Monday, March 3, 2014

Cake smashing

What a waste, how could you waste a perfectly good cake?

Wow, cake smashing - AWESOME!!!!

In the days where we are so overly protective of kids and the idea of them getting messy is such a taboo, I think (although not everyone in the household agrees) the idea of a kid jumping head first into a birthday cake is fantastic.

There has been an increasing trend of parents allowing the celebration of their kid's 1st birthday with a super messy cake dive in a professional setting - Safety first!!
Parents are paying anything from a few dollars to $1500 for a fully catered and recorded birthday experience.  Particularly first birthdays are on the menu, the idea of capturing the moment that your child realises that they don't have to wait patiently, be polite and share with everyone is the main reason parents choose to have the occasion recorded in time.  In individual frames the moment the kid sees the cake, gets closer to it, saliva begins to pool and drool, and then the smile breaks on their face until they leap, leave the ground and dive, head first into the icing ooziness of a cake- solely for them.

I think this may be a boy thing, I would be interested to hear whether this is a girl thing or just a boy thing!  I also think that if the cake was big enough, there may be a market opening for adult males!!

It is interesting that Jill's first reaction was, "What a waste of food!"  Perhaps it is the old English upbringing, a hangover from the post war upbringing by parents who brought her up with the mantra, don't waste it and clear your plate, in any case, I couldn't convince her that this would be awesome.

For me it is the pure freedom and abandonment of pure gluttony, fun and freedom to dive tongue first into one of the highlights of a kid's life.  I can barely imagine more fun...

What are your thoughts?  Would you allow it in your house, does it appeal or irk you?
Let us know



Photo Credit: Pink Sherbet Photography via Compfight cc

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

How to make a mini pom pom using a fork

Did you ever make pom poms as a kid?

I did, and I remember cutting circles of cardboard from cereal boxes and wrapping wool around and around them.  

It was only recently, I learned that there is another way to make a pom pom. 

A mini pom pom that is!

I checked it out and showed my girls, who then went crazy making lots and lots of them, which they then tied to their pencil cases!

In case you're wondering how to make these cute mini pom poms, we made a short video to show you!

Hope you have fun making some cute little pom poms!


Monday, February 3, 2014

Can we do a challenge?

Over the recent long summer holidays here in Cairns, our girls wanted to spend time playing on their Samsung Tablets.  Now we've always had the rule that they have to do useful and educational things on their tablet first, to 'earn' time to play. So 15 minutes of educational games can then be followed by 15 minutes of things like Minecraft and other games of their choice!

They were getting a bit bored with the educational apps they had, and we wanted to do something different so we created challenges for them to complete on their tablets before they could play their games.  These challenges involved finding out about a place or person, making notes and then telling us what they'd found out at dinner time that evening.

Most challenges were geographical, as their knowledge of other
countries in the world is quite limited, so this was a great opportunity for them to learn!

So mostly we would just give them the name of a country and they would go and find out where it is, how big it is, the population, some interesting facts and things to see there.  

They really enjoyed these little challenges, and learned a lot about the world, countries, rivers, mountains, landmarks, flags and languages. They particularly enjoyed finding some 'interesting facts' to tell us!

To the girls, these challenges were fun, but they were indirectly practising Geography (looking at locations and countries around the world), Maths (population and land sizes then comparisions) and English (research, note taking and presentation skills).

This is definitely something we will continue to use with our girls, and something that can be adapted to any topic.

What educational things do your kids use their computers or tablets for?


Thursday, January 23, 2014

365 Things to Know

This is a book I've had since I was at primary school.

My parents saved it and brought it out to Australia from the UK a few years ago, so that I could share it with our girls.

When they brought it out a few years ago, I tried to read it with our girls, but I think they were a little young and it didn't hold their interest.

At the beginning of this year, I decided to get it out again, and found that they are now the perfect age for it. (They are currently 8 and 10 years old)

The facts in the book are about all sorts of subject and topics, and
they are split up into one fact for each day of the year, and dated as such.

Some facts are more interesting than others, some provoke more discussion and research, others get read and forgotten.

Both our girls are enjoying reading this book, and we have to take turns reading the facts.  Some days we forget - but just catch up the next day, or the day after.

My copy of this book was published in 1984, 30 years ago!  So I wonder as we read through it, what facts we'll find that have since been 'updated' to reflect new discoveries! As far as I can find from searching, this book is no longer published.

It's a neat book to read as a family - just a snippet each day, and a way of getting our girls to read something other than the endless story books they love so much!

What do your kids read? Just story books? How to you encourage them to read other texts and topics?


Monday, January 20, 2014

Purple Cabbage pH Science Experiment

I've read about this experiment in several places and really wanted to try it with my girls. A few days ago, we finally did it and had lots of fun!

What is the Purple Cabbage Experiment?

The basic idea is that purple cabbage juice can be used as a pH indicator. The girls are aware of the pH scale from their weekly testing of the fish tank water, so at least that made the concept easy for them to understand. It's always good to have something in their day to day life to relate things to - it makes things more easily understandable.

How to make purple cabbage pH indicator

The experiment involved first of all extracting the juice from the cabbage.  We found 3 different recommendations on how to do this

1. Put cabbage leaves in cold water, bring to the boil and boil for 10 minutes then strain off the juice.
2. Chop cabbage, pour over boiling water and leave to soak for 10 minutes, then strain off the juice.
3. Put chopped cabbage and water into a blender and whizz up!  Then strain off the juice.

We decided on what I thought was the simplest method - number 2.

We checked a colour chart we found online as to what colour the purple juice should turn to indicate acid or alkali:

Then we collected some medicine cups and a dropper and chose what substances to test the pH of.

What did we test?

First we tested our own saliva, which should be a healthy alkali.
Both my daughters ones were alkali, mine was neutral. From what I found when researching this online - that would be about right. Kids saliva tends to be more alkaline and adults neutral to acidic.

So success for our first test!

We then went on to test several other things:

Here's the colours after adding the purple cabbage juice indicator..

And some more..

Once again - after adding the purple cabbage juice:
The girls were learning that citrus fruits - like lemon and orange are acidic, and bicarb of soda was a good example of an alkali.

And finally:

It was good to include the fish tank water in there - and for it to come out as a neutral, just as it had when the girls had tested it with the bought pH test kit earlier that day! Demonstrating again that our experiment did work!

This was a fun and simple experiment to do with the girls.
I think the colours you get do depend somewhat on the concentration of your cabbage juice. 
You could spend a little more time to do a more accurate experiment perhaps with older kids - making your own colour scale, and recording the results in a table.

However for my girls - aged 8 and 10, this was just a quick, fun experiment to do in the holidays.

Have you ever tried this?
Do you have any other simple and fun science experiments to recommend?


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Kids Fishing

After a few years of thought and another few of growing up and getting taller and more mature, we took the punt.

I enjoyed fly fishing for trout as a kid back in Scotland, and have fond members of early morning starts and driving up to a dam. We waited patiently for a bite.

In contrast, here in Cairns, people usually go out to sea fishing or head up to lake Tinaroo in the Tablelands for Barramundi fishing.  We heard of Tarzali Lakes and thought we could camp and try our luck fishing.  A great chance to share the love of fishing with the girls.

When we arrived it was a very hot, 30 degree plus afternoon but still people were fishing.  I thought it was odd to be fishing in the middle of the day but, who knows?  We were greeted by the owner and founder of Tarzali lakes, Peter who was friendly and fun.  He asked us if we knew what we were doing and I kinda bluffed my way through. The theory is fine, the knots another!  Peter asked us if we thought we could beat the record of 16 fish caught in one session?  Crazy I thought, I remember as a kid, sitting for hours waiting for a bite.

Then I realised just how stocked the lake was.  Jade Perch was the fish and the pool was teeming with them!  When we started fishing, I realised this would be a fun and great experience for the girls, and they would certainly be catching fish.

Once we got set up and threw some burley in, the fish were chomping it.  We were ready to go and after getting the routine sorted, bait on, up to the bank, hold the line, flip the spinner, cast out, flip the spinner back and reel in.  Within a second or two, either you had a bite or you lost the bait!!

When the perch struck, you usually kept it on the line, it would fight a little and then quit, the girls could land them fine.  The look on the girls faces as each of them when they caught their first fish was priceless.  Shock, exuberation and excitement as well as the thrill of the fight all kicked in.  The girls just kept reeling them in.
Their faces were a picture when they caught one and they went from no knowledge into great little fisher girls in no time.  It was all catch and release so as long as the hooks could effortlessly be removed from the mouths of the fish, all was good.
Easier said than done.

Between Jill and I we unhooked about 40 or 50 of the fish over the two days.  We all got an understanding on how important it is not to hurt the fish and we learned how to take the hook out of the mouth without hurting the fish.  Some of the fish were caught nicely through the mouth, others were hooked in all sorts of places, and it was an effort to quickly remove the hook and return them to the pond.

We caught so many, my hands were raw with moving hooks, and the girls had definitely got the fishing bug.
In retrospect, I need to thank my dad for getting me in the fishing game and unhooking my fish!
It was not my memory of fishing with the hour long waits for a bite, this was all action!

Going home with some smoked fish was an unexpected bonus and a great thank you has to go out to Peter, Dylan and the Tarzali Lakes team.

What a trip!


Friday, November 22, 2013

Top 10 things kids are scared of

After extensive research with our own 8 and 10 year olds and their friends, I am proud to unveil the top 10 things kids are scared of and reasons why!

10.  Ghosts and monsters

Being scared of ghosts and monsters was really a cover all answer.  The kids said it was only scary if they existed- none of the kids accepted that they existed.  In this day and age, technology rules and the kids just do not see them as a real threat!  The more rational and systemised the world becomes, the more unreal or undefined fears lose their hold on kids.  The bogeyman did not even get a mention- surely no kid has looked under their bed or in their cupboard recently.  Probably avoiding tidying up!

9.  Drunk People

This really surprised me.  The major fear here is that drunk driving kills people.  The idea that drunk people do random things and aren’t in control of themselves and their actions was widely understood.  The drink drive message is obviously reaping benefits at school and the kids said they would definitely not get in the car with a drunk person.

8.  Drowning

The idea of dying and in a horrible suffocating way worried the kids.  I was surprised with this as the kids and their friends are all great swimmers but this was still a fear.  I guess living in Australia and being surrounded with water makes this a ‘real threat’.  The kids are also taught water safety from such an early age that is it really drummed into them.  It is also a real fear, every kid who has been in a pool, river or the ocean has experienced that moment of swallowing water and thinking, what if I can’t get my head above water?

7.  Teachers and principals

As our kids are good kids and mix with ‘good’ kids, this answer surprised me.  The main fear of teachers was getting shouted at, especially for no reason or a reason that they could not control.  The fear was also specific to particular teachers who have the persona of being scary!  Something that is probably cultivated by the teacher for their own reasons!  The kids also want to do the right thing and being scared of doing the wrong thing is all part of this fear.

6.  Bullies

Again this is a real fear to the kids.  If they are in the wrong group or in the wrong place at the wrong time they could be singled out.  The kids do not want to get hurt, teased or do the wrong thing.  They want to fit into their class and friend groups and don’t like if someone is systematically mean to them.  They are comfortable with strategies to deal with bullies but do not want pain or conflict  or have their stuff taken.  All kids have been excluded and can relate to bullying, I was surprised this was not higher on the list as I would imagine it would be more frequently brought up and even experienced within daily kids lives.

5.  Heights

Everyone has been in a high place and looked down and seen the ground a dizzying distance below.  Although the extreme fear of heights or vertigo is probably less common, the danger of falling from a tree or from a balcony is again a possibility in the daily life of kids.  It is also possible that parents- possibly fathers in particular, have something to answer for by dangling kids by their legs above the ground or particular stair cases or convenient locations particularly at the toddler stage of development.  This is probably a form of child cruelty.

4.  Sharks and crocodiles

What a horrible way to go was pretty much the common view here.  You don’t want to be chomped and have your head go this way, your legs that way and your guts everywhere!  As food is such an important part of kids lives, the idea that they could become food and be eaten by something bigger is a genuine fear.  With the kids also being into swimming the idea that you can be a proficient swimmer but out of nowhere, bang, hit from below by a crocodile or shark is particularly scary.  Mmmm, maybe I am a little scared by these creatures with the big teeth too!!

3.  Spiders

Anything with that many more legs than you deserves to be looked at closely.  The fear of spiders is a strange one since they are obviously so small.  Having a spider caught in your long hair is a particularly girly fear.  The worry about big hairy legs is also a strong part of the fear of spiders.  Coupled with this are spider webs- everyone has walked into one and the worry that the spider is somewhere on you out of site and stuck to you freaks out the best of us.  Knowing that they jump, bite and suck the innards out of their prey also puts people off.  Spiders crawl slowly and then scurry and jump, this makes them unpredictable which leads to fear.

2.  The dark

If it is dark, the chances of a monster, shark, crocodile or even spider jumping on you or attacking you are infinitely higher.  In the dark, you have less control and this fear is amplified from a kid’s perspective.  You can also easily get lost in the dark.  Kids are worried about being trapped under bed covers and being unable to escape, they are worried about being locked in a room and not able to find their way to the door- all these things coupled wit the everyday experience of bedroom lights and house lights being switched off prior to sleep coming provides an internalised fear of the dark.  There’s nothing to worry about, but to just leave the light on a little or the bathroom light down the corridor wouldn’t hurt, would it?

1. Getting lost

And so to number one.  Getting lost, and possibly even in the dark, which would be worse again, was the most common fear.  If you are lost you cannot go home or may not be able to find your parents.  Losing the safety of a parent and their love and care are the scariest things for kids.  Being away from home in an unfamiliar situation where you have no control, and remember kids have very little control as it is in this adult run world, ranks number one for kids.  This fear has definitely been compounded in recent years by parents who drive their kids everywhere.  Kids know and recognise places, but not how to get to them and how to get back.  I guess with the advent of mobile phones and GPS, it is only a short time before technology reduces this particular fear, but the unknown is probably the single most common fear that us as humans face.  Being little people, I am sure this is magnified among kids.

What are you scared of?

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