Tips for Paint Play with Toddlers and Preschoolers

October 6, 2014
by Kylie Gardner

Paint Play with Toddlers and Preschoolers

Paint Play with Toddlers and Preschoolers

I’m pretty open about the fact that these days, I rarely set up paint play for the kids. It was much more common occurrence before Rocky came along. These days it’s watercolours all the way! They’re so easy to set up and clean up, I just can’t resist. But Pebble misses her REAL paint, her sloppy, slide-across-the-page paint. Last week she asked if we could get the paints out I said ‘yes’. She almost did a double take!

Rocky hasn’t had much chance to explore these paints before, so we set up tray of paints, some paint brushes, some paper and I left them to it stood nearby to make sure Rocky didn’t eat it or tip it on his head. The paper was very quickly abandoned in favour of smearing the paint across the old coffee table that we use for outdoor art and play. Finger painting, hand painting, belly, elbow and feet painting!

Tips for Paint Play with Toddlers and PreschoolersTips for Paint Play with Toddlers and PreschoolersTips for Paint Play with Toddlers and PreschoolersTips for Paint Play with Toddlers and Preschoolers

At times it got a little crazy. Rocky decided halfway through that he’d like to play with the space hopper… while still covered in wet paint. Then he stumbled around the backyard and landed hands first on the BBQ, leaving his sticky wet paint mark on it’s cover. But apart from that we did ok – we got messy without getting MESSY!

After some fun with smearing, Pebble turned back to her paper and starting printing. She also made some paint resist art work on the coffee table by splodging, smearing and slopping paint on top of a piece of paper on the table, then pulling the paper back to reveal a perfectly rectangle space beneath.

Tips for Paint Play with Toddlers and Preschoolers Tips for Paint Play with Toddlers and Preschoolers Tips for Paint Play with Toddlers and Preschoolers Tips for Paint Play with Toddlers and Preschoolers

Once the kids were getting tired of the painting we added a big squirt (and then another and then another) of dish washing liquid and turned the hose onto the table. Their excitement was renewed as the paint frothed and soaped and bubbled. They played together until the table was all clean, then played in the suds as they gurgled in the grass. Then I threw both kids in the bath and scrubbed them clean! Here are my tips for happy paint play with toddlers and preschoolers:

Tips for Paint Play with Toddlers and Preschoolers Tips for Paint Play with Toddlers and Preschoolers Tips for Paint Play with Toddlers and Preschoolers Tips for Paint Play with Toddlers and Preschoolers

Tips for Paint Play for Toddlers and Preschoolers

  1. dress in old clothes (that includes you too!)
  2. distract the kids with something else and set up all the equipment before you invite them to play
  3. have a bucket of water and an old towel ready for clean up (or play near a hose)
  4. remove anything from the area that you don’t want to get covered in paint (including space hoppers!)
  5. breathe! Relax! Let it go! Mess is good!
  6. make cleaning up part of the play and get the kids to help
  7. go straight in to the bath after play and get scrubbed up
  8. distract the kids some more while you clean up yourself and the rest of the mess if needed (a snack and a pile of books or a favourite TV show work for me).

Do you embrace messy play? Or do you avoid it like the plague?

October 2, 2014
by Kylie Gardner

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

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


  • 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


  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

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:


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.


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

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:


  • 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?

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