Monday, 23 April 2012

From Cubby House to Pizza Shop

This weekend I brought out the cubbyhouse that we made last week (see cubbyhouse ideas post) . It was easy to uncollapse and stick back together with sticky tape.

JJ stuck a pizza restaurant menu onto the front door, and that's when the inspiration hit, we decided to turn the cubbyhouse into a PIZZA SHOP!

I cut out some cardboard pizza bases, some red tomatoes/salami from a real estate magazine, and made shredded cheese from yellow craft paper. It worked a treat, and so fun to make!

How to make a pretend pizza! Put on the shredded cheese.

Add tomatoes (which can also double as salami!)

The boys then put the pizzas into the Pizza Shop oven to bake.

The pizza in the oven
I also taught JJ to take orders, he can almost write the word 'pizza'!

Jae's attempt at writing '1 Pizza' pretty good!! (plus cute picture)
Then, inevitably, SamSam forgot to take his pizza out of the oven for a very long time. We put a pizza in the oven, then had a nap and forgot to take it out.

We had a make believe fire in the shop. Which meant, naturally, that we had to have a fire engine and rescue crew. Cue a cardboard box, red Christmas wrapping paper, paper cutout lights and wheels, and some braces...and voila, a Fire Engine!!!

The smile on SamSam's face shows how much fun they were having.
Fires were breaking out left, right and centre, and every few minutes.  When they got tired of putting out fires, they'd go back to making pizzas. The boys had a great time :)

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Teaching Maths and Writing to Children

I had a brainwave this morning, and cut out some little cloud shapes out of colourful paper, and wrote numbers on them from 1 to 10. I got the boys to choose from the clouds I held in my hand, and they put them down on the rug. I gave them some assorted buttons, and their task was to count out the buttons and put the correct amount on top of the clouds.

It's a good game to get them to practise counting.
JJ counting out buttons
It was pretty easy for JJ, and SamSam wasn't concentrating - but they were very enthused by this new game. Next time I will have higher numbers for JJ to count out, and I will more closely supervise SamSam!

I keep all my activities and paper that I can reuse in a folder with plastic sheets. It helps to be a bit organised!

Spelling and Writing for Kids
JJ has progressed with leaps and bounds in his writing ability. Since he can now write the majority of the alphabet, I am venturing out to create more advanced worksheets.

The worksheet I made up today has words with missing letters at the beginning, along with a picture of the word. JJ (3.5 years old) got a crayon, and SamSam (2.5 years old) got stickers with the missing letters written on them.

JJ writing in the missing letters
SamSam having a go at sticking in the letters

Monday, 16 April 2012

Cubby house ideas

Last weekend we made a fantastic cubbyhouse. Aunty Tiffany came to visit and so we had extra creativity and extra help to make it!

The boys have loved playing in it, and we loved making it too!

JJ about to open the front door. He said the door number was number 2 because he saw it on a box! Notice the flower egg carton holder, and pretty blue curtains!

cubby house ideas
More of an aerial view of the cubbyhouse. It is built of two tall boxes, split open down a long side, and stuck together with stickytape. I later added an extra panel for more space- see orange cardboard! JJ referred to the house as the 'apple and mango house' because of the writing on this box!

In the above photo, on the right of JJ, you'll see two letterboxes stuck on the cardboard. This was a great addition to the cubby, - the boys had a great time drawing on paper and posting them 'letters' to themselves!

Inside the cubby there is a stove, sink, cupboard, shelf, and computer desk complete with keyboard and monitor.

I also printed out a clock to stick on the wall. Here is a better shot of the sink with flower vase and plastic play food!

The boys also drew some pictures which we 'framed' and put up on the wall. They had a great time bringing in their spongebed and pretending to sleep, cook and work in their little home.

They prefer playing under a 'roof' which is a simple white sheet draped over the top. At night we turn on a tall lamp that shines outside the cubbyhouse onto the roof which illuminates it beautifully without it being too bright :)

I'll be packing it up tonight and bringing out once a week for them to play in. I'm looking forward to some great times with this little house!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

JJ's First Purchase

After six weeks of hard work (see kids pocket money post) JJ saved about $6.00 towards a train - Patchwork Hiro. Feeling like he needed to see some hard results, we dug into some gift money he'd been given when he was born, and took him to Myer where he made his first transaction!!

He was extremely, extremely happy as evidenced by the broad grin on his face that he carried from the time we left the shops to the time we came home. He ran in the door and shouted to his Daddy that he'd bought Patchwork Hiro! He was so proud!!!

(SamSam hadn't saved very much unfortunately, but we chipped in some money so he could get some trains from the Thomas the Tank Engine vending machine.)

The happy boy with the reward from his hard work

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Fairfield Boathouse

Yesterday the weather was too beautiful to stay inside. I packed our reading activity in a backpack along with a snack and some books. We were going down to the river to learn instead!

The walk to the river is about 1km which the boys can walk easily. As we walked we passed many flowers in front gardens and we looked at their pretty colours. We noticed one flower had curly petals like ringlets! I'd never seen them before. It was the first time I remember using the word 'dead' in reference to the dead flowers fallen on the floor.

The boys got to watch a crane and digger in operation on a worksite (what a treat!) and we stood and watched for a few minutes. It's great how there's so much to talk about and learn even when you go for a simple walk with children!

While the weather was beautifully warm, we're actually a good way into Autumn. I asked the boys to tell me the colour of the leaves on the trees. Some were still green, but many were yellow and red. We talked about how leaves turned colour when it was Autumn, and that they fall to the ground.

We made our way down the steep path to the river, and the boys were so excited they wanted to run!

It's a really beautiful spot down at Fairfield Boathouse. The river makes a bend among pretty parkland and trees, and on the banks of the river in front of the old Boathouse are beautiful wooden rowboats tied up along the jetty.

It's a pretty spot for a picnic or lunch, and this was where we settled down at a table and bench to do our morning work.

The night before I recreated the story of 'The Three Little Pigs' in a Word document using some free pictures I found on the internet. I typed up the story alongside the pictures, and purposely omitted words from each paragraph. I wrote the missing words on stickers and put them in a little resealable bag for the boys to take from.

Three Little Pigs activity
SamSam was too distracted by being outdoors, and after a very good effort on the first page, went and did his own thing. JJ however was very keen to complete the task, and went through the whole book without stopping. They both love the story of 'The Three Little Pigs'.
SamSam sticking words onto his book

JJ getting into the task

SamSam soaking up the views
Satisfied that our morning learning was done, we had cupcakes as a treat then went down by the river bank to feed the ducks. The boys enjoyed this immensely!

 We went for a lovely walk over the bridge and before I knew it, it was almost lunchtime!

Fairfield Boathouse bridge
Boys running over the bridge
Talking about the signs along the walking track
I decided we should have a treat, and eat lunch at the boathouse. We'd had some really sad news the day before - I had miscarried my unborn baby at 8 weeks. So it was really lovely to be outside in such glorious weather with my precious boys. I wanted to make the most of the time we had together.

We got a fantastic spot right on the water with brilliant views. While we waited for lunch we read our books, and the boys made quick work of a strawberry milkshake (first ever non-homemade milkshake).

Fairfield Boathouse
Making quick work of the strawberry shake at Fairfield Boathouse
Reading in the sun
Lunch over, the boys rode on the coin operated horse and we then we made our way home. A very satisfying and happy day that I will cherish for a long time.

Fairfield Boathorse coin horse: Giddyup!

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Maths Worksheets For Kids

Recently the boys have been doing maths worksheets about counting that I have made myself. They are so easy to make in Word.

maths worksheets for kids
The worksheets have rows of things they have to count eg. giraffes, monkeys etc. Since they can't write numbers yet, I write the numbers for them on blank stickers. All they have to do is peel off the correct number and stick on the worksheet. The sticker system works so well, and the boys really enjoy the worksheets.

The nice thing is because I make them myself I can choose to cut and paste things to count that most interest them :)

After they complete the worksheets, I like to have them watch as I go through and check all their answers. I use a red pen and put a big tick next to each answer and say "correct!!".

After that I give them a special sticker to put on the top of their worksheet. It makes them feel proud of their work :)

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Home Made Jigsaw Puzzle

Every year when it's time to change your wall calendar to a new year's calendar, don't throw the old one out! You can make it into a home made jigsaw puzzle for your kids!

Our calendar last year was of wild animals, which made it a perfect subject for jigsaws! 

- Ask your children to choose which picture they want to turn into a jigsaw puzzle. JJ liked the bears and SamSam the lions.
- Cut out the picture into a rectangle or square
- Find some thickish cardboard from a box
- If you don't mind the mess, allow your children to paste the glue onto the picture and stick it onto the cardboard. For this exercise I used the liquid, clear glue that comes in a plastic bottle and has a brush underneath the lid. You could also use stick glue, but you'll need to put quite a good layer so that it can hold to the cardboard.

JJ with pictures glued onto cardboard box panels. The piece of paper to the right has lyrics to the song 'If I Were a Butterfly' - a great animal song that I sang with the kids after they chose their pictures.

- Let it the picture dry up. (I put the boys down for an afternoon nap with the promise of cutting up the jigsaw pieces when they woke up - worked a treat).
- Once dry, use some sturdy scissors to cut out jigsaw shapes out of the picture. If you want you could draw with pencil and then cut that out.
- Voila!  The great thing about calendars - you have 12 potential home made jigsaw puzzles!

Friday, 30 March 2012

Big News

It's a been a long time between posts.

We have two huge pieces of news:
1) We're pregnant! I may have to rename this blog to the threehoneypots!!
2) We've applied to move to the UK. Moving to the UK has been on our hearts for the last year, and finally we've sent through the application.

Relocating to a completely new country with our two young boys, and having a baby in new surroundings, will certainly be an adventure! We are very excited for what is in store :)

While we love Australia, we see many opportunities for our children in Europe - in terms of places to see, cultures and languages to experience - because countries are so near to one another! We look forward to lots of travel and exploration as a family.

It's now a waiting game to hear back from the embassy!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Ups and Downs of a Full Time Mum

Being a full time Mum is challenging.

There are physical challenges of waking early, waking in the middle of the night, surviving on minimal sleep as a result, and long work days. There are creative and educational challenges to keep things interesting and new for you and your kids. There are emotional challenges of standing up to your children and being consistent with your rules when they misbehave. There are challenges of isolation when you have no one to have a quick chat with, or have a coffee and giggle with over lunch. There are challenges of finding fulfilment when there are no bosses to pat you on the back, and no bonuses paid out!

These are all challenges that can affect how my day pans out.

There are days that sail by so smoothly and I have unending patience, my boys are lovelier than angels, and to them I am the nicest, most loveliest mummy on the planet. We go out on adventures down by the river, I teach them new things and they show me how smart they are, we read dozens of books in one sitting, and we sing and we dance, and we paint and we glue, and have lots of fun. On these good days when I put the boys down to bed and close the door, I grin and think "mission accomplished!"

That's a really great day.

Then there a days where everything seems to fall to pieces. They wake at some ungodly hour and sleep before lunch, which puts the whole day out of whack, making them tired and cranky by dinner. Other times the day seems to disintegrate because the boys are pushing the boundaries and I have to discipline them. Usually there's only one of them pushing the boundaries, but a week ago it was both at the same time. Hard.

Then there are days when you know you're not doing something the right way, and you have to find a new way. I'm so blessed to have a husband who is really encouraging and is a great sounding board for my ideas. He also has tremendous input into how we raise the kids, and if he sees something amiss he'll certainly point it out! He's usually working from home too, which is great as I feel more accountable with what I am doing with the boys on a daily basis.

Recently I had a personal 'victory' when strategising a new approach to counter the 'Thomas the Tank Engine addiction phase' that I wrote about in an earlier article. At that time I felt like the steering wheel had come off, and I had lost total control of where we were going! The boys were just careering here and there. It took some thought and actual strategy to try and get back in control.

The new rules that we've been working with are:

a) TV only on Saturday mornings, for no more than 2 hours, of vetted viewing material, else supervised viewing.
b) Trainset can only be played with on Thursdays
c) I will only read one Thomas book each day
d) More focussed prayer for them when they are acting up

I can say this has worked wonders.

In addition to restricting TV viewing, we physically repositioned the couch so it no longer faces the TV. The boys don't even ask me about the TV! It's like it's not there! They are content to find things to play with, or make up their own games. It's marvellous!!

With the trainset only available to them on Thursdays, I've found that they get their 'fill' within a couple of hours, and even though I leave it out for them, they don't play with it much after that. By bedtime I ask them to help me pack it away, and there are no dramas.

Likewise with the Thomas books, just lessening the focus on this character has been beneficial. In its place I've dug out all our Bible storybooks and taught them about David and Goliath, and Noah, and Daniel and the Lions, and about Jesus. They love the stories, and I feel like an idiot for not reading them to them sooner!

I've been wondering around in the wilderness myself. I'm so glad I'm back on track!

Lastly, prayer has been like a rock during crazy times. I use prayer like a weapon against things that affect my children, and I use it like a refuelling tank for my own strength and wisdom. And boy do I need it!

Being a full time Mum puts life into perspective. Things like project deadlines and reports make me want to laugh. They used to be so important before! I can't believe they used to keep me up at night!

Instead I am the manager of two wonderful, incredible little people, with whom I have to use my full capabilities and talents into developing two mature 'great people' with a mind and heart for God and His purposes. What a huge responsibility, what an honour, what an exciting challenge!

What more fulfilling career could there be?

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Buttons and an Easy Cubbyhouse

It's back to business as usual and we're having so much fun :)

Today the boys explored playing with a wide assortment of buttons from my craft supplies. They LOVED it!

They poured the buttons into little ceramic cups and liked the sound that they made. Then JJ started to sort them into different colours. SamSam followed suit!

Then JJ start lining them up, and made the shape of a square, "Look Mamma, a square!" he declared. Then he made some interesting patterns. The boys were engrossed with the buttons for about 40 minutes. I had to coax them to put them away.

Easiest Cubbyhouse
We all know that children love to play with boxes, but I stumbled upon something new, a large, long box that has been cut open down one side can be draped over a chair to make a very easy cubbyhouse!

The boys brought pillows to use as doors, and had a party (complete with party hats). Later I gave them a wad of stickers to decorate the outside of their house! Best of all it folds up and doesn't take up much space.

Today's devotion was about 'Good Weapons', that we need to be on our guard against things that can hurt us, and that God can help us. There was a picture of a little boy dressed up as a superhero. The boys had never seen a shield before. JJ said he wanted to be a superhero too.

'Be strong and brave, and wait for the Lord's help' Psalm 27:14

I want to teach my boys to be strong and brave, and lean on God at all times!

Rough daily routine

I know that some parents find it hard to structure their day, so I thought it would be interesting to write down a rough guide as to what we get up to during the day.

Today went something like this (with lots of toilet interruptions because the boys have gastro!):

7:45am   Breakfast
8:15am   Change clothes, brush teeth, wash face
8:30am   Reading time
9:00am   Colouring activity sheets and writing practice
9:20am   Played with collection of buttons
9:50am   Sat on the rug and sang nursery rhymes with guitar
10:30am Boys had a lie down for half an hour (but didn't actually sleep!)
11:00am Playdough
11:45am Lunch time
12:15pm More playdough & free play
1:00pm   SamSam goes for afternoon nap
              JJ does maths activity sheet with Mummy
1:30pm  Nap for JJ and Mummy
3:00pm  Played in cubbyhouse
4:00pm  Free play
5:30pm  Dinner
6:30pm  Bathtime
7:00pm  Reading and Devotions
8:00pm  Bedtime

Monday, 5 March 2012

Interactive Nursery Rhymes

I've discovered a new interactive way of singing nursery rhymes and songs with the boys. I use props as we sing!

For example, for 'Old MacDonald Had a Farm', I put some of their farm animals into a bag, and before we sing the next animal, I get them to name the next animal by putting their hand in and grabbing one out. It makes it a bit more fun :)

Other songs which I've used props:

'There Were Five in the Bed' - I use five little people on a book, and roll them over and off the book as we sing the verses. The boys think it's very funny when one falls off.

'Farmer in the Dell' - I put together a man, woman, baby, nurse, and a dog in a little circle. They do a little dance together as the group gets bigger and bigger. The boys think it's great!

'Five Currant Buns in a Baker's Shop' - I use anything for buns, even Lego! Actually, the visual subtraction is an excellent method to teach maths.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

A New Leaf

Last week was a bit of a disaster.

Because I left the boys trainset out (see last entry), I found that they were happy to play independently from me, and it was just too easy for me to slack off and not interact and teach them new things.

On top of that, we had many playdates and other outings which ate into our normal day's schedule. The plus side is they met and interacted with so many people.

On the downside, they picked up gastro along the way, and I have lost count how many times I have cleaned toilets, potties, carpet and floor over the last two days!

This week I'm turning over a new leaf. It's back to structure, and away with the trainset. I have abolished all TV except educational DVDs shown at 4pm while I cook dinner. Let's see how this goes.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Thomas the Tank Engine Obsession

JJ and SamSam LOVE trainsets.

We have an IKEA railway set and eight trains from the Thomas the Tank Engine series.

However, I've been increasingly troubled that they are almost obsessed with Thomas and his friends. The first thing SamSam looks for when he wakes up are his Thomas and Gordon toys. The books they want me to read are Thomas books. The program they want to watch on DVD/TV is Thomas!

Even this evening, SamSam was even looking at grapes in his bowl and giving them names "This is Thomas, and this is Salty".

I have some objections about a lot of Thomas the Tanks Engine stories - books and TV episodes and movies included. While they all have some sort of 'moral' where a train will learn why they should or shouldn't act a certain way, most of the conversations between trains are not nice. They're actually quite mean. And young kids just don't understand that it's not good to be that way. Instead they look up to all the trains as role models, and pick up everything they say and do.

In particular I really dislike the 'Day of the Diesels' movie, it has some nasty themes. I purposely lost the DVD!

This week I also had to also hide a book about 'Stepney'. In it, children learn about being afraid of the dark (my boys are not afraid of the dark and I want to keep it that way!), and being scared of spooky things.

To try and undo their 'Thomas obsession'. I thought I could do a sort of un-rotation, and leave the trainset out in their room so they could play with it anytime they want.

It didn't work.

Instead all week, they preferred to play in the room with their trains. It was hard to get them interested in doing other things. And I've just remembered that last week I let them watch Thomas on the TV every day... no wonder they are obsessed with it, I've been feeding it! :( :(

This week when I did some simple writing and craft activities I noticed that even their concentration has been diminished. This is serious stuff! They usually have incredible concentration powers.

In the end, un-rotation didn't work.

I've put away the trainset again. I think it will see even less daylight than normal.

I now have a strict policy of reading only one 'Thomas book' a day, and I've banned Thomas on the DVD/TV until further notice.

It's time to nip this Thomas obsession in the bud! 

Friday, 2 March 2012

Twilight Rabbits

We took the boys to a school twighlight fair today. They had farm animals to pet, and they loved it!

They are just crazy about rabbits! I think we'll have to get them a pet rabbit when they're older.