October 2, 2014
by Kylie Gardner
4 Comments

Halloween Activities for Kids

15 Halloween Activities for Kids

Here in Australia, Halloween has only recently started to be embraced. When I was a kid I only went trick or treating once and that was because my teachers that year happened to be really into Halloween. We had a Halloween class party and of course I needed to show that costume off to the neighbourhood.

Where I live now our property is a bit secluded from the street. I guess the kids are too freaked out to come to our door because every year I buy treats to give out and every year I end up having to eat them myself. Oh well (mwahahaha).

I know some Aussie’s are dead set against Halloween but I don’t mind it at all. It’s a bit of fun. Here’s some fab Halloween activities for kids thanks to the Kids Co-Op.

15 Halloween Activities for Kids

  1. Countdown to Halloween Ghost Chart (Edventures with Kids)
  2. DIY Paper Mache Trick or Treat Bucket (You Are the Roots)
  3. Monster Play Ideas (Octavia and Vicky)
  4. Cute and Creepy Mummy Garland (Edventures with Kids)
  5. An Invitation to Make Monsters (Multicrafting Mummy)
  6. Online Halloween Games for Kids (Octavia and Vicky)
  7. Halloween Cupcakes (B-Inspired Mama)
  8. Halloween Lacing Cards (Tot Schooling)
  9. Glow in the Dark Lanterns (Nuturestore)
  10. Printable Googley Eyes Monsters (Tot Schooling)
  11. Toilet Paper Roll Ghosts (Dabbling Mama)
  12. Spider Snacks (Octavia and Vicky)
  13. Halloween Clothespin Pattern Sticks (Lalymom)
  14. Fuzzy Wuzzy Pom Pom Monsters (Our Little House in the Country)
  15. Cardboard Box Monsters (Our Little House in the Country)

Do you do Halloween in your country? Where are you from?

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Peanut Butter Choc Chip Chia Slice

September 29, 2014
by Kylie Gardner
26 Comments

Finding My Style: Fitting In To My Pants {Peanut Butter Choc Chip Chia Slice}

Peanut Butter Choc Chip Chia Slice

I’m still trying to change my ways with food and sugar. It’s a long process after a life time of eating lots of sweet things, always eating dessert and constant yo-yo dieting to fight the impact of all the sugar, fat and large serves. I will admit that last weekend I made a proper, hardcore, old school chocolate caramel slice. I made it to take to my nephews birthday party because it’s my very favourite party food. I ate about three six eight squares in one day. Small squares! Party sized squares! But still. That’s a lot of sugar and butter in one go. I felt like I had a hangover the next day. And now my pants are a little tight. Ugh!

With the support of my friend and nutrition super star, Tatum, from Make It Look Easy, I’m trying to quit with the dieting, stop overeating and follow an 80-20 style of living. 80% of the time is all the good stuff, 20% of the time I enjoy socialising and sipping a champagne or sharing party food or a sweet-something after dinner. Perhaps eight slices of caramel slice is a little more than the 20% accounts for… but baby steps, right?

With this health focus in mind (and inspired by the blogging adventures of Katie 180) I’ve been playing with recipes to see how I can modify them and pump them with a little more nutrition. That’s how this Peanut Butter Choc Chia Slice was born! Here’s the low down on the ingredients:

  • I love oat-y things – porridge, muesli, oat biscuit and slices. So it makes sense that any baking I do includes oats. They are packed full of goodness (go Google ‘oats nutrition’  if you want nutrition info, I’m no nutritionist).
  • I only have white flour in the pantry at the moment, so I used that but it’s such a small amount in this recipe that that’s all good. If you have any in your pantry you could substitute with your flour of choice (wholemeal, almond, coconut etc).
  • I have been given some organic rice malt syrup to try out, thanks to Pureharvest, and decided to throw that in instead of sugar. But if you’ve got sugar, use sugar! Just use a little less of it than a traditional recipe calls for (eg. the half a cup in this recipe is fine).
  • I had coconut oil in the cupboard, and used that instead of butter, but again, butter ain’t bad. Just steer clear of your vegetable oils. Yuck!
  • I used natural, smooth peanut butter, which is awesome for baking. It gives a fab peanuty flavour. I will admit it’s not going to give  you that stuff-of-your-childhood-sugar-salt-peanut hit on your toast in the morning, but my taste buds are adjusting to it.
  • I used 70% dark chocolate and cut it up into small pieces, instead of my usual milk chocolate chips. The more intense flavour of the chocolate is delish against the peanuty oaty goodness of the slice.
  • Chia seeds! Cos they be a super food, yo! Um, yeah, go Google ‘chia seeds nutrition’ for more info on that.

Peanut Butter Choc Chip Chia Slice Peanut Butter Choc Chip Chia Slice

Peanut Butter Choc Chip Chia Slice

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 (150g) cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 (75g) cup plain flour
  • 1 (3g) teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 (15g) Tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 (180g) cup rice malt syrup
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup (200g) natural peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon (3g) vanilla extract
  • 70g dark chocolate, cut into small pieces

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F). Grease and line a medium slice tin. Mine is 30cm x 15 cm and 3cm deep.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir in the oats, flour, baking powder and chia seeds.
  3. In a separate microwave safe bowl, melt the coconut oil in the microwave until it’s runny (but not hot) then stir in the rice malt syrup, eggs, peanut butter, vanilla and chocolate. Combine with the oats and flour mixture.
  4. Press the slice mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for approximately 15-20 minutes, or until golden.
  5. Allow to cool for five minutes before removing from the tin and cooling completely on a wire rack (or stuff some in your face while it’s still warm!). Cut into bite sized pieces and store in the freezer for healthy baked treats on demand (dude, defrost that before you eat it).

The good news is that if you eat more of this stuff and less of the gooey, sugary caramel slices you will fit in to your pants. And that’s important for wellbeing and happiness and a reduction in wardrobe tantrums. It’s a proven fact.

Finding My Style - Fitting In To My Pants

You can catch up on my previous ‘Finding My Style’ posts here:

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September 25, 2014
by Kylie Gardner
12 Comments

These Days #3

Spring has almost sprung! Well, it’s here, but it’s kinda fighting to stay. We’ve had some gorgeous sunny days outdoors with a couple of BBQs to kick things off thanks to family and friends birthday celebrations. September is a busy month for the happy birthdays!

Pebble is so school ready and looking forward to her school transition next term. Just one more term to go until the real thing! She is just so into this whole learning thing and asks for more, more, more every day. “Show me what you did with the kids at school today”, she asks. She has started reading those first school readers, you know “The cat sat on the….. “, repeat x 5 and fill in the blank by looking at the picture. She thinks she’s the bees knees now that she’s reading! I wonder how the reality will match with her dreams of school, and how she’ll cope with the tiredness, but we’ll take it one day at a time.

Pebble and Rocky’s bond is growing stronger every day. This week I picked up Rocky from his child care house first, instead of Pebble, as I was running a little late and thought he might be looking out for me. When I got there he wasn’t really interested in me, he was looking around for his beloved sister instead! He wasn’t quite happy with the situation until we met up with her. Pebble was also smitten to see him, no more big running hugs for mama, Rocky got them instead. I love seeing them love each other.

Along with sibling love comes sibling rivalry and they have their fair share of fights. I sometimes wonder if I expect too much of Pebble, asking her rise up to her big sister role all the time. Sometimes she just wants space but she doesn’t want to be alone… ie. she just wants me to herself! Today she asked me, “Remember when you used to put out all the making things for me, when we got home from child care, and it would be a surprise for me? Can you please do that again?”. Hmmm, things have certainly changed with an extra little person to love and care for (and keep out of mischief!).

Rocky’s personality is showing it’s true colours as he gets better and better at communicating. He’s still not talking much at all but he understands everything and is very good at showing you what he wants or needs. He’s really big on pointing. Lots of pointing. He loves lots of cuddles and kisses and is so loving towards us all. He’s also very boisterous and likes to do things hard, fast, loud and big. This often leads to bumps and scrapes, but he seems to bounce right back without any drama.

Rocky’s very favourite thing at the moment is reading books. I’ll often find him in his rocking chair in his room with a couple of books in his lap, or we’ll spend chunks of time flipping through book after book. He has his definite favourites that we read again and again, and there are some that he simply refuses to entertain at all. He knows what he likes! I have to say that reading with him is one of my favourite things too, there’s something so beautiful about his soft, biscuity smelling hair in my face, his chubby little body squished into my lap and the stillness as he takes in the words and pictures.

As for the eating and sleeping, here’s a report card:

Rocky:

Eating: 8/10. Eats meat, fruit, yoghurt, cheese, bread, biscuits. Refuses to eat vegetables. I call this winning!
Sleeping: 5/10. Goes to bed in own bed at first but comes into our bed at about midnight. Still has one bottle between midnight and two am. I was going to crack down on this after my QLD trip…. which was a month ago now… at least we’re all getting some sleep.

Pebble:

Eating: 9/10. Eats meat, vegetables, fruit, cheese, crackers, yoghurt, and most simple family meals. Is starting to try new foods more readily but usually says “no, thanks”.
Sleeping: 9/10. Rarely wakes up during the night. Still wears a pull-up to bed but never actually uses it. We’re hoping to get her out of them by school.

These days…

These Days 3.1 These Days 3.4 These Days 3.2 These Days 3.5 These Days 3.6 These Days 3.7

Do your kids eat their veggies?

September 22, 2014
by Kylie Gardner
20 Comments

Painting Nature with Kids

 Painting Nature With KidsI think most kids are naturally attuned to nature, don’t you? Pebble (4.5 years old) is always commenting on the changes in the garden and the weather, she’ll  always notice these things before me, I’ve got my head too lost in the jobs that need doing and my grown up world. Rocky (18 months) chases butterflies and magpies, he stops and pushes his face right up close to new blooms and lost bird feathers, he crunches seed pods in his little fists and brings me rock, after rock, after rock to examine with him.

One day Pebble asked if she could paint, as she often does, so I suggested that we paint outside, and paint what we see in the garden. I set up her table and chair next to the lemon tree, popped the water colour paints and some paper on the table and left her to it. She sat quietly engrossed in her creation for quite some time, chattering to herself about her picture and what she could see.

 Painting Nature With Kids Painting Nature With Kids

This made a nice change from painting the pictures from her head and gave her something real to focus on, details to appreciate. She was so proud of the painting that she created, it clearly meant a lot to her. Her art work has taken pride of place on the wall in my office nook ever since.

Rocky is just starting to join in with painting and prefers the gooey, slippery, splashy poster paints, which I’ll admit we don’t get to use quite so often. He got stuck into them at a gathering with friends over the weekend and it reminded me that I need to get these out more regularly.

Here are some suggestions for painting nature with kids:

Toddlers:

  • the whole putting the paint brush in the pot or on the colour is a big ask for little hands, this can be the most interesting part to a toddler at first. Be patient and prepared for mess. Wear old clothes and embrace it when they drop the paint brush and stick their fingers in instead.
  • toddlers may make marks on the page that look like a smudge to us, but to them it represents meaning. Listen to their words and watch their gestures to find out what the painting means to them.
  • play with making patterns, mixing colours and filling up space, this is all new to toddlers.
  • use seed pods, leaves and flowers instead of paint brushes, to create interesting textures.
  • water painting is an old favourite for toddlers, just grab a bucket full of water and a paintbrush and let them go for it.

 Painting Nature With Kids

Older Kids:

  • children sometimes get stuck and frustrated with painting particular objects. They have a clear idea in mind but don’t know where to start. Try breaking it down into steps. Which step will you start with? The grass, or the tree trunk or the lemons? If they’re painting from memory or imagination try looking at a real example, a toy or a picture.
  • if children can’t decide what to paint, suggest that they try out the colours and see what they can do and offer a fresh piece of paper if and when they want one. Often the fear of making a mistake stops children from enjoying painting, or other art forms. Paint alongside your kids, show them that it’s ok to make mistakes.
  • try focusing on small details in nature, look closely at one particular flower, focus on the bees buzzing on new blossums or the bare branches of a tree in winter.
  • take water colours to the park. We have a gorgeous rose garden near our house that would be perfect for this. Choose a sunny day that’s not too windy and use rocks to weigh the corners of the paper down while painting and allowing to dry. Take a folder or bag to carry the art works home in later.

 Painting Nature With Kids

Do your kids love painting? Have they ever tried painting nature?

Pretend Play Construction Site {via Octavia and Vicky}

September 15, 2014
by Kylie Gardner
18 Comments

Pretend Play: Construction Site

Sponsored by Kidspot for Hasbro

Pretend Play Construction Site {via Octavia and Vicky}
I am just in love with seeing my two kids play together. I feel like they’ve grown up so much, especially since spending four days away from them to attend the Problogger conference recently. The day that I got home I noticed how they were chatting to each other (or Pebble, aged 4.5, was chatting and Rocky, aged 18 months, was listening and occassionally babbling back). They shared toys and experiences together, drawing with chalk or building a cubby and clamboring in and out of it. For Pebble these experiences are definitely all about pretend play, she’s constantly narrating a play scene. For Rocky I think this play is about joining in with his sister and figuring out how things work.

Of course these play scenes aren’t always a carefree, whimsical love fest – they are siblings after all! They have their fair share of fights about who sat where first, who gets to play with which toy and who punched who in the nose. Unfortunately for Rocky he’s not able to tell us his side of the story yet, so he doesn’t really get a fair trial! With practice they will get better at sharing each others space. Right?

I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to introduce a pretend play scene for them to share. I collected a few bits and pieces from around the house and put them together with an awesome new toy sent to me by Hasbro, and this is what I came up with.

Pretend Play Construction Site

You will need a collection of items that can be used to represent a construction site, eg:

  • rocks
  • roads (either a play mat or create your own roads using masking tape)
  • toy cars and trucks (we used the Hasbro Diggin’ Rigs Buzz Saw)
  • cardboard boxes to represent buildings
  • tin cans to represent barrels
  • dolly pegs dressed in fluro paper ‘jackets’ to represent construction workers
  • Play-Doh for making boulders, walls, work helmets…. whatever you need!
  • popsticks to represent levers, scaffolding, ramps, etc

To create the scene (there really are no rules to making a play scene, but this is how we did it):

  • Pebble and I used masking tape to create roads on the floor.
  • We placed the rocks inside a cardboard box with two sides removed, giving that play space a boundary and also making it easy to pack up.
  • Pebble and Rocky helped me to get the other bits and pieces on the scene and it was soon clear that I needed to get out of their way so that they could PLAY!

Pretend Play Construction Site {via Octavia and Vicky} 5 Pretend Play Construction Site {via Octavia and Vicky} Pretend Play Construction Site {via Octavia and Vicky}

Rocky was most fascinated with the Diggin Rigs Buzz Saw and spent a good deal of time just pushing it around on the roads. Which was perfect for Pebble, it gave her the space to begin her intricate narrative and set up the characters of the play. Soon they were working together, building Play-Doh walls, trucking rocks from once place to another, and ‘sawing’ objects in half.

Pretend Play Construction Site {via Octavia and Vicky} Pretend Play Construction Site {via Octavia and Vicky} Pretend Play Construction Site {via Octavia and Vicky} Pretend Play Construction Site {via Octavia and Vicky}

Extend the play:

  • Children bring their own real world experiences to their play. Drive by or visit a real construction site and talk about what you can see.
  • If there are no construction sites near you then try searching YouTube for videos of construction sites or tools in action. I found some cool videos when I searched for “buzz saw truck”. Who knew?!
  • Add paper and pencils for children to make their own signs to add to the construction site.

Giveaway

Pretend Play Construction Site {via Octavia and Vicky}

Thanks to the awesome people at Hasbro I have three Diggin Rigs Buzz Saw toys to giveaway to three lucky Octavia and Vicky readers. The Diggin Rigs Buzz Saw playset includes a detachable arm, two plastic blades, an excruder rail and four cans of Play-Doh.

Open to Australian residents only. Entries close midnight AEST 22/9/14.

Hasbro Play-Doh Diggin’ Rigs Buzzsaw Playset

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