Archive for the ‘Play’ Category

Wordless Wednesday – Shape Collage

This will actually have quite a few words.  I’ve found a fantastic free programme called Shape Collage that does exactly that – you put your photos in and it gives you a collage in any shape you want.  It has some pre-programmed, but you can also create any silhouette you like and off you go.  I can see it will be fantastic for presents and fun!  I’ve been playing around with it, this is one I’ve made.

Putting things away when you finish

I love the theory – I mean it’s so simple.  When you finish playing with something you put it away before you get the next thing out.  I’ve tried to enforce this since the beginning, first me then the girls when they could get the concept.  But 4 years on, my house is covered in half-done jigsaws, textas with or without lids, pull along toys and lots of little bits and pieces.  My kitchen floor is a graveyard of soft toys, fridge magnets, wipe cloths and little plastic containers.

Some of this is ‘good mess’ – the soft toys are there because the little girl knows she has to let go of whatever she has when she climbs or she’ll fall off, the wipe cloths are because both girls are really good at cleaning up spills and can’t get into the laundry to put them in the wash afterwards.  Some of it is the house – the plastics cupboard doesn’t close and is very high traffic, so all the little bits fall out then get kicked around.  Some is just the result of little kids – they love playing with the fridge magnets but of course that involves taking them off and they never seem to all go back on.  There are always clothes on the bathroom floor because they toilet independently, but can’t (or don’t bother to) get their undies and bottoms back on afterwards and I don’t know until later.

It seems that we generally start a new activity inspired by the last one, and stopping to put things away would ruin the flow.  Or if I’m really honest, I don’t think of it until later and then I don’t want to interrupt them when they’re concentrating/being creative/playing beautifully together.  And it’s causing fights with the big girl – every time she asks to get something out the answer is “As soon as you’ve cleaned the last one up” and she DOES NOT WANT TO.  She’s not going to get away with that, but I’d rather avoid the fights because it’s not a pleasant way to spend the morning.  (I went to play floor dominoes with the girls this morning and they were in their bedroom.  I asked why they were in there not the living room and the answer was “We don’t want to clean up there before we’re allowed to play.”)

Five minute clean ups at the end of the day work the best so far, but then I still spend the day stepping on small things with lots of corners, the girls skid on paper and hurt themselves, textas are left without lids, and vital pieces mysteriously vanish.  We’re reasonable and getting better at having homes for everything – there’s a box or a shelf they are supposed to be on, but not everything makes it back and as the day goes on we progressively drown.  Then it’s such a hassle getting the girls to bed that I just flake out and seeing napping is a bit disastrous/non-existent it’s my first break of the day and I want to get some of my stuff done, so every day starts a bit further behind.  My darling husband on weekends keeps the house ticking over.

I think after 4 years it’s time to admit the truth – I’m not going to remember to pack things away as soon as they’re done with.  It would be nice, it would be efficient, it would be easier.  But it hasn’t happened so far and I can’t see that changing.

So what do other people do?  Do you have really good memories?  Do you have extreme limits on toys?  (We don’t have limits as such, but a lot are packed away where they don’t remember them and we rotate.) Do you let it go then clean it all up afterwards?  I really need a system, I’m completely open to suggestions.

13 Steps to Making a Crown

My big girl wants a crown for Christmas.  It’s all she’s asked for, and she’s asked several times!  You could do this in less that 13 steps, but then how would I use it for this post?

1.

2. 

It’s made of felt.

3. 

4. 

I’ve never used a hot glue gun before, this cost about $5 from a $2 shop and was very easy, although the glue comes out really hot!

5. 

I used a darning/embroidery foot to sew them on just to see how it went.  You could easily hand sew them, especially if you wanted it neat.  I was after a more casual look.  The needle picked up a fair bit of glue as well.

6. 

I hand sewed the beads with bead thread which is far stronger than normal cotton, then glued them as well.  Probably paranoid, but I’ve seen the way my toddler treat things!

7. 

Another play with the hot glue gun, I had some glitter glue.

8. 

Cut out a large piece of material for a head band (remember the measurement?).  Make sure it is a few centimetres longer than your head measurement and double your elastic width plus a couple of centimetres.  This one is about 57cm long and7cm wide.

9. 

Sew along the long sides to make a tube and turn it right side out.

10. 

Sew the tube to the crown, leaving a couple of centimetres at one end.  I glued it first so I didn’t have to pin it.  This material has a bit of stretch so I stretched it out when I was gluing it down, so when it is being stretched around their heads it doesn’t pull the felt.

11. 

Sorry for the horrible composite photo.  It is trying to show that I have threaded the elastic into the long end of the headband up until the crown, then sewn it down at that end.

12. 

Stretch the elastic comfortably so it goes the length of the headband, then sew the end and cut off the spare elastic.

13. 

Fold it around to those spare couple of centimetres you left on the other side and attach.  I put it inside the other end of the tube and sewed over it lots of times.

Tahdah!  Little sister wouldn’t try it on, so no photos of it on until Christmas!

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Wordless Wednesday – Christmas With Love

This is the jigsaw puzzle our 4 year old daughter made for her cousin.

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Cooking With Kids: Savoury Crepes

I had no idea this was so simple, I had to check several recipes because I had this image crepes were really hard.  No, they’re 18 month old easy!

Ingredients:

  • 150g (1 cup) plain flour
  • 435ml (1 3/4 cups) milk
  • 2 eggs at room temperature

Method:

  1. Sift the flour into a bowl.  Use a really wide bowl so it doesn’t get flicked everywhere.
  2. In another bowl put the eggs and milk and whisk them with a fork.  A deep bowl for this bit, even baby girl at 18 months can do it.  She gets really excited when she manages to pop the yolks.
  3. Pour a little bit into the flour and mix, gradually add a little at a time and keep mixing until you have a thin batter.  I do the pouring and let the girls mix, it’s easier for little ones when the mix is thinner.
  4. Whisk until smooth, but not too much or the gluten will make the crepes rubbery.  But whisking is so much fun we often end up with tough crepes!
  5. Cover and let it rest for half an hour at room temperature to relax the gluten.

We generally do this in the morning then go out, but it’s also a good time to get your fillings ready.  We use all sorts of things, corn, olives, mushrooms, spring onion, ricotta cheese, tomato, capsicum, ham, pretty much anything you like.

Use a little bit of oil in a pan on medium heat, pour in some of the crepe mixture and swirl it around to cover the pan.  Cook it until golden on that side.  Turn the crepe and put your fillings on one side, not too much.  When it is almost cooked, fold the other side over on top.  When the base is cooked you can flip it over again to heat the top.  I generally cook them from youngest to oldest, that way their’s has time to cool while the others are cooking.  I also slice them up. Enjoy!

MONDAY MONEY – Something Special

Having fallen foul of the flu this week I have been pondering what I would write. Whilst the head is still a little foggy I thought it best to look at something that I managed to do with my daughter in a couple of days as a gift for her cousin.

It is not an expensive thing to do, making a gift for someone, it is something very special, with time and love spent in making it. The commercialised side of Christmas has really taken hold. I would say for most people it is a case of what is the latest gadget that I can get, what piece of technology is there out there that I don’t have. The one that leaps to mind for me is the IPhone. My son has told me that I don’t need an IPhone as I only need a basic mobile, I would never use all the other bits and pieces attached. He’s probably right!

Anyway, I move off the subject. I drew my daughter a picture onto a piece of wood, coloured it in and then cut it into a puzzle for her. Yes you need to know how to do this sort of thing, but there are many gifts to be made. Without prompting she wanted to know if she could make one too, for her cousin we are going to visit at Christmas. She is 4 and I looked at her and said of course, thinking that I would end up doing all the work. How wrong was I, she helped search the internet for pictures of a tractor (her cousin is into tractors), then I drew it onto her board, and she coloured it in. Not the idea I had. Her cousin is going to get a brightly coloured tractor puzzle that she spent 2 days making. How much more special can you get (photo here).

So on a somewhat shortish note, think about the latest gadget you’re thinking of getting. How much love and thought is there in this? I love my gadgets and toys that I have, and yes it is great to have an excuse like Christmas to go and ‘upgrade’ again. At the same time though, isn’t it nice to have that little something special, the thing that says I really thought about you at this special time of the year.

13 Reasons I Like Dora

I’m not into commercialisation, I really don’t like most of the kids shows and groups or at least the way they’re marketed.  However we have managed to amass an extremely extensive Dora the Explorer collection and I’m actually pretty impressed at how she stacks up as something I’m happy for my daughter to watch.  So here are 13 Reasons I Like Dora.

  1. She’s child shaped, not some distorted miniature model.
  2. She’s a girl doing all sorts of active, non-traditional things.
  3. She’s adventurous and goes all over the place, including the jungle and fantasy lands.
  4. She goes outside and gets lots of exercise, but it’s not just organised sport.
  5. She’s independent, confident and a problem solver.
  6. She’s dark skinned, not a cute little white angel.
  7. She’s imaginative and creative with a rich fantasy life.
  8. She has all sorts of friends, male, female, cows, monkeys, trolls, …
  9. Swiper isn’t purely evil, sometimes he’s good and sometimes he’s bad, which is realistic.
  10. They celebrate and acknowledge good things.
  11. I like iguanas, I just have a thing for reptiles.
  12. Her mother is an archaeologist, professional, female, scientist, how many great role models in one.
  13. She interacts with adults, it’s not just a Neverland full of children.

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun!

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13 Practical Things That Would Make the World More Kid Friendly

They are our future.  They make up almost 30% of the population.  And yet we ignore them and make no provision for them.

1.  Children’s public toilets.

We manage to have disabled toilets, which is great, and there are more kids around than people with disabilities.  So how about a slightly larger stall so they can deal with their clothes or Mum or Dad can fit in with a lower toilet, toilet paper they can reach and a low, big, easily turnable lock. My husband has just informed me that men’s toilets usually have one lower urinal, which says some interesting things about women’s toilets and designers.

2.  Children’s cutlery and plastic cups at cafes.

It’s hard to eat with cutlery that’s too big, no wonder they drop it all the time!  It’s not that hard to give them teaspoons and dessert forks, or even get some actual kid’s cutlery. Even better than plastic cups, plastic cups with a narrow mouth.  Wide mouths just end up pouring out the side.  How would you like to eat your meal with salad servers and drink out of a bucket?

3.  Play equipment and feeding chairs in shopping centres.

I remember when shopping centres used to have little garden areas, before they realised they could stick stands in there and get more rent.  I know sometimes privacy is good, but then you have to entertain the older child while feeding the baby, or use a hard wooden bench.  So how about providing some comfortable chairs with basic play equipment, even simple things like floor mazes or moving pegs on boards if you’re worried about kids getting hurt and suing you.  A place where both kids and parents can have a break before heading into the next shop.  You may miss out on the rent for the floorspace but you would get a heck of a lot more customers, and ones who are more relaxed and can look around.

4.  Menus that include something other than chips.

Need I say more?  My kids like chips too, but it would be nice to have some choices!  They also like dips and crudites, or salad plates, or eggs, or risotto, you get the picture?

5.  Miniature shopping trolleys.

Sometimes I only want a few things, and why should kids be cooped up in a trolley?  It can be hazardous in a shop, getting hit by a full trolley is both likely and serious when you’re only 3 feet high.  I see this as a win/win – give them a little trolley with a flag sticking up so everyone can see them and they get to be included and have something to do, which means a whole lot less whining and tantrums!

6.  Steps they can stand on at counters that are meant for kids, like icecream shops or food courts!

I confess, if there is a bench at counter height I let them sit/stand on it and bad luck anyone who doesn’t like it.  It’s not fair that in a shop that allegedly caters to children they can’t even see what they are ordering, let alone gasp! order for themselves. Some of them might even like to hand over the money and pay for themselves.

7.  Matinees or afternoon shows, or ones late at night.

Wouldn’t it be nice to take kids to see something like Cats?  Or Starlight Express?  Cirque de Soleil?  I’m probably just showing my age here!  I’ve got nothing against the various kid groups, but my kids would love to see other shows too.  A show where people sing and dance and rollerskate – they’d sit through it.  What are tweens supposed to see – too old for the Wiggles but really too young for pop, they’re stuck with growing up too quickly or nothing.  But unless you live somewhere like London they’re always on at times that are no good, when they are winding down and tired.  Or as a parent I’m barred from going because they are right in the middle of bedtime.  If I could get them to bed first then go out later it would work much better.  Don’t complain that teenagers and young adults don’t appreciate ‘culture’ when they have never been given the opportunity.

8.  Roped off kid areas at places like cinemas or sporting venues

Notice how cinemas always have huge waiting areas?  How about roping a bit off so kids have a place they can jump, roll around on the floor, and generally do those things kids do when they’ve been waiting a long time.  They’re not in anyone else’s way, no-one is going to walk into them.  Sounds good to me.  Obviously parents would still have to keep an eye on them, but it would be a much more relaxing wait for everyone concerned.

9. Family/parent queues

Wouldn’t it be nice to move those kids through before they get to the stage of whingeing?  And seeing there aren’t that many adults who choose to do kid type activities if they don’t have kids, it’s not as if they will take anyone’s ticket by going through first.  But even if they do, I’d hope that the adult would be able to express their disappointment in an adult way.  Of course if there was a designated kids’ area that parents could see while they waited in queue, …

10. Playgroup for big kids

We have a brilliant play group, with amazing toys, dressups, play equipment and craft gear.  But it’s only accessible until they start school.  Once they are at school there are organised activities like sport, scouts, or music, or they are supposed to have friends over.  Now there’s a place for organisation and competition, but there’s also a place for creativity, imagination and co-operation.  It would be really nice to have access to the same range of gear and large groups of children so they can continue to play creatively.

11.  Flexible school hours.

Work with me on this one, it’s a bit harder.  Our school hours are a product of a society where kids went home in the afternoon to do chores or help out on the farm.  They needed summer off so they could work.  But is it the best distribution for a modern society?  What if teenagers could go to school from 11am – 5pm?  What if primary students could go from 7am-12pm then go home for lunch?  Or what if they did 9am-5pm but with a 2 hour break in the middle of the day when they could rest, play, do art, sport or something completely different?  It might be a great option for working parents.  What if school holidays were rearranged to have 4 blocks of 3 weeks?  In the NT we have 1 week at Easter, 4 weeks in the dry season, 1 week in October then 6 weeks in the Wet season.  Wouldn’t it be great if school districts could make these decisions?  It would be difficult logistically – if you had kids in different schools for example, but isn’t it worth exploring a bit creatively?

12.  Public transport

How about designated seats on public transport that had flip down booster seats? Not that hard to do, then kids don’t have their feet dangling and can see out the window, which automatically makes it more interesting. And they could even have harnesses attached!

13. Attitude!

Everything I’ve suggested so far is practical and do-able. But it will never really change the way society views children without a change of attitude. Children are human too, with exactly the same right to respect and dignity as adults. So adults need to be aware of this, respect them and allow them their dignity. Give them time to process questions and answer. Accept that they won’t walk as quickly as you do. Enjoy the fact that they have so much fun playing and smile at them. Assume that parents know a bit more about the context than you do and support them in their decisions. Understand that their sense of time is completely different to yours and they live at a much faster pace.

And if you can’t do that, remember what your mother said: If you can’t say something nice,don’t say anything!

How about some more suggestions?  And how do we take these to a higher level – lobby shopping centres? Councils?

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun!

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Wordless Wednesday – Dinner Last Night

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Cooking with Kids: Frozen Banana

This is so simple it really doesn’t deserve to be called cooking.  On the other hand, I’ve done it with both my girls since they were about 15 months, and they love the fact they can do it themselves.  And it’s perfect for summer – healthy, quick, fun and cold.

 

Ingredients:

  • Banana
  • Toothpicks
  • Knife
  • Airtight container
  • Freezer

Either cut the end so your child can peel the banana or peel it for them if they are very little.  Give them the toothpicks and let them go!  At 4 big girl does a straight line of beautifully spaced toothpicks, at 18 months baby girl sticks them in all over the place.  It doesn’t matter.  Gvie them a blunt knife, even a butter knife will work on ripe bananas, and let them cut between the toothpicks.  Big girl can do this all by herself, I guide baby girl.  Put them in an airtight container and freeze!  Time depends on how thick the slices are.  When you get them out, you have little banana iceblocks with their own handle.  Kids love them.

I tend to do this at morning or afternoon tea time and use several bananas, the girls eat as much as they want unfrozen then we put the rest into the freezer.