheek while holding the baby firmly. Parents have tried many strategies even waiting till the child is sound asleep and then syringing it into the mouth. What works with one child may not work with the next one. Some parents have success with bribery e.g. promising dolls or other toys when the medicine has been swallowed or lollies to suck to take the taste away. When my son was five his liquid medication was changed and he was required to take several pills with each meal. We were dismayed but his father offered him money to swallow them and he quickly learnt to swallow as he was saving for a particular toy.

    Disguising medicine in food is probably the best way. Parents suggest mixing it in ice cream, chocolate milk, chocolate sauce, ice blocks and iced water, jelly, apple sauce, or whipped cream. Pills can usually be crushed if your child can't swallow them.

    Other ways to get the medicine down may be to appeal to the child swallow it for Daddy or Santa or some other important person.

    See this site for tips. Click on the parenting tab and there are 8 tips for getting medicines into kids.

    Kids in the News - Dyslexic kids

    Jackie French, the Senior Australian of the Year, is a champion for dyslexic kids. She herself is dyslexic and her message is If there is any child like me who is dyslexic, never ever think that you are stupid ... if you keep looking, if you keep asking, you will find the people who can help you.

    Jackie overcame her disadvantage to become one of Australia's best authors and has written 140 books. She says that we are all good at challenges, ' in fact, that one thing we are not good at is being bored.

    "I can promise every child who will reach for those challenges; you will never ever be bored."

    Dyslexia is the major cause for people failing to learn to read. The main problem is phonemic awareness which is listening to the sounds of words and children with dyslexia often have trouble hearing rhyming words. Here are some warning signs

    • Child may be slow to learn to speak

    • may have trouble pronouncing some words

    • cant fill in rhyming words

    • has trouble following instructions

    • has trouble recognizing letters and numbers.

    Dyslexia runs in families and specialized help is necessary. Reading to your child is very important as it will foster a love of stories and this is a first step in wanting to read, write and use language creatively Also encourage your child's success even if reading is slow and if mistakes are made. Reading the same books over and over is also helpful.

    Some helpful websites are :

    http:s// This site is for kids with the condition and has sound for anyone who can't read for themselves.

    Kids 'n Gardening - Counting in the garden

    The district is exciting at the moment as after a long drought rain has come and the landscape has turned an incredible green. The number of different grasses is surprising and in gardens everywhere roses, hybiscus and crepe myrtle trees are giving spectacular colour. The vegetable patches are suddenly looking promising too with corn growing taller every day and the pumpkin vine spreading and flowers appearing. It is an ideal time to do some simple maths in the garden.

    Your kids can collect and count different kinds of grass and their seeds, rocks or pebbles, sticks leaves on a twig, petals on flowers, how many butterflies or beetles there are. How many different kinds of birds you see in the morning, what the ants are doing. Looking from my window I see many different shades of green. Today we might collect leaves to look at those shades and shapes and also feel and smell them. I'm sure that once in the garden we will find lots to do there.

    Healthy Living - Taking time

    Life is very busy for families with children and it is easy to get into the rush, rush habit even in holiday periods. Parents sometimes set timetables that require everyone to be up, dressed, fed and away early, even if the day is to be one of fun for the kids. The more one tries to hurry kids, the slower they seem to go. As a result parents get stressed and impatient and the kids get into uncooperative moods. Time with our kids is precious and by rushing through tasks we miss opportunities to share ideas, feelings, nature, and teaching moments.

    As a grandparent I sometimes find myself getting stressed over the time my granddaughter takes over simple tasks. It can take her an age to put the toothpaste on her brush and begin the brushing. The rinsing is a long process too and she is likely to take a cloth to wipe up the splashes all around the basin which may be the longest part of the operation. I take a breath and consider relaxing the routine a bit. After all, wiping the basin is a good habit to encourage. While she is doing that I can clean the bath or fold back the bedclothes ready for the goodnight story. I try to let her do things at her own pace.

    January is drawing to a close and my granddaughter will be starting school. The precious preschool years will be over and more and more this little girl will increase her independence, form friendships, become more influenced by her peers and develop her own interests. Now is the time she asks me to play with her, sit along side her while she colours or cuts, scoop the leaves out of the pool so she can enjoy the water, watch the ants through a magnifying glass and blow bubbles with her. These sharing times will get rarer. If you have kids in your life, enjoy all the moments, whether happy, frustrating, emotional, funny, enlightening, all too soon they'll only be memories and those kids will be grown up.

    Indigenous news - Chantal Ober

    Chantal Ober is the Northern Territory Young Australian of the Year and a finalist for the National awards. She lives and works in Katherine in the Northern Territory. She runs the YMCA Girls program to help girls to develop confidence and inner strength as well as a shineGirls program in schools, and Youth Connect program through her church. She is the Indigenous representative on the National Youth Week team. Chantal is s great role model and an inspiration to Indigenous children. Chantal says The Girls Program provides a safe space for young girls to have a voice and receive support for relevant youth issues.” She says that she loves seeing the self-confidence of the girls boost over the program, the opportunity the girls have to learn and develop as a person, and the amazing relationships that are built.”

    Congratulations Chantal. The children in your community are very lucky to have you.

    Book Review - The Adventures of Milly-Molly-Mandy

    by Joyce Lankester Brisley

    Puffin Books1992

    ISBN 0-14-034865-4

    This collection of stories is the four Milly-Molly-Mandy books combined. The first book was written and published in 1928 and the last published in 1948. Joyce Brisley died in 1978. When I was a little girl my Mother read the stories to me and when I saw the combined volume some years ago I just had to buy it. Now I'm reading the tales to my granddaughter and each night she asks for the next one. Her enjoyment shows that she is the perfect age for them. The adventures are set in an English village and Milly-Molly-Mandy lives with her extended family in a little house with a thatched roof. The adventures do include characters like the blacksmith who would not be known to many children today, but having a sleepover, going blackberrying, having a picnic with little friend Susan and Billy Blunt are just as relevant to our digitally competent kids as they were 80 years ago. The illustrations in black and white are the originals done by the author and add even more detail to the stories. If you have a little girl of four, five or six in your family, ask in the library for these stories. They are perfect.


    Play ideas -Sensory materials

    There are many ways to touch things with our hands. We can squeeze, stroke, tap, pat, use one finger, a flat palm, knuckles, the backs of hands, two fingers etc.. Each way helps develop muscles and hand skills that are so vital in our lives. Give kids many different things to feel – some messy and wet, others dry. At Christmas my family discovered Sand in Motion which is the perfect material for non messy sand play. Until you actually touch it, you won't believe that sand can be used on a table indoors and not get everywhere. It is sand but has magnetic particles in it that allows it to flow but it can also be easily shaped or put in moulds and be gathered up and put back in a box or basin leaving no mess behind. It is non toxic although it says on the box that it should only be used by children of three or older. Adults as well as kids will be fascinated by this product. I note that on the box it says it was made in Sweden and is registered as Kinetic Sand.

    Other sensory materials that will delight your kids to feel or pour are beads, sparkly craft shapes, stones, seeds, coins, pasta and rice. Grabbing handfulls and transferring these materials from one dish to another or using a spoon to stir or move the pieces extends the activity as an eye/hand coordination activity.


    December 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  - Learning to Swim

    I picked up a book about Rotary this week while waiting for a family member and I was sorry I didn’t have time to study it in detail. Rotary is a world wide organizations that helps communities with projects of many different types. One that I read about is Swim Vietnam. I was shocked to read that an average of 30 children a day drown in Vietnam. Already Rotary has helped over 6,500 Vietnamese children to learn to swim for free and is training more Vietnamese teachers so that the work can expand. Here is a link to learn more about the Vietnam project.

    Summer is already here in Australia and many schools have ‘learn to swim’ classes towards the end of the term. Every child should learn to swim as soon as possible because it is so easy to drown in just a few centimeters of water and over summer families are sure to spend time near the water. It is an excellent family activity for keeping fit, making friends, having fun and even babies can learn. Not all adults can swim and there are classes for adults too. Too often kids get into difficulties and the adults who try to help them can’t swim either and tragically drown too. Look on the internet for learn to swim lessons near where you live. Here are a couple of links to get you started:


    Ages and Stages -Fantasy is important

    From about 14 months of age, toddlers begin to use pretend play. They will pretend a doll or teddy bear is a baby and will feed it pretend food or pretend it is crying etc. Between three and four years, pretend play becomes much more creative or fantastical and sometimes the child will have an invisible friend who joins in their games. Children in group play may spend hours creating environments and characters in their imagination and role playing situations that adults see as fantasy. Even at five and six years of age, fantasy play takes up most of our kids' playtime and find it impossible to separate fact from fantasy or fiction in some things. Stories they hear in books or see on TV and digital technology seem real. Encouraging children’s imaginative play is important. Through it they

    • develop their thoughts
    • solve problems
    • practice physical and social skills
    • learn empathy
    • overcome fears

    Parents should talk with their children about what is real and what is pretend. Kids realize at age three that animals don’t really talk our language, and that what happens in a book is not always real, just a story. By age ten fantasy play is less important to children as they take part in team games, craft and other activities. Digital games for this age group however, are often built on fantasy and it is important to continue the talk about whether an action could have really happened or if tricks of technology make it so. They begin to understand the difference between fantasy and lies too. Adults too enjoy fantasy and the roots of that come from our play as children.

    Kids in the news The rights of the child

    It is 25 years since the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child was drawn up and signed by most major nations. The rights concern health, education, family contact, expression of thoughts, freedom to seek information, play and work, and many more rights. Children should not be bought or sold, and those with a disability must have special care and support so they can achieve their potential. Those who enter a country as refugees, should have the same rights as those who have been born in the country. The convention has 54 articles in all. The last 10 articles are about how adults and governments should work together to see that every child’s rights are protected.

    The world news that we see every day shows us that children in many places still have few rights. This is particularly so where there is war. As a result, millions of refugees make perilous journeys in their search for safety. And despite having signed the convention of the rights of the child, my country fails to provide adequately for children and families seeking refuge.

    It is also concerning that recent statistics show that Aboriginal children are still being taken away from their families and placed away from their culture, without the right of family contact.

    Kids 'n Gardening Pumpkin pots

    Here is an interesting way for kids to grow pumpkins. Choose a middle sized pumpkin. It doesn’t matter if the pumpkin is old or even starting to go bad. Then the fun starts.

    • cut the top off the pumpkin. An adult must do this as it takes a strong, sharp knife.
    • get the kids to scoop some of the seeds out with a spoon.
    • kids then put some soil or potting mix into the pumpkin shell
    • poke in as many seeds as they like
    • cover the seeds with soil and water them.
    In only a few days the seeds will have sprouted and will look interesting in their pumpkin pot. The rest of the pumpkin becomes the food for the seedlings. Once the roots start coming through the pumpkin pot, it is time to plant the whole pumpkin in the garden and it should flourish. I found this idea at  and for lovely pictures go to

    Healthy Living  Cooking with kids

    Cooking with kids has big pluses.

    • It keeps them busy and happy while you are in the kitchen
    • It gets them interested in touching and tasting and naming all kinds of food
    • Their fine motor skills( finger/hand) improve
    • They learn about kitchen safety
    • Cooking is a great introduction to science

     Here are some kitchen things your kids can do:

    Mix, pour, roll pastry, wash veggies, break and mix eggs, snap beans, pod peas, tear lettuce and other greens, peel bananas, cut soft fruit or veggies with safe knives, grease tins and spoon mixture in

    With Christmas coming, let your kids help measure out the fruit for the Christmas cake or pudding.

    Indigenous news - Marathon runners

    On November 3rd Ten Australian Aboriginal runners took part in the famous New York Marathon. There were an estimated 50,000 people running in cold, windy conditions. The Aboriginal runners had trained for six months as part of the Indigenous Marathon Project under the guidance of Rob de Costella. Rob, a former Olympian, set up the program to help indigenous runners to realize the benefits of an active healthy lifestyle. Most of the men and women selected for the program came from remote communities and their training was something completely new to them. As well as training every day, they had to attend 5 camps away from home and also complete a Certificate IV in Health and Leisure. Some had to overcome weight or drinking problems as well as balancing work, family life and training.  

    As they trained, the runners became role models for the young people in their communities and many children as well as other community members, began to train alongside them. Toni Daisey from Townsville, has an 18month old daughter and was proud to finish the race. She said,

    “I did it for myself as well as my family, but my main motivation and reason for doing it was my little girl.”

    Congratulations to every member of the team. Perhaps some of those children will be inspired to become athletes and marathon runners in the future.

    Book Review: Santa is coming to Australia

    By Steve Smallman, illustrated by Robert Dunn

    Lake Press 2012

    ISBN 978-1-74340-097-5

    I went to the book shop hoping to see a display of Christmas books for children, but there wasn’t one. So I went on to the Big W store and found there a display of about 30 books, but only 2 of them featured anything related to Christmas in Australia. There wasn’t even one book featuring the religious side of Christmas. I studied most of the books there and was disappointed as there were not even child activity books. Perhaps there will be a better selection in a couple of weeks. I bought Santa is coming to Australia because the writer and illustrator have created an original story with bright illustrations that both country and city Australian children will relate to. The pages are busy with both words and figures so that children will enjoy going back to study each page by themselves after hearing the story once or twice. This book was under $10.

    Play ideas Christmas craft

    The last month of the year seems to come faster each year. At schools and early childhood centres children will be involved in many end of year activities including brightening rooms with creative crafts often made by recycling materials in amazing ways. Here are a few ideas for making decorations with children at home. Provide the materials and encouragement and let the kids work independently.

    1. Make small cones from cardboard and stick with tape so the cones stand up. Let the children paint the cones with bright colours and decorate with stickers. They can make a forest.

    2. Make similar cones for children to paint as Santa’s with cotton wool beards, or angels with paper wings.

    3. I found great egg carton reindeers with a sleigh at this site It can be made simpler by using staplers to fix on antlers. First the children paint the egg carton brown and stick on oval shapes for heads, with painted eyes and noses. Stick a paper over the last three egg holders to suggest the sleigh. It will be great for imaginative play.

    4. Cut out simple ball and tree shapes for the kids to decorate. Give them some glue and glitter or different colours. Hang the decorations from pieces of wool.

    5. Collect cones and nuts from different trees to paint

    6. Search for Christmas crafts on there are exciting pictures and you can click through to the websites or blogs from where the pictures come. Be prepared to spend a lot of time there.

    Happy Christmas everyone.


    November 2014

    SPECIALS  - Grandparents and children

    The last week of October is both Grandparent's week and Children's Week. The message from the Governor General of Australia who is also patron of Children's Week, said that children are 'our most precious national asset.' I certainly agree, and not only small children but all our children are precious. The theme this year is that children 'have the right to speak and be heard.'

    It isn't always convenient to listen to our children and all too often we are not listening when they do speak to us. If we set the example by listening to and showing respecting for the views of our young children, they are more likely to continue to listen to adults and respect their views when they reach their teenage years. Respect doesn't necessarily mean agreeing with someone, but I feel it should include discussion so that different ideas become part of our lives.

    To celebrate Grandparents week I attended a lunch where a film was shown about the sad plight of many grandparents today who have no contact with their grandchildren. It made me reflect about the pioneering and migrant families in centuries gone by in Australia, in America, New Zealand, Africa, and many more countries. Those people who were separated by continents had no chance of ever meeting family members again.

    Today refugee families world wide are again in that sad situation. However, the film was not about those families, but about grandparents who are separated through divorce, domestic violence, disagreements, and by the inadequacy of law to enforce the rights of grandparents to have access to their grandchildren. It was also about grandparents who are caring for their grandchildren because of the drug addiction or criminal actions of the parents of those children. Sadly there are far too many cases like that.

    I am a blessed grandmother who can physically be in touch with my grandchildren as well as talking to them by phone or contacting them by email or Skype. Some grandparents I know have never seen their grandchildren and have no contact with the families. Some have gone to court and won access rights that are limited to a few days a year and sometimes even then they are denied access. Some haven't the money to fight for access. This isn't only sad for the grandparents, but for the children who grow up missing out on an important part of extended family life.

    Our society is far different in the year 2014 from what it was like in 1914 or 1814. Grandparents today often have busy working lives. Not as many families include members of different generations. The nuclear family may not be a father, mother and children, but have a single parent, or two parents of the same sex. Families may be blended so that children have more than two sets of grandparents and are relating to several step parents and half siblings.

    I hope your family is blessed by both grandparents and grandchildren and that all can share time together. Here is a link to the film I saw.


    Ages and Stages - Taking responsibility

    My granddaughter has been enrolled at big school for next year and at the orientation day the Principal talked to parents about what was expected of children starting school. One of the things she stressed was teaching children to take responsibility themselves for their belongings. Many parents keep picking up after their kids and fixing things for them long after they should be capable of acting themselves.  This was also noted in the ABC series of Life at Nine where only a handful of children got their own lunch or walked to school by themselves.

    It is so much easier to pack the school backpack yourself than to tell your child to do it and then find that it isn't done or is only part done when it is time to set off for school. The same goes for other tasks that kids are capable of doing. Five-year-olds can

    • do up buttons and zips
    • learn to do up laces on shoes
    • check what clothes are needed each day
    • remember to bring home coats and hats
    • put their dirty clothes out to be washed
    • hang up clothes instead of throwing them on the floor
    • fold and put away clean clothes in the right places
    • tidy their rooms
    • give you notes from school
    • remember to take back library books

    There are many other tasks around the house that will help them to take responsibility for day to day living. By doing too much for our kids we are not only overloading ourselves with jobs,  but delaying development of their self help skills. Are you doing too much for your children?

    Kids in the news Music in schools

    Although I'm a grandmother I still fondly remember music time when I was at school. When I was in primary school, we had singing every day. Each class had a large repertoire of songs and once a week the teacher tuned into ABC radio so that we could learn a new one. In High School there was music once a week for every class. We learnt more songs and also listened to music chosen by the teacher. We also had the opportunity once a year to attend a performance by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra as it toured regional towns.  Much of the music from my school days is still part of my life as I sing around the house, sing to my grandchildren, or listen to recorded music.

    Today I'm pleased to hear that the Minister of the Arts in Australia has announced a grant for a National Music Mentorship Program that will run for three years. While this is commendable, it will still not cover the needs and desires of teachers. Teacher training doesn't include the rigorous music teaching of the generation that taught me. Early childhood teachers too are not as well equipped today as they were in the 1990's to go out to inspire a love of music. Back then teachers were taught to play guitar which was a great help to teachers in regional areas where resources are scarce. I sometimes hear of exceptional teachers who inspire students to make music themselves even though there is little funding. 

    In the detail of the new government mentorship, it said that 50 teachers will benefit from the program in 2015, while more will benefit in the following two years.  This is a very small number when you look at the number of primary schools which is over 2000. It sounds as if it will be only the lucky few who will be mentored.  

    Kids 'n Gardening Spiders in the garden

    I was fascinated by an article I found at about helping children to study spiders. Many children are afraid of spiders, but while teaching them not to touch them, there are ways to help them appreciate and learn about spiders. The article suggests the study begins with reading picture books about spiders and then follow up with observing live ones in their natural environment. Kids can look at

    • the shape and size of webs and spiders,
    • where the webs are built and the plants chosen
    • the colours of the spiders
    • where the spider is hiding in or near the web
    • what creatures are caught in the web
    • What different spiders eat
    • what happens when the web is broken
    • what spider eggs look like
    • harmless spiders and poisonous spiders
    • how spiders help us

    In a search for books about spiders I found some highly recommended ones e.g.

    • Simon & Schuster Children's Guide to Insects and Spiders
    • Eric Carle The Very Busy Spider
    • Gail Gibbons Spiders
    • Jeannie Baker One Hungry Spider
    • Science Scoops Time for Kids-Spiders

    Respect and admiration for these amazing creatures begins with the way we as teachers introduce them to children. Happy reading and observing.

    Healthy Living  Cooking for the family

    My five year old granddaughter was coming to stay and I knew she was quite a picky eater when it came to dinner time. I remembered some advice I'd read about cooking for a family, not individuals. This simplifies the cook's task as no one wants to be cooking four or more different meals each night. I was surprised when I listed the foods that my grandchild will eat that it was a much larger number than I had thought. She likes corn, tomato, cucumber, avocado, beetroot, capsicum and olives. She eats fish including tuna and salmon, sausages and stir-fry steak, eggs, noodles and pasta so I was able to make her a tasty meal each night as well as a salad type lunch. She also loves a variety of fruit and drinks milk. Although she eats only small portions of food compared with some children I was confident that she had good nutrition while here.

    It is good to make eating a pleasurable time especially when it is a family time together. Over time children will usually take an interest in trying more foods especially if they see other family members eating them.

    Indigenous news - Captiv8 crew

    The Captiv8 crew is a film making and drama group that worked with Darwin community arts.

    The group of young people from six different cultures in Darwin came together to write, sing, play music and record their song to celebrate their cultures as well as being part of the Darwin community. The project took six months last year. These were students in their teens but the same ideas can be used with primary school kids. Most primary schools have a big mix of cultures now and this is a way to celebrate our diversity.

    You can see the Captiv8 film at this link I hope it has inspired other groups to make their own project. Perhaps a school near you can do something similar.

    Book Review: Wombat Stew

    by Marcia Vaughan and illustrated by Pamela Lofts

    Published by Scholastic 2011

    The book was originally published in 1984 and has been in demand ever since. The rollicking story of a clever dingo who catches a wombat and plans to make the best stew, is perfect for a four-year-old. Other Australian animals give Dingo advice which he accepts, not suspecting them of plotting the wombat's escape. 

    Children love the rhythm and sounds of the words as each ingredient is dropped into the stewing pot and Dingo describes the chewy, gooey meal he is preparing. There is a lot of humour in the illustrations which take up the major part of each page. This is a must have book for Australian children and would be a perfect gift for children overseas too, introducing them to Australian native animals in a fun way

    Play ideas Using paddle pop sticks

    Now that summer is just starting we are likely to have more paddle pops or popsicles coming into the house and here are some ideas for the children to use the sticks after enjoying the popsicles:

    • paint them bright colours
    • make patterns using the different coloured sticks
    • make geometric shapes
    • count
    • stick on shapes such as flowers, insects, faces
    • make fences with the sticks and playdough for plastic farm animals
    • make puppets with scraps of wool or fabric pasted on for clothes
    • glue together to make towers, pencil holders, ladders, mats, houses, bridges, decorations
    • make picture frames
    • reuse for home made frozen popsicles

    If your kids like to keep cool with popsicles, encourage them to use the sticks in craft. Have fun as a family.


    October 2014


    SPECIALS  - Child Protection and responsibilities

    The second week of September was Child Protection week and the emphasis was on everyone doing their part to protect children from harm. Children must be protected from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. They must be safe from danger of all kinds, from violence both inside their homes and in the wider community. They need the basics of food, clothing, shelter and love, but much more. Children need education, space to play, friends to interact with; they need role models and a whole community of people to support them and help them develop their potential.

    Unless our work is in the child protection area, we focus mainly on our own families and extended families. Sometimes we are shocked by our TVs into the realization that there are children who are injured or die because of war. Sometimes we are shocked that children in our own country are not okay. During Child Protection Week in Australia, one family of three beautiful children and their mother were shot by their father who then took his own life. What could have been done to protect that family? Why did nobody know that a crisis was looming? Could new technology have been used to alert Police that the family was in danger?

    As children grow we must help them to know their rights, and also their responsibilities.


    ·         to themselves by keeping healthy habits

    ·         to their families by showing love and being willing helpers

    ·         to their carers by listening, respecting and remembering to thank them

    ·         to friends by watching out for them, sharing with them and supporting them

    ·         to the community by learning and keeping the rules and seeking to improve the environment.

    When your children become adults, will they be ready emotionally and educationally to provide safe, happy and loving environments for their families? Training for parenthood really begins in early childhood.


    Ages and Stages - Picky Eaters

    Some babies seem to take to food like a duck to water while others in the same family are picky right from the first day that solid food is offered. There are a number of reasons why kids don’t want to eat

    • It may be teething, tiredness, a sore throat or indigestion
    • The touch or smell of the food
    • The food is too hard to chew or takes too long
    • Lack of a routine or a routine that doesn’t suit your child. For example the child may be too hungry to eat or not hungry at all.

    Babies who have been good eaters often become fussy as toddlers. Keep presenting small quantities of the rejected food and usually the child will accept it again. New foods can be confronting for a child. They may decide they don’t like it just from its look.

    Some strategies to try are

    • encourage your child to help with the cooking by cutting, mixing, stirring etc.
    • allow him to play simple games like touching the food on his plate, arranging carrot sticks in squares or triangles, standing up bits of broccoli like trees
    • allow the child to spit it out after a little taste.
    • serve pieces on it tooth picks
    • cut it in different shapes
    • arrange small pieces in an iceblock tray

    Kids in the news Little boy Lost

    Little William Tryell was three years old and his sparkling, happy face looked out at the world from the TV screen. He was wearing his Spider-Man suit and his Mum had taken this photo just a few minutes before he disappeared from a game of chasings with his sister. The family was visiting Grandma in her lovely house in a bush setting at Kendall on the North Coast of New south Wales. The police began searching very soon. No one dreamed that six days later no trace would have been found. How can a lively little boy disappear so completely? No trace of torn clothing, no scent for dogs to take up, no sound at all.

    An enormous search has taken place through thick forest close to the home. Dams have been drained and creeks searched too. Police have looked into abduction theories, but in this quiet area, there have been no strangers seen and no shred of evidence that William was abducted. Police and searchers are completely baffled.  There is no hope now of a happy ending.

    What can we teach preschool children to do if they become lost in the bush? I suggest
    • STOP: Stop. Don’t go any further as someone will come looking for you

    • LOOK: Look around. Can you see shade to sit in and rest? Can you see a helicopter to wave to?

    • LISTEN: Can you hear voices calling you, or cars on a road?

    • SHOUT: Shout HELP as loudly as you can

    • SIGN: Make a sign from sticks or stones that a helicopter might see from the sky.

    You may have better ideas. When you talk to your children, explain why these ideas will help the people searching. You can also practice using these ideas in games. Adapt these ideas for children lost in a store or at a zoo or event.

    Kids 'n Gardening Finding inspirations

    This month I’m hooked on fairy gardens because of the book I mention below. Looking for further inspirations I visited Facebook and Pinterest and found plenty of information. At pot, there are ideas for using broken pots both large and small to enclose a garden. There are two pages of delightful gardens made in pots of different shapes and sizes and an online shop too. I’m sure kids will be inspired to make gardens like some of these with your help.

    At there are also tons of ideas using stones, pebbles, sticks, moss, real and artificial plants and almost anything you can think of. All the pictures pinned there have websites you can visit to see how clever people are when it comes to gardening in a small space. Help your children to find the tools and potting mix suggested and let them create their own fairy gardens populated with little figures that can be made from artificial flower petals and pipe cleaners.

    Healthy Living  The ABC exercise challenge

    ABC radio Life Matters and Health and Wellbeing programs have started a six week exercise challenge to help people get fit. You can see pictures of the volunteers at This exercise challenge of 300 minutes or five hours a week, is part of their Mental Health week initiatives from 5th to 12th October. Although it has already started, you can plan you own family challenge for anytime that is convenient to you.

    Now that it is spring it’s an ideal time to begin walking either early in the morning or at the end of the day. Choosing the end of the day will work well for most parents as when daylight saving clicks in this first weekend of the month, it is hard to get the kids to bed while it is still light. A walk will help you all to unwind, get the kids physically tired and ready to sleep, and allow you all to enjoy the outdoors before nightfall.

    Other physical activities that may work well for your family are

    ·         taking a ball to the park for games

    ·         swimming

    ·         yoga

    ·         tai chi

    ·         taking the car to a different location each time then walking for fifteen minutes before walking back

    ·         introducing the kids to golf at the practice range

    ·         cycling on the cycling track

    Indigenous news - Bush Bands Bash

    At Yipirinya School in Alice Springs, a special music program is bringing joy to all the community. This school is an independent school so instead of full government funding, money for special projects has to be found somewhere else. As this is one of the most disadvantaged schools in the country, parents cannot afford to put in money for musical instruments or for special events and specialist teachers. This year however, a sponsor has come forward. This has allowed a drumming band to be formed which is the centre piece for the students to perform their own music. They are also able to attend the Bush Bands Business Camp where the kids can talk to well known bands like running Water and also listen to them rehearsing. As they listen and talk they are gaining an insight into the discipline needed to become musicians. They meet role models and mentors from their own language groups and this will help them to write and sing their own songs not only now but into the future.

    The Principal of the school said that the music program helps kids overcome emotional problems and challenges that are such a big part of life in remote communities. May the program continue.

    Book Review: Fairy Gardening 101

     by Fiona McDonald

    Skyhorse publishing 2014

    I found this delightful book by accident and just had to buy it. It has beautiful photos of many fairy gardens. Most are simple to make with a child and will inspire you and your child or grandchild. There is a list of tools you will need, a short history of fairies, simple directions for both indoor and outdoor gardens and step by step points to help you create gardens. The emphasis is on using recycled materials and pre-loved containers with little fairies to decorate them.

    Play ideas Wet days in summer

    Wet days do occur on holidays and in summer although we usually wish they wouldn’t. How would you cope in a tent for two weeks of wet, wet days? No doubt you’d soon move to a motel or go back home.

    Here are some ideas:

    • Dress-ups. Swap clothes with the kids and take photos of the results
    • Play pass the parcel with a bundle of kids’ books. Wrap up so that a book appears each time a layer of paper is taken off and read that story before the parcel goes forward.
    • Draw funny faces on your stomachs or your bare feet and make them talk like monsters
    • Buy a packet of plain biscuits and make funny icing faces on them
    • Buy some shaving cream and make snow or surf pictures on the kitchen table
    • Make a family of stick people with matches, or paddlepop sticks
    • Fold paper in concertina fashion and draw a person then cut out so that you have four or five little people holding hands. Colour them and use in story telling.
    • Draw 2 or 3 figures about 20 cms high onto cardboard. Create a fancy wardrobe for them out of coloured paper that can be attached to the figures with paper clips.


    Copyright 2014



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