When To Start School

About the time I started writing my Kidsplaynz blog, I was also starting on a journey of finding out about alternatives to starting school at five years of age.  The idea of children still starting school at five years has plagued me for so long, and especially since I have discovered the wonderful world of play, loose parts, homeschooling and unschooling.   It’s led me down paths I would have never even thought about; it has made question everything I have previously learnt about learning and it has opened me up to a whole new world of ideas and peoples philosophies.

However, although I have changed and my mind has been opened, I forget that the rest of the world has not and New Zealanders are still very much programmed to think the day our children turn five they should be off to school.  So much so that some children will have their birthday on a Tuesday at Kindergarten and Wednesday they are sitting in the school classroom.  Do parents not think that maybe it would be good to give their children a week off to transition?  As adults, most of us do that when we change jobs or go on maternity leave etc.  It’s a big transition going from usually a very nurturing environment to the school system.

One of the things I have learnt very quickly is that going against society makes others upset.  I have never really been a person to conform, but I think I have always gone about it quietly, I have never made loud statements, or dressed differently, had blue hair, tattoos and piercing that “say hey look at me, I think differently to the rest of you”. So in a way to feel judged all the time or have people think you are judging them because you are going against the grain is a new experience and it gets tiring.  But also it makes me question myself and my beliefs constantly.   Conversations will usually start with someone asking us “What school are you sending Alex to?” and then me saying “I don’t think I will start Alex in school until he is 6 years old” and generally people will give you that look…”Oh, you are one of those people!”   they then quickly go on to say how they could never hold their child back and that they are quite ready for school and how they have been able to say their ABC’s since they were 3.5 and they can write their name backwards, you get where I am going with this.

The thing is I don’t question that Alex would fit into school at 5 years of age and follow along like every other 5 years old.  What I question is, while he would sit in school for 6 hours a day, what is he missing out on?   What is he missing by not being able to play all day at Kindy and what would he be missing out on at home with us his family?   Answering that question makes the decision easier, I know well and truly he will be learning more life skills in an extra year out of school than in school.

 

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Quote – Flow Issue 18

 

I am writing this blog this week because I have cemented my decision in myself, it has been a hard one as you see above, going against the grain of society is way up there, but I found that talking to a few people who have been there and done that and had no regrets, has confirmed that parenting with your heart is alway the best option.

I also wanted to write this in case one other person who reads this is struggling with the idea and is lost and needs to have their thoughts confirmed may do so.

I am fairly blessed to have a supportive family, who I have been able to openly talk through the process, they have read the books and the research, they have asked questions and made me think about the pros and cons.  I have a supportive Kindy environment who encourage parents to keep their children in Kindergarten until they are 6 years of age, so I know Alex will be happy in that environment after his 5th Birthday.

I think as parents and teachers we need to get past the competition and pressure we place on our children in all aspects of life from education to extra curricular activities, learning is not a race nor a competition with the next person.  Learning is a personal journey and one you want your children to enjoy.

Becks

Further reading and Pod casts:

Free to Learn – Peter Gray

The Sacred Urge to Play – Pennie Brownlee and Kimberley Crisp.

http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/2595176/what-3-to-7-year-olds-need-to-learn-nathan-mikaere-wallis

https://www.ted.com/speakers/sir_ken_robinson

 

 

 

Kids in the Kitchen: Spiced Shape Biscuits

Spiced biscuits are perfect for cold wintery days, to have with a cup of coffee or tea and the kids love them just as much especially when they can ice them and put sprinkles on them.   I found this recipe a few years ago in a magazine and have adapted it to my liking. It’s a really quick recipe as well compared to the more traditional Gingerbread men recipe.  It also uses Spelt flour which gives the biscuits a melt in your mouth texture, but if you don’t have spelt flour you can use ordinary white flour.

I am not going to lie, baking with kids can be hard work, but they like getting involved, so to make it easy on myself I will usually make the dough while they are busy playing and once the biscuits are cooked and cooled they can decorate them to their heart’s content.    I just set up an area on the kitchen table, with a few options.  (today though they have helped through the process).

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Spiced Biscuits

  • 120g softened butter
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 150g of Spelt flour – you can use plain flour if you don’t have spelt flour
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1tsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp mixed spice

Beat the butter and icing sugar until pale and fluffy.

Add the flour and spices and combine until soft dough forms.  Be careful to not overmix.

Pop the dough in between two sheets of plastic wrap or baking paper and roll out flat.  Place on a baking tray and pop into the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.  Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Unwrap the chilled dough and use cookie cutters to cut shapes.   Reroll out cut-offs gently, you don’t want to work the dough too much.

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Place the biscuits onto the tray and bake for about 10-15 minutes or until lightly golden. Watch them though as they can burn quickly. (past experience)   If you need to do this in two batches this is fine, just place leftover dough in the fridge.

Let the biscuits cool on the tray for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

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Let the kids decorate or leave plain.  I have found for my children as they are still young that using these little tubes from Queen makes it easy for them and less messy for me. These can be found in the baking area of any supermarket.  We have a selection of sprinkles that I have bought from the supermarket and Cakestuff in Hastings.

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If you need to make icing:  Mix 1 cup of icing sugar with a Table Spoon of hot water and a few drops of food colouring.   Add a little bit more water if you need to.   If the icing is too runny, just add a little more icing sugar.

Happy Baking!

Becks 🍪🍪👍

 

 

 

 

Homemade Seed Crackers

Since it’s Plastic Free July and so many people are really getting into it I thought I would share this great cracker recipe that I use all the time.    I can’t claim it as my own, nor do I remember who to say thank you to but from memory, it was adapted from a Donna Hay recipe and shared a thousand times over on the internet.  You can put your own mark on it and change it to suit your own tastes.

All these ingredients can be purchased from the bulk bins section of your supermarket or try places like Bin Inn or your local health food store.  Use your own bags and then you won’t be stuck with plastic wrappers.   I think you will be converted after trying them as well and never go back to eating packet crackers ever again.  They really are divine.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Cup Sunflower Seeds
  • 1/4 Cup Pumpkin Seeds
  • 1/4 Cup Linseeds aka (Flaxseeds)
  • 1/4 Cup Sesame Seeds
  • 2 Tablespoons Chia Seeds
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Cup Spelt flour
  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • 1/3 Cup of Olive Oil
  • Dried herbs of your choice for sprinkling. (Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano etc. My favourite is Cumin seeds.  YUM!!

Method:

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.  Line a tray with baking paper.

Place all seeds, salt, and spelt flour into a large bowl, stir to combine.  Add the water and oil and mix to form a wet dough.

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Divide the dough in half.   Place one-half of the dough onto the prepared tray and cover with an extra piece of baking paper.  Carefully roll out with a rolling pin to roughly 3mm thick.   Sprinkle with salt, and dried herbs of your choice.

Using a sharp knife cut lines to make the crackers, this will make it easy to snap once they are cooked.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and crisp.  Cool on a wire rack, and store in an airtight container if they are not all eaten first.

Repeat steps with the next batch of dough.

**(If you don’t want your crackers to have whole seeds in them, pop them into a stand mixer and give everything a quick mix, (my mum does this and they come out really well).**

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Plastic package free crackers.  These crackers will keep in an airtight container for a couple of weeks.

What are you making from scratch this Plastic Free July?

Becks 🍪♻️🌏

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Napier, Hawkes Bay – Our ‘Must Visit’ List

Hi everyone, this blog came about from a comment I had on my Instagram account. There are so many ‘things to do’ in Hawke’s Bay that I really am finding it hard to just name a few, however, this post is aimed at a family with a toddler and an infant so you may see that some attractions have been left out that are better suited for older children and adults.  But feel free to add in your recommendations in the comments section of this post. So here we go, this would be my ‘to visit’ list when showing a family with young children around Napier and Hawkes Bay.

The National Aquarium of New Zealand

This would be one of the main highlights of any trip to Hawkes Bay with children.   The Aquarium is home to vast array of fresh and saltwater fish, along with turtles, alligators, penguins, and Kiwi. Not to mention Sharks and Rays.    Throughout the day there are sessions when you can see or be part of feeding.   Below is the timetable.

Reef Tank 10.00am
Oceanarium (including the Sharks) 2.00pm
Penguins 9.30am, 1.30pm, 3.30pm

Easy parking, cafe, gift shop can cater for all your needs.   Feeding times do get busy, especially through the weekend and school holidays, so make sure you get their early so you find a spot to sit or stand. For more information please check out their website here.

 

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Photo – The National Aquarium of New Zealand Photo Gallery Diver in the Oceanarium. 

The Strawberry Patch

This is just one of favorite places to visit in the summer, it has such a lovely atmosphere, in the shade of the huge Oak trees.   The Strawberry Season runs from October to May, but in the summer months, the strawberries are at their best, big fat and juicy. Over this time they have pick your own, which is really fun to do with young children, Strawberries always taste best when picked straight from the plant.   After we have picked strawberries we will stop and have a fruit ice cream, there are picnic tables and a few wooden ride on toys and horse swings for the kids to play on.  For more information please check their website here.

Park Island

There are loads of lovely parks in Hawkes Bay to explore, but one of our favorites is Park Island.   There is so much to explore in this park, it has easy access for a buggy to walk right around the islands and if you are buggy free there are a number of walking tracks that take you up through the islands.    Before the 1931 Earthquake, these were islands and a lot of the land here was tidal estuary or underwater.  There is evidence of this where you can see fossils and old shells.  Look out for painted rocks as this park is one of the favorites for Rock hunting.

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The Marine Parade

Part and Parcel of a visit to Hawkes Bay is a walk down the Marine Parade.    Any day of the year this is a beautiful walk, but on a Sunny Hawkes Bay Day, it really is paradise.    Stop in at the various attractions, bike park with working traffic lights, the adventure playground.   Have an ice cream at Lick This Ice Cream Parlour then carry on to the sunken garden, sound shell and then look back towards the city from the viewing platform.

Birdwood Gallery and Cafe

I recently posted about Birdwoods Gallery and Cafe on our Facebook Page.  This is a great cafe especially on a warm day where you can sit outside. They have plunger coffee and yummy slices and cakes.  There is also a day menu, see their website for changing menu options.  There is a huge area for children to play freely, there is also and an area with sculptures that you can walk around, with giraffes, birds and a hippopotamus sitting in the pond.  Next to the cafe is a vintage style sweet shop.   Think old school lollies out of Roald Dahl books, definitely a must do for all children at heart.

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Sweet Shop at Birdwoods – Photo Birdwood Gallery

The Picnic

This is one of personal favourite places to visit, and I recommend to everyone, all the time.   The Picnic is open |Thursday to Sunday (seasonal changes in days and hours check the website for updates).   Picnic offers delicious treats that basically you could pick up and take on a picnic.   Think decadent sweet treats, beautiful fresh bread, salads and celebratory cakes and chocolates.   They also serve All Press coffee which is up there with the best in Hawkes Bay.  To see flavor updates, check out their Facebook Page here.

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Photo – Google Gallery

The Beaches:  Ocean Beach and Waimarama Beach

We are lucky in Hawkes Bay that we boast some of the best beaches in the country.   I can’t really pick my favorite but both Oceana and Waimarama are fabulous beaches to visit if you have the time.   Both offer safe swimming in the summer with Life Guards on duty.  You also don’t have to venture too far to get away from the crowds.  On your way out stop and grab a coffee at Red Bridge Coffee, serving Hawthorne Coffee.  Make sure you keep up to date with their social media as some weekends they have local gourmet food stalls on site serving lunch.

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Red Bridge Cafe – Celebrating St Pats Day.

Alex Waimarama

Te Mata Peak

Te Mata Peak stands roughly 400 metres above the Heretaunga Plains and is a special part of Hawkes Bay visually and culturally.  There are many walking tracks or drive to the summit to see the 360 views.  Sometimes you will see paragliders taking off from the platform at the summit.   The park is currently having some developments done so it will be interesting to see what this looks like in the near future.

Sunday Farmer Market

If you are staying Hawkes Bay over the weekend, the Hastings Farmers Market is a definite must visit.   You will get to try out many of the artisan foods that Hawkes Bay has to offer.  Along with fresh local produce, you will be able to taste, wine, chocolate, walnut brittle (my favorite), coffee, cheeses, and specialty bread.   In the summer months, the market is under the Oak Trees, such a relaxing atmosphere that you will want to stop and eat your brunch while listening to one of the weekly buskers performing.

So this is my list of things to do in Hawkes Bay, I could go on and on, but maybe there is room for another blog in the near future.  In the meantime check out Hawkes Bay for more information.

Let me know your favorite places to visit or take family and friends when they come to stay in The Bay! Visit us at Facebook and Instagram.

Becks

** Please note I have used some photos from website Galleries, these have been noted on the picture.

 

 

 

One Bag at a Time – Plastic Free July

Today is the Start of Plastic Free July. Yes, another month to give up something!   However, with the effects that plastic is having on our oceans, it’s a really good reason to start using reusable alternatives instead of throw away one-time use plastic items.

Did you know?

‘Every minute, the equivalent of a rubbish truckload of plastic goes into our oceans, it never decomposes and will remain there forever. If nothing changes, by 2050 all the plastic in the ocean could weigh more than all the fish. Plastic impacts on an entire ecosystem, marine life get caught up in it, eat it and live in it. It also has a direct impact on our health, acting as a sponge for toxins which can end up in our food.’  Quote – Ocean Rescue

Next time you are out walking in a park or the beach just take note and see how much rubbish and plastic is just left on the ground or has blown there in the wind.   It really is quite phenomenal.     Now that my children are a little bit older, I made the decision that if I want my grandchildren to enjoy a beautiful planet to explore and have adventures, I really need to start taking some action and reducing my plastic footprint and while I am doing this, hopefully, my children will learn by watching and doing, and it will become normal to them to not use throw away plastic items.

My personal challenge started a month ago when I took on the challenge to stop using plastic bags as part of a competition through a Facebook Page I follow, I thought it would be a good start on Plastic Free July too.  My goal was to start changing the way I shop, thinking about my purchases and making sure I always take my reusable bags.

With a few hiccups along the way I can honestly say my month has gone fairly well, I never set out to be perfect, but to change the way I do things so that it becomes a normal way of life and not something I just did for a few weeks or months.  We really have to change our thinking and that is a process, not something that just happens overnight.

A Few Points To Think About When Going Plastic Bag Free:

  • Get a good stash of reusable bags, the best bags are the ones that can be thrown in the wash when they need a bit of a scrub.  Put them back in the car when you have put away your groceries.
  • Always carry a small reusable bag in your handbag. Then you will never be short of a bag
  • Get some courage, you will be tested.   Plastic Bags are so part of our everyday culture that you have to stand up and say “No Plastic Bag thanks”.   Generally, retailers will pop your items in a bag, even if you just have one item!
  • Ask for meat to be wrapped in newspaper.   Even when using reusable bags, check out staff will still bag your items up in plastic.  You need to ask!
  • Produce Bags – I don’t often buy vegetables and fruit at the supermarket but when I did, I needed produce bags.   I bought some from both Onatah and Rethink Produce Bags online, perfect for potatoes and Kumara, right through to Apples or a Cabbage.
  • Find other ways to reduce your plastic consumption.

 

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Rethink Reusable Fresh Produce Bags

In my opinion, I think the only way we are going to combat this problem is governments and councils need to push going plastic bag free or putting a plastic bag tax on retailers, this would then will be passed on to consumers, this should be made more expensive every year.  Sounds tough, but it needs to be made costly because many people will just keep blindly using plastic bags.

My next challenge is to tackle my coffee addiction and to not use take away coffee cups.  Last week I made a purchase of a Keep Cup – Brew Glass Coffee Cup.   I thought if I was going to use a reusable cup I needed something that I was going to enjoy drinking out of, so a little bit more expensive than your average reusable cup, but well worth it because it is really nice to drink from.  So over the next month, I will be taking on the Coffee Cup Challenge and hopefully, over time it will become normal and just part of my everyday life.

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My Glass KeepCup #salutetheuser

There are plenty of ways you can reduce plastic in your everyday life, it’s just thinking about what you can do differently. Over the next month, I thought I will post some different ideas for making changes and showing you how easy it is to make the switch.  If I can make the switch I know plenty of others can as well.

What do you do to help reduce your plastic footprint, I would love to know your hints, tricks, and ideas. Thanks for reading and if you want to see more of our adventures check out Facebook or Instagram.

Becks ♻️

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mud, Mud and More Mud, DIY Mud Kitchen

Guess what today is? – It’s  International Mud Day!  They have days for everything these days, but hey celebrating mud is a good thing isn’t it because well who doesn’t like playing in the mud!  Even grown ups love playing in the mud, they may not run around in muddy puddles at the park but they play in the mud in 4×4 drive vehicles, motor cross, rugby, hey they even host charity mud runs, getting adults out there running and sliding in the mud.

If you follow us on Instagram and Facebook you will see my kids love mud and dirt, any chance they get they are in it.  Yes at times I think, ahh not more muddy clothing, not more muddy footprints in the house or a muddy handprint on the window.  I have learned to embrace it, we now always have spare clothing in the back the car because chances are if we are out in nature someone is going to get muddy.  At home, we just run a warm bath, throw the clothes in the wash and hey presto everyone is clean again.

So to celebrate our first ever official Mud Day, I thought I would show you how you can embrace mud at home because there are loads of benefits of letting your children play in mud and dirt, not to mention most kids will really, really enjoy it.

Here we go an easy DIY Mud Kitchen.

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I’m not going to show you how to make a fancy Pinterest style kitchen that would take me days and dollars to make, we like to embrace thriftiness here and use items we already have or that we can find cheaply.  Also, I want something that any mum or dad could whip up in minutes and not hours.   At the end of the day, children do not care if the mud kitchen is going to make it into the next House and Garden Magazine, they just want to have fun!

Firstly I headed off to the second-hand store to pick up some old pots, pans, and other items.    A couple of good strong spoons etc.   Again it doesn’t have to be expensive and you may find things around the house that may be past it for use in your own kitchen but perfectly fine for the kids to have fun with.

Find an area in your garden that you are happy for the kids to make a bit mucky.   Our back garden is a bit like a wilderness garden at the moment, so I set it up where they wouldn’t get lost in the grass.

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I scrounged around the woodshed and found two similar rounds of wood and then raided my husbands shed for a plank/board that I could use as a bench.  Again it doesn’t have to look Pinterest beautiful, it just needs to be usable, and not wobble.  If you have an old kids table this would work equally fine.  We have a low table that I will use in the future because I found that they needed more space to work.

Set up the kitchen in a way that they can see all the utensils and items.   I had a bucket of wet dirt and then a teapot filled with water.   We picked some flowers and leafy branches and had those available for decorating or mixing into the mud.

Alex and Frankie spent ages playing at the table, filling, pouring, stirring.   Alex made a star cake and decorated it with flowers and grass.   He is really into baking at the moment, so this gave him an opportunity to get creative in nature’s kitchen.

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So there you go, this is very simple and fairly easy way to let your children experience dirt and mud at home.

So get out there and celebrate Mud on Internation Mud Day, and not just today but let them experience mud any day of the year.

Becks 🐾🐛

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Super Easy Cooked Playdough Recipe

It must have been the week, last week, for Playdough, as I saw so many photos and posts about Playdough.   We have had quite a bit of inside time as I was struck down with the horrible flu and have not ventured out unless I absolutely had to, so it was a week of inside play for us.  While all the Playdough photos were shared there were also many people asking for the recipe, so I thought I would share our Cooked Playdough version.

There are a few different recipes out there, but I found this recipe one of the best for nice, soft dough that lasts for ages, (three months in fact if you keep it in the fridge). This is also the recipe my mum used when I was little. I also add a few drops of essential oil, which makes it smell lovely, try lavender, orange or peppermint.  Homemade dough is super easy to make and you then know exactly what has gone into it.

All you need:

  • 2 Cups Flour
  • 2 Cups Water
  • 1 Cup Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Oil
  • 2 Teaspoons Cream of Tartar
  • Food colouring of your choice
  • Essential oils of your choice (optional)

Pop all the ingredients apart from the essential oils into a saucepan.  Stir well on medium heat until mixture comes away from the pot and forms a ball.  Don’t overcook otherwise the dough will go dry.    Place on a board and knead well and then leave to cool. Once the dough is cool, knead in a few drops of essential oil.  The dough should keep for three months if stored in an airtight container in the fridge.   P1040928I give the kids a variety of utensils to use with the playdough rolling pin, cookie cutters, a plastic spork that I saved from something, cupcake wrappers, flowers and leaves for decorating, the ideas can be endless.   On this day Alex made a number of things and ended with cupcakes, he then made an oven out of a wooden box and some blocks.   These were then decorated with leaves and flowers and will be cakes for Daddy’s Birthday. P1040929

So there you go, a super easy recipe and you know what all the ingredients are.

Becks 🌻🍄

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