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In exciting news for both children and the environment, VTech Electronics worldwide leader in learning toys have progressed their commitment to a better world by introducing eco-friendly products using reclaimed and plant-based plastics.  

Making it their mission to design and manufacture innovative, high-quality products in a manner that minimises impact on the environment, while creating sustainable value for customers and communities – the pair are launching the first drop of these new green electronic learning toys, just in time for Christmas!

The introduction of sustainable product packaging for VTech and LeapFrog toys is also well underway. Currently 94% of the packaging materials is recyclable, while 90% of the cardboard used is from recycled material. VTech has also committed to eliminating fossil-based blister packaging and replacing it with a plant-based alternative in 99% of the electronic learning products by 2025.

VTech Electronics is a member of the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation, committed to reducing the environmental impact of its packaging.

 
Each new toy is a first and very important step in both VTech and LeapFrog’s commitment to replacing fossil-based plastics with sustainability alternatives by 2030.

Meet our new eco-friendly toys, environmentally friendly and the perfect gift from Christmas!

VTech Ride & Go Recycling Truck, RRP $59.95
When you get the Ride & Go Recycling Truck, you’re already doing your part to help the earth! 

This recycling truck is made from plastic that is 90% reclaimed, which means less waste goes into landfills. Beginner recyclers will love hopping on this lean, green recycling machine and pushing it round while learning about recycling and reusing everyday objects. 

Ride & Go Recycling Truck is suitable for 18 to 36 months, and available from Big W, Target, Myer, good toy stores and online retailers.

VTech Toot-Toot Drivers Bio-plastic Special Edition Vehicles, RRP $14.95
Grow your imagination while you reduce, reuse and recycle with these earth-friendly vehicles that are perfectly sized for little hands. Each Toot-Toot Drivers vehicle features a light-up face and three sing-along songs and six melodies. But these little vehicles are mighty kind to the environment because the plastic used to make them is 85% plant based and comes from renewable sources.
Toot-Toot Drivers Bio-plastic Special Edition Vehicles are suitable for toddlers 1-5 years and available at good toy stores and online retailers.

      

 LeapFrog Choppin’ Fun Learning Pot, RRP $39.95
The Choppin’ Fun Learning Pot is a recipe for learning fun! And with all the vegetables made from 85% plant-based plastic, it’s also a recipe that’s more sustainable for the environment.  

Children love to pretend to cook. Prepare broccoli, sweetcorn, a tomato and a carrot with snap-apart vegetables, a play knife and cutting board. Hear the pot respond with encouraging phrases as kids add veggies to the pot.

Choppin’ Fun Learning Pot is suitable for children over 12 months, and available now from Target, good toy stores and online retailers.

 LeapFrog Interactive Wooden Animal Puzzle, RRP $29.95

Perfect for playtime! With four interactive play modes, this puzzle is full of delightful surprises.
Match animal puzzle pieces by shape and colour. Animal names and sounds, colours and fun facts are featured in Animals mode and in Numbers mode, count the objects hidden under the animals. Questions about animals, colours and numbers help reinforce the learning. This product is made with 100% FSC® Certified wood and the plastic in this product is 90% reclaimed.

For pre-schoolers from 2 years, the Interactive Wooden Animal Puzzle is available at Target, good toy stores and online retailers. 

 LeapFrog Touch & Learn Nature ABC Board, RRP $39.95

Bring a love of nature into the world of learning with the Touch & Learn Nature ABC Board.
With a touch-sensitive wooden board and an animated light-up LED screen, this toy tablet teaches letters, letter sounds and counting. Explore 26 animal/letter buttons, a music button and more. Touch the animals one by one to count to 10! This product is made with 100% FSC® Certified wood and the plastic in this product is 90% reclaimed.

For Pre-schoolers from 2 years, the Touch & Learn Nature ABC Board is available now at Target and Myer, good toy stores and online retailers.  

VTech Electronics will continue to develop eco-friendly products and packaging, with a great range of new sustainable VTech and LeapFrog toys coming soon in 2022 and beyond.

To learn more about VTech products please visit www.vtech.com.au and for LeapFrog products please visit www.leapfrog.com.au. 

3 Important Tips for Parents 

Summer is not far away and with two-thirds of Australians now staying at home, the value
of having a backyard pool has never been more emphasised.

Being able to cool off with a plunge into the water is truly one of the greatest joys of warm
weather but bear in mind that a wonderful pool time also means being safe.

Remonda Martinez, CEO of Sydney’s largest pool builder  Blue Haven Pools and Spas ,
recommends the top water safety tips to keep your kids happy and safe all summer long.

 

Place a Pool Barrier or Fence Around Your Pool

Proper fencing is a safety measure that is also a key  requirement in getting an Occupation
Certificate of Compliance for your pool ,

Take a look at this checklist from Remonda to kick off your summer safely:

Make sure that the barrier’s gate is self-latching and self-closing with the latches out of a
child’s reach.

The gate should open outwards from the pool so it becomes impossible for children to
open it.

Check if there are no gaps under the fence that exceed 100mm.

Check the height of the latching mechanism. It should be 1500mm above the ground.

Ensure that your pool fences are 1200mm high measured from outside the fence, from the
ground level or any surface within 500mm of the fencing.

Relocate your fences like pots, furniture and fixed structures out of the climb zone.

If there is a Boundary Fence as a part of the enclosure, it must be 1800mm high and
completely free of climb points.

For a glass fence, you will need to provide a glazing certificate to the certifier to ensure the
right quality of glass has been used and is not likely to explode in the future.

There should be no doors or windows opening from the dwelling or other outbuildings
entering the pool area.

No vegetation or obstructions must be seen within a 900mm arc from the top of the
boundary fence within the pool area.

To know more about the do’s and don’ts of pool fencing, check out  the Australian Pool
Safety Standards (AS1926.1 – 2012) . 

Cover the Pool When Not in Use

To effectively use pool covers, make sure to cover the pool entirely with its anchors in the
pool deck securely attached.

Remonda also reminds removing the cover completely if you’re planning to use your pool,
whether for only a short period of time or otherwise. She advises using a rigid safety cover
(preferably a motorized one) whenever you’re not using it, and let pool technicians check
its effectiveness first before you let your kids head for a swim.

Some of the best options for  pool covers  are:

• Safety nets

• Mesh covers

• Automatic  pool covers  or vinyl pool covers – this will allow you to open or close the
cover with only a press of a button. Very convenient.

Please note: If your pool is  above-ground , keep in mind that you need to remove the steps
and ladders when your pool is not in use aside from placing a pool cover.

Install Pool Alarms

Remonda encourages parents and homeowners to invest in a pool alarm as a second line
of defence to supplement a pool fence.

Having a pool alarm lets you easily detect if someone has entered your pool as it reacts to
any movement or waves in your pool water. You can opt for the type of alarm system that
shoots a beam around the pool area and sends an alarm once someone walks through it.

Water Safety Checklist 

A parent herself, Remonda understands that keeping your kids safe is a year-round effort
that goes beyond enrolling them on learn-to-swim classes. On that note, she advises you
to strictly follow these universal guidelines:

• Always supervise your children whenever they’re in and around the pool. Don’t
leave them alone even if they know how to swim.

• Enrol them and yourself on swimming lessons especially those aged 1-4 years old.

• Learn CPR and other lifesaving skills and keep a first aid box in your house.

• Teach them pool safety rules and keep rescue equipment close to the pool.

• Always let them wear life jackets. Floating toys are not life jackets.

• Do not allow them to play breath-holding games in the water.

• Remind them to always enter the water with their feet first.

• Remind them to avoid pool drains and make sure you fix faulty drains immediately.

• Make your outlined pool rules eye-catching and place it near the pool area.

• Clearly mark the deep and shallow ends of your pool.

Final Words 

In any situation, knowledge is power. By understanding and following these water safety
tips, you have all the means to ensure that your little swimmers can enjoy a wonderful and
safe plunge in your pools.

Far from a boring, predictable place to visit, Singapore is now a very appealing travel destination for Australian families.

Many years ago I did a stopover in Singapore en-route to Europe. I found it be ‘nice’, but, to be honest a bit dull. So when my husband suggested a family holiday to Singapore, I wasn’t overly enthused. When the time came to go, it was with some trepidation that I boarded our flight; however, I am happy to say it was completely WORTH IT. I can honestly say that it was one of the best family holidays we’ve ever had!

Highlights include

  • English is widely spoken
  • Clean and safe
  • Good, cheap public transport
  • Good shopping
  • Not much time difference

Top Tip
When planning your holiday, don’t book a transfer from the airport. These are ridiculously overpriced and taxis are cheap and readily available.

Sentosa Island

Where do I start?? This place just teems with fun and adventure. We did a ‘Swim with the Dolphins’ package and it was truly magical.

  • Dolphin Island
  • Adventure Cove Waterpark
  • S.E.A. Aquarium
  • Universal Studios
  • Underwater World
  • Singapore Cable Car

For more information visit

www.sentosa.com.sg

Singapore Zoo

This is a great zoo to visit. You can stroll around at your leisure or hop on and off the trams.

  • Jungle Breakfast with the Wildlife
  • Animal Shows
  • Animal Rides
  • Follow the ‘Feeding Trails’
  • Rainforest Kidzworld (bring your bathers!)
  • The Night Safari (one of the most popular tourist activities in Singapore)

For more information visit

www.zoo.com.sg

Explore the neighbourhoods

Did someone say shopping?

  • Chinatown
  • Little India (not that great for prams but good for cheap shoes!)

For more information visit

www.chinatown.sg

www.littleindia.com.sg

Gardens by the Bay

These are massive gardens spanning over 100 hectares.

Some of the gardens are free and some you pay to visit.

There is something for everyone here.

  • Cloud Forest (amazing)
  • Children’s Garden (Bring your bathers!)
  • OCBC Skyway
  • Supertree Grove

For more information visit

www.gardensbythebay.com.sg

Clarke Quay

This spot has a great vibe to it. It’s a terrific place to have dinner and relax.

  • Restaurants
  • Great cocktails!
  • Stroll along the waterfront
  • Catch a boat tour along the river
  • Watch and play in the fountain that shoots out water from the ground.

For more information visit

www.clarkequay.com.sq

Handy Hint
Singapore doesn’t follow the same school timetable as us. If you can avoid their school holidays it can sometimes be cheaper and less crowded.

Where to stay

There are several places that spring to mind, from bustling Orchard Rd to Clarke Quay and Sentosa.

  • Shangri-La’s Rasa Sentosa Resort (higher end hotel)
  • Novotel Clarke Quay (good mid-range hotel)
  • York Hotel Orchard Rd (good mid-range hotel)

Top Tip

If you want to save some money, go for something slightly further out.

Getting there

Direct flights take just over 8.5 hours and there are several to choose from.

For more information visit

www.singaporeair.com

www.qantas.com.au

www.flyscoot.com

One of the bests parts about summer is the food. Whether it’s the fresh fruits, vegetables, meats or cheeses, Summer’s all about stress-free entertaining.

These dishes are light, tasty and delicious and are sure to excite your tastebuds and there’s something for your breakfast lunch, dinner and dessert. Stay cool with an acai bowl for breakfast and keep things light with a delicious and easy Spinach, Walnut, Mint, Strawberry and Feta Salad. Let the flavours burst with the Seared Salmon with Asparagus, Pomegranate and Basil Oil for dinner and tantalise those tastebuds with a passionfruit semifreddo for dessert.

Cool down this summer with an Acai bowl. This popular super food smoothie bowl is packed with nutrients and will hit the spot this summer. The best thing is that you can add in the berries of your choice and change the toppings to your liking. These smoothie bowls are quick, easy and satisfying for breakfast or lunch. Delicious!

Ingredients (Serves 1)

  • 1 banana, frozen
  • 100g pack acai puree, frozen
  • 60 ml cold water                 

For garnish:

  • mint leaves
  • goji berries
  • chia seeds
  • shredded coconut
  • toasted muesli

Method

If you use a frozen pack of acai puree make sure you break it in a couple of places before you put it into a blender.

Add the frozen banana, acai puree and cold water into the blender and blend until smooth.

Pour out the smoothie mixture out into a bowl and garnish with mint, goji berries, chia seeds, shredded coconut and toasted muesli.

This vibrant summer salad is the perfect no cooking required meal. It can be an addition to your backyard barbeque grill party or simply served at home. This healthy salad is great for you to enjoy in the hot Australian summer.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

For the salad:

  • 6 cups baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
  • Small handful of mint, taken off stem
  • 2 cups of strawberries
  • 1/3 cup Greek Feta cheese

Method

1 To prepare the vinaigrette, combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, honey and Dijon mustard in a jar and shake. Set aside.

2 For the salad, cut the strawberries into quarters and roughly chop the walnuts.

3 To assemble the salad put the spinach leaves, walnuts, mint and strawberries into a large bowl and then crumble over the feta cheese. Dress the salad with the vinaigrette just before you serve.

Impress your dinner guests this summer with this simple yet elegant meal, any night of the week. With the crispy skin of the salmon, the snap of the asparagus and pumping pomegranate this dish is sure to please. Quick and delicious.

Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1 green onion
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 asparagus spears
  • 2 salmon fillets

For basil oil:

  • 1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves, stemmed and washed
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Method

To make the basil oil, place the basil, water, garlic, salt and red pepper flakes in a food processor and pulse a few times. Then add the olive oil and blend until smooth. Set aside.

Slice the red onion and the green onion thinly and set aside.

3 Cut the pomegranate in half. Hold each half over a bowl, seeds facing down and tap the skin with a wooden spoon, squeezing a little to release the seeds.

Heat a large pan with a tbsp of olive oil, add asparagus and cook for 5 minutes or until tender.

5 Using paper towel pat dry the salmon fillets then season with salt on both sides. Heat a pan over medium to high heat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and put the salmon skin side down. Cook for about 2-3 minutes per side.

6 To serve, place three asparagus spears on a plate. Top with a piece of salmon skin side up and garnish with the red onion, green onion and pomegranate. Finish with a drizzle of the basil oil.

This frozen dessert is a fast and easy go-to summer dessert. With the texture of frozen mouse it is similar to an ice cream cake but without the fuss and preparation time. Just take it out from the freezer, slice and serve. Simple!

Ingredients (Serves 10)

  • 1 egg
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 150 gm caster sugar
  • 400ml thickened cream
  • juice of 1 lime
  • pulp of 3 passionfruit, plus extra to serve
  • 300ml whipping cream, whipped to serve

Method

Grease and line the base and sides of an 8cm x 22cm rectangular cake tin with plastic wrap.

2 Using an electric mixer, whisk the egg, egg yolks and sugar in a medium heatproof bowl until thick and creamy. While continually whisking, place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk for 5 minutes or until mixture doubles in size. Remove from heat and set aside, allowing the mixture to cool.

Whisk the cream with an electric mixer in a bowl until soft peaks form. Add half the cream to the egg mixture and gently fold it in until just combined. Add the remaining cream, passionfruit pulp and lime juice and fold until just combined. Pour into the prepared pan and place in the freezer overnight until firm.

Turn the semifreddo out onto a serving platter. Drizzle with the fresh passionfruit pulp, cut into thick slices and serve immediately with a dollop of whipped cream.

The perfect blend of adventure and rejuvenation, Phuket is home to some of the best sun-kissed beaches, therapeutic spa centres, amusement parks, safaris and cable rides, making it a highly sought-after family-friendly destination.

From blue lagoons, pink sunset hues and pristine white sands to orange-robed monks and revered temples, Phuket is adorned with majestic sites to behold. The northern part of this island city is known for its tranquil environs with attractions like Koh Phi Phi, Phang Nga Bay and Patong Beach, while plenty of sun-kissed beaches welcome you down south. Yet that is not all – Phuket’s terrain also encompasses verdant jungles and panoramic mountains and cliffs with mesmerising vistas.

The city’s tropical climate is usually suitable for year-round travel as it never gets too cold here. November to February is the best time to visit this bustling city when it remains cool and dry, with temperatures increasing until May. Monsoons are quite wet – so if you can brave the rains, the months from May to October also offer good choices.

Travelling with kids? Take the time to indulge in some fun-filled water play.

Explore Phuket’s best water parks

 

Located close to the international airport, the Splash Jungle Water Park lies within a private resort property on the pristine sands of Mai Khao Beach.

Home to various exhilarating water slides, kids’ aquarium and other attractions, this water marvel is a must-visit place for kids and adults alike.

One of Phuket’s largest children’s clubs, Rawai Park Kids Club is a perfect blend of wet and dry play areas. From pools and water slides to ball pits and carousel, the park is a complete family-friendly extravaganza.

And if families are accompanied with older kids, Surf House Phuket is the place to hang out. Every surfer’s dream, this attraction lies on the most-popular Kata beach. With several bars and restaurants nearby, this place is surely a hotspot.

Pumping up the water sports scene in Phuket, Anthem Wake Park boasts of a minimum of three-cable water skiing options. Nestled amidst verdurous vegetation on a 50,000sqm lake, this beautiful park is another great joint for folks travelling with older kids.

If your kids are still unsatisfied with a day-long splashing activity, Phuket will surprise them with another range of thrilling attractions to immerse in.

Get ready for an adrenaline rush

 

Patong Go-Kart Speedway is a dream destination for all motor racing enthusiasts. Situated at the doorstep of Patong hill, the attraction boasts of a 750 m-long race track with adventurous curves and extended finish lines. Housing trendy bars and restaurants, this place is also a great hangout zone for non-riders. Perfect for kids and grown-ups, the speedway has a variety of kart options with altered speed options.

The island offers another heart-pumping experience for globetrotters at Flying Hanuman Phuket, which is a great way to admire the wilderness of the surrounding environs here. Featuring platforms, sky bridges, spiral stairways, sky rail and a 20-minute nature walk, the attraction allows travellers to explore nature from close quarters.

Call it zorbing, hill rolling or globe riding, Rollerball is one such place to feel a rush of adrenaline inside you. Lying on a hilltop overlooking the Kalim Beach, the place enables visitors to roll down inside a big plastic ball.

And if that is not all for an exhilarating experience, a tour of Phuket ATV will surely seal the deal. Spread across 350 acres of rugged terrain with rubber trees, beaches, mangroves and jungles, the centre is a fun place where families can explore the picturesque region on a four-wheeled bike.

After several exhilarating sessions at these marvels, hunger will definitely drive you crazy. And when you are in a city like Phuket, authentic mouth-watering Thai food is available in literally every corner.

Relish scrumptious Thai cuisine

 

Thai cuisine is not just food for the locals here; it is a celebration in itself. And that love gets reflected in its popularity worldwide. A Thai meal is a combination of four major seasonings – salt, sweet, sour, and spice – giving it its beautiful aroma which the world craves for. Be it the beaches, high-end restaurants or streets, the city’s every nook and corner is a great place to savour Thai food.

A melting pot of various cultures including Buddhist, Indian, Chinese and Islamic, Thai cuisine is a blend of several aromatic flavours.

A relaxing sun lounger by the beach is the best place to unwind after a thrilling day. While the cool breeze serenades your face, children can have fun making sandcastles.

Beach Calling

 

Phuket travel is incomplete without its pristine, sun-kissed beaches. Phuket truly beaches have it all. Children can enjoy some surfing at various surfing centres at the happening Kata Beach, parents can bask in the sun at sun loungers lined up there.

Another great family-friendly seafront is Kamala Beach, which not only offers therapeutic spas but is the host ground for the most iconic Phuket FantaSea Show.

And lastly, families can have a fun-filled picnic session at Karon Beach with activities like parasailing, volleyball and many more.

Children are powerhouses of energy. A relaxing beach getaway is not their idea of a perfect vacation. Adventure and thrill is what attracts them. Parents, on the other hand, prefer a laid-back beach sojourn amidst serene environs.

Bringing together the best of both worlds, the otherwise quaint island of Phuket offers myriad thrilling attractions, making it the perfect family holiday destination.

As summer comes to an end, the task of realigning your child’s routine for school can cause trouble, whether your little ones are starting kindergarten, or if they’re heading back to school after the long summer holidays.

7 essential items to have on the first day of school

1. School Shoes

Be sure to take your children school shoe shopping a few weeks in advance to the start of the school year. This will allow for your child to select the shoes that are most comfortable. It will also give them time to get used to them after a summer of flip flops and sandals

2. Lunch boxes

After using a lunchbox for a whole year, it may be time to buy a new and fresh one for your kids. Letting your children be part of the lunchbox and water bottle selection can be fun, as they can select lunchbox designs they love!

3. Sticker labels

Kids are notorious for losing for losing anything and everything! Ordering sticker labels with your child’s name and even year group ahead of the start of Term One is the perfect way to make sure your child’s belongings are labelled properly.

4. Name tags

Purchasing a unique name tag for your child’s backpack, sports bag and library bag is extremely useful for students when it comes to finding which bag is theirs in a sea of identical school bags. Name tags can include their full name, grade and an emergency contact in case the bag is lost


5. Pencil case

For many young students, buying a fun pencil case and filling it with stationery of their choice is one of the best parts about heading back to school. Be sure to equip your kids with all the necessary stationery including:

  • Lead pencils
  • Pens – black, blue and green or red.
  • Coloured pencils
  • A ruler
  • An eraser and sharpener
  • Highlighters
  • Protractor
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick

6. Packaged healthy snacks

Taking your kids shopping for healthy snacks for recess will allow them to choose what food they like. These can include popcorn, roasted beans or peas, rice crisps and oat bars.

7. Raincoat

It is important for your kids to carry a lightweight rain jacket to school each day so that they are protected in the case of rain.

More than 300,000 children start kindergarten in Australia every year.

Kindergarten:

For children starting kindergarten, this can be an extremely exciting, but also nerve-racking time. While it is important to lay a foundation for some independence, such as allowing children to pour their own cereal, making their bed or helping you choose their recess, it may be beneficial to do a practice run of the first day of school. This will help establish a functioning morning routine. Firmly establishing the new morning, bedtime and homework routines in advance to your kindergartner is vital so that they may transition as smoothly as possible.

Primary School:

Talk through expectations and goalswith your children as they start the next year of primary school. As your child progresses through primary school, ask them questions such as:

  • Will you participate in extracurricular activities?
  • How will you navigate new friendships?
  • What are some things that you want to change from last year?

Recount the difficulties they have conquered in the past and brainstorm additional strategies for how to approach them in the future. By talking through various scenarios, you can equip your child with confidence ahead of time.

As the summer holidays come to an end, it is essential to reaffirm daily schedules, as well as understanding your child’s goals, fears and areas of excitement about the upcoming school year so they may start the year with confidence, motivation and organisation!

Whether you’re trying for a baby or already pregnant, there are so many things you want to know. But how can you find safe and accurate advice?

When you’re trying for a baby or actually pregnant, there are so many things you want to know. What’s happening to my body? Should it be doing that? Just how is this baby going to get out?

The people around you may offer well-meaning advice, whether you asked for it, or not. The internet is also a place many of us go for information, but how do you know whether you’re reading safe and accurate advice?

Epworth Freemasons has been a leader in maternity services for nearly 30 years. Their midwives have decades of clinical and hands-on experience with mothers and newborns. Birth suite Nurse Unit Manager, Narelle Tunks, says that the vast majority of women search online for information.

‘The problem is that often what they find may not be safe or accurate. It can also lead to unnecessary concerns because what they’re reading doesn’t relate to their specific circumstances,’ she said.

‘We thought it would be a good idea to pool our knowledge and produce a series of short videos, covering some of the most frequently asked questions about pregnancy, birth and beyond. We’ve been thrilled to see our ‘Mobile Midwife’ series become a hit!’

‘Families can watch these videos when and whenever they need to. There’s information there on staying healthy during pregnancy, what to expect in hospital and when they go home. We run refresher classes for grandparents too, so these videos are also helpful for anyone who hasn’t bathed or changed a baby in a while!’

‘We know it can be pretty daunting leaving hospital with a precious newborn and hope that these videos can serve as a handy reminder, from a trusted source, on some of the things you need to know.’

‘If you do have any questions about your pregnancy, or after you’ve had your baby, please make sure you ask your midwife or obstetrician. There are no stupid questions. We want you to be healthy and feel supported through this truly amazing time in your life,’ Narelle said.

To discover the series of videos, head to https://landing.epworth.org.au/maternityvideos

By Dr. Adam Coulson

Would you let a carpenter operate on your child? (and why you shouldn’t trust your child’s healthcare to celebrity chefs, footballers’ wives & other charlatans).

Chloe was a beautiful infant child. Loved by her doting parents and grandparents. Chloe took several agonising days to die of whooping cough in a modern Intensive Care Unit in one of Australia’s best children’s hospitals.

Whooping cough is vaccine-preventable, Chloe was not vaccinated.

The year was 2004. Her death rocked me. I still see her pretty face.

More than 150 people have recently succumbed to Measles in New York State. The US had eliminated measles in 2000. Measles is vaccine-preventable.

Measles is not benign.

If one of our favourite children’s authors, Roald Dahl, were alive today he could recount how his eldest daughter, Olivia, died tragically of measles encephalitis (infection and inflammation of the brain) aged just seven years old in 1962. He was a passionate advocate of vaccination. He had reason to be.

Recently, Oregon State recorded its first case of tetanus in more than 30 years. The six-year-old unvaccinated boy spent 47 days in Intensive Care. Tetanus is vaccine-preventable. I have cared for patients suffering tetanus – an extremely unpleasant and life-threatening illness.

Australia has seen a surge in self-proclaimed “experts and champions” of anti-vaccination. Many of them have celebrity status. They make false and unsubstantiated claims about vaccination.

Make no mistake, these self-proclaimed experts lack any formally recognised training or education in health sciences let alone medicine. They are charlatans and should be called out. Would you allow a well-meaning carpenter to operate on your child?
After all, they’re good with tools. Would you?

Let’s think about that for a moment.
If your child needed surgery would you entrust their care to a charismatic and charming carpenter who lacked any formal surgical training? Would you?

Footballers’ wives might be good for a bit of lighthearted TV
entertainment but would you really turn to them for healthcare
advice?

Isn’t it reassuring that Australia has a rigorous system of surgical training and registration that guarantees the expertise and competence of  Surgeons?

So why do intelligent and well-meaning Australian parents
entrust their children’s healthcare to untrained professionals?

When childhood vaccination was launched in Australia during the last century parents had a lived world experience of the devastation that vaccine preventable diseases caused. From 1944 to 1954 polio was responsible for more than 1000 deaths in Australia. The reality of this disease was ever-present in communities. This devastating illness crippled and killed children. Its vaccine was welcomed. Many elderly Australians still live with
the devastating neuromuscular disability wrought by the polio virus.

Modern Australia, with its public health advances, has seen our communities thankfully grow healthier and safer. The lived world experience of the destructive power of vaccine-preventable diseases is no
longer in our consciousness.

Make no mistake, vaccine-preventable diseases kill
and are ready to strike the unvaccinated, and the “herd”, if vaccine
rates continue to decline.

Remember that the natural world isn’t all paleo and wholefoods. The natural world is life-threatening viruses and bacteria many of which are largely vaccine-preventable.

Would you want to be the parent that has to bury your child of an entirely vaccine-preventable disease?

Intelligent, caring and well-meaning Australian parents are right to question the healthcare their children are offered. So where should you turn for credible advice to answer your questions on vaccination?
I recommend that your “health home” should be your General Practitioner.

These highly trained doctors have undertaken years of postgraduate  medical training to specialise in providing holistic healthcare advice for
the whole family.

Australia has an outstanding system of primary healthcare that
allows consumers to choose their own General Practitioner. Take
the time to find a GP that you like & trust. Recommendations from
friends & family can be a good first step.

Would you want to be the parent that has to apologise to your child for their lifelong disability as the result of a vaccine-preventable illness?

The Royal Australian College for General Practitioners also has an informative website that provides advice on finding a GP in your area: https://www.racgp.org.au/information-for-patients/

Many General Practices undergo rigorous accreditation as
evidence of their quality. A list of these can be found at: http://www.agpal.com.au/for-consumers/ 

If you have a number of questions you would like to ask your GP about vaccination, request a long appointment to allow you the time to explore
your issues. Complex questions might require several consultations.

If your child has complex healthcare needs impacting on vaccination decisions your GP can refer you to a paediatrician or paediatric immunologist for more specialized advice.

Child health nurses are highly skilled registered nurses with postgraduate training and expertise in child health. They can be an invaluable source of credible advice on the healthcare needs of your child.

Make sure you entrust the healthcare needs of your child to credible health professionals with the appropriate training & qualifications.

You wouldn’t let a carpenter operate on your child? Would you?

About the author: Dr. Adam Coulson is a Practising Specialist Emergency Physician. He is a father to six children all of whom are vaccinated. The views expressed in this article are those of the author. The names and details of any patients have been changed to protect patient confidentiality.

It’s time to dust off those winter woolies and put a spring in your step as the days grow longer, the sun warmer and evenings balmy to have some family fun in Victoria.

Magical Melbourne

What better place to start than the grand old lady herself?

Highlights include

  • The Galactic Circus
  • Melbourne Zoo
  • Fairy Park (perfect for little princes and princesses)
  • Science Works
  • Melbourne Aquarium
  • The Queen Victoria Markets
  • Cooks Cottage
  • Federation Square
  • Melbourne Trams

For more information visit

www.whatson.melbourne.vic.gov.au/placestogo/attractions/familyfun/pages/familyfun

If it’s something more laid back you’re after, then why not take a picnic to the gorgeous Royal Botanical Gardens. A good place to start is the Visitor Centre which is on Birdwood Avenue, where you can get maps and information on how to spend your time.

Once there I recommend a visit to the Children’s Garden, a fantastic spot for children who love to get their hands dirty!

It has been designed specifically to help teach and excite children about the importance of conservation and caring for the environment.

Other highlights include

  • Guilfoyle’s Volcano
  • Lakes and Islands
  • Canna Bed Rain Garden
  • The Melbourne Observatory

 For more information visit

www.rbg.vic.gov.au

Accommodation

Like all cities, Melbourne has a plenty of accommodation, and apartments tend to be the most popular for families.

For more information visit

www.questapartments.com.au

www.oakshotelsresorts.com

www.mantra.com.au

Dandenong Ranges and Yarra Valley

What a wonderful place to visit. So much to do! The Dandenongs and Yarra Valley are home to a multitude of fun activities that the whole family can enjoy.

Highlights include

  • Hedgend Maze Healesville
  • Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery Yarra Glen
  • Yarra Valley Dairy in Coldstream
  • William Ricketts Sanctuary Park
  • Binjarra Cultural Centre
  • Healesville Sanctuary
  • SkyHigh Mt Dandenong Restaurant and Attractions

For more information visit

www.skyhighmtdandenong.com.au

www.visitvictoria.com

Puffing Billy Steam Train

For all the little (and big!) train lovers out there Puffing Billy is a must. This well-loved steam train is over 100 years old and runs from Belgrave to Gembrook through the beautiful forests and gullies of the Dandenongs.

.For more information visit

www.puffingbilly.com.au

 Trees Adventure Glen Harrow Park

Fancy an amazing adventure? Ever felt like walking through the treetops? Then this is for you! Anyone from the age of four and above can enjoy this. Bookings are essential.

For more information visit

www.treesadventure.com.au/glen-harrow-park

 Top Tip

We all love a good playground, so see the link below for a great list of playgrounds and parks!

www.visitdandenongranges.com.au/things-to-do/picnics-playgrounds

Wineries

Where to start? You could spend months exploring them! Several places are family friendly and offer playgrounds and other activities.

Accommodation

  • Big4 Dandenong Tourist Park
  • Quest Dandenong

For more information on wineries and accommodation visit

www.visitvictoria.com/Regions/Yarra-Valley-and-Dandenong-Ranges

If you thought the snow fields were just for winter, you’d be wrong!

Mt Hotham

  • Horse Riding
  • Bushwalking
  • White Water Rafting on the Mitta Mitta River
  • Mountain Biking
  • Visit the Onsen Retreat and Spa at Dinner Plain

Accommodation

  • Davenport village in Hotham.
  • Dinner Plain, 10kms away, is a good alternative.

For more information visit

www.mthotham.com.au

Falls Creek

  • Canoe on Rocky Valley Lake
  • Horse Riding
  • Ride the Trails
  • Segway Tours
  • Golf
  • Wineries
  • Gliding

 For more information visit

www.fallscreek.com.au

Mt Buller

An easy three hour drive from Melbourne, Mt Buller offers a perfect summer escape.

Highlights include

  • Mountain Biking
  • Bush Walking
  • Horse Riding
  • Chairlift Rides
  • Four-wheel Driving

Accommodation

Arlberg Hotel – Has a kids stay free offer and a kids area with a pool table and x-box. It also has a kids ‘chill zone’ with bean bags, meals and movies

 For more information visit

www.mtbuller.com.au

Mt Baw Baw

  • Mountain Biking
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Bush Walking

Accommodation

For something different, why not try ‘Glamping?’

For more information visit

www.mountbawbaw.com.au/glamping

The Great Ocean Road

This is one of the most stunning ocean drives I’ve ever been on. Some of the amazing things on offer include:

  • Bells Beach
  • Apollo Bay
  • Kennett River Koala Walk
  • Cape Otway
  • Port Campbell National Park
  • The Twelve Apostles
  • Tiger Moth World, Torquay (Lots of fun!)

If you feel like a swim then head to the famous Bells Beach or take a stroll along the Surf Coast walk.

For more information visit

www.visitgreatoceanrd.org.au

www.travelvictoria.com.au/regions/greatoceanroad/

 Accommodation

There are plenty of choices on this route, from caravan/holiday parks, B&B’s, apartments and resorts.

For more information visit

www.big4.com.au

www.topparks.com.au

www.greatoceanroadtrip.com

The Grampians

The Grampians have much to offer families, from camping, scenic walks, animals and more.

Highlights include

  • Little Desert National Park.
  • Grampians National Park
  • Mt Arapiles
  • McKenzie Falls.
  • The Stawell Gift at Easter

For more Information visit

www.grampianstourism.com.au

 Halls Gap Zoo

Halls Gap Zoo is Victoria’s largest regional zoo.  It has a, giraffe, water buffalo, meerkats, rainbow lorikeet and more. Why not consider ‘adopting’ one of their beautiful animals? How awesome would that be!

Accommodation

Halls Gap Lakeside Tourist Park.  Here you can camp, stay in a cabin or rent a house!

For more information visit

www.hallsgapzoo.com.au

www.hallsgaplakeside.com

Phillip Island

What a gorgeous spot with lots of things to do. With everything close together you don’t have to spend ages in the car going from place to place.

 Highlights include

  • Phillip Island Chocolate Factory. Yum yum!
  • A Maze’n’Things
  • Antarctic Journey
  • Churchill Island Heritage Farm
  • Wildlife Coast Cruises
  • Caldermeade Farm and Café

Penguin Parade

Who doesn’t love a cute penguin? Every day at sunset the penguins arrive and strut their stuff while waddling over to their burrows. Truly awesome.

Top Tip

During peak times, pre-book tickets to avoid missing out.

 Accommodation

  • A Maze’n’Things Holiday Park
  • The Waves Apartments

For more information visit

www.visitphillipisland.com

Mornington Peninsula

The Mornington Peninsula is renowned for being a popular holiday destination with lots to do.

Highlights include

  • Diving, fishing
  • Swimming with dolphins
  • The Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Park
  • Wineries
  • Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm
  • The Big Goose
  • Visit village markets
  • The Enchanted Maze
  • Cape Schanck Lighthouse and Museum

For more information visit

www.thebellarinerailway.com.au

www.visitmorningtonpeninsula.org

Top Tip

Follow the link below for a comprehensive list of food and wineries in the Mornington Peninsula.

www.visitmorningtonpeninsula.org/foodandwine

Accommodation

  • Ocean Blue Coastal Retreats (Some of these are even pet friendly)
  • Trumans Cottages (Mostly pet friendly)

For more information visit

www.familyfriendlyaccommodation.com.au/mornington_peninsula

Victorian Goldfields

Gold was discovered over 160 years ago…will you be the one to make the next big find??

Highlights include

  • Ballarat – See the Lal Lal Falls
  • Bendigo – Vintage ‘Talking’ Tram Tours
  • Castlemaine – Old Castlemaine Gaol
  • Heathcote – O’Keefe Rail Trail,
  • Maldon – The Maldon Lolly Shop. An old time shop filled with sweet treats galore!

For more information visit

www.visitvictoria.com/regions/Goldfields

Sovereign Hill

Pan for gold at Sovereign Hill! Sovereign Hill is a living museum with working exhibits. It’s home to shops, schools, gold digging, underground mines and more. It’s been named Australia’s best ‘Major Tourist Attraction’ three times.

For more information visit

www.sovereignhill.com.au

Accommodation

For something different why not stay at Kryal Castle? It’s located approximately 8km’s east of Ballarat. Kryal Castle is a replica medieval castle with plenty of shows and attractions.

For more information visit

www.kryalcastle.com.au

The Murray Region

The Murray River is Australia’s longest river and a great place to visit. It’s home to wonderful wineries and gourmet food as well as many other exciting things.

Highlights include

  • Fishing
  • Watersports
  • Paddle steamers
  • Houseboats
  • River Cruises
  • Port of Echuca Discovery Centre

Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement

Swan Hill is a town that carries a rich pioneer heritage. The Pioneer Settlement will really help you to embrace Australian history. You can chat to people from a bygone era while cruising the Murray on the PS Pyap. In the evening, enjoy a light and laser show.

For more information visit

www.pioneersettlement.com.au

House Boating

Hire a houseboat and be your own captain! Kids and captains alike will love an adventure like this. You might just have to stop at one of the many wineries though!

Accommodation

Lots to choice! Houseboats, tourist parks, resorts, camping and more.

For more information visit

www.murrayriverhouseboats.com.au

www.visitthemurray.com.au

Look for the Good – What is a ‘gratitude jar’ and why do we all need one?

The newsfeed on TV and our social media seem to be filled with disasters on both a large and small scale. We face a constant barrage of awful stories from the most remote corners of the globe.

Gloom and doom seems ever-present each time we power up a device. It seems like we are surrounded by bad news everywhere we look.

I think to be fair, in the past we had less exposure to news items. There was the daily paper or the 6 o’clock news broadcast. Any truly important newsworthy items could be found in one of those two sources.

“The newsfeed on TV and our social media seem to be filled with disasters”

Now that we have a 24 hour a day 7 days a week news-cycle, the content in these feeds need to be constantly added to and updated. Items that in years before were considered local news now find their way into the worldwide news feed.

It has been shown in the research that anxiety and depression is on the rise among all age groups – but particularly in teens. This is a world-wide phenomenon. It isn’t limited to our street, our neighbourhood or our community.

“Anxiety and depression is on the rise…particularly in teens”

This worries me as an individual but it worries me so much more as a mother.

You see, our kids live their lives on their mobile devices – laptops, iPads and the ever-present mobile phones, which means that they see this negative narrative constantly.

“Our kids live their lives on their mobile devices”

I read recently that the greatest weapon we have in our safeguarding our mental health is choosing our thoughts wisely. This resonated with me.

We can choose to look at, and focus on those dark and awful news stories or we can choose to refocus and shine a light on the good and positive things in our lives. I know that sounds like a really big task but it can be as simple as very small daily or weekly ritual or habit.

For years now I have tried to help my kids with looking for joy and light in their day – every night at dinner we each share our “three good things” about our day.

They don’t have to be great achievements or world-changing events. They can be as simple as being grateful for a lovely meal cooked for them or sunshine on their face on the way to school or a kind word from a friend.

All those tiny little good things add up!

So last year we had a tough year. Not massive big disasters, but seemingly many little small scale challenges and hardships that just wore us all down little by little. Wow, were we happy to see the end of 2018!

So over the Christmas break I made a gratitude jar for my desk. My idea was that each time we have cause to celebrate we pull out one of the little tags inside and write down our good thing and drop it in the jar. Once again, I am not talking Nobel Prize winning type occasions.

“Each time we have cause to celebrate we…write down our good thing”

“As simple as  a girls lunch or coffee with lovely friends or getting joy from meeting a stranger’s puppy on the beach, finding some lovely sea glass, watching rosellas on our bird feeder whilst we eat brekky, or one of our fabulous  kids coming home from university for the weekend!”

“I am not talking Nobel Prize winning type occasions…[it can be] as simple as a girls lunch or coffee”

All good positive events – I bought a fab pen to drop inside and added a bunch of blank cards ready to collect our good moments.

At the end of the year (or hey, before then if we are having a really bad day) we will pull out all the little tags and review our pile of golden sunshine!

Re-focus!

My plan is that at the end of the year I will buy a cheap and colourful little notebook and glue the tags in to make a collection of all of our highlights and to clear the jar ready for the year ahead. I can see this jar is going to bring us much joy in the years to come.

So we know that life is full of challenges and celebrations …. moments good and bad.

Life is good, not perfect, right!

Our gratitude jar is not about having no hardship or having a perfect “instagrammable” life  but simply about choosing to focus on our blessings.

Our little gratitude jar has now become a favourite gift for friends and family. The kids drop a few tags into the jar before we gift it telling the person some of the things they LOVE and are grateful for about the person

There is no greater gift than the gift of being loved and appreciated.

Our Gratitude jar is enriching not only our own days but the strengthening the relationships we build.

Kathryn is a wife and mother to 4 children. The family have now settled back in Australia after time spent in Hong Kong and The United Kingdom. Her aim was always to have the children raised in an Australian household – even if that was overseas. The challenges faced and blessings enjoyed whilst living in foreign cultures and adjusting and adapting helped to shape her gratitude focus. Kathryn is a medical sonographer and in addition to working in her chosen profession she also works in the family business. She is passionate about photography and enjoys capturing the beauty of the coastline in her local area in her free time. Her passion for photography and travel have also combined to see her published on the topic in online travel publications.