Wednesday, January 30, 2013

'Weading Wednesday' - Advance Australia Fair

Having just had our Australia Day celebrations I thought this book was a suitable pick for this weeks review.

As the title suggests, this book, by P.D McCormick is Australia's National Anthem in story book form. It was Ladybugs favourite for awhile and she was bringing it to us daily to be read! She loves the colourful bright pictures even if she doesn't quiet understand the meaning yet.

Having an ex - Army dad, we're pretty patriotic here. Teaching Ladybug about the country she lives in is important to us, not just in the sense of National Anthems and so forth, but also about our culture, lifestyle, native animals, environment, etc. I love the country we live in and can't wait to help her discover and learn about it too.

The book has BOTH verses, which Mr Ladybug and I are now pretty competent in (making us look super, super patriotic whenever this fact is found out!)

It even has the music - totally lost on us unfortunately but may be useful to some!

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mini handheld masks

We've been bailed up inside lately due to the continuous downpour of rain going on in Sydney (and just about everywhere else in Australia too!) so for something new I made Ladybug some mini handheld masks.

All you need is some old magazines, scissors, laminator, paddle pop sticks and sticky tape.

I cut out an assortment of eyes, noses, mouths and faces. I ran them through the laminator (if you don't have a laminator you could stick the cut outs onto some cardboard to stiffen them up) then sticky taped paddle pop sticks onto the back of them so they can held in place like masks.

Ladybug thought it was hilarious if I held up some eyes over my own or a funny mouth. We played around looking at all of the different features and talking about what they all are. She is pretty down pat with naming different parts of the face so we were able to go a bit further and talk about the emotions behind the picture (e.g: "this smile makes me look happy!", "this frown makes me look sad" and so on) and when she began lifting the masks to her own face it helped her become more aware of where all of her own features are on herself.

We used the iPad's reverse camera to take photos and laugh at ourselves.

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Watching the tides

Ladybug is 17 months old so a bit young to understand this activity but she still listened to all we had to say and proudly exclaimed words when she saw or heard something she knew ;-)

We drove down to the local ferry warf and caught a boat over to the Royal National Park for lunch and to have a play and explore. Not one to let a learning opportunity escape us I decided to do a little comparison with the tides. I wasn't sure how much the kids might already know so as we were waiting on the warf for the ferry to arrive I suggested that we take a photo of the water level and see if it's any different when we come back. No one mentioned 'tides' so I left things as they were, we snapped some pics of the water around the warf and hopped on the ferry to go. We took a few more photos of the warf at our destination and then ran off to play...

When we returned to the warf to go home the kids couldn't remember where the water level was before so we decided to take some photos anyway and compare them all when we get home. A few more photos as we got off and back home we went.

When we sat down to compare the photos the kids noticed that the water levels were slightly different and asked why (we were only at the park for an hour so the difference wasn't staggering, but still noticeable!) so on to Google we went...

First we watched this great video:

The good thing about this was that we could pause and repeat any parts the kids found confusing, but I found the representation he used to be a good example.

After this we looked up a tide chart online.
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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

"Weading Wednesday" - Press Here

This is one of Ladybug's favourite books, well, there's lots of favourites, but this is definitely up there for her.

Press Here by Herve Tullet is an invitation for kids to interact and use their imagination. The book, primarily consisting of simple dots on the pages and repeatedly asks children to press the dots, shake the book, turn it around, etc, with each action having a different affect.

Ladybug will sit there giggling and laughing, clapping and blowing the pages whenever we read this book. It really encourages her imagination and helps her learn cause and effect. There have been a few times where I have found her in her room turning the pages and pressing all the dots by herself, too cute!

I really recommend it for someone looking for something a little bit different (along with any of Herve Tullet's colouring books!)

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Freeform Pretzels

This activity was so easy (and yummy!) and the kids loved the process as well as the result.

We made up a basic pretzel dough (recipe below)


Then on a floured table top they kneaded and rolled the dough into thin sausages

Then twisted and formed it into any shape they liked.

We ended up with letters, windows, teacups, hearts, balls and even a Nerf gun!

The kids loved 'breaking the rules' of the normal recipe which instructs you to shape the dough into a generic pretzel twist.

After all the dough was used up we placed the dough on some baking paper on oven trays. Brushed them with the beaten egg and sprinkled them with some Himilayan rock salt.

They didn't take long in the oven (approx 12 mins at 180) and even better, they didn't take long to cool down. Perfect cause they smelt and tasted sooo yummy! We had them for afternoon tea with some cold slices of watermelon. Even Ladybug demolished all of hers.


We'll definitely repeat this activity but next time might try some variations using whole meal flour or adding chia seeds to the mix.

Pretzel dough:
1 pkg yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tsp salt
1 tbs sugar (we used dextrose)
4 cups flour
1 egg, beaten
Rock salt (we used Himalayan)

Pour the warm water into a bowl and sprinkle on the yeast and stir.
Add remaining ingredients and mix until dough forms.
We baked it in the oven for about 12 minutes at 180 degrees.
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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"Weading Wednesday" - Bookshelves!

Ladybug LOVES books. When she toddles off on her own she is almost always found in her room 'reading' her books or holding a book up to you saying "Wead, wead!" So I thought it fitting to do a book review every week.

To kick things off though, we will start with our bookshelves. A massive part of her book love is due to the fact that she can access her books whenever she likes. They are always on display and not kept up on a shelf out of her reach.

When I first caught a glimpse of these library style 'rain gutter bookshelves' which went a bit viral last year, I was in love. Unfortunately my husband wasn't! So these spice racks from a storage shop were my compromise (that and the fact that I did this while he was working away in WA for 2 weeks!) These particular ones are from Howard's Storage World and were a bit pricey to buy all at once, so I bought them gradually row by row. For us though, the expense has been totally worth it. Plus they come with everything you need to install them. Easy!

Now Ladybug has all of her books out at once and can choose her own for story time before bed and can go and look at them whenever she pleases - so now just be prepared to read whatever the current fave is a gazillion times a day! ;-)

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Friday, January 11, 2013

Familiar family puzzles

At 16 months Ladybug doesn't quite grasp the idea of putting a picture puzzle back together (which I think it totally fine for her age) - she has wooden shape puzzles which she is beginning to understand (read: bash a piece around til it fits in a hole) but picture puzzles don't even get a second glance, she doesn't seem to have an understanding of the task at hand. I figured a lot of this probably has to do with the fact she doesn't know that it will make a picture, doesn't recognise what the picture is of and doesn't understand that the pieces fit together. The concept seems a bit unrecognisable at the moment how can I help her understand? What if I made the pictures familiar to her and the pieces big so she can handle them and move them around easily... Like us, our cat and herself!

I found an old box and cut the sides away:

Printed off some A4 pictures of things she knows (I used a picture of my husband and I, our cat Rufus and one of herself) and glued them to the cardboard:

Cut out the picture and covered them in clear contact (this step is optional but will obviously help your puzzle last a bit longer!) I found it easiest to secure the contact down with some blutak and then place the cardboard on top (picture side down):


Cut away the corners and fold over the edges (to keep the contact from overlapping):

Then cut your picture into large, easy to manage pieces. I found it best to draw the pieces on the back of the cardboard first and then follow the lines.


**Originally I tried to run the pictures through the laminator but the cardboard was too thick for it to work**


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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Classic recipes

Here are some classic recipes which I learnt many, many years ago at Tafe. They have been tried and tested with all the kids I've worked with in the past and I'm sure have been used by others long before I ever learnt them!

Play dough (cooked)

1 cup flour
1 cup water
1 tbs oil
1/2 cup salt
1 tbs cream of tartar
Food colouring

Mix the flour, water, salt and cream of tartar over a medium heat until thick. When it has cooled, add the oil and knead well adding the food colouring. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Play dough (uncooked)

2 cups flour
4 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup salt
1 1/2 - 2 cups boiling water
3 - 4 tbs oil
Food colouring

Add oil and food colouring to boiling water. Combine remaining ingredients and mix well. The dough will become smoother as you mix and knead it. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Play dough (Bellini/Thermomix recipe - from the Bellini Addicts cookbook)

250g water
100g salt
1tbs cream of tartar
280g flour
15ml oil
Food colouring

Put the water, salt, food colouring and cream of tartar into the bowl. Heat for 5 minutes at 60 degrees, speed 3. Add flour and mix for 40 seconds or until mixture is combined and thick. Add oil and knead for 1 minute. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Goop (or some people call it Oobleck - I've always called it Goop!)

Corn flour (1 or 2 packets)
Food colouring

Put the cornflour in a bowl and add water to make a paste. Add food colouring. This makes a messy gooey goop which goes from liquid to solid while you play with it (its hard to explain, but you will understand when you try it!) kids love using kitchen utensils in a big tray of goop to pour, scoop, spoon, ladle, etc. the mixture may dry up and become hard while playing, if this happens just add more water. Definitely an outside activity!


1 cup Lux flakes
2 cups warm water
Food colouring

Dissolve Lux flakes in a container with the warm water. Add food colouring. Let the mixture stand until it becomes thick then beat until slimy consistency (I have an old set of egg beaters which are perfect for making slime but these aren't really that common anymore. I think electric beaters would work fine too, just start with a low setting!) This is another outside activity which kids like to scoop and pour using kitchen utensils. I have yet to try this activity with my Ladybug due to the soap, but the kids at work were older and always loved it. I will wait a bit longer to make sure she understands not to taste it or rub it in her eyes.

Cloud Dough

8 cups flour
1 cup oil ( I use canola or whatever yucky oil we have sitting at home not being used!)

Mix together in a large tub or bowl. Easy! The end product is mouldable, like sand, but then collapses into soft powder when you grab it. My daughter has some sand castle moulds/toys, rakes, spades, etc which are perfect for this. Another outside activity!

Bubble mix

4 tbs dish washing liquid
1 cup water
2 tbs glycerin

Mix all ingredients together and use with bubble wands. The glycerin is optional but it strengthens the bubbles.

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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Baby sign!

This is a big part of our lives so I wanted to make a special post about it now so that if it is ever mentioned in future posts people will know what I am talking about: 

Baby sign language!

One of Ladybug's uncles is deaf so we have been teaching her Australian sign language (Auslan) from birth so that communicating with him will be just as easy and natural for her as communicating with a hearing person (well, an English speaking hearing person!) obviously at 3 hours old there is very little chance of her signing back to us, but there is every chance she is taking things in and learning about the world around her. Signing from the beginning just seemed like the logical way to go about things.

Now, at 16mnths old she correctly signs approximately 14 signs and understands even more.
Signing has not only helped her to communicate her needs with us (and vice versa), it has also helped us learn what her favourite things are - the first sign she used was 'aeroplane' which she continues to do every time she sees or hears a plane go by. From this we learnt that she has a particular interest in aeroplanes. 'Rufus' (our cat) and 'fire' followed soon after, which are also interests of hers (No we don't have a pyromaniac child, she used to enjoy watching her dad light the fire every evening throughout winter!) All of this before 12 months of age!

I also believe that signing with her has actually boosted her language development. Every time we use a sign we say the word along with it and as she has learnt the sign she has also learnt to speak the corresponding word. Now she is quiet articulate and has a broad vocabulary (for a 16 month old) There are also many signs she does not use yet but understands what they mean which makes explaining things much easier for us.

There are some great books and websites out there with lots of information on signing with your baby but you really don't need any of that. 'Baby sign' is modified slightly so that it's easier for little hands but due to Ladybugs uncle being deaf we have been teaching her straight up Auslan and she has picked it up just fine.

The Auslan website has a great Sign Bank dictionary which plays you a short video recording of the sign to any word you type in - we use this, along with Ladybug's uncles as our reference guide!

Another great resource for teaching Australian sign is Sign Planet which is full of games, ideas and info on teaching and learning about sign language. They have a tonne of printables which are handy for placing around your house so that you can quickly recall a sign when needed.

And lastly, there is Bilby Publishing who have several Auslan sign language books, including nursery rhymes (our fave is Twinkle Twinkle Little Star) and other stories and info on learning about the deaf community.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Pom pom sorting

So, I'm not the only one who has this happen when I try to cook?

Emptying out of the cupboards

Or this?

Emptying out of the tissue box

It happens to us all, right!? (please say yes!) Well the easiest way to keep my little one entertained is to give her some things to 'cook' herself. I keep a ziplock bag full of pom poms in the kitchen cupboard right for these moments (and trust me, you want them in a ziplock bag!)
If she wants something to do while I get dinner on, then all I need to do is take out some pots and pans and wooden spoons and she can cook her own little masterpiece!

Mixing and stirring with wooden spoons and whisks are her fave, but you could also use scoops, tongs, jugs, etc (NOTE: If your child likes to mouth things you might want to keep an eye on them the first time they use pom poms to 'cook'!)

When we do this activity together we also spend time talking about the colours (she remembered "yellow" from the other day!) and sort them out using muffin trays (I've also seen people use ice cube trays or egg cartons)

At 16 months she doesn't do this herself yet, we talk about each colour and sort them out together

She also spends time practicing her fine motor skills by pushing pom poms into a container. I used an empty punnet of strawberries and cut a cross on the lid. She loves to push them all in then open it up and tip them all out again.


This activity used to be one of my Ladybugs favourites but she is beginning to grow out of it now and doesn't ask to do it as much, so I thought I had better get a post done quick before she moves on to new things with it... As she gets older we will begin doing trickier activities like creating patterns and sequences:

You could use pom poms to create patterns and ask your child to follow the sequence

Or using them as counters like this

There are many other variations of this activity you could try to mix things up a bit. Check out these blogs for a bit of inspiration:

Toddler pom pom push by Learn with Play at Home 
Surprise pom pom sorting by Toddler Approved

Easy peasy travel game by Just For Daisy

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