Natural Consequences for Life

My little boy turning two has brought a whole new set of challenges. Suddenly he is becoming cheeky and doing things that he knows he shouldn't. Distraction seems to work wonders for now but soon this will not be an easy fix. All this got me thinking about how best to discipline our small person.


My parents adopted a classic approach to discipline i.e if I did the wrong thing a privilege was taken away. This is an effective method and works in the short term. A new body of research, however, is showing us that it is only teaching children to ‘behave’ as they are afraid of what might happen if they don't. They are not learning life lessons from the event. Experts are advising we try to implement natural consequences as much as possible. For example, if a child breaks something they must help to try and fix it. This will not only prevent the behaviour occuring again but it should also reduce the tantrums and arguments. The guidelines are that the consequence has to be related eg if they draw on something they should scrub it off. The consequence shouldn't shame the child and it should be age appropriate.

‘So how effective is this method?’ I hear you ask. My answer is I have no idea and will get back to you in a year, however, as the saying goes ‘experience is the best teacher’. If a child experiences what happens when they behave this way they will be less likely to repeat the behaviour. I feel its worth a shot!

How Toddlers Learn


Toddlers soak up information like sponges! My son has the memory of an elephant and asks questions about every single thing on the planet. So how exactly do toddlers learn and how can we help them?

Toddlers learn best through seeing and doing.

They learn through:

  • watching and observing.

  • exploring how things work, exploring objects and toys.

  • listening to what you are saying and through the explanations that you offer.

  • asking lots of questions about things they don't understand. This drives us crazy but it's feeding their thirst for knowledge.

  • trying out new things.

Toddlers learn through play. Play is not an optional activity for our small people it is a must and it is where a large portion of their learning occurs. Through play they learn skills such as problem solving, gross and fine motor skills and social skills. There are many different types of play and children learn best when we offer them a variety of play activities. Here are a few examples of things we can offer:

  • Pretend play, dressing up and role play.

  • Water play.

  • Construction play, building with Duplo, boxes etc.

  • Outdoor play, go and explore your garden or the local park. The options for play are endless.

  • Sing and read to you child, this supports language development.

  • Encourage them to draw with chalk, crayons and paint.

  • Messy play, explore different textures with your child such as jelly or cooked pasta.

When we are busy around the house we can also help our children learn by explaining what we are doing and involving them in washing and cooking activities.

Our toddlers don't need expensive toys they just need us to model for them, talk to them and explain the world to them. At this age we are their best teachers and their best friends.

Rub a dub dub Science in the tub


I am constantly thinking of exciting ways to jazz up my little one’s bathtime and then it dawned on me that most of what we do is science based. Science is observing and exploring the world around us so why not promote scientific discovery in the tub? It keeps them entertained and the crazy mess that is science to a minimum.

Here are our top fun things to do at bathtime!

Glow bath- Fill the bath with anything that glows, glow sticks, flashing balls and glowing ducks. Switch off the lights and explore light and shadows.

Brrrr ice- Explore melting with coloured ice. You can make this by freezing food dye in containers of different sizes and shapes.

Bubble Fun- It sounds obvious but fill the bath with bubble bath and let the kids explore with whisks and straws. Make bubble sculptures at the side of the bath and watch the bubbles pop.

Dissolving- Explore what happens to bath bombs, coloured sugar crystals and salt flakes when these are mixed into the bath. Do pebbles do the same?

Sinking and Floating- Offer a collection of objects and see which float and sink. You could also try making mini boats in the day and test these at bath time.

Suction- Test to see which objects stick to a tiled wall when wet. Foam building blocks or shapes are the ultimate fun!

Spinning toys- Take the plug out of the bath and observe the vortex (the water spinning around). See if it can make rubber ducks, boats and other toys do the same.

Take the plunge (excuse the pun) and let’s bring some magic back to bathtime!

Why Risk Taking is an Important Part of Play


When I was a child I remember zooming down a very steep hill on a skateboard only to come shooting off at the bottom. I climbed trees up to the highest branches and amazingly, avoided falling. When you think back to your childhood play I bet it also involved taking risks. These risks are now considered so dangerous that they must be avoided. Playgrounds are super safe, in my opinion, too safe, and childcare centers and schools are required to have risk assessments for everything, reducing risks to nearly nothing.  I feel wrapping children in cotton wool can limit opportunities for them to experiment and explore, and thus reduce their potential for learning.

So what is risky play?  'Risky play can be defined as a thrilling and exciting activity that involves a risk of physical injury, and play that provides opportunities for challenge, testing limits, exploring boundaries and learning about injury risk'  (Sandseter (2007; Little & Wyver, 2008)

Why is it so important to allow children to engage in play that involves challenges and taking risks I hear you ask?

When we allow children to take risks we are providing them with opportunities that support them to problem solve and to make decisions. The big wide world is full of risks and children need opportunities to develop the skills associated with managing these risks.  Through risky play children also build resilience, develop problem solving skills and gain an awareness of the capabilities of their own bodies. 

Some examples of risk taking activities that we can introduce to our children are using real tools to cook or create, letting them climb in trees and jump off equipment, supporting them to cook over an open fire or simply giving them an opportunity to explore local bush land.  

Let's prepare our children for life, stand back and let them explore!

Why Toddlers Become Obsessed


My little boy is obsessed with concrete mixers, when he sees one he nearly explodes with excitement. He carries his own mixer around all day and even wants to sleep with it. My friend’s little boy is obsessed with Batman. He wears only Batman t shirts and eats from Batman plates. So what causes these intense obsessions and how should we handle them?

Obsessions start as early at twelve months and can last right up until school age. They are a completely normal stage of child development and often begin if a child has particularly enjoyed an activity or has found something soothing.

So why do toddlers like to repeat the same activity or hold the same object day after day? All toddlers like familiarity, it makes them feel safe and secure. It is a big scary world out there and if they have control over one thing it gives them a sense of security.

As a child gets older these obsessions usually move from single objects or toys to themes or characters. At around age three children start seeing things from another person’s perspective. Instead of just enjoying watching butterflies they can image being a butterfly. This new skill allows them to try out new roles and helps to develop self-expression.

As children grow, these obsessions lessen and eventually this phase will come to an end. They will generally grow out of it by the time they reach school age.

So whilst children are in the middle of a crazy obsession why not use it as a springboard for teaching? Help your child to learn the parts of a butterfly or look into its lifecycle. Discuss mixers, what they do and how they work. Use Spiderman as a way of teaching new skills. Spiderman can climb, let’s see if you can too!

When these obsession are over no doubt we will look back on them and laugh. I went to a friend’s house the other day and she was arguing with her son about not being able to drink from his favourite cup that had accidentally fallen into the toilet. Toddlers are strange little creatures that are so exhausting but so adorable all at the same time. Let’s try and enjoy them being small and remember that as with everything else, ‘this phase too shall pass’.

The Importance of Mother Nature


I grew up in England and come rain or shine I spent most of my childhood outdoors. We made dens in the woods and tramped through muddy puddles. We even camped in the garden in winter. I loved being outdoors as a child and as it turns out it is not only good for the soul and mental health it also has an extremely positive effect on child development. 

So why is it important to allow children time outdoors to explore and to participate in spontaneous play?

Being close to nature offers:

The chance for children to discover and to develop scientific knowledge and skills-The outdoor environment provides opportunities for children to explore and to learn through observation, questioning, experimentation and reflection. 

Opportunities for physical development- Whilst outside children run and jump, climb and balance. Children learn about the capabilities of their own bodies and develop balance and coordination. 

Opportunities for low risk taking- Children may  jump from rock to rock across a stream or learn to climb a tree. These risk taking activities are important as they develop life skills such as problem solving and the ability to assess risks as well as build resilience.  

The chance for children to build social skills and develop kindness and empathy- Outdoor play is usually unstructured, children engage in activities such as building dens, playing tag and interacting with bugs and nature. Unstructured play requires children to cooperate, negotiate and to solve conflicts. Being outdoors also allows children to establish positive connections to nature. To learn about plants and animals and about caring for them, thus developing empathy and kindness for the earth's creatures. 

In addition to the benefits outlined above children need nature play for the healthy development of their senses. It also helps to develop creativity and imagination. Let's all look up a local park and get out there! Mother Nature awaits us!

Turning Christmas Around

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Christmas means many different things to different people but for the majority of us it spurs us into a frenzy of present buying. Our children wake up on Christmas morning and rip open gift after gift after gift. We all love our children and want to give them everything that they want and need. I love the smile on my child’s face and the excitement in his eyes when he gets a new toy. However, after reading some shocking articles on overindulging children I will be resisting the temptation this year to buy every toy on the Christmas list. So why should we fight the urge to overindulge our children? The article that sticks in my mind was based on the findings of a psychologist named David Braedehoft (Bredehoft, D. J., Mennicke, S. A., Potter, A. M., & Clarke, J. I. 1998. Perceptions attributed by adults to parental overindulgence during childhood.). Braedehoft concluded that overindulgence as a child can cause problems in later life. In his study adults that were over indulged as children reported that they were disappointed in others, lacked coping skills, were in debt and were often unhappy. This makes sense! If you are given everything you want how can you cope in the big wide world when things don’t just fall in your lap when you click your fingers?

Aside from wanting to bring up a happy human being who is able to cope with life here are three other reasons to curb the crazy present buying.

1.)  We want our children to learn that happiness does not stem from things but from making connections with people and from nature.

2.)  We want to teach our children the value of things and to appreciate the things that they have. If children have too many things they are not able to truly appreciate them.

3.)  We want to show children the difference between wants and needs. They need to learn that we don’t have to have the latest gadgets to survive.

So what can we do to change things? Promoting giving at this time of year can highlight how lucky we are and can teach children that there are people out there less fortunate than ourselves. Giving also makes us happy, seeing other people’s faces or preparing a gift and imagining how a present may make someone feel gives you a buzz. With regards to present buying, activities are always a great gift idea as they promote time together and don’t require you to build a house extension to accommodate any new toys. I also try and stick to the following guidelines and buy just four presents. Something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read.

So let’s turn Christmas around and show our children what it is really about, using this time of year as an opportunity to teach kindness. This could just be the best Christmas that your family has ever had!

Why We Should Embrace the Mess

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Some parents are put off by messy play and to be honest with you I fall into this category. The very thought of my little boy smearing paint across our table, squishing mud between his fingers and dribbling glue on his pants makes me run for a cloth. Since having him, however, I have been battling the urge to  pull him out of puddles and avoid all art and craft activities because messy play is extremely beneficial for child development and in fact, it has been deemed to be one of the best ways for young children to learn. Here’s why we should let our little explores get messy!

Messy play encourages exploration and imagination- Messy play allows children to learn about their senses and to find out about the world around them. They discover how things feel, smell and taste. When they are left to explore they also make discoveries, which in turn develops their knowledge.

It supports the development of language -Most messy play activities are social experiences so children are learning to share, collaborate and negotiate. They are also learning new vocabulary when they discuss their observations and express their excitement.

It teaches children how to play independently and develops their concentration skills- In this day and age I feel children are losing the ability to amuse themselves. This type of open ended play offers children the opportunity to experiment and explore in many different ways without the need for adult intervention. These activities also require concentration, often for extended periods (my little boy recently played with Kinetic Sand for twenty-five minutes and he is seventeen months, I was amazed!).

It develops observational skills and enquiry based learning- When children engage in messy play they are using the skills of observation to find out what is happening. They are also making predictions (thinking about what may happen) and drawing conclusions (thinking about what happened and why).

Messy play can involve sand, water, chalk, paint, playdough and mud. Lets embrace the mess and allow our children to play in a sandpit, splash water in the bath and dig in the dirt. Oh and Christmas is around the corner, why not stick some paint and chalk on the Christmas list!



What Do Our Tiny People Need?

Kids activities, what do children need?

In a world where everyone spends hours on electronic devices are we drowning in a sea of technology and losing sight of what our children really need?

When I was a child I remember hours of fun spent in the garden making mud pies, riding my bike, dressing up and most importantly time with my parents. We went on walks, visited amazing places and sometimes just stayed at home, but we talked and laughed together, shared stories and our lives. As I go about my life today I see children in restaurants on ipads and parents walking with their little ones who are so desperate to point something out. Sadly their Mum or Dad is too busy on their phone to even notice. We are all guilty of these things and I don’t want to pass judgment on someone who needs ten minutes time out, however, we can all be honest with ourselves. Our children need us to be present and we need to be able to look back at the time we spent with our children with no regrets.

So what is important to a preschool child? What do they need from us? Children need our guidance, they need us to be role models, sharing our values and showing them how to behave. They need to feel and hear that they are loved in order to feel secure and become confident human beings. They need us to play with them and to teach them new skills, sharing our passions, thoughts and feelings.

In the words of Max Lacado, ‘children spell love in four letters, T I M E’

Through offering our time our little ones will benefit from the following:

Talking often: open communication is the key to understanding our children and to them understanding our thoughts and feelings.

Instruction: supporting our children to make good choices through discipline and guidance.

Modeling: learning new skills through you and setting a positive example.

Emotional security: knowing that they are loved.

In a nutshell all our children really need and want is for us to be there so put down your phones and pick up that spade because your children won’t be small for long!

Igniting Children's Curiosity in Science

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Over the last couple of years we have seen a big push on STEAM education in Australia. So is this just a passing fad and how important is this to our children? 

STEAM education is an approach to learning that focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics. It aims to develop inquiry skills and critical thinking and to prepare children for our fast-paced, modern world.

Our society today is driven by these subjects, every day we see advances in the fields of technology and science. If we can spark children’s curiosity in these areas early we will grow innovators, young people with high order abilities that are well equipped to deal with the 21st century.

 I want to focus on the area of science, it has always been one of my passions and in my opinion is definitely one of the most exciting subjects to teach to small children.  So how do I spark this curiosity I hear you ask? There are so many opportunities for teaching science that occur on a daily basis. Young children are naturally curious so it is important to use this as the foundation. When your child stops and shows an interest in something, allow them to observe and explore. They may be observing a bee landing on a flower or watching you combine ingredients to bake a cake. Through allowing them to observe, ask questions and reflect you will support them in developing an understanding of the world around them.

Another important way of developing science skills and knowledge is to plan hands on activities that allow children to explore and discover. These activities could include exploring whether objects sink or float, planting seeds and watching them grow, joining in with cooking activities or exploring shadows on a wall. Any activity that supports children to learn about the world around them and prompts them to ask questions about what is happening and why is science. In the words of Sally Ride (American engineer , physicist and astronaut and the first woman in space) ‘Science is fun, Science is curiosity’ and in my own words Science is all around us so let’s take our children’s hands and jump in!.