Jam Drops…

 

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I must have been about 7 or 8 and I had entered an IXL (the jam) colouring competition and won myself a children’s cookbook. I was pretty excited and I felt really grown up that I had my own cookbook. I started going through the recipes and deciding what to make – the first thing I baked was jam drops. To this day, I still follow that easy recipe! My mum was incredibly supportive with my creativity, and understood my need to be independent. With 2 brothers who both have a weakness for sweets, I was always busy (and happily) baking.

For 2 years I lived in a place with a terrible oven and to avoid the constant disappointment of burning the base and uncooked centres of cakes I stopped baking and relied on no bake recipes. Now that I have a decent oven again, I am making up for lost time and baking almost every second day. Personally I find cooking an enjoyable experience.

Benefits of cooking with kids

As much as any activity can be fun, what I always promote is connections. Relationship building is the most important. With cooking, you’re not just making food, you are teaching science in action; helping to lay down basic math, reading and time-telling skills; encouraging healthy food choices; building confidence and creativity; enhancing communication and deepening connections with your child. Indeed, cooking with little ones is nothing short of awesome.

Cooking with kids gives you the chance to introduce them to fresh, healthy food and interesting ways of cooking it. It can be lots of fun, and it’s also a way of spending more time with your children.

There are also all sorts of things your child can learn while helping you to cook, including:

  • what different foods look and feel like
  • where foods come from
  • how to get food ready for cooking – for example, washing and peeling vegies
  • what new words mean – for example, whisk, peel, egg beater, grater
  • how to understand measuring and maths concepts – for example, half, one teaspoon, 30 minutes
  • how to follow instructions in a recipe and do things step by step
  • how to wait patiently for that cake to rise!

This recipe is incredibly easy (not healthy 🙂 but we can indulge once in a while) and should make about 25-30 cookies.

Ingredients:

  • 125g butter
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cup self-raising flour
  • small amount extra plain flour
  • some of your favourite jam(s)

Method:

Preheat oven to 180C (moderate heat). Line baking trays with baking paper.

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In a mixing bowl add 125g melted (softened butter)

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Add 1/2 cup caster sugar

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Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence and on medium speed, combine the mixture

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Add 1 egg

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Combine the mixture

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Mixture should look quite creamy

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Add 1 1/4 cups of sifted self-raising flour

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Using a spoon, combine the mixture together

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The mixture is quite sticky so add some plain flour onto your hands, separate the mixture into balls onto the trays

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With some plain flour on your fingers, press a hole in the middle

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Add some jam, I used apricot. Bake for about 15 minutes.

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Bon Appetit!

Frozen Mars Bar Mousse…

 

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With my brother’s 30th coming up I wanted to spoil his sweet tooth and was prepared to take days off work to get a cake together. I spent months (not an exaggeration) researching different cakes, I had looked into purchasing soccer ball cake tins which would be shipped from the UK, I contacted the local cake supply store for special food colourings and decorations, and I asked for my colleagues input and I narrowed the list down to 10 very indulgent cakes.

His response was “the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make” and he had decided on the Frozen Mars Bar Mousse cake. The boy (man) loves his ice-cream, I should have known he would have picked the giant Mars Bar Ice-Cream cake.

Looking at the recipe, it’s quite simple. Maybe a little too simple. I always feel like I’m bound to fail when it comes to basic cooking – like roasts, I will literally stand in front of the oven watching it cook, and it is always undercooked.

So…I had to work out the time frame where I knew a group of us could come together & enjoy without the cake melting!

This is a really simple (yet indulgent) dessert which children can help to make, I think it

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Moment, lips, lifetime, hips…but so worth it…

will please your inner child.

Ingredients:

  • 6 x 60g Mars Bars
  • 600ml thickened cream
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 50g dark chocolate melted

Method:

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Using a loaf pan, spray vegetable oil and then line with cling wrap.

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Chop up 4 Mars Bars.

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Add in 300ml of cream. Melt over a pan of simmering water or use the microwave in bursts of 30 seconds.

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Add in remaining 300 ml cream and add in 3 egg yolks.

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Stir and leave to slightly cool.

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Using electric mixers beat the 3 egg whites until stiff peaks forms.

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Fold in egg whites into chocolate mixture.

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Pour into prepared pan and cover with cling wrap.

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Put into the freezer and leave overnight (or at least 8-12 hours) until firm.

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Turn out onto a plate, and remove the cling wrap. Chop up remaining Mars Bars and put on top.

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Melt dark chocolate and drizzle over top.

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Perfect for the big kid 🙂

 

It’s a Walk-Off…

Flashback to the year 2001 and my then boyfriend came home and gave me the Billy Blanks Tae Bo VHS box set (yes VHS). He used to be a professional kick boxer and would occasionally train me, I think the gift was meant to be a joke but I was instantly captivated by the tacky dance music and Billy Blanks looking all fabulous in a bright

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I know…captivating…

blue skin tight full-length leotard and leg warmers. Feeling absolutely athletically challenged in comparison to, well almost anyone, I actually found the Tae Bo workouts fun and achievable. To this day I still love the workout, but thankfully can now access on YouTube. If it’s raining I will do an 1-1.5 hour session of cardio and love how good I feel after and it really clears my head. On a gorgeous day, I walk.

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, instead I prefer to set goals. An on-going goal is that every month I attempt to achieve 100km’s – weather pending.

I consider myself quite a creative person and I have a considerable amount of ideas and thoughts, my brain is constantly active and I find walking calms me and allows me the opportunity to reorganise my thoughts into positives and achieve everything I set out to. 2016 brings many big (but exciting) changes and adventures, and I really want to feel prepared.

The other day in the office I pondered out loud if it was achievable to reach 100km’s in a week. My Manager commented absolutely and would join in the challenge (well it was more like ‘Game On B****’). One colleague turned to me with concern and asked why I was attempting this – my response was I needed to do this for my own Emotional and Cognitive Self-Regulation. Ladies & gentleman, it’s a walk-off!

What is Self-Regulation?

Self-regulation is a person’s ability to adjust and control their own energy level, emotions, behaviours and attention. Appropriate self regulation suggests that this is done in ways that are socially acceptable.

Why is Self-Regulation Important for Children?

Kid Sense describes self-regulation skills as a link to how well children manage many tasks during early childhood. With these skills, children are more able to manage difficult and stressful events that occur as part of life, such as loss of a pet, death of a family member or family separation. This helps to decrease the ongoing impact of stress that can contribute to mental health difficulties.

As a child learns to self-regulate, skills such as concentrating, sharing and taking turns also develop. This enables a child to move from depending on others to beginning to manage by themselves. Most children at some stage will struggle to manage their feelings and behaviours, particularly when they are tired, hungry or facing new experiences. When this happens, they might become upset, sulky or angry. This is all part of being a young child and is not necessarily cause for concern. If however this is problematic on a regular basis and there are seemingly little reasons for a child to be displaying such behaviours it is likely to be problematic in that it will impact upon academic performance.

Referring to the KidsMatter website, this is a detailed factsheet but a great read.

The Link Between Self-Regulation and Addictions:

If you know me well, I constantly will promote ‘Self-Care’. Looking after yourself is incredibly important. Many people can rely on some form of negative behaviour or addiction to help them feel better. Some of which include but not limited to, unhealthy habits with say food, gambling, drinking, illegal substances and smoking, and the inability to self-regulate leads to these problem behaviours. A very important self-regulation skill is resisting urges or impulses that leave you feeling bad afterward, including addictive ones.

We all have at some time had issues in relation to our emotions, but it is the way we try to cope that supports this from growing into bigger, deeper problems. Relying on ways to escape reality are often attempts to avoid and escape feelings of helplessness, fears of rejection, and unfulfilled wishes to be loved. They all involve problems with self-regulation.

The skills for Self-Regulation first develop in the early childhood years. We learn (or don’t learn) them in relationships, especially with parents and other caregivers.

Parents and caregivers with good self-regulation capacities of their own provide the kinds of safe and comforting relationships that allow children gradually to develop emotional awareness, tolerance of unwanted feelings, and control over harmful impulses.

Ideally, caring adults give children the support and acceptance they need to learn the skills for regulating emotions and impulses.

This involves skills like:

  • Deciding and controlling where you focus your attention.
  • During intense stressful moments deciding and controlling when and how much attention you focus on different aspects of the situation, including your own thoughts, feelings, and impulses.
  • Choosing how you think about your emotional reactions to things.
  • Stopping yourself from acting on a sudden impulse.
  • Stopping yourself from acting on a desire or craving.
  • Thinking, imagining, and doing things that are calming when you’re angry, anxious, afraid, addictively craving, etc.

In future blogs I’d like to discuss trauma in Early Childhood on a deeper scale, my post on Circle of Security very briefly touches upon this.

Techniques for Mindfulness with Children:

When I was teaching the 4-5 year olds, I always encouraged rest/quiet time. I had the conversation with my kids that they didn’t have to sleep but it was important to let their bodies relax and recharge their batteries. Each day we would do different activities in this time. I understand this is a time for Educators to have a quiet time themselvesthe_magic_of and to complete any documentation/paperwork, however this is a really important and wonderful opportunity to connect with your children and provide them really valuable skills.

I would read a mindfulness story from Patrice Thomas’ The Magic of Relaxation (2002) and have the children visualise the journey. I would then set up drawing tables and get the children up to come and draw what they remembered. It was always incredible how during this time how quiet the children were, how focused and how they would all have something different to share with their drawings.

Breathing techniques and yoga are other great activities to do with your children and don’t worry if you’re not trained, here are some great links to support your lesson plans;

Challenge Accepted:

“How’s the mental cleanse going?” 

I had to laugh when I read this message sent by a good friend. As adults , it’s important we take that time to self-regulate. It’s ok to put yourself first, and you’re not being selfish, you’re looking after yourself. For me, this can vary between Tae Bo, walking, studying, reading, writing/blogging , cooking….

  1. The Purpose: I decided to take this week as a form of self-reflection, to reorganise my thoughts and I felt this was a critical time to create some space and time for me. A week seemed realistic for my personal retreat.
  2. Removing Distractions: I felt to be motivated I needed to remove all negatives distractions. A friend of mine thought I was mad when I explained I had deleted all social media apps, was cutting alcohol for the week and was going to avoid chocolate. Two out of the three were going to be incredibly easy and achievable for me.
  3. Create a Plan: In my calendar I worked out the days, kilometres and routes that I would be taking and considered the time that this would take. Thankfully being summer and a rain free week, this made it a lot more achievable.
  4. Create a Support System: I made sure I took opportunities to connect. Removing social media is so valuable, as you really do appreciate genuine face-to-face contact. I made sure after every walk I caught up with a friend or family member for either a swim, dinner or coffee just so it wasn’t all solo thinking time. I really felt that helped and I love having a good chat and I really value laughter while looking out at amazing views. So win-win! I was also really fortunate to have a very supportive team at work who continued to motivate me throughout this journey, they all checked in to see how I was going physically as well as emotionally.

I took the walking paths of Narrabeen Lakes, Manly to Shelly Beach, The Bay Run, Bondi to Coogee, crossing The Bridge and also hung out with the pure bundle of happiness that is my dog Rocky Balboa. What a stressful week, here are just some of the awful views I had to put up with…

So how’d I go?:

When I first started I was paying close attention to the lovely lady on Runkeeper who told me I had achieved 1km…I instantly thought I still have 99 to go…WHY am I torturing myself? I reminded myself that this was for my well-being and the week really flew by. Not going to lie, my legs are in serious pain! But I feel good, and that’s what the week was really all about. Confession – I slightly failed in the chocolate department as a colleague brought some sweets back from Poland…oh and there was that bag of mini M&M’s…hmm and that slice of birthday chocolate cake. Ok…MASSIVE FAIL!

I did feel the first two days were emotionally draining, averaging 17km a day, I had a lot of time to think…a lot. I was in a deep sleep by 9pm. After the first couple days I was then able to process new ideas, like planning my trip to my other home in Geneva (insert Greek Isles and other destinations here). I literally felt like I had sweated out every negative thought and the week brought about some very positive changes and upcoming opportunities. This really was a detox for my soul.

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Goal achieved 🙂

 

I’ll be honest, there is quite possibly no way I would do this again (certainly not 100kms in a week!!). Congrats to my Manager for also achieving the goal, and sharing in my pain! I chose probably the hottest week to do this – which averaged 36C most days, I’ve gone a few shades darker (not by choice), my body aches and it is a challenge climbing stairs, and I have a few painful blisters. However the positives outweigh this, I was able to really focus on my well-being and I feel I have a lot of clarity. I am grateful for the support network I had around me who not only encouraged me on my quest for mindfulness, thank you for laughing with me, this seriously kept me motivated. I really believe I’ve made an incredibly positive difference for myself.

Finally:

Practice self-care everyday, even if it’s for 5 minutes. Allowing these moments for yourself and providing these skills for children will help produce change towards a better state of well-being.

Fitting in the Multicultural Classroom…

When I first moved to Sydney, I was the weird kid. I had a very heavy French accent and I spoke very minimal English. The English I did know was cringe-worthy, I mimicked my dad’s proper British accent, my grammar was all over the place. Within a few days of being in my Year 1 class, the teacher rang my mum and told her that the only language to speak around me was English. My mum was so worried about us not fitting in, she did as she was told.

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Happy kids in Geneva where children learn multiple languages fluently

Realistically, I would have eventually learnt English fairly quickly. In Switzerland most children speak about 3 languages before the time they reach high-school. Also, my dad grew up in London and mum and her family had run English schools in Hong Kong. To this day I am still quite self-conscious of how I speak, at times I still think in French and make mistakes with pronunciations, and I struggle to comprehend some Aussie-isms.

This was 1987. We are now in the start of 2016, so why am I not alone in this story, why are Educators still ordering encouraging families to favour speaking English at home?

When I started teaching, my passion and strong focus was ensuring that my children learnt about themselves and the world around them. That they had a strong sense of identity and could be proud of their history and personal stories.

In 2007 I received an offer to go to Japan and teach at a well-known International Preschool. I was completing my Masters in Early Childhood, Specialising in the Multicultural Classroom and this was such a wonderful opportunity, it was difficult to say no.

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Those unforgettable tatami mats…

I moved to Tokyo, living in a tiny shoebox apartment with tatami mats. This was my home for the next 12 months. The experiences I had in Tokyo were incredible. It was also the loneliest, most challenging overseas experience I have ever had. I could go days without speaking to anyone face-to-face in English.

When I first moved to Japan I did not speak a word of Japanese, I had no family and friends to catch up with and no smart phones to access google translate or maps, and grocery shopping was like playing Russian Roulette.  Once I had settled into work I took Japanese classes two nights a week, and practiced my basic language skills with Japanese co-workers and the guys in the Sunkus Convenience Store. However, I was still drawn to the native-English speaking teachers from the UK, Australia and New Zealand. I was at my happiest when friends and family came to visit.

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Fitting in is more than being a stereotype

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and dressing up as a geisha

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or going to an onsen and wearing a yukata

Now consider a young child who has moved to a new country, who has left everything behind that is familiar and is expected to learn and understand a new language upon arrival. Everything is completely overwhelming, they don’t understand the new routine, they don’t know anyone, names are unknown, even the food that is served is foreign. As an Educator, it is understandable how frustrating those tears and tantrums are, how difficult it is trying to communicate with families – but is it more important for you that the child learns English or that the family feels welcome in their new home?

As only one small part of creating an inclusive classroom, Bicultural Support is a government funded program which provides assistance to services so that children and families can settle into a new centre. A support worker will go out to centres and speak in the child’s mother tongue. The feedback from families, Educators and of course the children, is that this is a wonderful program.

Bicultural Support recently celebrated receiving their 9000th request which is an incredible milestone. Accessing the program is quite simple. Any Long Day Care or Outside of Hours School Care Program can contact their Inclusion Support Agency (ISA) and work with their regions Inclusion Support Facilitator (ISF). Bicultural Support can then be contacted and an Educator can be allocated for up to 12 hours (extensions can be applied for if required).

There are some great resources which can be purchased from the Ethnic Community Services Co-Operative website, in addition, some basic words in Chinese (Mandarin), Arabic and Greek can be accessed from the Survival Words website.

Circle of Security…

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Building quality connections with children creates opportunities for them to feel safe, secure and happy

“I’m here for you”. 

This is such a simple, yet powerful statement.

He’s just naughty:

When an Educator explains to me that Child A is out of control, is testing the boundaries, is just plain naughty. I listen. I continue to listen when they say “he’s so manipulative, I just know he’s testing me”.

Young children are simply not that complex. Children’s behaviour is learnt and responsive behaviour. I’m not blaming parents here. But in order to understand why a child behaves the way they do, we need to look at the bigger picture.

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Are you there for your child – physically & emotionally?

 

Whenever you’re having a bad day, remember this, I love you:

Last week I ran into David* who I had the privilege of teaching his daughter a few years ago. Every morning at drop-off we would chat about his complex family situation. Due to medical reasons, he had become a carer for his wife who he describes as ‘like having a 16 year old daughter’.

David appeared to be not coping. We would speak at length each time we saw each other. The impact was clear. Lucy* (4 years) became my little shadow. At drop-off she would seek either myself or my co-teacher out. The entire day she would not leave our sides. Engaging with other children was not something she was interested in, and I can only describe Lucy as a child who was scared and craved lots of attention and affection. Anxiety in children is very real and if we look at stats, 1 in 7 children has a mental health difficulty.

What Lucy was experiencing was anxiety. To explain why she was feeling the way she was, she would not have the words.

Let’s look at the bigger picture:

Lucy’s mum was physically available, but not emotionally. Due to surgery, she no longer had the capacity to cognitively understand her daughter needed her. Her family needed her. Instead, David took on the dual roles of parenting and as a result he took on far too much, became negative and I assume developed traits of depression.

After many chats, I expressed I was not the right person to support him with creating change. Only a professional could lead him in the right direction. Only he had the power to create change to get better.

If mental illness disrupts the early years of the adult-child relationship, it is less likely that the child will have a secure attachment style or optimal social and emotional development.

Children whose parents have a mental illness are at higher risk than other children of having emotional, behavioural or mental health problems at some stage in their lives.

Seeing David last week was wonderful. He is a different man. He sought counselling and although things remain at home, he has taken on his parenting responsibilities with positivity. Before me was a man with much confidence and absolute love for his children. His son is about to finish primary school and is part of the relay team for his school representing at State Level. Lucy participates in Nippers, ballet and no longer clings to adults.

As the disciplinarian he described that he was ‘always the bad guy’. Lucy who is now 8 shouted at him the other day ‘I hate you’ prior to slamming the door. His response “I know you’re not happy right now, but please remember I love you”.

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Even if you’re having a challenging day, create special moments that allows children to remember they are still important.

 

When we feel safe & secure, learning happens:

For children to have opportunities to build on their social and emotional skills. Stressful triggers, or trauma can create shifts in a child’s emotional well-being and development. The close bond and building positive relationships between carers and child, helps to create security for young children.

Which brings me to ‘The Circle of Security’. Robyn Dolby (2007) quotes “the Circle of Security is an early intervention program for parents and children that focuses on the relationships which give children emotional support.”

The Circle of Security map:

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The Circle of Security diagram shows a circle held between two hands. One hand supports the top half of the circle, showing the secure base of support children need for play and learning. Children’s underlying needs for exploration are summarised in the box in the top half:

  • Watch over me (to see that I am safe)
  • Delight in me (so I can look into your face and see what I look like to you, and find you are happy with me)
  • Help me (just enough so I can do it by myself)
  • Enjoy with me (join my interest)

The hand supporting the bottom half of the circle represents the safe haven children need when they have had enough of exploring. Their underlying needs in relation to attachment are shown in the box in the bottom half:

  • Protect me (because I am feeling scared)
  • Comfort me (when I am upset)
  • Delight in me (found on both sides of the circle because this important for children)
  • Help me to (organise my feelings)

* names changed due to reasons of privacy

Some Useful Links:

To talk about Mental Health, Anxiety, Parenting, Circle of Security in great detail I would be writing a thesis, for more in depth information, I recommend the following links;

 

Life is More Beautiful with The Very Hungry Caterpillar…

 

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If I were to list my top 10 books, I’d say 9 out of the 10 would be children’s books. I’m not even a little bit embarrassed about how excited I get talking about brilliant children’s authors that I respect highly…Pamela Allen, Mem Fox, Julia Donaldson…and of course Eric Carle.

For now I’ll focus on Mr Carle and one of his most amazing stories ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’, which was first published in 1969!

I don’t think I’m alone in saying how many powerfully memorable, happy moments this book has given me through all my years of teaching. What I have found is that this book is so universal and that it doesn’t matter the language that you speak, the city you are living in, or how old you are…’The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ is guaranteed to bring a big smile on your face.

A conversation I always had with my children was “do you need to be able to read, or have a book to tell a story?”. The answer always started off as yes…but through the course of the year, they were telling me the story, and very rarely did we need the book itself.

While I was completing my undergrad in teaching, for one of my pracs I had to prepare my own resources. So after a visit to the fabric shop, I came home and spent hours cutting out every single piece of fruit, and using a hole puncher created the holes, and glued the stems…I’m not going to lie, it didn’t look very good at all, but the children loved it and truthfully that’s all that really matters!

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The following year Google had become quite popular (and a lifesaver) as I discovered DLTK, and is still a website I access for great resources. I came across these printables and I can’t express how fantastic they are. I’ll print them out and laminate them, and you can add either magnetic or Velcro dots to the back. Every Educator I have ever worked with has had to hear the genuine excitement in my voice as I go on and on about how great they are. Here is the link: http://www.dltk-teach.com/books/hungrycaterpillar/felt_fun.htm

And here are some examples that my Speech Therapist colleague put together…I know too cute!!

So in amongst my searches I did find another website that has the templates for the feltboard pieces (note, mine looked nothing like these!!). http://www.lavendersbluedesigns.com/diy-very-hungry-caterpillar-felt-book-free-printable/

A couple years ago I taught an incredible group of 4-5 year olds, not that we are supposed to have favourites but this was really a beautiful group of children that I will never forget, and one of the reasons was due to the End of Year Concert we put together. The credit goes entirely to them. During rest time the children used the printables to tell the story of ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ over and over to each other, it got to the point that I’d sit with the children for group time while they took turns.

It was during this time that I realised for our End of Year Concert it made sense to do a play to their favourite story. Here, a huge project began where ALL of the children were involved. We pulled names out of a hat, and all the children were assigned a piece of fruit or food. To the children were had really come out of their shells I allocated as the caterpillar, the butterfly and narrator.

Together we talked about what resources we would need and the children created the leaf, the moon, and finally our biggest masterpiece – the cocoon and butterfly wings. Actually, one of the children noted that butterflies don’t come out of cocoons and rather a chrysalis that they decided would be green. The parents were then involved with the costumes and they really went all out…every step of the way, the children were 100% involved.

We practiced this play every day, and words can’t describe how proud I was of them. Not one child was nervous, not one single tear was shed (well, myself and my co-teacher did as they did such an amazing job).

My highlight was when they asked me to be the butterfly as they thought I deserved a chance to be in the play too…I think my face sums it up pretty well as to how happy I was to have a turn!

How I Became Miss Evie…


I was probably 12 when I declared to my family that I wanted to be a teacher or a nurse. The response from my parents was “teaching would be a great job for you, when you have children you’ll be able to take holidays to spend with them”. This was not the reason I wanted to be a teacher, ironically I am in my mid-thirties and I don’t have children and aside from my first teaching role, every centre I worked in was Long Day Care – no school holidays.

When I was 14 my mother was in a very serious car accident. She spent a few months in the hospital and every day after school I would go visit. The nurses got to know me quite well and my desire to be a nurse. They had me doing a few of the jobs and washing my mums hair. Nursing was looking like something I really could see myself doing. Amongst many injuries, mum’s most serious was a compound fracture. Twice a day the gauze was changed with the wound, one of the nurses suggested I have a turn, I felt the room close in, I was nauseous and that ruled out nursing.

For work experience in Year 10, I booked myself in at my old primary school to teach and by this stage was passionate to also be a Social Worker. The local hospital accommodated me for a few days and I found the role limited by people who were resisted to change and an incredible amount of red tape. My week of teaching however was everything that I had hoped it would be.

Finally my time had come to commence my teaching degree in Primary Education at University. A few weeks in we were assigned to our first practicums at local primary schools. In the first session I had what I can only describe as a moment of anxiety. I didn’t want to be there. The Education system that I saw contradicted my own personal philosophies. Where was the connection and understanding that each child was an individual? The year was 2000 and yet I was having flashbacks to my own education in the late 80’s…nothing had changed.

I left my studies and was confronted with the fear that I would never know what path I would dedicate my life to. All I had ever wanted to do was help people. I only ever had known that I really wanted to teach. What was I to do?

I received a call from an old friend that I hadn’t heard from in a while asking if I wanted to work a couple hours a day at a Preschool. Right now I was 19 and unemployed. Absolutely!

The centre was based in a Church hall and I met an amazing group of Educators. One of which was the mother of a close friend from High School. I instantly felt connected to these children and interviewed for the position. The Director called me into her office and told me she saw potential and instead offered my a full-time role as her assistant.

For 18 months I worked with an experienced, passionate team of Educators who opened my eyes to the wonderful world of Early Childhood. I was exposed to a different understanding of child development and to view the child as an individual.

In 2002 I started my Bachelor of Early Childhood and have never looked back. By 25 I was Director. In 2006 I completed my Postgrad specialising in Early Childhood Education. Then in 2008, Masters in Education specialising in the Multicultural Classroom.

By the time I was 29 I had taught in Sydney, Tokyo, Lugano and Geneva.

Today is the 5th October, which means it is World Teacher’s Day. In the 15 years that I have been in this industry I wish I could reflect and say Early Childhood Educators are more respected than ever. Unfortunately we are viewed as glorified babysitters. We are incredibly low-paid when comparing to our Primary and Secondary Educators. We have lower conditions and there is an incredible high turn-over and burn-out rate.

The current change of Prime Minister has brought about a positive change where Early Childhood Education is back in the Education Portfolio (we were in Department of Social Services).

My hope is that 2015 will finally bring about recognition that Early Childhood Education is more than finger painting and playing duck, duck goose.

Happy World Teacher’s Day. Ryan gets us!

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Welcome to the Toy Library…

 

image8I love exploring Sydney and despite growing up on the North Shore and living here most of my life, I feel that almost every day I learn something new about this city. This find isn’t a small bar with quirky bartenders and an extensive cocktail list, or a place with a panoramic view. Instead I’d like to welcome you to the wonderful world of the Toy Library.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit Noah’s Ark in Artarmon, located on Broughton Road at the Kids Cottage Community Centre. I was greeted by a team of volunteers and Helen who is a part of the Committee that was established in 1976. The organisation was put together by Parents and Professionals who saw a need for Early Intervention beyond 1:1 therapy, so that families were able to support their children at home in their play. As we know in all aspects of Early Childhood Development, the best opportunities for learning occur through play experiences.

What is a toy library?

The Toy Library is exactly what it sounds like – a place for families to take their children so they can borrow toys and resources. These vary from Switch Toys, to large outdoor gross motor equipment to access to the parent library. The Noah’s Ark website displays a clearer list for you to have a look at http://www.toys4specialneeds.org.au/toys/

 

Who can access the Toy Library?

The Toy Library is open to the public, however this is an inclusive service to support children with additional needs; whether physical, intellectual or sensory, temporary or permanent. Many of the clients attend an early intervention program, specialist therapy session, speech pathologist or special education unit and use this resource to continue their therapy programs at home. There is no age limit but toys are generally suitable for children 0-6 years developmentally.

What’s the catch?

No catch – there is a membership fee of $60 per year, but this gives you access to the wide variety of resources where you borrow up to 9 items. This can be done once a month, however it is encouraged to exchange items fortnightly. The items in the bags are all clearly labelled so you know exactly how many pieces to return.

Where are they located, and when are they open?

Noah’s Ark Toy Library has their permanent base at Artarmon at Kids Cottage Community Centre and are open every Wednesday (closed school holidays). They also have a mobile van that travels to other locations;

Thornleigh – 2nd & 4th Monday of every month

Baulkham Hill – 1st & 3rd Monday of every month

Ryde – 1st & 3rd Tuesday of every month

Wahroonga – 1st & 3rd Friday

For further information regarding other Toy Libraries across NSW go to http://www.toylibraries.org.au/area/nsw and as I started researching this on Google, you will most likely be able to access more information from your local community centre.

A very big thank you to Helen and the wonderful and inviting team at Noah’s Ark who donate their time to supporting the community and families with children with additional needs. My visit was an inspiring experience, please get out there and meet your local community volunteers. For any additional enquiries you can contact Noah’s Ark on (02) 9411 4429 or info@toys4specialneeds.org.au  – alternatively send me a message and I can help you locate your local community Toy Library.

Super Easy Cheese & Bacon Rolls…

 

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Cooking with children should be fun…and delicious! Every experience with children should be enjoyed and encompasses all aspects of education; numeracy, literacy, language, social skills – just to name a few.

Preschoolers in particular have grasped the concept of recipes and will ask about quantities and what’s next. Before cooking, sit down with the children and talk through the ingredients and the different types of measuring utensils required, put them in order and look at cooking like a science experiment

Here is an incredibly simple recipe for cheese and bacon rolls, which is really easy, and what I like about it, is that sit can be done in different stages which is perfect for children who tend to get easily distracted.

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • – 1 tablespoon yeast
  • – 2 teaspoons caster sugar
  • – 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • – 1 cup warm milk
  • – 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • – olive oil
  • – 3 rashers bacon
  • – 1/2 cup shredded cheese

METHOD: 

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Add 2.5 cups flour

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Next, 1 tablespoon of yeast

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Add 2 teaspoons of caster sugar

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Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and stir the dry ingredients together creating a well in the centre

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Add the cup of warmed milk with the 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Using a wooden spoon stir util the ingredients are combined

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Then start kneading

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Knead…

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Put the dough onto a lightly floured surface and continue kneading for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic

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Let it rise…

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This is the dough after about 45 minutes

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Chop up the bacon & shred some cheese

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Separate the dough into 8 portions and put onto a lightly floured tray

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Spread the cheese and bacon over the top

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Put into a pre-heated oven of about 180-190C – your rolls are ready to cook

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Back for about 15-20m mins or until golden brown

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These are best eaten warn…Bon Appetit!

 

 

Welcome to the Wonderful World of Playdough…

Where can I begin with the benefits of Playdough? The number of adjectives are countless. As an Early Childhood Educator I cannot imagine my class without a Playdough table – in fact if there was no table set up, the children were quick to ask tell us that we had to make some.

So why have Playdough in your home or class? Well, it can support all areas of development such as;

  • Fine motor
  • Imagination and Creativity
  • Maths and Numeracy Skills
  • Science and Discovery
  • Language
  • Social/Emotional
  • Therapy for children with Special Needs – not limited to children with language delays.
  • Sensory

And make Playdough? Absolutely! I understand it seems easier and more practical to purchase it, and aesthetically to have a variety of colours is nice – but I’ve never had a child ask for multiple colours. Whatever the Playdough looks like, the imagination of a young child runs wild and colour certainly does not limit their play.

Join your children in making Playdough – it’s a wonderful cooking experience, and for the adult, very therapeutic!

This is an incredibly simple recipe…with a twist.. I added Peppermint Essence to this mixture and to link I coloured the dough green. The options are countless, if you explore your supermarket shelf you’ll see a variety of scents you can add, such as Strawberry, Lavender, Chocolate. Though I would use the scents occasionally as a surprise to your children.

Adding Colour is a wonderful opportunity for your children to make choices and they can explore with mixing colours as well.

Here is the recipe;

  • 2 cups Plain Flour
  • 1/2 cup Salt
  • 2 Tbsp Cream of Tartar
  • 2 Tbsp Oil
  • Food Colouring
  • 1 cup Boiling Water
  • Essence (optional)
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Firstly combine all the dry ingredients. Add 2 cups plain flour

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Pour into mixing bowl

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Add 1/2 cup of salt

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Add 2 tablespoons cream of tartar

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Stir the dry ingredients together

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Next add 2 tablespoons of oil. I use regular canola oil

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Add to mixture

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I chose peppermint essence to add and poured roughly 1/4 of the bottle in – however for a stronger scent, add the whole bottle

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Combine the food colouring to the boiling water and pour into the mixture

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I prefer to use a metal or plastic spoon (as the colouring can stain) and combine

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Once the ingredients are combined and it is not hot to touch, get your hands dirty and knead!

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Knead, knead knead!

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And here it is!