A little while ago Alex and I were at a local bike track, this track is near the river, overgrown and wild. There are two bike tracks next to each other, and this day Alex had decided to ride on the overgrown one. I was sitting on one of the jumps so I could see him but also relax in the sun. I watched a group of children and adults walking along the track above us and then turn and head down to towards the adjacent bike track. It’s not often that we would encounter others at this track during the week.
After a while, I heard giggling and screaming and two girls, sticks in hand lept over the large bank at the end of the track and skidded down our side sending out a huge puff of dirt, they were barefoot and completely oblivious to us. It was quite out of the norm so I sat there watching them. As they reached the bottom they saw Alex riding his bike, he had also noticed the girls and had come to a stop and stood there staring at them. The girls had then tucked themselves inside the wall of another dirt bank and sat there for a while peeking out and talking. Within minutes, they jumped up and ran back up the bank, looking back at Alex and glaring at him like he was a monster.
Alex peddled over to me and said he had heard their conversation. “Mum, they said I was the Big Bad Wolf”!
It then struck me as to what I had just witnessed, and that these two girls, were completely absorbed in their imaginative play and game.
I have often pondered that encounter, it made me so incredibly happy that I was able to experience it in all its beauty, but it also made me very sad because it’s not often that you see children so immersed in their imaginative play while outdoors. When our children are out at parks they are often there for a specific task, be that a walk, a bike ride, to play on the equipment or with toys. These days our parks are not designed for children to go into their own world and imagination.
When you are able to watch children fully immersed in their imaginative play like the girls above, you start to wonder why we as adults are so quick to entertain our children with fun parks, movies, toys, lessons and STUFF. As adults we seek things that have a learning outcome, falling to the pressures to extend our children’s worlds every second of the day. Do Children have time to play these days?
Going back to sitting on that jump within the dirt bike track, I ask myself some questions. How many times have we overlooked the two girls running up and down the bank? How many times have we made a move and interfered with the situation, by talking or telling the story before it unfolded?
In that single moment, all three children were learning valuable life skills such as problem-solving, coordinating themselves, cooperating and thinking flexibly? How many times would’ve we just waved it by as “children just playing?”
“Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play, children learn how to learn” – O Fred Donaldson
We all have that container of interesting objects, screws, ties, metal things, we can’t throw because one day we may just remember what they are off, and everyone has a jar of Kinder Suprise Toys or something collected from the supermarket or gas station that the kids play with for all of five minutes before tossing aside but will dearly love the moment it is seen to be heading to the rubbish bin.
So instead of throwing these little items away, I made up an Eye Spy jar for Frankie, which Alex also enjoys playing with. Eye Spy jars are so simple to make, and you should have everything you need in the cupboard.
I also find it quite therapeutic moving the jar around to see what toys I can bring up to the side of the glass. For older children, you can take a photo of the items that you pop into your jar. Print the photo and see if they can find each item in the photo. Below I will take you through a few steps to make a very simple eye spy jar.
What you need:
A Jar or bottle, glass or plastic.
Rice, if you don’t want to use rice, dry sand also works well.
A collection of small toys and things such as safety pins, bread bag ties, screws, buttons, small colourful toys, bouncy balls or coins are just some ideas.
Clear Packaging Tape
Paper and Pen
Find a suitable jar, I have used a The Collective Pot Set Yogurt Plastic Jar, which is perfect as they are large and plastic so it won’t break if accidentally dropped and you can also squish them, which is perfect for moving the little toys around.
Remove the labels from the jar, and easy way to do this is using equals parts oil and baking soda mixed together to make a paste and then use this to remove the film left by those hard to scrub stickers.
Collect your selection of little toys and bits and bobs. Take a photo of the items if you are making this for older children so they know what they are looking for. You can also write down what is in the jar and use it in the same way.
1/4 fill the jar with rice or sand. I did this over another container so it didn’t go everywhere or you could you a funnel if you have one.
Place a few toys into the rice, pushing some down into the rice.
Continue to layer the rice and toys until you reach the top of the jar.
Leaving a small area at the top so that the rice and toys can easily move around when the jar is sealed.
Secure the lid well. If you are using a jar similar jar to the one we used you will need to secure it with clear packaging tape or glue. The last thing you want is busy fingers removing the lid spilling rice or popping small objects into their mouths.
And there you have it, one very easy to make Eye Spy Jar. You can refresh the jar with different toys over time as well.
This week is World Breastfeeding Week. Two years ago when I was pregnant I would not have even begun to imagine that I would be celebrating World Breastfeeding Week in 2017 while still breastfeeding Frankie. What an amazing feat! Breastfeeding for nearly two years! I am celebrating because breastfeeding isn’t an easy journey, and these two years haven’t always been picture perfect. It can be tough, challenging and very tiring but those are all things worth celebrating when you know you have supported a little person through the most important growing years.
(The feature photo is of me with Alex when he would have been roughly eight weeks old. This is while staying at the beach, Summer 2013, I look very tired!).
Throughout these two years I have definitely become more pro breastfeeding, but more than that I have become pro breastfeeding education and support. Sadly there is so much inaccurate information out there, whether is from old school doctors and nurses, outdated Plunket advice or just regurgitated information from other mothers it really needs to stop. Oh, the stories and old wives tales I have heard, it’s not helpful and it is not supportive of mothers and their babies.
Breastfeeding can be hard in this day and age of ‘INSTANT’. Babies don’t always do instant, they work on their own time and it doesn’t often align with adults schedules. But in saying that breastfeeding can also be very, very easy and incredibly enjoyable given you have the right support. Both my children have been different to breastfeed. Alex was so hungry that he cluster fed for hours in the first weeks, this is one of the things I found very difficult. However we made it through, but I know it would have been easier if I was aware of the support that was out there, and if advice and information given to me before having a baby was more realistic.
Frankie had a tongue tie that was thankfully noticed while I was in the maternity ward but because it was not suggested that we follow this up and I was not aware of what else I should do, we had some ongoing issues that may have been sorted sooner than the nine months later when we self-referred ourselves to a chiropractor that specialised in newborns and infants.
Over past few years, I have found many online support groups and lactation advice. These groups have been my saviour many times over and I know that they have helped so many other mums out there throughout the western world. I have also read a number of books that have also helped me understand what is perfectly normal for newborns and young babies and children. (Note that these are not your usual mainstream parenting books)!
So my advice for anyone mum who wants a positive and supportive breastfeeding journey. Seek the right support. Don’t read old school or mainstream parenting books, they are not helpful. Seek out support groups either local or online. Online groups can be especially good for late at night and when your family may be busy working. Always follow your gut feelings, if something doesn’t seem right ask for help.
Below are my go to online support pages.
The Milk Meg – Meg is a lactation consultant who blogs about breastfeeding. She is also the author of the best selling book Boobin all day Boobin all night. She has a Facebook page and website site with loads of information.
Pinky McKay – Pinky specializes in gentle parenting styles that honour mothers’ natural instincts to respond to their babies and empower a positive response from infants and toddlers without what Pinky terms ‘normalised abuse’. She says, “babies and toddlers are people too and they deserve empathy and respect, not ‘training’ through techniques such as rigid routines, controlled crying or spanking. This allows children to respond positively to their environment and to develop appropriate boundaries through mutual respect and strong family relationships.”
Grubby Mummy and the Grubby Bubbies – This is a supportive blog and facebook page for breastfeeding and gentle parenting. Carley also runs a group that is supportive of normalising baby and infant sleep. This is a safe place for mums who don’t want to sleep train.
Happy World Breastfeeding week mums, whether you have breastfed in the past or a still breastfeeding now, let show some support, normalise breastfeeding and keep on Boobin.
To celebrate World Breastfeeding week on Friday and Saturday there will be events across the country for The Big Latch On. Please check the poster below if you are in Hawkes Bay and Check out your local La Leche League pages for events in your area The Big Latch On.
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.
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.
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.
Oceanarium (including the Sharks)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
** Please note I have used some photos from website Galleries, these have been noted on the picture.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. I 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.
So there you go, a super easy recipe and you know what all the ingredients are.