Daycare friendly pesto

Whether your children are allergic or intolerant to nuts and dairy or your daycare doesn’t allow nuts, it doesn’t mean they can’t have pesto! ¬†AND who wouldn’t want to get their children into eating nutritious basil and pumpkin seeds?

I’m not one to follow a recipe, so when I saw the idea to make pesto on pumpkin seeds (pepitas), I decided to throw my own ingredients into our Thermomix and see what we got ūüôā ¬†You can’t go too wrong – I added a bit ‘too much’ lemon juice once but it was nice and tangy and the boys still loved it! ¬†We grow our own basil, so the quantity of the remaining ingredients basically depends on how much basil we pick. ¬†So here is a rough recipe. ¬†¬†

Daycare friendly pesto

  • Bunch of basil (about 2 cups of leaves)
  • About 1/2 cup pepitas (ideally soaked in water overnight to ‘activate’ them which makes their nutrients more available to your body and softer so they are a better texture for the pesto). ¬†You can always add more pepitas at the end if you feel you want the pesto ‘crunchier’.
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • About 1/2 cup olive oil (ideally cold pressed, not processed olive oil) – but you may like to add more or a bit less depending how oily you want it. ¬†The pesto will go firmer in the fridge.
  • Himalayan rock salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmesan is optional

Blend all ingredients together and it’s ready for a healthy ‘green’ sandwich filling by itself or with avocado. ¬†Or a topping on roast sweet potato or of course pasta. ¬†Or even add to some mayonnaise as a salad dressing or in a vege soup for flavour and texture… Or a topping on any meat? ¬†As you can see, it doesn’t last long in our house ūüôā ¬†It should keep in your fridge for a good week.

tasty pesto!

tasty pesto!



Are We There Yet? A journey around Australia – book review



[3 years +]¬†‘Are we there yet? A journey around Australia’ by Alison Lester.

You can be confident this is a great book when you see the author is Alison Lester (other books include, Noni the Pony, Magic Beach and Imagine) and it also won the Children’s Book Council of Australia ‘Picture book of the year’ award.

If you are thinking of doing a camping trip anywhere around Australia, this book is a great way to show your children what it might be like and get them excited. ¬†We had no plans and are quite inspired by this book to do a ‘journey around Australia’ one day!

For little ones, you might show them what a ‘bookmark’ is and read it over a few nights. ¬†It is easy to stop after each set of pages before the family moves onto a new place in Australia. ¬†For the older kids, you can really look at all the amazing things there are to see around Australia and what it is like going on an extended camping trip.

Here are a few sample pages to show you the style of the book:

there's a map of Australia!

there’s a map of Australia!

fireworks in Sydney

fireworks in Sydney

look at the colours of Uluru...

look at the colours of Uluru…

Understanding pretend play – your child’s occupation

[12 months +]  So what does pretend play really involve?

Thanks to Karen Stagnitti, an occupational therapist and expert on pretend play, here is a summary of the different components she counts as ‘pretend play’ and a rough guide as to when it might develop with your little one. ¬†(Yes, this is a summary – learning about pretend play can be quite involved!).

Play themes¬†– initially, your child will play with actions they have seen at home, everyday, such as having a drink or bath. ¬†Towards two years, your child will start to introduce play themes such as shopping or cooking as experiences they have encountered, but not ones they have seen everyday. ¬†Around two-and-a-half, your child will start to want to play with themes that are less frequently experienced such as doctors or traveling on a plane. ¬†By three, your child will include themes they have seen in books and on TV. ¬†By three-and-a-half, themes that have never been experienced such as spaceships, fairies and pirates will also be popular. Around four years, a child will start to include ‘problems’ in their play, to be solved, such as teddy getting sick or doctor running out of bandages.

impromptu play in the kitchen

impromptu play in the kitchen

Sequences¬†– initially, your little one will perform one play action alone, such as giving a teddy a drink. ¬†They will progress to complex storylines, that may last for days. ¬†As your child sequences more actions together, it is like they are creating stories in their minds, showing where your child’s language development is at. ¬†By two years of age, your child might be able to perform simple, logical play sequences such as feeding dolly and then putting to bed. ¬†By two-and-a-half, this will be more detailed but not an actual storyline. ¬†By three-and-a-half, a child will be thinking about what items they need for play and seeking them out, for example a bowl and spoon for cooking. ¬†By four and five, children will be pre-planning a storyline.

using objects functionally

using objects functionally

Object substitution¬†– initially, a child will use the object as it was meant, for example drinking from the cup themself. ¬†By two years of age, your child should be able to go along with an item being used as another, such as a tissue for a blanket. ¬†By two-and-a-half an object can take on several functions, for example a block as a car and then a phone or shops. ¬†By three-and-a-half, children can pretend with actions or body parts, such as a finger for a toothbrush, pretending to push buttons for a cash register. ¬†By four and five, a child’s flexibility of thought can allow for them to pretend even a teddy is a plane and they will use more language to support imaginary items.

feed monkey?

copying feeding monkey after my model

Social РAt about 18 months, a child might imitate a pretend action, for example going to sleep and by two years, they will be able to imitate object substitution.  At two-and-a-half, a child may still play alongside other children and even imitate their play and even at three years, they may still not actually be interacting in play.  At four years of age, this is when language really assists cooperative play, including negotiating and planning.

later feeding monkey with no prompt

later feeding monkey with no prompt

Roles РUp until two, a child may only use actions seen previously.  By two, they may start imitating peers.  By two-and-a-half, a child may start to imitate someone else (usually a parent!).  Short role-playing may occur from three years of age up until four years of age, where a child may take on several roles during the play.  By five, a child will take on one role and stick with it.

and back to using objects functionally!

and back to using objects functionally!

Doll/teddy play – As above, around 18 months, a child will start to do simple play actions with a doll or teddy if given the chance, such as feeding them or putting them to sleep. ¬†By two years, a child’s brain has developed enough to let the doll/teddy do things for itself, such as placing a cup next to the doll. ¬†At three years, a child will be more interested in a doll’s house and by three-and-a-half, a child will will give the doll/teddy characteristics, such as ‘dolly is sad’. ¬†By four, the doll will have it’s own characteristics and life.

As you can see there are several points a parent can take out of learning about the aspects of pretend play, a child’s occupation :

  • provide materials appropriate for your child’s play skills
  • even if you have a son, give them the opportunity to play with a doll or a teddy and a doll’s house. ¬†You can obviously also use animal or people figurines.
  • give your child TIME to play. ¬†They will most likely need to be at home for a period of time for them to get into it, and with some materials and encouragement. (Master 18 months in the photos wouldn’t have had the opportunity to play if I had packed the bowls away instead of providing spoons and modelling a few actions).
  • up until three years of age, a child will be getting a lot of play ideas from YOUR model, so get down and play!
  • if your child is only using one play action, then show them a logical second action. ¬†If they are doing two actions, for example putting the farmer in the tractor, then driving it, model him driving home or off to the shops.
  • don’t forget about abstract materials that can be used for object substitution. ¬†Look around your house one day to find some items – eg. odd blocks, felt, shells, tissue, old washer, pipe cleaners… Think about Kara’s ‘Heuristic Play’ post…
  • always be talking to your child about new experiences, especially at the time (for example, while you are at the doctor or at the cash register at the supermarket) and then pretend again soon after, at home.

Happy playing! ūüôā I raise my kids is on facebook too.

Mind your language – giving directions

[12mths +]

Remember, when giving directions to your little one, as a ‘general guide’:

  • ¬†if your child is using single words (eg. more?, go!, drink) or nonverbal communication such as pointing, they will only understand about 1-3 words at a time (give or take)
  • if your child is using two word phrases (eg. no more, daddy car), they will only understand about 2-4 words at a time (give or take)

So when your child doesn’t follow your directions, or appear to understand, FIRST stop and think about how many words you have just used and if you could say it again more simply. This is also for the older ones who can be assumed to understand more than they really do. Too many times I see the child get into trouble when the directions (or complex words used) would have flown ooooover their head!

As I always say, think about learning another language and imagine someone coming to you with a direction of 5 or 6 words when you are just learning single words. You would have no hope of getting more than a ‘gist’.. ¬†And then that person rousing on you for not understanding and obeying.

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Throw out the vitamins, there’s CLSA!

Some of the best ways to add nutrients to your child’s diet is not through over-the-counter children’s vitamins but through food! ¬†It’s also a nutritious way to add energy to your child’s day, particularly when you have an energetic one.



Have you heard of chia seeds?

Chia contains:

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† 500% more calcium than whole milk

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† 500% more protein than red kidney beans

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† 200% more iron than spinach

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† 600% more Omega 3 than Atlantic salmon

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† 100% more dietary fibre than bran flakes

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† More antioxidants than blueberries, the list goes on..!

Linseed (also known as flaxseed)

– one of the most potent sources of Omega 3 oils – healthy brain, heart, joints, immune system

– improves dry skin, hair, nails

– helps asthma and allergies

– increases energy

Sunflower seeds

– good source of magnesium

– contain phytosterols – enhance immune response

– contain vitamin E, an excellent antioxidant


LSA contains linseeds, sunflower seeds and almonds and can be bought pre-grinded at supermarkets or health food shops. ¬†But you can make your own, which is cheaper and fresher! ¬†It is easy to either grind in a chopper, mortar and pestle or any appliance that will just break the seeds up roughly or smoothly. ¬†This helps to release the nutrients. ¬†You just need to add equal quantities to suit whatever size container you will put it in. ¬†30g each at a time makes a decent amount. ¬†By adding chia, you can make CLSA with far more nutrients again. ¬†If your blender doesn’t crush the chia, don’t worry as this one doesn’t actually need to be crushed to release the nutrients.

Then store the mixture in a container in the freezer (or it will go rancid fairly quickly). ¬†It lasts on and on as you really only need a spoonful here and a spoonful there. ¬†Try a teaspoon at first until you see how much you like to serve at a time ūüôā

Some uses for CLSA:

– a spoonful on yours and the kids’ cereal

– in a smoothie

– in any baking

– in soups

– even on yoghurt or icecream – especially if you just give it a brief grind so it is still crunchy!

Just add chia, linseed, sunflowers and almonds to your shopping list ¬†ūüôā

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Interactive eating – rice wraps

[18 months +]

They always say, the more a child is involved in the process of preparing food, the more likely they will be to eat it.  Well, I proved it with this fun meal!  Call them what you like Рrice wraps, vietnamese spring rolls or just spring rolls, they are guaranteed to get your kids eating raw vegetables (which is my constant aim) and even trying new foods (even better!).

Rice wraps

How to get the kids hooked!

1. Allow them to help prepare the veges – pick some veges or herbs from your garden, cut omelette or cucumber with a rounded-end knife, scoop avocado out etc.

2. Put out a range of items so they feel like they are choosing what they are eating. We put out chicken cooked with garlic, avocado, grated carrot and beetroot, omelette cut up, basil. ¬†Don’t forget things like bean sprouts, snow pea sprouts, grated cabbage, baby spinach or¬†capsicum and cucumber cut into sticks. ¬†Finding these organic for the boys can be tricky. ¬†The adults also had red onion. ¬†We avoid the vermicelli that is sometimes used as it is really only ‘fodder’ and if the boys can fill up with veges/protein/good fats instead, I am happy!

3. Get them involved in first watching and learning how one is made and then helping the next time. ¬†We needed one on one for this activity but I’m sure they will soon get better with it.

you get to pick what you will wrap up!

you get to pick what you will wrap up!

4. Ease them into it slowly if needed.  We explained the rice wrapping was just like rice noodles which the boys love.  This allowed their brain to cope with the texture and flavour, knowing it was something they had already experienced.  After the first round, we suggested they try something new wrapped up, such as grated beetroot.  Wow, they agreed to it!

wrap it up, let Daddy help

wrap it up, let Daddy help

now you roll.....

now you roll…..

5. Provide a sauce – the ‘dip dip’ is half the fun (and might disguise some of the new flavours!). ¬†We used sesame oil due to the boys’ soy intolerance, but you could also bring out kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) which sticks to the rice well, tamari¬†or sweet chilli sauce or even tahini (super healthy). ¬†Or make your own!

6. Always remember to confirm that they liked these (as long as they did) and keep talking about them until you make them again, to avoid the ‘yuck/I don’t like these’ next time!

Language means play

[12 months to school age] ¬†Did you know pretend play is directly linked to your child’s language development?

Let’s look at how, when and why pretend play develops. ¬†Whilst there are many types of play,¬†pretend play is concerned with using imaginative-type toys (such as dolls, teddies, trucks and farm animals) and also using objects as something else¬†(for example a block for a phone or car, a stick for a sword or a hand action for a screwdriver). ¬†Once a child has learnt enough words and concepts, they will start to yearn to play, to practice what they have seen in the real world. ¬†Pretend play is SO important in a child’s development, it has sometimes been referred to as a ‘child’s occupation‘.

Master 15 months testing the drink on himself

Master 15 months testing the drink on himself

How does language development contribute to pretend play skills?

Any time from 12 months old, your child starts to take in a lot more of the world around them.  This newly found attention to objects, people and what they are doing helps your child to understand more and more words every day.  Around 12 months, they will practice the actions they have seen (for example, attempting to brush their hair, putting a phone to their ear or having a drink from a dry cup) to make sense of their world.  This making sense of their world can only go so far using real objects on themselves, before it turns into pretend play, using pretend objects on other toys.  This is when the child no longer uses the brush on their own hair, but turns to dolly or teddy and brushes their hair.  This is quite a significant milestone in that your child is starting to move away from only seeing the world from their own perspective!

In order to develop more and more play skills, a child’s brain needs to start becoming more and more interested in language. ¬†What does ‘sleep’ mean? ¬†How is that different to ‘tired’? ¬†In what context do you use ‘wake up’ alongside ‘sleep’? ¬†Initially, your child will begin to understand ‘sleep’ means ‘cot’ but may later start to act out teddy going to ‘sleep’ because he is ‘tired’. ¬†And later sequence another step by ‘waking’ them up.

Another play action might be to give dolly a ‘bath’. ¬†Initially, to a young child, ‘bath’ may simply mean ‘wash’. ¬†But once they have taken in more of what ‘bath’ entails, they might start to ‘wash’ dolly and then ‘dry’ dolly with a towel.

Just as your child will start to put two words together once they have so many words, your child will start to sequence more than one ‘play action’, once they have so many play actions, such as those listed above. ¬†This might be putting teddy in the bath, drying off with a towel and then to bed or creating a story about a pirate with many, many play actions. Sequencing more and more play actions together creates longer and more complex play scenes, as though your child is creating stories in their mind. ¬†This is how language development is reflected in a child’s pretend play. ¬†And so much so that once a child gets towards school age, they will have the ability to stick with the same play theme and story they have been creating for days on end…if given the chance.

As it should be pretty self-explanatory by now, TV and other branded toys, which have become more and more accepted in today’s society, do not allow for such imaginative play. ¬†Let’s say your child has been watching Dora and is given a Dora doll, or Toy Story and is given a Buzz Lightyear ‘doll’. ¬†Instead of the doll being a blank canvas to do anything they like with, your child will be more likely to perform actions they have seen on the TV and thus their brain is in no way challenged. ¬†The more children rely on TV scripts for their play scenes, the more they have no idea what to do with an ‘unbranded’ toy. ¬†This results in a lot of lost skills, as you will see in the benefits of pretend play below.

When should I promote pretend play?

Once your child starts to copy everyday actions such as mowing, putting on lipstick or answering the phone, this is when you can introduce early play. ¬†Provide your little one with a few everyday items (a phone, cup, towel) and some ‘characters’ (doll, teddy, little people, toy/stuffed animals) and make suggestions, in very few words. ¬†For example, ‘teddy drink?’, ‘phone for dolly’, ‘kangaroo sleep….wake up!’.

give' Jay Browne' a drink!

give’ Jay Browne’ a drink!

What are the benefits of encouraging and making time for my child to play imaginatively?

  • It helps your child to¬†learn about feelings¬†and express these when they do not have the words. ¬†This may be in acting out ‘bye bye’ and hiding behind a curtain before reappearing. ¬†How many times have they watched you say ‘bye’ to them? ¬†It may also be a child acting out bullying with their figurines, even if it was only something they saw happen to another child at daycare. ¬†You can really learn a lot by watching how your child plays and what they are acting out. ¬†Play provides a safe place for your child to express themself.
  • It develops¬†problem solving and sequential thinking. ¬†The more sequences your child makes when playing, the more their brain is sequencing a ‘story’ and eventually with problems that need to be solved.
  • It promotes more¬†language development¬†just by your child having to use concepts, words and phrases they have heard in their day and consolidate the meaning of these.
  • It develops¬†social skills and empathy. ¬†The more your child takes on roles and needs other children to play alongside, the more your child has to get along with others and see things from their viewpoint. ¬†The milestone that is¬†still¬†developing!

Stay tuned to learn about how play themes develop as your child gets older, where doll/teddy play moves to and how object substitution progresses.

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What about a ‘brekky shake’?

This ‘shake’ is everything-free (dairy, gluten, grain, egg, soy) but PACKED with nutrients for growing boys ūüôā

The essentials are:
– about 120ml almond milk (boys intolerant to dairy but also tasty and with calcium)
– pear or banana
– probiotics
– CLS (ground chia, linseed and sunflower seeds)
– about 7 ‘activated’ almonds (soaked in water overnight to ‘activate’ their nutrients’)

scull! scull! chug! chug!

scull! scull! chug! chug!

Other choices determined by boys (all organic):
– carob powder
– dessicated coconut
– cinnamon
– blueberries
– raw honey

And occasionally olive leaf extract added to boost immunity and keep parasites at bay..

The names then become say a ‘berry ripe’ (carob, berries, coconut), ‘chocococobanana’ (carob, coconut, banana), ‘berrylicious’ (berries, coconut), ‘cinnabanana/pear’ (cinnamon, fruit).

Blend this all together and we have two excited (and quiet and still) boys who slurp it all up! This is on top of cereal to fill them up for the day.
We have gotten into this mostly to try and keep two boys with many food intolerances full. But it has become a fun way to add so many extra nutrients into their day (I’ll eventually fill you in on CLS and activated nuts, not to mention how we ended up organic but in the meantime,¬†Feeding two growing boys¬†has all the information you could want on this).

I now feel sad I used to feed Master 3 ‘just’ weetbix and milk!