Sunday, May 30, 2010

FUN FUN FUN on the Farm!

Friends of ours own a beautiful thirteen hectares of farmland just outside of Durbanville,
on which their daughter hosts farm and Survivor-themed parties for children.
So on saturday morning a bunch of us bundled our children into
 warm coats and gumboots,
and braved the early-morning chill for some
Farmyard Fun!
My friend Georgia came along with her youngest, and took some of the photos you see here (You can see more of her gorgeous photography on her blog, Love and Lollipops)

The morning was crisp and beautiful and we soon forgot about the cold when the
pulled up to take us for a ride around the farm!

There were 26 of us on the trailer!

We saw ducks and chickens, cows and horses, and laughed at the
pot-bellied piglets
cavorting in the paddock.

After the tractor ride we took a walk up the dirt road to go
feed the animals:
There were
carrots and apples
 for the horses and the pot-belly family,
and the chickens got fed, too!

Sweetpea was particularly fond of the
mama sow,
and kept stroking her and  talking sofltly to her.

Then it was time to collect freshly laid eggs from the chicken coop!

Oi! Whatcha lookin' at?!

In her excitement my daughter tripped and fell in a nice big, sloshy puddle of
She was covered in muck, but through her tears kept saying:
"I am a little bit wet, I am a little bit wet!" Now there was an understatement!
Anyway, we hosed her off, changed into a clean pair of pants and in no time she was off playing on the old tractors again!
(Thanks, Delia, for capturing the moment - I had my hands full!)
After all that 'Farm work' we enjoyed steaming cups of tea and coffee with muffins while the children chased some chickens and enjoyed the gorgeous sunshine that by now was pleasantly baking on our backs.

Thanks to all the families who joined us - we had great fun and I think this should become a regular event!

Contact Chane from Gumboot Parties via her website,
There is also a beautiful nursery on the farm, and experienced nurserymen to give you great advice on WaterWise plants, landscape design and all things green and lovely!
Contact Gan Eden Nursery at (021)975-4646

Monday, May 24, 2010

Real Mothers

I did three enormous loads of washing today due to incidents over the weekend with leaky disposable nappies, and a short-lived, temporary set-back in potty training that nonetheless caused a fair amount of chaos. As I sit here typing I have pureed chicken-broccoli-butternut on my clothes from where a tired little munchkin buried his downy head in my neck as I tried to feed him one more bite before bath time, and behind me the living room floor is scattered with toys that I am just too tired to pick up right now.

But then as I was catching up on some admin, an e-mail came through from my sister that so sweetly and gently reminded me of how fleeting this time with my little ones is, and suddenly my heart is so  much lighter. I don't know the author of this simple little ode to motherhood, but may she be blessed! Enjoy!


Real Mothers don't eat quiche;
They don't have time to make it.

Real Mothers know that their kitchen utensils
Are probably in the sandbox.

Real Mothers often have sticky floors,
Filthy ovens and happy kids.

Real Mothers know that dried play dough
Doesn't come out of carpets.

Real Mothers don't want to know what
The vacuum just sucked up.

Real Mothers sometimes ask 'Why me?'
And get their answer when a little
Voice says, 'Because I love you best.'

Real Mothers know that a child's growth
Is not measured by height or years or grade...
It is marked by the progression of Mummy to Mum to Mother...

PS: This real mother DOES eat quiche..because I have a super easy recipe for it, which my family loves! The original used bacon, but we don't like pork, so I've replaced it with biltong (for my foreign readers, that's similar - but not quite the same - as jerky!)

Spinach & Biltong Quiche
1 large onion, chopped
1 bunch of spinach
a generous handful of sliced beef biltong
3 free range eggs
250 ml cream (or orley whip for a dairy free alternative)
salt & pepper
mustard powder
grated cheddar cheese (optional)

Fry the onion in a little oil.
Tear the spinach and cook in salty water for for about 3 minutes. Drain.
Add the onion and biltong to the cooked spinach and mix.
Pour into a greased quiche or pie dish.
Whisk the eggs, cream and seasoning and pour over the spinach mixture.
Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake for 35 minutes at 180 degrees Celcius, or until set and slightly browned.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Little Red Hen Felt Board Fun

Look what I've been up to this past weekend!

In preparation for the Fun on the Farm workshop this coming Saturday, May 22, I made a felt board version of the classic story of The Little Red Hen!

I only glued the 'shoulder' part of the Hen's wing down, so that I can slip props like the sheaf of wheat, hoe or bread under her wing for her to 'hold'!

I've been experimenting with ways to draw the detail onto my felt pieces. (I'm working on a Three Bears set for which I actually embroidered the lines with backstitch - WAY too much work!) My permanent marker's line's were too thick, the ink from the Pilot Fineliner bled, but...a good old black ballpoint pen was just right!!

(you can see the ink 'bleeding' on her toes!)
All the ladies attending the workshop receives a set of four beautifully illustrated puzzles featuring farm animals, as well as everything you need to make your OWN Little Red Hen felt board set!

The Puzzle set!
The workshop consists of ideas for using the farm puzzle set as a starting point for FOUR WEEKS' WORTH OF ACTIVITIES to share with your toddler, and includes crafts, matching games, fun ideas for lunch time, field trips, rhymes and songs, a Bible lesson / craft and of course, some Felt Board Fun!
Contact me to book your place!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Duo Puzzle

I love love love wooden toys...
for their feel and their look and their smell and their sound!

And one of my favourites at the moment is

Here is how it works:

Pick a design from the pack of laminated designs cards, which are graded from Starter to Master.

Then use the bright & beautiful wooden puzzle pieces to first build the bottom layer....

and then finish it off with the top layer...

You can then check your design against the completed picture on the other side of the card.
To help my little girl focus, I covered the second picture while we worked on the bottom layer.

More advanced little puzzle lovers have to work straight from the double layer picture!

And here's another idea for using this lovely game with younger toddlers:
Scan the design and then print onto an A4 page. Let your little one then arrange the puzzle pieces straight onto the design!
What a f u n way to help little eyes practice visual discrimination, colours and shapes!

This game belongs in your child's toy collection! You can order it from me by clicking here. Duo Puzzle is availible at R180, excl. postage, but if you live in the Durbanville area, stop in for a cup of tea and save on the postage!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

What we did this week

We made a handprint card for Ouma.

And showed daddy how to make dinner...

Daddy then showed us how to change a tire...

and now we can do it ourselves!

Some of us just sat around being cute...

...and being fed!
(He just wouldn't eat for me that night, but then Sweetpea had a go at it and he finished it all!)

We helped...

.. and we helped ourselves!

No Children! by Edgar A. Guest

No children in the house to play -
It must be hard to live that way!
I wonder what the people do
When night comes on and work is through
With no glad little folks to shout,
No eager feet to race about,
No youthful tongues to chatter on
About the joy that's been and gone?
The house might be a castle fine,
But what a lonely place to dine!

No children in the house at all,
No fingermarks upon the wall,
No corner where the toys are piled--
Sure indication of a child.
No little lips to breathe the prayer
That God shall keep you in His care,
No glad caress and welcome sweet
When night returns you to your street;
No little lips a kiss to give--
Oh, what a lonely way to live!

No children in the house! I fear
We could not stand it half a year.
What would we talk about at night,
Plan for and work with all our might,
Hold common dreams about and find
True union of heart and mind,
If we two had no greater care
Than what we both should eat and wear?
We never knew love's brightest flame
Until the day the baby came.

And now we could not get along
Without their laughter and their song.
Joy is not bottled on a shelf,
It cannot feed upon itself,
And even love, if it shall wear,
Must find its happiness in care;
Dull we'd become of mind and speech
Had we no little ones to teach.
No children in the house to play!
Oh, we could never live that way!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A weighty matter

Don't you just
those moments when all of a sudden, right in the middle of an ordinary day, a teachable moment just sneaks up on you and
you with the joy and satisfaction that comes from learning?

Sweetpea and I were having our eleven o'clock cuppa tea at the kitchen counter and paging through a beautiful picture book with bright, cheery photographs of children going about their day. We chatted about a picture of children in chefs hats and aprons in a play kitchen, and Sweetpea named all the familiar kitchen objects. Then she pointed to a picture of a kitchen scale and I could see her little brain searching frantically for the word for that thing...but it hadn't been 'filed' yet, and I helped her out. "That's a scale," I said. "We use it to see how heavy things are." I realized this was a little abstract for her, so I fetched the kitchen scale to show her. It stands on the counter right next to the stove where she helps me cook everyday, but has obviously never made an impression before now.

We investigated the needle, and how it moves when we pressed the bowl down gently. Even though I haven't introduced her to number symbols yet, I spoke about the zero and the one and used terminology like grams and kilograms. She echoed everything I said and was truly absorbed in the whole thing. So I fetched a few things that were within arm's reach and we started weighing them. She was thrilled at how we could make the needle move a little further - or not so far - depending on the weight of the object.


That's heavy!!

There was a moment there when I considered fetching pen and paper and showing her how to jot down the weight, but then I felt that I should just flow with the wonder she was feeling at this new discovery. I remembered about another scale that was a wedding gift, and we discovered that this one could hold much heavier objects! Sweetpea was happily moving things from scale to scale and checking the needle as she did so. And as I stepped back a bit and watched my daughter happily exploring in that wonderful, glowing land of childhood discovery, I realised for the umpteenth time how blessed I am to spend my days with her and my baby boy. And how profound learning - the kind that makes you feel warm and giddy - can happen even in the simplest of surroundings, with the most mundane objects, turning 'ordinary' moments at home, into gloriously brilliant ones!

PS. It just occured to me that there's a lovely little balance scale in the Nucleus Toys range. Three actually! I like the middle one...think it should find a home here with us! Remember, you can order these from me via e-mail. Click here!

The deluxe model - R420 (scale only. Weights: R 185)

The one I want! R120

Geometric balance. R100. Definitely getting this one once she's older!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Teddy Bear emotions

I promised you a few posts on emotional intelligence, and want to start off with sharing with you about two games that has helped Sweetpea a great deal in the way of naming emotions.

They are called Bear Pairs and Rainbow Bears, and I bought these as part of my 'kit' when I became a consultant for Play2Learn educational Toys at the beginning of this year. They are made by Smile, so you know it is good quality and well thought through!

Anyway, like I said, they were intended to be part of my 'business' toys and not for my own children to play with. But as I very quickly realised, I simply cannot sell something to a mother if I don't know from personal experience that it is a good product, so I took it out one afternoon to see how Sweetpea would take to them. They have been a hit eversince (and not in the way you'd you soon will see!)

Bear Pairs is made up of 12 sets of bear shaped cards. We started playing the simplest game first: finding each bear's match! I laid the bears on the carpet and Sweetpea would search for the matches. (Great for visual discrimination AND midline crossing!) The next step is playing that classic memory game where all the bears face downwards and you turn over two at a time, trying to remember where the match is. (The bears are all cut from the same die, so the child can't guess by means of the shape.)

Just a sample of the bears from the Rainbow Bears game

Rainbow Bears is intended as a game for teaching primary and secondary colours. Two of the bears have spinners on their bellies (primary colours and black and white, and secondary colours and black and white), so the children spin and then pick a 'button' in the matching colour to place on the corresponding dots on their bears' bellies. Both sets come with instructions for several variations of these games.

But what has this to do with my two-year old and her emotions? Well, you will notice that the bears from both sets show a beautiful range of facial expressions. When we first started playing with these, we spent a lot of time talking about each bear, its expression, its clothing etc, and made up stories about why they felt like that. The bandaged bear was an instant favourite with Sweetpea, probably because she could relate to having bumps and bruises!

It was shortly after I introduced this game when she one day told me she was feeling sad. I realised that she had never used that word until we first played with the bears, so I picked a few of them with expressions that I thought she could relate to, and kept them next to her bed. Whenever she experienced an intense emotion, I pointed it out to her by showing the corresponding bear and talking about it!

Words are such a powerful tool: imagine feeling something overwhelming - be it joy or anger or sadness or excitement - and not being able to communicate it to the people you share your life with. When we teach our children the appropriate names for their emotions, we empower them. We can then help them to cope with those emotions in a healthy , positive way.

I want to add here that I am also training my children not to 'wallow'. We do not tolerate whining, and try not to indulge dramatics (my daughter is a little prone to exaggerations - she does have half my genes, after all!) If a child bumps a head or stumbles, I try to resist running to their rescue immediately (unless it's justified. However, I am always amazed at how quick they recover when no one makes a tremendous fuss out of every little bump!). Instead, I want to teach them to deal with it, and then get on with life. Joy is encouraged around here, and although feelings of real, legitimate sadness, fear, anger etc, are recognised and allowed, we aim to teach our children to work through negative emotions quickly and efficiently, so that joy and peace can be restored as soon as possible!

If you think your child can benefit from the two games mentioned above , you can order them from me via e-mail.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

I Spy Jar

When I taught primary school a few years ago,
books were all the rage.
Sweetpea and I recently discovered them at our library and we love poring over the pages looking for all kinds of tiny treasures.

I was especially thrilled when she pointed out the first letter of her name to me recently as we were looking at page with colourful beach paraphernalia.

I have seen so many versions of this idea on the web lately, and had been itching to make one for my two.
I finally got around to it over the Easter weekend and it's been a hit eversince!

We used a large, clear plastic spaghetti jar that I bought at the plastics shop for R13.

I then collected all kinds of little treasures to put in. Because our jar was nice and big, I could also add a few larger pieces, like the yellow cat, so that ArrowBoy could easily find it by rolling the jar around on the carpet.
I took a photo of everything I was going to put in, so that Sweetpea could use it as a reference when she wanted to play with it on her own.So far she has been quite happy just exploring.

We then added a bag of rice, and our I Spy jar was ready! On the first afternoon I played with it more than the children - it is great fun searching for the smaller things hidden in the rice!
A small
banana shaped button
has proven hardest to find,
so there are squeals of delight whenever one of us spot it!
(can you spot the plastic fork?!)

Pink and Green Mama (click on the link to visit her blog) took this a step further and made a stunning rainbow rice version, while Mama Jen put an educational twist on her alphabet I Spy jar. The possibilities seem endless, so let me know what you come up with for your little ones!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Triumphs and Tears

I read this passage in a book once and as my children grow, I often remember it in those moments when I realise they've just reached a new milestone...

Watching something you love grow, is both pleasure and pain. Each new phase - crawling, walking, talking - brings shouts of pride, but with each comes the mourning of the phase gone past. Never again the cluck of her chin as she fed on my breast; never again small enough to carry in one arm while I stirred soup or carried turf with the other; never again an infant lying in a muslin-covered basket in the top fields while we worked. The soft down of her scalp, fingers the size of beads, the mysterious whispers before words come: behind the joy in each new talent, I regretted the passing of the last. I had a secret longing to keep her small and precious and a part of me. As miserable as I had been during pregnancy, I now often dreamt that she was back inside my body and that the two of us were floating like that forever, each clinging to the other for soft comfort in some eternal womb.

Time is impatient to take your child from you. So you learn that each moment is precious and that life is an inevitable clock. The pleasure of rearing a child is just a prelude to the pain of letting them go, and I anticipated that with an ache every day of her small life. I thought it would make it easier when she finally reached adulthood. But it didn't.

No matter what wisdom or tricks for happiness you learn, a mother worries every day for the life of her child. A wise one will pretend to let them go to keep them, but it's just a sweet amd sensible lie. Motherhood is a sweet, sweet suffering; a joy today is marked by fear for tomorrow and a craving for yesterday."
From: Recipes for a Happy Marriage - a novel by Kate Kerrigan

Note: This was a beautiful story, but please be advised that this
book contains swear words and an extra-marital affair.

Bittersweet. That is the best way I can describe the incident that occurred in our home tonight. Oh, maybe this might seem so insignificant to you, but this mother's heart was touched. Yes, with both a pang of pain AND a tender joy.

I was catching up on some writing after having put the children to bed, when I heard Sweetpea start to cry in her room. I left it for a moment, hoping she'd go back to sleep, but then I realised that through her sobs she was saying something she has never said before "Mama, scared!"

I opened her bedroom door and had to smile a little: Missy had never been asleep after all, but had quietly been unpacking her entire bookshelf and her tea set and was now standing right in the middle of all this chaos, her chubby cheeks tear-stained and flushed with both exhaustion and emotion. I asked her what the matter was and she said: "Scared, Mama. That one there!" She was pointing to a large, hard-cover collection of Dr. Seuss stories. Of course I immediately realised the reason for this distress: The picture of the green old Grinch. She kept her distance while I packed the book away where she couldn't see it anymore and I remembered how, as I child, I was terrified of touching pages with pictures of frogs on them, as if they could come alive by the mere touch of my hand!

You're a mean one, Mr Grinch!
(Found this picture on the Internet, the actual book that cused the drama is now in her room where she's fast asleep)

I comforted her and tucked her in and laid down beside her in the now darkened room, stroking her hair as I hummed a lullabye. And I thought of how I had tried to delay this day: the day when she would first say that she was afraid of something.

A friend of mine's toddler son went through a phase where he was scared of everything, and I told myself then that he was only scared because they have taught him the word. I figured it's like a tool: I would give my child good tools, positive ones, like words for expressing happiness and joy and excitement. I have done well in that department, and she is just as eloquently able to express her feelings of anger and sadness. But to me, fear was in a league of its own and I was trying my best to keep her innocent of the concept of fear. Yes, I know. Silly mommy.

And yet, now that it has come, I am surprised that I also feel a sense of delight: because my child has learnt something about her own emotions. She has found a way to express a thing inside of her that has caused her distress. She has made a connection between this abstract, unseeable emotion and another abstract, invisible thing: a word. We've read a few books about feelings over the past few months, and I try to remember to help her name her emotions when I recognise them in our daily situations. It really is gratifying to see it bearing fruit now!

I try to keep this blog REAL - sharing with you ideas I use with my own children, showing you what we are up to, and sharing my excitement about products I find educational, fun and inspirational. And since emotions seem to be a recurrent theme in our home at the moment, over the next few posts I will share with you tips and ideas that I am finding helpful as I guide my children on the road to emotional intelligence. I would LOVE to hear your comments and what works for you, so be sure to drop me a line!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Squeeze bottle fun!

If you have been following this blog for a while - or if you have attended any of my recent workshops - you will know that I love visiting
the plastics shop
when needing some inspiration for new skills activities for Sweetpea. 
A while ago I on one such trip, I purchased a plastic 
squeeze bottle,
 the kind you would use for tomato sauce or other condiments. So, on one of our last summery days a week or so ago, I  presented it to her on a tray with a
tiny ceramic pitcher
- it is actually the little milk jug from a tea set my sister bought for her.
 I showed her once how to squeeze a few drops of water out of the botlle and then she eagerly had a go at it. 

She had so much fun
 with controlling the flow - this is how you squeeze to only get a drop at a time, and if you really put some E into it, you can squirt out a nice steady stream. (The only thing I'll do differently next time is to not fill the bottle right up - it was a little heavy...although, now that I think about it, that has its benefits, too!)

I anticipated her next move (looking for something to empty the jug into) and fetched more cups from the tea set, and she spent the next half an hour happily squirting and pouring from one cup to the next.

It would probably have entertained her for the rest of the morning, but ArrowBoy woke up then and I had to rescue the tea set!
It was a great workout for Sweetpea's little arms and fingers, though, and I'm working on a few more ideas for using the humble squeeze bottle for strengthening small muscles - possibly using it with coloured water to experiment with colour mixing? Let me know what ideas you have!!


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