This week my son was completely relaxed and happy at kindy drop off (yay!)
It has taken three full terms of kindergarten in order for him to now feel comfortable enough to just kiss me goodbye before joining his friends.
The separation anxiety he felt was my inspiration when creating the new Pocket Rock line.
These lovely pet rocks are small decorated stones featuring friendly characters.
The cute character stones are the ideal friend for a child suffering from anxiety or nervousness. The Pocket Rock can be kept in your child’s pocket, unseen by anybody other than the child holding it.
Better than any invisible friend or words of comfort, the Pocket Rock friend is a tactile experience. It can be played with, spoken to and held. The weight of the rock means it can be felt in a pocket so it’s a constant reminder that your child is not alone.
Each character stone comes in a small decorative bag to keep it safe and secure.
The Pocket Rock also comes with a special, meaningful poem.
Everywhere I’ve looked lately I’ve seen decorated rocks and story stones. I tried my hand painting some of my own recently and let’s just say…painting is not my talent! I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to buy rather than create story stones when I came across an Instagram story from Casey at Little Life Long Learners (@littlelifelonglearners). She shared a very clever way of decorating stones without needing any artistic skills. I was definitely inspired and want to share that with you.
It is super simple, easy and fun for the whole family! All you’ll need is:
Mod Podge or PVA Glue (if you use PVA you may want to water it down a little)
Stickers (make sure they’re small enough to fit completely on the stones)
A small paint brush
Once you know the materials, you can probably guess the process…
Peel off each sticker and place them on the stones. Make sure you match the stickers to the size of the stones, you don’t want them hanging off the sides.
Cover the sticker areas and their edges with a layer of Mod Podge/glue.
Allow the glue to set.
Coat them a second time.
Allow to set again.
Play with and enjoy your beautifully decorated stones!
If you’re not sure what to do with the stones once you’ve decorated them, I have a few suggestions:
Hide and Seek – either in your own backyards or within your community. There are plenty of local Facebook pages dedicated to hiding and finding decorated stones.
Literacy – Ask your child to name the pictures on each stone, ask them how to spell each word. Say rhyming words or list adjectives that can be used to describe the pictures on each stone.
Story Telling – Tell a story by picking up one stone at a time and adding to your story with each new stone. Pick three stones and use them to structure a short story or sentence or choose one stone as the inspiration for a whole story.
Imaginative play – Imagine the fun that could come from having a mini pirate, fairy or dinosaur in your pocket all day!
Rewards – No sugar in these little treats!
Comfort toy – Having a little object to touch and look at throughout the day can be comforting for children feeling low or those with separation anxiety.
If DIY is not your thing but you love the idea of having a set of stones to use then I have you sorted!
~Each set comes with a task card with plenty of ideas on how to use, play with and enjoy the special stones. Each set of stones can be used for story telling, treasure hunts, imaginative play and much more.
~You can expect a set of clear, vibrant and detailed pictures that will engage your child’s imagination. The lovely images on these story stones are not hand painted which allows for finer details and more vibrant colours.
~The white stones are perfect for little hands to comfortably hold; they are shiny, flat and measure around 38-40mm in length.
What you’ll receive with your order:
~ 8+ different story stones with various pictures
~ 1x transparent zip-lock bag (to keep your stones safe and visible)
~ 1x task card (with ideas on how to make the most of your story stones)
For a limited time you can save 20% on every Story Stone Busy Bag you purchase! Use the code NEWSS20. Head over to the Flying Sprout store now to view the whole range.
NOT SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN UNDER 3
Please be aware these story stones may cause a choking hazard and are therefore not suitable for children under 3 years of age.
Breastfeeding my first baby was easy (after a hard and painful first few days). I was on maternity leave and didn’t have to be anywhere at any given time until that 6 week doctor’s visit. I was in a blissful little bubble that revolved completely about meeting the needs of that new little babe.
Fast forward four years and things have changed dramatically. This time around there is a precious new baby whose needs must be met and who requires plenty of mummy time as well as my grown up ‘baby.’ He is now an energetic and enthusiastic preschooler who demands plenty of my attention.
In the lead up to having baby number two I started brainstorming the best activities to keep my little man engaged and happy during potentially long breastfeeding sessions. It turns out, by great luck, that my new baby is an efficient feeder so breastfeeding is quick, however…she has embraced the idea of arsenic hour(s) and needs holding from 4-7pm or will scream the house down.
I’ve done a bit of reading and a great suggestion I’ve come across is to have a special box or kit of items that only get played with during breastfeeding sessions. The toys, games and activities are put safely back in the box once baby is fed and then can be played with again next time you’re nursing.
I was on the hunt for a lot of ideas so I asked around and here are a few recommendations from friends and family:
TV or iPad-
This is the most obvious (and probably the easiest) of choices. Watching something on the television or playing with apps on the i-Pad will entertain little ones quite well and it’s only fair the TV is on a bit more than normal in those first few months with a baby.
Busy Bags are portable and easy for little ones to play with one their own with minimal guidance from you while you’re breastfeeding bub. Flying Sprout has a great range of Busy Bags which you can find here. Each Bag contains a number of activities which are both engaging and educational.
Find and Seek Books-
There are so many books out there which are great for kids of all ages. In many there is a strip on each double page spread showing what needs to be found in the illustration or photograph. This type of book is great because you’ll be able to interact with your toddle or preschooler as much or as little as you’d like while feeding.
Small World Play-
There are many fabulous ideas around for setting up a play station with small world animals. You can use items from the garden, artificial turf, water (if you’re child is playing outside) and any array of toys. We have farm animals and dinosaurs, there are also sea creatures and animals from continents all over the world. Having the small world set up means toddlers or preschoolers have a space already available to them that they can use whenever you start breastfeeding.
This is the most popular toy in our house. We spend some time most mornings building a new structure (barn yard, house, shops, fire station, boat) and the rest of the day playing with it. You could also have challenge cards for your child; build the tallest tower you can, sort the Duplo pieces by colour, build a cube etc.
Wooden puzzles, puzzle books or boxes are all great toddler taming, breastfeeding friendly activities if your child doesn’t need too much assistance.
A blank piece of paper and some crayons, pencils or textas can keep some little ones busy, others might need a colouring/activity book to keep them entertained. Either way, this is a quick, easy quiet task to set up.
Peeling and sticking stickers is a great task for building concentration and fine motor skills. There are so many options; reusable stickers on a background, colour matching activities, sticking dots on an outline of their name…
Similar to the small world play, just with dolls and a house.
Extra large, double shot coffee anyone? Maybe not now you’re feeding a baby (though we all know now is the time you need it more than ever!) but there is no harm in imagining, or ordering one from your preschooler’s kitchen, cafe or shop. Maybe the baby would even like some fried eggs?
Unrolling a portable car mat and grabbing out a few match box cars is a sure fire way to get some quiet time in my house!
It can get messy but is a great way to entertain and engage little ones
Glue and scissors need monitoring but if you are sitting at or near the craft table your toddler or preschooler can go to town creating a new masterpiece. Pinterest has loads of ideas for simple craft projects your little one can work on while you’re nursing.
The idea is similar to busy bags in that an activity box can be grabbed out and opened at the start of the nursing session and put away at the end. Everything is contained and can be continued on with next feed. Play at Home mom LLC has a great collection of busy boxes here.
If you know it is going to be a long evening of cluster feeds, you can always whip out the ultimate quiet activity…sorting 100s and 1000s. A friend once told me of this highly amusing (and no doubt painfully frustrating) task where your preschooler is given a packet of sprinkles emptied in to a tray and asked to sort them into colours! Imagine the quiet time with that!
This year I started thinking about Christmas as early as April. I had to, that is when I found out my baby’s due date!
Needless to say, my family’s lead up to Christmas has been a little different this year. We usually fly down to Melbourne to spend the festive season with my family and celebrate with a huge multi-generational feast on December 25th. As soon as we found out we were pregnant, we knew we’d have to skip the big family Christmas this year and settle for a small, more intimate celebration.
This little bundle is due to arrive Christmas Day but we all know how reliable due dates are! I’m hoping for a slightly early arrival, crossing my fingers that baby is delivered and I’m home with my little family to celebrate the big day. Time will tell if that is the case but here is my plan for the lead up to Christmas Day:
Buying gifts – this started in mid September. I wrote a big long list of all the people I wanted to buy a present for, some gift ideas and three columns; bought, delivered (to me), given. I was pretty happy to have ticked off almost all the bought and delivered boxes by the end of that month!
Internet shopping – I love that I can hit the shops whenever I have a free moment. I don’t need to pack snacks, find a car park or even get changed from my daggy house clothes. I bought and researched many Christmas gifts on line. I kept a look out for baby items on sale and bought a few of them over the net.
Nursery set up – This also started in September. I was hoping to start organising the nursery after returning from a mini break in mid October but my husband was inspired one afternoon. We removed the queen sized bed, retrieved the cot and change table from the shed, gave them both a thorough clean and moved them in to the room. Of course, it wasn’t quite so simple as that…We had to work out how to get rid of the spare bed (thankfully people always seem keen to collect anything advertised on Gumtree as ‘free’) and the cot wouldn’t fit through the bedroom door so that needed disassembling and putting back together.
Sorting clothing – I own more newborn clothes than I remember having which is fantastic! I gave them all a good wash, sorted them and organised them nicely in the cupboard in early November.
Preparing my three year old – My little champ knew from early on that I was pregnant and did a great job keeping that secret until the time came to tell everyone at 12 weeks. He knows the baby is coming ‘around Christmas’ so the festive season has been talked about lots in our house this year.
Lists, lists, lists – Shopping, to do, to read, to cook, to clean, to buy…I’ve written plenty of lists!
Decorations – We love a real Christmas tree…ahh, that smell! Brisbane gets pretty darn hot in December though and our house is a bit of a sauna. Even so, we’ll put up our beautiful tree on the first of December so we can enjoy it for the whole month.
Birth planning – During the later stages of my first pregnancy I read Birth Skills by Juju Sundin and have been rereading that this time round too.
Planning for Labour
With my first child everything went very smoothly; he came on the weekend while I was out with my husband (my waters burst in the middle of a shop!) so there was no need to call hubby, wait for him to come home and collect me etc. This time, obviously, things may be a bit different !
What if hubby is at work when I go in to labour? He goes on leave from December 21st and plans on working from home the week before that. If he can’t work from home he’ll take the car in to work so he can be home in about half an hour.
What if the baby comes close in the days either side of December 25th and all our friends are away? We don’t have any family nearby so this has been my main concern; what to do with my precious first born when baby number 2 decides to arrive. We have some great friends and neighbours who have offered to help, which is a HUGE relief but what about Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or Boxing Day when they all have their own important plans? Well…one set of friends have said simply, “we’ll be here for you.” When my husband asked again to confirm they weren’t travelling to see family, the answer was the same. What more could we ask for!? Except maybe that the baby comes a little earlier so they are free to spend Christmas without waiting around incase we need them!
As I mentioned before, it will just we the 3 (hopefully 4!) of us this year for Christmas and I certainly don’t plan on cooking a huge meal at home considering all the unknowns about when the baby will arrive so we’ve decided to book in for a Christmas buffet style lunch. Even that has taken a fair bit of thought…do we book somewhere nice and fancy ($$$) and risk not being able to attend or do we find somewhere a little more low key? We decided on Sizzler. I know that may not be everyone’s cup of tea, especially for Christmas lunch but it will be perfect for us this year. All the Christmas favourites will be on offer, there will be a festive atmosphere, Sizzler is a novel place I associate with fond childhood memories and it won’t break the bank. Plus, if we cant make it on the day, we win’t have lost a huge amount of money.
Here are the possible scenarios for Christmas Day:
A. I spend the day in hospital with the new baby. My son and husband spend most of the day in the hospital with us but head off for lunch. It is really important for me that my first born still gets to celebrate all the special things on Christmas Day and that includes a huge, tasty lunch!
B. We all attend Christmas lunch together, still waiting for baby’s arrival. I’ll just need to be very picky with what I eat and only choose hot food that has just been freshly brought out (buffets and pregnancy are not a good combo).
C. We attend the lunch as a family of four, baby along for the ride. I over indulge in all the food I haven’t eaten for the last nine months and come home feeling sick but hugely satisfied.
D. We plan to have a fun and festive Christmas lunch but end up spending it in the delivery ward after rushing to the hospital when I go in to labour.
I’m hoping for option C. Care to make any predictions?
Update: My precious little babe (a girl!) arrived earlier than expected. She was born in the second week of December which meant we were all home and able to celebrate Christmas as a happy little family of four. Christmas morning was lots of fun and Sizzler put on a great lunch. Thankfully my waters started leaking in the early morning before she was born so hubby took the day off work. It’s a good thing he did because once she decided to come out she was in a rush!
Christmas morning is still my favourite time of the year. It is filled with a sense of magic, excitement and glistening in the eyes of all the children who wake up to see what Santa has left for them.
Christmas morning in my house used to consist of a tummy full of treats. Besides Easter, it was the only day of the year we were allowed to replace the usual healthy breakfast with lollies and chocolates.
My Christmas mornings used to go something like this…
Wake up when it was still dark outside (on a Summer morning in Melbourne that is well before 5:30am) and creep excitedly into the lounge room where our Christmas stockings (we actually had decorated pillow cases) were waiting, full, under the Christmas tree. My brothers and I had strict instructions not to wake my parents until a reasonable time (6am). We were allowed to open our stockings and use/play with/eat anything inside it. Once Mum and Dad woke we would then open the wrapped gifts.
The time from when we woke until when Mum and Dad would get up often felt like an eternity. We used to spend that time watching Christmas cartoons which was fun but could have been more fun if only Santa had left us each…a busy bag!
Busy Bags make the perfect stocking stuffers!
There are plenty of moments on Christmas Day when the kids need a little quiet time; some down time to focus and relax. Busy Bags are the perfect item to motivate little ones to sit in peace and play while they let their batteries recharge (or give you a little time to get things done).
Still not convinced? Here are a few more reasons why Busy Bags make great stocking stuffers (or more generally, fantastic Christmas gifts!):
They are light and portable
They don’t need batteries
They don’t make noise
Once the sugar high has worn off, a Busy Bag can be a great way to keep your child engaged and entertained
If your little one gets bored or impatient waiting for guests to arrive, they’ll have a fun and educational activity to keep them occupied
Busy Bags can keep your child out of the kitchen while you are cooking the Christmas feast
After lunch when everyone feels like napping the Busy Bags can give you some peace and quiet
The activities within the Busy Bags encourage play and interraction with with cousins and extended family
Travelling will be pain-free on Christmas Day with a Busy Bag; they are designed for travel after all!
Busy Bags include everything needed to complete the suggested activities, they are great to use while other toys are being put together or batteries are being sourced
You can find a great range of Busy Bags, including Christmas themed ones, right now here in the Flying Sprout store.
Stocking stuffers for preschoolers and budget friendly kids gifts are what I’m hunting for at this time of the year!
I’m always on the look out for presents costing under $20 (under $15 is even better!) so I thought I’d share some of my favourites to help you with your Christmas or birthday present shopping.
I dearly love supporting Australian small businesses (I am one myself after all), so most budget friendly gifts on this list you can buy from Aussie mums. Of course the big guys have some great gift ideas too, so they will also be mentioned. If you’re a DIYer, I’ve got a few great ideas for you too!
Busy Bags make a great gift. They are easy on the purse, educational, fun and can be taken anywhere. Flying Sprout (me!) has a nice big range to choose from.
Play Doh stamps are personalised name stamps, great for little ones learning to read, write and recognise their own names. Doh Stamp offer fast turn around times and a huge variety of coloured name stamps.
Play Dough is a wonderful gift that can be used again and again for fun and learning. Happy Hands, Happy Hearts have a range of beautiful smelling, handmade play dough options.
Shaped Crayons are a novel little gift that preschoolers are sure to love. Tinta Crayons make toxic free crayons in lovely bright colours and a variety of fun shapes.
Animal Figurines are great for play and learning. Oh Ivy stock a huge range of animals from all continents of the world.
Head Bands are fun accessories for little girls. Top Knot has a large range of styles, sizes and fabrics from sweet newborn and playful toddler through to funky adult. All styles are practical and fun.
Toy Necklaces are the perfect two-in one gift. Critterz create fun necklaces which are great for boys and girls! They can be worn as well as played with so there is entertainment anywhere your child goes.
Fidget Tools are great for developing fine motor skills and keeping restless hands occupied. Happy Me Shop stocks a range of fidget tools for little ones through to adults. These cute worms are actually little puzzles!
Ok, this company is not Australian but it is too good not to share! The Idea Box stock a huge range of these fantastic boxes. Each box contains many activity ideas to keep little ones learning, exploring and engaged.
Water Painting is a simple, mess free and totally relaxing activity. Emma and Doug’s Water Wow books are great for travel and quiet play. There are a wide range of these books and they are all great!
Wooden Toys are super cheap at Kmart. If you are after some big bang for your buck, Kmart is a great place to find wooden toys and activities that encourage learning and free play.
LEGO and Duplo is always popular. It is unisex and everlasting! You can now purchase small kits, perfect for budget friendly gift giving.
Other fun suggestions:
DIY Cubby kit – Consisting of rope, pegs and a strong material. You can buy your own supplies from Bunnings.
DIY Small world or sensory play kits – Include some water beads, a tub and animal toys for endless fun.
Books (is it possible to ever have too many!?) – We love the authors Julia Donaldson, Bruce Whatley and Aaron Blabey.
Activity Books and stationary – Crayola brand is great quality, child and budget friendly.
If you have any suggestions, please share them. I’m always keen to find out about wonderful gifts that won’t break the bank!
Learning times tables or multiplication facts can be a challenge. It is often a struggle for children to recall them and they can be very boring and tedious to learn. So I thought I’d put together a collection of tips, tricks and strategies to make recall of multiplication number facts faster and more accurate.
Usually schools start by teaching the 2,5 and 10 times tables, followed by the 3,4 then the 6,7,8,9s. I don’t believe the 11s and 12s are taught anymore.
My approach is more 2,5,10 (which most children learn early on), followed by 11,9. Then 4,3. After that they will be able to fill in most gaps when it comes to 6,7,8s. I find this easier because the 11s and 9s have some tricks that make them easier to learn and therefore boost the confidence of the student learning them.
Here are a few confidence boosting tips/tricks to help your child learn their multiplication facts:
4x Double 2s
5x Half 10 times tables
9x Using the finger trick (see trick below)
10x Write a zero on the end
11x Write the same number twice
8×8=64 – I ate (8) and (x) ate (8) until I was sick (6) on the floor (4).
56=7×8 – Consecutive numbers, 5,6,7,8.
6s are easy enough if you think about it being one set more than the 5s.
It is important to be able to instantly recall the multiplication tables and that is only made possible by practising them a lot. Here are a few ways of doing that:
Times Tables raps or songs – TV or radio adverts with jingles are effective because they stick in our head. Times tables raps are much the same. You can find songs on CD, i-tunes, YouTube or with a simple google search.
Rote learning – Though it is boring, it can be very helpful to write and re-write a set of multiplication tables until they are retained and can be instantly recalled.
Posters – You can purchase large posters of the multiplication tables to display in your child’s room but you can also have your child create their own set to display in a location that is regularly visited, such as the toilet.
Games – Online and off line games are a great way to make learning these important number facts fun. You can practise with flash cards, dice or simple playing cards. Hit the Button is a favourite online game of mine but there are many others that can be found with a quick search.
Real life practise – Asking your child to solve multiplication equations in real life settings helps them to understand the importance of learning their times tables. Whether you are preparing dinner, hanging washing or organising a birthday party, there are plenty of opportunities to multiply.
Modelling using various materials – Creating arrays and grouping everyday items is a great way to make the times tables come to life. Using play dough, peas, beads or toys to show the various sums might help to make the multiplication tables easier to remember because they can be linked to a visual memory.
Teaching others – Encouraging older students to teach their younger siblings or school mates a set of multiplication tables is a great way to cement the number facts in the older child’s mind while also helping the younger child.
I’m not much the home reno type so had never even heard of painters tape until two years ago.
I was reading a blog post on suggested items to pack for entertaining children on long haul flights and saw this tape recommended. It peaked my interest, I bought a roll and have since fallen in love with the stuff!
There are loads of fun activities kids can do with painters tape which, unlike regular masking tape, will not leave a sticky residue or be hard to remove. Here are a few winners:
Letter or number writing – Write numbers, letters and words on any surface, practise making sums or spelling key words.
Make a bridge – Your child might like to take up the challenge of creating a bridge using only painters tape. The challenge can be extended by testing the load limit of the bridge.
Create a road on the floor – Use the tape to draw out a road along the floor, you could include round abouts or make a whole town. Use toy cars to race or drive along the road.
Draw shapes on the wall – Young children can learn about shape properties, older kids might like to measure the perimeter and area.
Maze – Older children might like to plan out then create a maze using the tape. You might like to make a maze for younger children to drive cars or walk toys around.
Races- Instead of a maze, your child might like to create a race track. They could then use a straw and pom-pom, blowing the pom-pom around the race course.
Marble/rolling – As a children, my brothers and I would play marbles in the hall way room. Painters tape is handy to draw a circle and lines.
Create an obstacle course – Tape some kitchen or toilet rolls to the wall and have a marble race through the course.
Tape painting – There are so many options here, just search on Pinterest. The idea is that you stick tape onto a canvas in order to create blank space once it is removed. You may like to creates a geometric pattern or write your child’s name, they then paint, splatter or colour all over the canvas. When the artwork is dry, the paint is removed an voila! Masterpiece!
For many more great ideas and links to all the above activities, head on over to Flying Sprout’s Pinterest Board dedicated to all things painters tape.
I’d love to hear your experiences and suggestions, do you use painters tape with your little ones?
When I hear the word ‘puzzle’ I immediately think of a picture in pieces that needs putting back together. Then I think about logic puzzles, word problems, tangrams….there are lots of different puzzle types I have used with students in the classroom and many I enjoy doing myself. According to Wikipedia, ‘A puzzle is a game, problem, or toy that tests a person’s ingenuity or knowledge.’
Traditional wooden puzzles are a common sight in most homes with small children and for good reason; they are a great toy to engage young children in play. There are many, MANY more advantages to puzzles and, many different types of puzzles that are equally as engaging as those first wooden ones. Here are a few (all listed puzzle types are clickable links):
To see more great examples, head over to the Flying Sprout Pinterest page.
The Advantages of Puzzles
Some puzzles are great fun, others can be immensely frustrating but they all have their benefits. Here are a few:
Satisfaction of achievement
Completing a task is satisfying and often, the more challenging the task, the greater the feeling of achievement once it is completed. This sense of satisfaction is a great way for children to build an understanding that hard work pays off and brings its own reward.
Patience and persistence
Persisting and having patience when faced with a challenge is not always easy but, as mentioned above, it brings great satisfaction when approaching tasks with a level head and having success.
Problem solving strategies
Different puzzles require different approaches in order to solve them. When completing maths, word and logic problems at school children are often encouraged to think carefully about the right strategy to use. These include acting out the problem, drawing a picture, writing a list, looking for a pattern, simplifying the problem, creating a table, working backwards, guess and checking, writing a number sentence or using and using objects.
Hand eye coordination and fine motor skills
Physical puzzles are a great way for children to practise their hand eye coordination and develop those all important fine motor skills.
Fun and rewarding
Puzzles can be used to reinforce learning or they can be used as a fun, rewarding activity. Great satisfaction comes from completing puzzles and this is lots of fun.
Building dept of knowledge on a subject
Whether learning new skills, practising, revising or consolidating understandings, there is a place for puzzles.
Some children are naturally quiet, while others take a little more encouragement. Puzzles give all children an opportunity to work with quiet concentration, either on their own or cooperatively with others, to complete tasks.
Setting and achieving small goals is rewarding and reinforces the idea that, with hard work and focus, you can achieve your larger goals.
Many puzzles are, particularly physical ones, are self correcting. They are either right or they aren’t, so children can work out immediately if they have solved the puzzle.
Many puzzles encourage the use of skills that children aren’t necessarily using everyday, skills that are very important such as critical thinking, logical thinking and spatial reasoning.
If you have a few spare minutes and enjoy a challenge, have a go at this collection of puzzles.