Becoming a play engineer – tip #7.

Kids play the best when toys are set up, ‘inviting’ them to play.  Once your children have enough language to play imaginatively, you can really invite them to play with a weekly theme throughout the house.  Whilst it takes that bit longer to set up, you will be sure to get many more play hours from your little ones.

So!  What will your theme be?  It didn’t take me long to pick animals + hospital/doctors/vets.  Master nearly4 loves animals and he and Master nearly 2 are both into doctors at the moment.  And of course, an animal theme is not too unfamiliar for Master nearly2.  Pretend play – your child’s occupation will give you more information on the different skills pretend play consists of.  Language means play will give you more information on the development of play and how language goes hand in hand.

Setting up

This is where you think about ALL the items in your house that might come under this theme.  So I went for everything animal, from our Aussie Animal cards to our baby dinosaurs to our farm animals.  And then you add in everyday items that would be useful props for the scenes, such as ribbons for bandages, cotton wool for the babies, wooden dish rack for the operating table/sick bay and pipe cleaners for their own imagination.  And then you can drag out any other props that might be useful, such as adding our cardboard box bus stop/airport and our Little People plane and bus for transporting the sick/recovered animals between the hospital and the wild.

Because I had so many sets of toys out, I created mini scenes in different rooms of the house.  The next thing to do was to introduce the boys to each scene and promote some different play actions, to get them started.  I also assigned doctor and nurse roles (big brother and little brother roles really!).  And then you sit back (or race to the kitchen or clothesline) and reap the benefits of excited play!  Here are some of the benefits..

Benefits of themed play

  • The story is halfway there, so the kids don’t have to create one from scratch (ideal for the younger ones)
  • You can easily give many hints at new play actions.  I have used: ‘go and check if bull’s fever has gone’, ‘I think panda needs his bath now’, ‘giraffe might be ready to go back into the wild, but before you put him on the plane, remember to check his heartbeat and temperature’, ‘the baby dinosaurs will all need a feed and why don’t you ask your brother to help you take them back to the wild in the bus’, ‘it might be time to help bull to get to sleep, it’s hard to settle when you have a fever’, ‘nearly your bedtime, go and give the night doctors their handover, what they will need to do while you are sleeping’….  I have even rung their pretend phone (an otoscope) as an anonymous caller letting them know of a sick hippo out in the wild.  Next thing they are receiving calls from each other!
  • There is a variety of toys out so different ages are still catered to
  • A child can walk into any room and make up a mini-story there, OR play between several scenes in across different rooms

Here are some photos to share with you all!

broken legs, cut on the tummy, the flu....

broken legs, cut on the tummy, the flu….

Special Care Nursery.. for dinosaur babies.  Also like special care where Master nearly4 spent a few weeks..

Special Care Nursery.. for dinosaur babies. Also like special care where Master nearly4 spent a few weeks..

'The wild'

‘The wild’

back to the wild....

back to the wild….

'the ball forest'

‘the ball forest’

so the injured bush animal is...

so the injured bush animal is…

'X' marks the spot...?

‘X’ marks the spot…?

What will your play theme be this week?  Be creative and drum up some excitement! Guaranteed it will pass over to your kids and you will have a fun week 🙂 Heidi

Eliminating the elimination diet…with kinesiology

When it becomes obvious that your child is reacting to something, be it a food or an allergen or even an emotional issue, it can be overwhelming to know what to do and where to start.  You might be worried about your child’s skin, their inability to sleep well or a recurring redness in their genitals, their behaviour or a low immunity or many other symptoms that just aren’t ‘quite right’.  Most people will visit their doctor to begin with but others may be in need of further answers.  Many don’t know about the benefits of kinesiology in achieving balance in the body, particularly for children.

What is kinesiology?

Kinesiology, the study of movement, is an alternative and holistic therapy, combining both Eastern and Western medicine.  It is holistic in that it looks at health as a whole and addresses the physical body as well as the environment and psychological state of each individual.  By monitoring muscle movements or biofeedback, kinesiologists can determine where there is a block in energy be it structural, chemical or emotional, within the body.  This allows kinesiology to address stress, allergies and food sensitivities, nervous disorders, muscle, bone and joint pain, headaches, hormonal imbalances, fatigue, insomnia, and emotional issues.

And so kinesiology becomes extremely useful in determining exactly what is giving your child a reaction.

Benefits of kinesiology

  • It is non-invasive.  It can be done through a ‘surrogate’ and thus your child may not even need to visit the kinesiologist with you.  But otherwise, testing of food sensitivities or emotional issues is all done whilst the child may be sitting, holding their parent’s hand.  The kinesiologist pushes downward on your extended arm to reveal a strong or weak response with your child’s biofeedback.
  • Anything and everything can be tested for sensitivity.  This means you can see for yourself how different brands of food may react differently for your child.  You will also be able to see the difference between organic and non-organic foods.  You can test everything from children’s medicines to sunscreens to allergens such as latex (and whether this differs between balloons, bandaids and bananas – yes it is quite common for those with sensitivity to latex to have a banana sensitivity too).
  • It can save wiping out a whole food group if it is only some products that are the issue.  For example, organic corn thins and corn chips giving a strong response but organic corn cobs and tinned corn giving a weak response.
  • It is less mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting than starting an elimination diet from scratch.  The kinesiologist can test your child with a large range of food groups straight up and from there can hone in on different products and items involving chemicals in your child’s environment.
  • It can shed light on emotional issues impacting your child’s system and thus how their body reacts to different foods when under different emotional stress.  This may involve emotional clearing and allowing parents to become aware of the stressors in their child’s life.
  • It helps parents to question what is in the food they are serving their children and to use their own resources in determining the culprits.
  • You can claim it through private health insurance or make it more reasonable by accessing a kinesiologist who is also a chiropractor.  Chiropractors tend to do shorter sessions, so whilst it may not be as thorough, you won’t be paying for longer sessions (but you will get a chiropractic check up for your child too, making it even more holistic).

So yes, kinesiology is controversial as it is not visible to the naked eye as to exactly how it works and it is not under the medical profession however, it can be a very helpful way to achieve balance in your child.  The only difficult thing is… you will have to be prepared to eliminate foods and chemicals or discuss any emotional issues with your child, to help them achieve balance.

If you need answers for your child but are unsure, why not give it a go and see it for yourself.  Alternatively, you can access an IgG blood test through an alternative medicine practitioner which will test your child for intolerances to many foods.  But not to be confused with an IgE blood/prick test which will test for allergic reactions.

Please let me know if kinesiology has helped your family.  🙂 Heidi

Sign of the week begins!

Well it’s on for a limited time.  Any parent who is keen to teach their little one some signs (from 6 months +), first get your head around the ins and outs at Do I get on this baby sign bandwagon or not?…..

And if you’re still keen to give your little one a great brain workout (and yourself!!!), here is your first challenge.

Find as many opportunities to sign ‘MORE‘ to your little one as you can.  By clicking on the link, you will see how to do the ‘more’ sign.  This is in Auslan, so if you are not in Australia, you will need to take a look for a similar sign search website for your country’s sign language.
At first, you will just be modelling it (like you’ve been modelling how to talk all this time) and always saying the word.  The aim of spending a whole week just on one sign is to get into the habit of doing it anywhere and everywhere, NOT to get your little one signing it in one week……This will come!
A few examples of where you might sign ‘more’..
  • more bath toys
  • more cereal
  • more (insert favourite song)
  • more blocks up on the tower…..

If your baby lets you, you can take their hand and show them how to do it.  One thing to remember… don’t hold things back from your child because they aren’t attempting the sign.  You would only do this once you have SEEN your little one doing it at least once.
If you have any other questions, please ask away!

🙂 Heidi

What do cucumbers, dummies and cigarettes have in common?

They all provide ‘oral regulation’!!
‘Oral regulation’ means any repetitive chewing/sucking which calms the central nervous system and also improves concentration.  From babies with a dummy/thumb sucking, to kids and adults who suck lollipops, chew gum (think cricketers), chew fingernails and even cigarette smoking.
Besides the nutritional benefit, these ‘crunchy things’ provide wonderful oral regulation.  I guess you could call them healthy oral regulation?  And it certainly works with Master nearly4!
Do you or your child use any other items for oral regulation? 🙂 Heidi

Telling stories with symbols

Sitting opposite Master nearly4, we made up a story as we doodled along.  We drew some leaves and then thought about some jellyfish, so next we drew some seaweed next to the leaves, before we made a nest and some magpie beaks (sym…bol  for the magpies) and then back to the sea theme, drawing some fish for them to eat.  Whilst it sounds disjointed and ‘dream-like’, it really took us out of our left brain (the thinking one) and into our right brain (the creative one) where any idea is a good idea and also very relaxing!  Before we knew it, we had what looks like a page of symbols, but which was actually a wonderful verbal story, told together!  Maybe a bit like the Aborigines…?  Give it a try!

Are you a mindful parent?

[Looking after yourself as a parent]  Do you find you’ve sometimes driven somewhere and don’t remember actually driving there?  Or end up ruminating on past events whilst doing the chores?  Do you spend more time planning the shopping list and weekend’s tasks in your mind than the time it takes you to actually just get in there and get it done?  Does your mind end up in a different place whilst reading the kids a book?  Read on to find out more about how to step out of your mind and into your life, and your important role as a parent!

What is mindfulness?

Whilst this term has many different meanings and people from all walks of life will practice it differently according to their circumstances, here are some ideas of how I, as a parent, have understood ‘mindfulness’.

Mindfulness means:

  • training your mind to be concerned only with the present moment
  • finding ways to turn your ‘monkey mind’ off, the one that keeps dragging your mind to chattering, negative or ruminating thoughts
  • judging thoughts and gossip about others no longer have a place in your mind
  • only being concerned with your own self and not the worries of others (whilst parenting does bring a sense of responsibility, we can also allow our children to live their own lives)
  • dealing with any task at the time and not spending extra energy planning for it ahead of time
  • like yoga, mindfulness is a ‘practice‘, so you are always learning to get better at it!

Don’t forget you can take a peep into the past or future when needed, but the main aim of mindfulness is to avoid getting distracted by anything that isn’t in the present.

The benefits of mindfulness

  • it can be used as a wonderful stress-relief tool for personal or parenting issues
  • it helps us to improve the sharpness and clarity of our mind and in turn improves our memory
  • this sharpness helps us to stay on track in our busy days and become more efficient…at everything!
  • it helps us to notice how we react to our children, particularly in trying times
  • it allows us to slow down and take the time to appreciate our children (and our life)
  • it can be done discretely anywhere, anytime
  • principles can be taught to your children to help increase their confidence and resiliency

How do I become mindful?

The most difficult part is catching your mind when it is not in the present or playing up.  Whether your mind is stuck on past events, judging others,  worrying about things to come or just plain chattering away, the first step is to recognise when you are doing this.  Yes, this does account for the majority of people’s thoughts!  You might spend a week just naming any thoughts, be it judging, ruminating, worrying or chatter and planning.

As suggested in the book The Happiness Trap by Dr Russ Harris, take the time to sit back and allow your mind to let any thoughts come in.  As they float in, acknowledge them and let them float straight back out….then sit and wait for any others to come along…and do the same.  It is to demonstrate that you don’t have to ‘entertain’ any of these thoughts and will get your mind accustomed to ‘letting things go’.

Now let’s think of some thoughts that you will want to stop in their tracks!

  • getting annoyed by your husband’s dirty washing on the floor – talk to him about it later, but move on
  • planning what you will say to your annoying brother on the car ride there – with a clear mind, you will say it better at the time
  • ‘I can’t believe she just did that!!’ after your child poured water over the couch – you have dealt with it and know better for next time, move on
  • worrying about how you will deal with the evening witching hour whilst your husband is away – with a clear mind, you will deal with it better at the time
  • remembering how your life used to be pre-kids – give it a quick acknowledgement and come back to what you have right now..

So once you have identified a thought that isn’t in the present, how can you stop it…and where do you send your mind to then?  Below are some strategies on stepping out of your mind and into living life and being a parent.

  • Breathe! Place your hand on your belly and ensure you push it out as you inhale, pull it in as you exhale.  No shoulder breathing!
  • Take notice of your surroundings, your present moment.  What can you see around you?  The traffic lights? The clothes line? The trees? Your children? What can you smell? What can you hear?  This is the time to take the attitude of gratitude, which helps to move away from the negative monkey mind!
notice the small things

notice the small things

  • Breathe.  Check in.  Are you still breathing deeply with your belly and not your shoulders?
  • Feel your feet on the ground.  It can help to sit or stand up straight which brings your mind to attention and helps you to breathe with your diaphragm better too.
  • Now you might consider your feelings and thoughts.  What were those thoughts in your mind? Were they just cluttering your mind?  Did you have feelings attached to those thoughts?  It can be useful to identify any feelings you may need to deal with (that’s when you turn to the book The Happiness Trap for information on how to do this).
  • Next you might consider if your body was reflecting these thoughts and feelings.  Did you feel tension, strain or pain anywhere?  Did you feel any heaviness?  How were you breathing as you caught yourself?

How else can I help my mind?

Sometimes our children can bring on the thoughts, the planning ahead or the tension.  But they can also be the solution!

  • With an attitude of gratitude, take the time to notice your child’s eyelashes, their hair or the way they smile.  Does this calm you?

Other practices dedicated to focussing on stepping out of the mind are:

  • yoga
  • meditation
  • tai chi
  • reading books (have a look for Dr Russ Harris and Dan Spiegel)

Did you know most people can only stay focussed from six to ten seconds and then become distracted?  So you will need to really remind yourself to be present, regularly throughout the day.  You can set an alarm or put up a few post-its, ‘be present!’, ‘breathe’ around the house.  There are even mindfulness apps out there.  Before you know it, your mind will be clearer, your days will be easier and you will enjoy being a parent even more.  It’s never too early or late to start!

Book review – The Rabbit and The Turtle

[4 years +]  The Rabbit and The Turtle – Aesop’s fables retold and illustrated by Eric Carle


Children enjoy this book for the simple, short stories (one per opening, with an accompanying picture) without realising they are about to learn some life lessons at the same time.  It is a great way to introduce ‘moral of the story’.  Eric Carle’s illustrations are also very engaging!

Some of the fables introduce ‘don’t pretend to be someone that you’re not’, ‘treat others as you wish to be treated’, ‘friends come in all sizes and shapes’ and ‘be proud of who you are’.

The older children will have a wonderful talking point for how these fables relate to their lives.  It is also a great idea to introducing summarising – ‘what was that story about?’.

I encourage you to borrow or buy this book for your children!

I Raise My Kids is also at Facebook and Google +.  Thanks for visiting 🙂 Heidi

Margarine anyone?

[Reading ingredient labels]  Well our Facebook friends have decided it would be good to look closer at ingredient labels to work out what EXACTLY we are feeding our kids.  It has become an interest area for me considering my family has found such a link between food, health, behaviour and thus living better.  So here goes!
DESPITE the fact that margarine is a highly processed food and is claimed to be carcinogenic, take a look at the ingredient labels of these three random butter spreads. Which one would you pick?
hello headaches and undesirable behaviour...or not?

hello headaches and undesirable behaviour…or not?

There is a clear… winner without the preservatives, COLOUR (?!), soy lecithin, vegetable gum, vegetable/canola oil, FLAVOUR and several other not-so-natural ingredients. Not to mention the added vitamins that butter naturally contains. (It’s Mainland Buttersoft if you couldn’t pick it!)
I’d certainly trust a cow over a chemist once you’ve seen the process of how margarine is made.
Better yet, go for plain butter or even coconut oil.

Remember to look at the labels and pick a better alternative where there is one! And why not check out what your butter/margarine has in it’s ingredient list right now…?

Take a look at the link in the comments for more information on why plain old butter is better than margarine/spreads..
And Dr. Joseph Mercola or Changing Habits will give you all the information you need if you’re interested in knowing more about what food does or doesn’t do for our health.

Cooking with love – pizza

Did you know.. using ‘good intentions’ when cooking, can literally pass ‘love’ (well that energy) onto your food?  I won’t go into quantum science here but even if unsure, everyone loves a meal cooked by someone else!

Hence I encourage the boys to help me prepare some of our meals, with love!  The perfect tool to do this is with a Kiddies Food Kutter safety knife (thanks to Feeding Two Growing Boys blog for spreading the word and yes, go and check out these safety knives to get your little ones helping out too!).  This is a brilliant little knife that is completely blunt to the touch but with a sawing action, will cut through foods such as mushrooms, zucchini and watermelon.  Great for working little hands, Master 3.5 manages to cut the mushrooms into pieces and Master 22 months has fun stabbing his knife through them!  And of course I don’t miss a language-learning opportunity providing words such as ‘back and forward’ and ‘teeth down’ (the knife’s cutting edge).  Oh and not to forget our classical music while we work 🙂


The boys love to help me cut the mushrooms for our dinner and take their work very seriously, giving me time to prepare the rest of the dinner while I’m waiting!

Due to the boys’ intolerances, we have not had pizza in over a year.  Master nearly 2 didn’t really know what one was!  This is what we put on our gluten-free, dairy-free, preservative-free base (we will make them one day…!).


  • tomato paste + pesto (lots)
  • chicken
  • cherry tomatoes
  • avocado
  • sweet potato
  • fried mushrooms
  • basil
  • toasted pine nuts, pepitas and sunflower seeds
  • and yes no cheese…!

It was delicious and the boys were happy to eat some pizza, made with love 🙂 Heidi

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