Libraries are there to be joined!

One proud owner of a (pretty cool) kid's library card

One proud owner of a (pretty cool) kid’s library card

Have you looked into all the library has to offer…?

The library is a wonderful place full of free books AND so much more!  Have you joined yet, at least for books for your children?

The best things to get started are to:

  • Join at the library and get yourself (or your child) a card
  • Look at their website and get familiar with the online catalogue and reserving books online
  • Sign up to a newsletter or join the library on facebook so you can hear about all the great events and courses they run
  • Checkout the kids’ activities they run – story telling, nursery rhymes, kids craft, teddy bears picnics, baby sign, you name it!!
  • Look out for toy libraries linked with the library

Making the most of going to the library

Get your child involved from the beginning, encouraging them to look for books they like, ones they have read before and also new ones.

Talk about ‘authors’ and ‘illustrators’ and comment on those that have written/illustrated other books you have enjoyed.  Comment on the letter in the top corner which tells us where they are kept at the library.  Encourage your child to go and look for other books by a favourite author – ‘remember to look for A for Pamela Allen!’.

Get your child involved in returning and borrowing the books to feel a part of the process.  Having their own card can be quite exciting too!

Comment on the different areas of the library and what is happening, for example, ‘look that’s for the older kids’, ‘they are the computers to find out where a book is kept’, ‘that is a librarian, they work here’.

Attend storytelling and other activities to show your child what else the library is about.

Get your child to ‘round up’ the books when it’s time to return them to the library and discuss taking them back for other kids to enjoy too, but to find new and other favourites as well!

Take note of the really-loved favourites and reserve them from time to time online.  That way, you can build excitement, telling your children that you have requested the book and it will be waiting there especially for them very soon.

Show your children that you like to find books on your interests also, even if it’s magazines!

Introducing different cultures

Cover of "My Neighbor Totoro"

Cover of My Neighbor Totoro

Have you seen Ponyo or My Neighbour Totoro?

Try to add variety to your children’s TV viewing. Hayao Miyazaki a japanese animator and film director has created some amazing movies that depict a different life to the western life our children are use to. It can start some amazing conversation. To make the most of this learning opportunity sit and watch it with them so you can help point out the differences and ask them what do they see thats different.

More TV and Media ideas to come…

IPad apps what are the good ones….

Cover of "Ponyo (Two-Disc Edition)"

Cover of Ponyo (Two-Disc Edition)

How do I get my fussy eater to EAT??

Some strategies to get children eating:

1. The best way to get your children to become healthy eaters is to ensure you are a ‘healthy eater’.

2. Involve your children in the cooking process. Some of the soft vegetables are easy to cut with a butter knife. For example mushrooms, capsicum, snow peas and beans.

3. Only offer small amounts on the plate. If you are really trying to introduce a ‘disliked’ vegetable maybe just start by them having it on their plate. Baby steps!

4. Look at your routine, are the children filling up on afternoon tea and snacks. When the 4.30 hunger strikes and dinner is not ready, Jessica Seinfeld suggests offering vegetable sticks. Her book Deceptively Delicious has some wonderful recipes and strategies. I offer my children a cup of ‘frozen peas’, for some reason they think this is special because they are frozen.

5. Keep offering. I know how hard this is because we are all so busy and there is nothing more frustrating and heartbreaking than having a meal you have lovingly cooked pushed away. Or what my Miss 2 year old does is looks in the bowl and yells “YUK”!!! But I keep trying and I know that her sister Miss nearly 4 is a wonderful eater, so it is just a phase.

6. It can be a long process of getting them to change but if you are consistent and have clear expectations of what you want them to eat, they will do it.

7. Create the atmosphere as pleasant as possible. Ask the children to put a table cloth on, set the table, arrange some flowers, even light a candle, put some lovely background music. Try not to turn dinner into a screaming match, ignore behaviour that can be ignored. Encourage the positive behaviour.

When to get help? If you a worried about your child not eating enough or the food battles are getting too much there is help out there. I once had a little girl in my class that would only drink apple juice (not diluted), nearly 2L a day and over 250g of ham. The sugar content in the apple juice was enough to cause concern. This had gone on for 6 months before her mum had decided to put her into daycare to see if she could get some help. After a month she was eating normally. She was almost at the point where the doctors were going to admit her into hospital. She had turned the food into a power struggle, which as you can understand this is not something we ever want our children to associate food with power. So please speak to your doctor if you are concerned. If you still feel this hasn’t satisfied your worries then speak to a child psychologist. The Triple P parenting program is also a good way to help with some strategies.

I will post some other great kid friendly food hints and recipes soon…..

My little Master Chefs!!


This is such an easy ‘cooking experience’ to do with your kids. If you love your slow cooker, like I love mine, then get the kids to do it!!!

Chicken noodle soup/stew (this is not an exact recipe but it always turns out great)

1kg of chicken thighs (sprinkle some mixed dried herbs over them)

500g of pumpkin (diced)

Garlic (What does it smell like? Do you like the smell?)

Celery, capsicum, parsnip (they can cut these with blunt knives, How do we hold our knives safely?)

Onion (I cut these up, we don’t need any extra tears in our day)

1tsp of curry (a mild one if this is a new taste, What does this smell like?)

Enough liquid chicken stock to cover (They can pour).

Tomato Soup, a 400g tin (You can help them open and pour)

Coconut cream (Where does coconut cream come from)

Parsley (Out of your garden??)

Rice noodles (as much as you like, my children tend to eat anything that has noodles in it)

Put it all in the slow cooker and let it go for 6 hours or until you want it. Mash up the pumpkin and serve.

We do this in the morning and our dinner is ready. A small table in the kitchen is really helpful for you to be able to do everything at their level.

I love to cook and so do my children. Involving your children in all the stages of cooking has so many benefits. Children develop their ‘food relationship’ from their parents. Do you struggle to get your children to eat vegetables or a variety of foods? Do you stop offering because they don’t eat it? Do you just send food they will eat to Daycare? I have some strategies that may help!!!

You’re off to Brazil!!!! (Getting thrown into a new language is not easy!)

Getting thrown into a new language is not easy!

Getting thrown into a new language is not easy!

[for 6 months of age on]

Imagine landing in Brazil… Hang on, you don’t know any Portuguese?? And no, Brazilians don’t speak much English really.  Oh and you’re there to stay for a while, so you’ll have to start learning some Portuguese eventually! (so really put yourself in your Havaianas while you read this post)…

What would you want the Brazilians to do to help you understand what they are saying?

  • Use their hands to point, show or do some natural gestures

            things like natural gesture for ‘up’, ‘too big’, ‘drink’, ‘come’

  • Talk in single words?

            ‘bola’ (especially while pointing to that ball?)

  • Talk s-l-o-w-l-y  so you have time to process all of these new words?

           ‘when….you (point)…going?’ instead of ‘so when are you going there?’ said slurred together which we can all do

           without realising

  • Maybe accentuate the word they are meaning?

           ‘você quer CARNE?’ you want MEAT?

What would you want the Brazilians to do to help you get your message across (in Portuguese)?

  • Be patient and look like they are really listening and trying to understand you?
  • Acknowledge they understand you by repeating the word you said?
  • Give you the word when you can only point to/show the item?           ‘oh PRATO?’ (plate)
  • Model the correct word/grammar if you make a mistake

Now put yourself in your baby’s shoes.  They are going through a similar experience (culture shock and all probably!).  The best and quickest way to teach your child to communicate is by remembering the above as you guide them to understanding words and then using them.

That is,

  • Use single words (while they are still learning single words) as much as possible
  • Define even the simplest word by pointing, showing, using your hands (natural gesture, keyword signs or make it up!!).  This will help your little one to be sure of what you were meaning and to understand and then use the word a lot quicker
  • Slow down – give your baby processing time & also time for you to think about how you’ll use your hands to show the message too
  • Stress the important words if you have to use a few words
  • Be patient and wait for them to process your message AND THEN have time to come up with a way to communicate back to you
  • Acknowledge by repeating what they say (even when they continually want your confirmation!)
  • Be the language teacher – model the word for them as much as you can

The more the brain hears a word, the quicker it will remember it.  Repetition is key!

Along the way, I will be referring to my learning a second language analogy to remind you of the above points.  It will really help teach your little one to communicate more quickly.

‘Family’ – what does your child really understand about it?

I’m sure most people would say one of the most important things to them is ‘family’.  Does your little one really understand what family is?

Children are smarter than you think. From a young age, show them visually who is in your family and talk about the relationships.  Easily from two, you can start to draw a family tree for them to piece it all together.

You might draw it in front of them so you can talk about the relationships as you go (‘this is mummy’s sister…Lisa!! YOUR sister is Rosie, isn’t it’).  Or you might want to have a go at drawing it first as spacing them can sometimes be tricky! Or get your kids to have a go…

Spend time here and there looking at it and talking about all of the people and how they fit in and the different terms, aunt, uncle, grandparents, siblings.  You could spend one time just colouring or circling those that are boys/girls/men/ladies.  Or talk about their attributes such as Grandma’s curly hair or Lisa with no fringe, depending how good your sketching is to begin with!

One activity I found fun was making a water balloon for each and drawing their face on the front and as a pre-literacy exercise, their name on the back.  My son loved to talk about who was who and which one needed to be bigger or which one he’d pop first.  All in the name of talking about ‘family’!  Of course you could do this with drawings or potato people or drawing a face on each fingertip, just to name a few ideas.

Hayden's family water balloons

Hayden’s family water balloons

A sample family tree. I'm sure people could get much more fancy than this :)

A sample family tree. I’m sure people could get much more fancy than this 🙂

Other ideas for introducing ‘family’ is to comment on who looks like who and that being family means we might look similar or think the same way or like the same things.  Be sure to talk about your family name and even write these out so your child can ‘see’ it is the same for everyone (or explain if you haven’t changed your family name).  Talk about your address and that this is where your family lives, in your home together.  Obviously adjust this for older children.  For younger than about two years, start really naming each family member as you see them, take a photo of them and go through them together either in a printed or digital album.

Once your child understands ‘family’, you can begin to have ‘family rules’, such as ‘we take care of eachother’, ‘we try to have dinner together’, ‘we give each other hugs’.  You could also compare families (such as, families with grandparents as carers, different numbers of siblings or those that live with extended family) to bring about more social and cultural awareness.

Above all, give as much detail as you can, as I’m sure your little ones will be interested!!

Do I get on this ‘baby sign’ bandwagon or not?…

Baby sign has become quite popular lately and is certain to be a topic at mother’s groups.

The trouble is, you don’t have to be qualified in early language development or signing to teach it.  Hence, ‘baby sign’ can thus vary and be very expensive to learn.

What is key concept signing?

The ‘real’ baby sign is called ‘key concept signing’.  Here are some features:

  • it uses individual signs from Auslan (Australian sign language) along with gestures, pointing and facial expression
  • just the key concepts (or words) are signed, not the whole sentence – for example, ‘come get your hat or ‘more or finished?
  • words are always spoken as you sign
  • you might find key concept signing at childcare centres (if they use any)and also by Sofya, the hearing impaired Play School presenter

What are the benefits of signing?

Research indicates that all babies, not just those with hearing difficulties or language delays, benefit from being signed to.  Whilst many parents can only dream of teaching their baby a second language, signing allows your child to experience the same language opportunities of learning an extra language. These benefits include increased neural pathways in the brain and thus enhancing the language areas of your child’s brain.

Just like teaching another language, teaching your baby a sign for a word is teaching it that we can give more than one symbol to the same meaning (eg. flower), that is, a spoken word (‘flower’ or even a hand movement (the sign for ‘flower’).  This develops ‘symbolic thought’, which is the crux of language.

On top of having a ‘second language’, signing to your child gives more information than just saying a word verbally, which teaches them more about that concept.  For example:

  • the sign for ‘cow’, showing horns above your head, teaches the child a feature of a cow
  • the sign for ‘duck’, showing the duck’s bill with your hand, also teaches a feature of that animal
  • the sign for ‘book’, opening two palms outwards, shows that a book is something to be opened
  • the sign for ‘bath’, rubbing fists up and down in front of body, teaches your child the action that takes place in the bath

This all sounds very simple, but is literally building pathways in your baby’s brain and helping them to remember the word for next time, as it would be easier for you to learn a word in another language with someone reminding you with natural gestures (think ‘hat’, ‘come’, ‘stop’).  The sooner your child starts communicating to you, the sooner they get more interaction which is like a snowball effect for their development.

Keyword signing has been shown to promote quicker language development and definitely not hinder speech!  Here are a few reasons:

  • The adult is forced to speak slower and use simpler phrases, whilst they learn the signs.  This allows extra processing time for the child to understand the message.
  • Signing encourages establishing more eye contact and using more hand movements and facial expression.
  • A sign lasts in the child’s visual field until you take it away, whereas a verbal word comes and goes.  Think about someone talking to you in another language.  You would stay ‘with’ someone longer if they were using some gestures, rather than someone just talking.
  • You virtually only need to know a handful of signs at first, and repeat them.  This repetition of early words/concepts, thus helps your baby to learn language much quicker.
  • A baby starts to understand words well before they begin to speak.  They also start to use their hands before their lips and tongue can produce speech.   Hence a child can start to use their hands for signs, before their lips and tongue can produce speech.   Giving them signs is a way to help them express what they want to say much sooner.
  • Signing can help to decrease frustration not only now but also down the track when your one or even two-year-old hasn’t developed clear speech.
  • An example would be being at the shops  and with no context, your child says ‘doo’.  It could be ‘two’, ‘do’, ‘zoo’ – but then they sign ‘zoo’ … Some children develop clear speech quickly, others do not.  Some children don’t mind if you don’t understand them, others do.  Having signs is a good back up, just in case!

Remember, the early years count.  The sooner you get your child understanding and then expressing their thoughts, the more they can interact with you, which builds up the social and language areas of the brain and of course the cognitive areas.

So can you see the benefits of signing to your child?  It is quite easy and quick to get started.  See post Getting Started With Signs for more information.

🙂 Heidi

Declan working out his hands! Signing 'finished' using both!

Declan working out his hands! Signing ‘finished’ using both (his brain hadn’t yet worked out how to only use one)!

My sister and I signing the alphabet song to Hayden when he was about 7 months old.

My sister and I signing the alphabet song to Hayden when he was about 7 months old. Fun!

Go for walks after dinner


Go for walks after dinner


Go for a walk after dinner! I know it is hard but the benefits are astounding. It is a lovely way to settle everyone down and it gives everyone the chance to connect to the environment and what is happening around us.
This particular walk we went on we went just around the block. It had been raining very heavily for the past few days and it was amazing to see the difference in the land.
This is how the walk became a learning experience:
“Have a look at those mushrooms” “Do you think those are like the mushrooms we eat at home?” “What’s different about them”. “Would they be safe mushrooms”? “Why”.
Some helping hints when going on walks.
-Dress for the weather, explain the reason why you might need warmer clothes, gumboots, hats, suncream.
-Go at the child’s pace. If they are stopping to look at the ground, look with them. However if they are running explain this is a relaxing time and ask them what they can see, hear, smell, feel.
-talk about the way to walk safely, talk about road safety

JUST TALK and you have already had a successful journey.

The teacher stuff: you have introduced your child to: the important skill of observation, noting differences, descriptive language, assessing changing seasons and climates, sustainability and environmental awareness, safety. In this particular walk I was able to raise awareness of poisonous plants.