Alphabet Play Dough Mats – and the Weekly Kids Co-Op

Custom Alphabet Play Dough Mats | Octavia and Vicky

Pebble has been very keen on learning about letters and what they ‘say’, and often asks about sounds in words. To build on her interest in letters and sounds we made these alphabet play dough mats. They are a printable from Sparklebox…. with a twist. I customised our play dough mats so that they included pictures of people familiar to Pebble, as names seem to be one of her biggest interests.

I didn’t print the whole alphabet, only those letters that were most relevant for Pebble. She was not yet three when I first made these, and a whole alphabet is a bit overwhelming all at once.

Pebble helped me to find the right alphabet mat to stick the photos on to. I told her what sound each letter made and then held up a photo of the person. Then she would say their name and find the correct mat to put them on. The making of the mats was a game all on it’s own! These mats could even be used to make a matching game – read on for instructions.

After the mats were laminated Pebble used play dough to make the shapes of the letters on each mat, and we talked about the pictures and sounds that we could see and hear. Of course Pebble puts her own spin on it too – making play dough shapes of the pictures as well as the letters :)

This was a really simple way to build on Pebble’s current interest in letters and sounds and also enjoy some sensory play.

Custom Alphabet Play Dough Mats | Octavia and VickyCustom Alphabet Play Dough Mats | Octavia and VickyCustom Alphabet Play Dough Mats | Octavia and Vicky
Make your own customised alphabet play dough mats:

  1. Print the alphabet mats from Sparklebox (pdf).
  2. Print photos of family, friends or objects that most interest your child.
  3. Cut out and stick the photos onto the correct alphabet mats.
  4. Laminate the mats using laminating sheets or cover the mats in clear sticky paper (we call it ‘contact’ here in Australia).
  5. Play and learn by creating the letter shapes with play dough and naming all the people and objects on the mat.

Make your own customised alphabet matching game:

  1. Print the alphabet mats from Sparklebox (pdf).
  2. Print photos of family, friends or objects that most interest your child and cut them out.
  3. Laminate the alphabet mats and photos separately, either using laminating sheets or clear sticky paper.
  4. Play and learn by matching the photos of the people and objects to the correct mat.



Kylie @ Octavia and Vicky

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Mini Meditation for Mothers {free printable}

Mini Meditation for Mothers {free printable}  |  Octavia and Vicky

In case you missed it (!!) Paul and I are counting down the weeks until our second child will be born. We feel a lot more prepared this time around. We already have all the baby furniture and bits and pieces – that’s a no brainer. This time we also have a little bit of experience! We have been there and done that. Of course, each baby is very different, so who knows what this little one will bring? Not to mention that we have a toddler to fit into the picture this time too. However, we are comforted by the lessons learned the first time around.

Before baby arrives, however, must come the birth. Last time I thought I was prepared. I had read many books, blogs and articles and thought I knew what I would need to have a calm, focussed labour, and then a swift recovery. Without realising it, I had some fairly high expectations. I took it for granted that my waters would break, I’d have some contractions and then I’d push the baby out. Sure, it might be long, it might be painful, but I’d get there in the end.

The reality for me was quite different. You can read Pebble’s full birth story here – but the long and short of it is I ended up needing a caesarean and we were blessed with a robust and healthy baby. We were delighted, if a little shocked by it all!

This time around I have no expectations for the birth at all. None. I’m leaving them at the door, along with any hope of a good nights sleep for the next six to twelve months…. perhaps longer! One thing that I learned from my first birth was that the birth itself is not the most important part about becoming a mother. Not at all! It was the furthest thing from my mind once I was holding our baby.

Paul and I quickly became all consumed by loving and caring for this tiny human. How to feed her, how to wrap her, how to change her, how to bath her. How to love her. How to be our best selves for her. We thought we were prepared, but it was a steep learning curve for two *cough* fairly highly strung new parents.

On returning home I had another reality check. I had more high expectations about how life at home with a baby would be. I was lucky enough to enjoy a year of maternity leave and had planned to be a super mum – of course I had! Our house would sparkle like never before, our linens would be fluffed and folded, our dinners would be nutritious and delicious, and our baby would be the happiest and most educated and cared for child that ever was. This wasn’t a conscious expectation, it’s just how I thought it would be – it was only when reality took hold that I realised how I had set myself up to fail.

Instead we struggled with a baby who wouldn’t sleep for more than twenty minutes at a time and who wasn’t getting enough milk from me (yet another high expectation – that I would breastfeed easily!). It took us three months and lots of help to get our daughter (and ourselves!) settled. We found our family rhythm, and Paul and I began to enjoy being parents. I began to spend a lot more time playing with Pebble, visiting family and friends and delighting in the daily discoveries of life with a baby. I let the dust gather and the washing pile up occasionally, and sometimes we had toasted sandwiches for dinner. I found what was important for us, and that was enjoying being a family, learning to be a mum, and giving myself a break. Pebble will not remember whether the floor was swept but she will always feel loved.

I know that sometimes I will forget this lesson. Sometimes I will feel overwhelmed by the need to cook and clean and organise. Or the need to be the ‘perfect’ parent. Sometimes mother guilt will overcome me and I will want to run, or scream or cry. Sometimes I will run and scream and cry. This time around I have experience, lowered expectations. I also have the warm words from a friend to help focus my mind – a meditation for when it all becomes too much. I’m not usually one for meditating. I’m too busy rushing about doing sixteen things at once, and I used to think that I somehow needed to learn to do it “properly” or had to set aside lots of time for it. Now I know differently and I feel very strongly that I need to stop and focus with this birth and second child. I need to put the brakes on those negative thoughts before they take hold. This mini meditation is written by a friend, Mel Dunn. Actually, she’s my step-cousin :) My family is wonderfully complicated and I’m very lucky to have my life collide with so many awesome people. Mel is a mother, a teacher, and a woman who has one of the biggest hearts that I can think of. Mel has shared this meditation with me and other mothers to give guidance as they navigate the highs and lows of motherhood, and she has given me permission to share it with you all too.

 Mini Meditation for Mother’s {free printable}Mini Meditation for Mothers {free printable}  |  Octavia and Vicky

I hope this meditation helps you as much as it has already helped me.

What helps you to feel calm during the storm? Linking up with Real Life Wednesdays over at Picklebums.

Kylie @ Octavia and Vicky

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Printable Family Meal Planner

Printable Family Meal PlannerThis post is sponsored by Digital Parents

We have been using a new family meal planning system and it’s going great!  Dinner time got a little out of control over the holiday season and Pebble spent a couple of weeks eating a lot of her favourite foods, and not much else. With Christmas out of the way and no more work to think about (hooray, maternity leave!) my brain found some space to take some control of the situation.

First I asked Pebble what her favourite dinner foods are (I may have given her some reminders of things that she’s tried and liked). We ended up with a good list of ten meals that she enjoys. Then I made a menu planner with days of the week cards and printed them out along with photos of Pebble’s favourite dinners. I laminated the lot and stuck them on the pantry wall.

I needed to make sure that the meal planner was stuck securely, but also that each day of the week and each meal was easy to move around each week. I used Scotch Restickable Tabs, which have worked perfectly. The menu stays put on the pantry door, and Pebble can easily grab each meal and put it where she wants to. There are no sticky or oily marks on the paint, and the best part is that the tabs can be washed with soapy water, rinsed and air dried to restore their stickiness. Keep reading to find out how you can win Scotch Restickable Tabs to try for yourself.

Printable Family Meal Planner Printable Family Meal Planner

Pebble was quite excited to see her new menu on display. She loved that all her favourite foods were shown, and also enjoyed looking at the days of the week. It was just like the calendar on Play School! She chose the foods that she wanted to put on her menu and on which days. Giving Pebble the control over the process has really helped her to embrace the change.

Printable Family Meal Planner

Pebble is eating a much wider range of foods and much less processed foods too.  I make my own ‘chicken nuggets’ (chicken breast schnitzels) and Pebble is now eating REAL tomato sauce on her pasta – made from TOMATOES! I serve up either salad or vegetables on the side, for Pebble to pick and choose from. Of course we still have our busy days when things don’t go as planned, but overall it’s working really well.

Scotch Restickable Tabs Giveaway

Thank you to 3M for generously giving me the full range of their Scotch Restickable Tabs to Giveaway to one reader.

To enter please leave a comment on this post telling me how you would like to use the Scotch Restickable tabs.

I also have 15 trial packs to giveaway to the first 15 commenters on this post.
*Australian addresses only

Update: Congrats to the winner of this giveaway: Bertha!

Product information: The Scotch Restickable Mounting range is a unique and innovative light weight mounting product which can be washed with soapy water, rinsed and air dried to restore stickiness. Scotch Restickable tabs are available in a variety of sizes, tabs, strips and sheets from Office works and Bunnings stores national wide. RRP $4.95.

Download your printable family meal planner

Three styles to choose from – click on the style of your choice to download:

Printable Family Meal Planner

Printable Family Meal Planner

Printable Family Meal Planner

Download your printable ‘Today Is…’ cards

Three styles to choose from – click on the style of your choice to download:

Printable Family Meal Planner

Printable Family Meal Planner

Printable Family Meal Planner

Kylie @ Octavia and Vicky

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Cocoa Mix {with printable labels}

Phew! It’s been a strange few days around here. I’m sure most people are feeling the same, ’tis the silly season, after all. On Friday I officially went onto Maternity Leave from my teaching position. I am now on leave until January 2014. Yes Twenty Fourteen! That’s a year and a bit to be full time mama to my big girl, Pebble, and our new baby. I’m excited, and a little bit… terrified!

Luckily I don’t have much time to dwell on how tricky TWO children might be full time (hats off to you all who have three, four… more). As usual I have left my Christmas planning and shopping until after school finishes, so now I’m diving head first into present hunting, shopping and planning what food I’m taking to which events. Lucky for me I’m not hosting anything at our house, so there is a huge load off.

One present I have given out to a few people is a cocoa mix. I call it a Home made Chocolate Blend, but you can call it what you like. Cocoa Mix, Hot Chocolate Mix, Big Jar of Chocolate Awesome. Whatever you call it, it’s delicious! Pebble and I made a few batches for some Kris Kringles and her lovely child care teachers.

It’s really lovely for making hot chocolate, and also makes a lush iced chocolate, or a treaty topping  for ice cream. I adapted this Country Living recipe to make my mix:

Cocoa Mix

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 170 grams (6 ounces) dark chocolate buttons
  • 50 grams (1/4 cup or 2 ounces) white sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons white sugar, extra
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 vanilla bean, cut into two or three large pieces

To make: Put all ingredients except vanilla bean into a food processor (I use a hand/stick blender with a bowl attachment), and process until just powdery. Store in an airtight container with the vanilla bean for up to six months.

I used a mason jar to gift the cocoa mix, layering it with the two tablespoons of extra sugar in the jar to make it look pretty. I attached some labels: one with the name of the mix, one with the ingredients and one with some ideas for how to use it. You can download the labels below. The word document allows you to edit blank the label and create your own version, and the PDF is ready to print out and use straight away.

{Printable Cocoa Mix Labels}

Cocoa Mix Printable Labels (pdf)

Cocoa Mix Printable Labels (doc)

Do you like making home made gifts for friends? What’s the best home made gift you’ve ever received?

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25 Free Father’s Day Printables

I have done all the hard work for you by rounding up the BEST Father’s Day Printables on the interwebs. Are you ready? Set? GO!

Father's Day Printables

Adorable! Easy! Free! Warm up those printers peeps, and get your scissors ready. The hardest part is choosing which printables to use.  Psst… you can totes check out all these ideas at my Father’s Day board on Pinterest. Just sayin’.

How do you celebrate Father’s Day in your family?