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Anxious Mums author, Dr Jodi Richardson, offers advice for mothers and children experiencing anxiety.

One in four people will experience anxiety within their lifetime, making it the most prevalent mental health condition in Australia. Statistics determine it is twice as common in women, with one in three, compared with one in five men, diagnosed on average.

Having lived and studied anxiety, Dr Jodi Richardson  is an expert in her field, with more than 25 years of practice. In addition to her professional background, it was ultimately her personal experiences and journey in becoming a mother that shaped the work she is passionate about. 

Jodi’s books, Anxious Kids; How Children Can Turn Their Anxiety Into Resilience,  co-written with Michael Grose (2019), and her latest release, Anxious Mums; How Mums Can Turn Their Anxiety Into Strength (2020), offer parents, in particular mothers, advice on how to manage and minimalise anxiety, so they can maximise their potential, elevate their health and maintain their wellbeing.

The more I learned about anxiety, the more important it was to share what I was learning.”

Jodi’s first-hand experiences have inspired her work today, stating, “The more I learned about anxiety, the more important it was to share what I was learning.”

Jodi’s first signs of experiencing anxiety appeared at the early age of four. Her first symptoms began in prep, experiencing an upset stomach each day. Her class of 52 students, managed by two teachers, was stressful enough, on top of her everyday battles. Jodi recalls, “There was a lot of yelling and it wasn’t a very relaxing or peaceful environment, it obviously triggered anxiety in me, I have a genetic predisposition towards it, as it runs in my family.”

Twenty years later, the death of a family member triggered a major clinical depression for Jodi. She began seeking treatment however, it was in finding an amazing psychologist, that helped her to identify she was battling an underlying anxiety disorder. Jodi discloses, “It was recognised that I had undiagnosed anxiety. I didn’t really know that what I had experienced all my life up until that point had been any sort of disorder, that was just my temperament and personality.” 

After many years of seeing her psychologist, Jodi eventually weaned off her medication and managed her anxiety with exercise and meditation. Offering advice on finding the right psychologist Jodi states, “For me it was my third that was the right fit. I really encourage anyone if the psychologist you were referred to doesn’t feel like the right fit, then they’re not and it’s time to go back to your GP. Having the right professional that you’re talking to and having a good relationship with is really important for the therapeutic relationship.”

Jodi highlights the importance of prioritising mental wellbeing, affirming, “The more we can open up and talk about our journeys, the more we encourage other people to do the same and normalise the experience.”

Anxious Mums came into fruition after a mum in the audience of one of Jodi’s speaking engagements emailed Jodi’s publisher stating, “Jodi has to write a book, all mums have to hear what she has to say.”

Everyday efforts new mothers face, consign extra pressure on wellbeing and showcase the need to counteract anxiety before it subordinates everyday lifestyles. While Jodi’s children are now early adolescents, she reflects upon the early stages of new motherhood, “Ultimately when I became a mum with all the extra uncertainty and responsibility, as well as lack of sleep, my mental health really declined to a point where I ended up deciding to take medication, which was ultimately life changing.”

When I became a mum with all the extra uncertainty and responsibility, as well as lack of sleep, my mental health really declined to a point where I ended up deciding to take medication, which was ultimately life changing.”

New mothers experience heightened anxiety as they approach multiple challenges of parenthood; from conceiving, through the journey of pregnancy, birth and perpetually, thereafter. Becoming a mother provided Jodi with insight into new challenges, in particular struggles with breastfeeding and lack of sleep. She shares, “It’s something that we don’t have much control over, particularly as new parents. We just kind of get used to operating on a lot less sleep and it doesn’t serve us well in terms of our mental health, particularly if there have been challenges in the past or a pre-existing disorder.

Research suggests women’s brains process stress differently to men, with testosterone also said to be somewhat protective against anxiety. This, along with different coping mechanisms of women, highlight statistic disparity between gender. For early mothers in particular, it is a time of immense change, as their everyday lives are turned upside down. New schedules, accountability and hormonal changes increase the likelihood of anxiety and depression, which are also commonly triggered in the postpartum period.

Jodi elaborates on important hormonal timeframes that shift women’s mental wellbeing stating, “Anxiety is heightened during times of hormonal changes as well as in the key points in our reproductive lives. Through having children and menopause and alike. It’s more disabling in that it impacts our lives in different ways to men, particularly I think, because we’re usually the main carers. There are stay at home dads, but predominantly that’s what women tend to do.”

Normal anxiety is infrequent and settles down, but when someone suffers a disorder, they can have incessant worry and avoidance. This can include anxiety around not wanting to participate, attend a function, for example, try something new or step up in a work role. Anxiety disorders can be crippling, leaving sufferers feeling as though they are unable to live their best life.

There’s no harm in going and asking the question because the gap between the first symptoms of anxiety and seeking help is still eight years in Australia.”

There are many telling physical signs and symptoms of an anxiety disorder. Some indicative signs to look out for include a racing heart, trembling, sick stomach, frequent perspiration and dizziness that accompanies shortness of breath. Jodi says, “If you think that your anxiety might be a problem, that’s absolutely the time to go and make an appointment to see your GP. There’s no harm in going and asking the question because the gap between the first symptoms of anxiety and seeking help is still eight years in Australia.”

“Half of all mental illness comes on by around the ages of fourteen. Most adults who have anxiety can track it back to when they were teenagers or children.”

Just as anxiety is common for mothers, it’s also important to observe and be aware of in children. Jodi reveals, “For parents it’s important to know that half of all mental illness comes on by around the age of fourteen. Most adults who have anxiety can track it back to when they were teenagers or children. 75 percent of all mental illness comes on by about the age of 25, with one in seven children [4-17 years old] being diagnosed with a mental illness, and half of those have anxiety.”

“75 percent of all mental illness comes on by about the age of 25, with one in seven children [4-17 years old] being diagnosed with a mental illness, and half of those have anxiety

These pre-covid statistics highlight significant numbers of anxiety in adolescents. However, with the current climate prevalent of immense loss of control, many are facing new heightened emotions and increased numbers of anxiety. Early research coming out of Monash University is showcasing significant growth of adults with depression and anxiety, including statistics of children in the early ages of one to five experiencing symptoms.

Similar research has given light to evidence portraying children mirroring stress responses of their parents. Jodi further explains, “They can pick up the changes in our own heart rate, in our stress response — we are told that as new mums aren’t we, that our babies can pick up on how we are feeling but the science proves that to be true as well.” Parenting is a consequential way in which children receive cognitive biases and behaviours, “Just the tone of our voice, the expressions on our face, the way that we speak, what we say, certainly can be picked up on by kids and mirrored back.”

Noticing these early signs in your children is essential to alleviating anxiety before it progresses, Jodi lists some signs to be aware of, “Avoidance is a hallmark sign of anxiety — I don’t want to go, I don’t want to participate, I don’t want to deliver that oral presentation in class, I don’t want to go to camp and so watching out for that sort of thing. Other signs and symptoms to look out for include big emotions. If your children seem more teary or angry than usual, are feeling worried or avoidant, can’t concentrate, having trouble remembering or difficulty sleeping.” It’s important to be aware and help counteract anxiety when you see it. 

Jodi offers parents, who are struggling coping with their children’s anxiety some advice stating, “It’s an age old question, how much do we push and when do we hold back; I think as parents we are constantly answering that question. We don’t always get it right, but the thing about avoidance is it only makes anxiety worse. So for the child who is anxious about going to school, the more they stay home, the harder it will be to front up on another day. Sometimes, we need to nudge them forward in small steps and that’s a technique called step-laddering. It’s about making a step in that direction.”

Jodi encourages parents to observe their children’s symptoms and to never feel ashamed to go see a GP.  She urges, “Sometimes we get that reassurance from a GP, it might just be developmental, but the sooner kids are getting the help they need, the better, and it’s the same for us as mums.”

There are simple everyday steps we can take to combat anxiety. When someone is anxious a threat has been detected within the brain, this part of the brain is called the amygdala, one of the most powerful strategies for managing this stress detection is regulant meditation. 

Jodi explains, “What meditation does is it brings our attention to the present, so we are paying attention to what’s happening in the moment.” Meditation recognises deliberate breathing with a focus equally on exhalation as inhalation, proven to be calming to the anxious brain, using the relaxation response. 

Commending the importance of the practice and its effect on functioning, Jodi describes, “Meditation is more that sort of seated and formal practice of focusing the breath. What we know this will do over time, is it reduces the size and sensitivity of the amygdala, so it’s less sensitive to threat which reduces long-term anxiety. For the average person, our minds wander around 50 percent of the time, when we can bring our attention back to the present we are much more likely to be able to settle our anxiety, and feel happier as well.”

Another everyday strategy for combatting anxiety is exercise. Jodi shares her experience and routine stating, “Exercise is something I’ve used my whole life to calm my anxiety. Even now, I do cross-fit, karate and walks every week. I think naturally I was managing my health and wellbeing without really understanding why, I just knew that it made me feel good.”

The fight or flight response tied to anxiety powers us up to fight physically to save our lives or to flee. So often, when someone is anxious, they are powered up in this way, but not doing anything about it. Jodi shares, “When we move, it’s the natural end to the fight or flight response. Not only that, when we exercise we release serotonin, which is a feel good neural transmitter, among with gamma aminobutyric acid, a neural transmitter that puts the breaks on our anxiety response helping to calm us down.” 

Jodi’s practice in physiology, working with clients using exercise to help them with their mental and physical health has led her to her understandings, “One of the things I can 100 percent tell you is that it’s best not to wait until you feel motivated — the motivation will come once you get into the routine of it.

Dr Jodi Richardson, anxiety & wellbeing speaker, bestselling author & consultant

I’d just like to say, anxiety isn’t something we need to get rid of to really be able to thrive, to do what we need to do and accomplish what’s important to us. But I really encourage to anyone, that there are lots of ways to dial it back. I think it’s very easy for us to wait until we feel 100 percent to do something, but doing anything meaningful is hard.

So don’t wait until your anxiety is gone because you might be waiting a long time.”

 

 

 

 

Anxious Kids Penguin Books Australia, Author: Michael Grose, Dr Jodi Richardson RRP: $34.99 Anxious Mums Penguin Books Australia , Author: Dr Jodi Richardson  RRP: $34.99

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help now, call triple zero (000)

Lifeline:  Provides 24-hour crisis counselling, support groups and suicide prevention services. Call 13 11 14, text on 0477 13 11 14 (12pm to midnight AEST) or chat online.

Beyond Blue: Aims to increase awareness of depression and anxiety and reduce stigma. Call 1300 22 4636, 24 hours/7 days a week, chat online or email.

Kids Helpline: : Is Australia’s only free 24/7 confidential and private counselling service specifically for children and young people aged 5 – 25. Call 1800 55 1800

 

 

 

Olympic gold medallists such as Emma McKeon in the pool and Logan Martin in the BMX event have wowed the nation with their achievements. However, there is more we can learn from our Olympians and Paralympians beyond their pursuit of gold.

This Olympic game for Australia has been our most successful gold medal, Olympic Games since Athens, 2004. Over August, Australians have come to love watching the world compete as well as learning about the lives of athletes outside of competition. Below are 10 inspiring lessons today’s youth can learn from our Australian Olympians and Paralympians about success, regardless of their future career.

1. Your character is just as important as your achievements.

Name:  Emma McKeon

Age: 27

Sport: Swimming

Emma McKeon has become Australia’s most successful Olympian in history, with 11 gold medals to her name. Her accomplishments surpass Olympic legends such as Ian Thorpe! Emma’s humbling attitude towards her achievements sets the precedence for all young aspiring athletes that your character is as important as success. 

2. Just because something has not been done before doesn’t mean you can’t make it happen.

Name: Shae Graham

Age: 34

Sport: Wheelchair Rugby

Credit: Paralympics Australia

Shae Graham was the first female athlete to represent Australia in wheelchair rugby! After being in a car accident in her late teen years, her journey with wheelchair rugby began after losing a bet to her brother. Shae debuted five years later internationally as a wheelchair rugby player in the USA, representing Australia.

Through Shae’s experience, she shows all young women that they too have the power to be the next ‘first’ for women in sport.

With her sights set on gold in Tokyo, as the first female Paralympic Wheelchair rugby player for Australia, she is sure to continue paving the way for young female athletes.

3. Women can be in healthy competition and still support each other.

Name: Ariarne Titmus

Age: 20

Sport: Swimming

Credit: Swimming Australia and Delly Carr
Her healthy rivalry and positive relationship with the USA’s legendary swimmer, Katie Ledecky, has been unwavering.

Ariarne is an excellent demonstration of how women can push each other to be better without resorting to toxic behaviour. Her healthy rivalry and positive relationship with the USA’s legendary swimmer, Katie Ledecky, has been unwavering, despite the media’s interference and speculation. Both Katie and Ariarne always speak highly of one another, modelling how women should treat one another on and off the clock, wherever life may take them.

4. Success is not a solo achievement.

Name: Cedric Dubler

Age: 26

Sport: Athletics, Decathlon

Credit: Cedric Dubler (pictured left)
Not only has Cedric become the pinnacle of sportsmanship, but he teaches us that success is even better when shared.

Cedric Dubler has sent the press into a frenzy, and it is not because he won gold. Rather, Cedric encouraged his teammate, Ash Moloney, in the final leg of the decathlon to push ahead and secure himself and our country a medal! Cedric could have kept running and finished his race but instead used his energy to lift Maloney when he needed it the most. While Cedric didn’t receive a medal, he teaches us that success is a team effort – even in a singles event like the decathlon. Not only has Cedric become the pinnacle of sportsmanship, but he teaches us that success is even better when shared.

5. You should never let a setback stop you from achieving your goals. 

Name: Liz Clay

Age: 26

Sport: Athletics, 100m Hurdles

Credit: @thewolfferine courtesy of Liz Clay

Liz Clay is the epitome of perseverance, constantly bouncing back from injuries and setbacks on her road to Tokyo. Driven by passion and determination, Liz qualified as a debutante in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic team as the second-fastest Australian in history and broke two personal bests in her 100m hurdle event.

She never lets her setbacks define her worth.

While Liz did not leave Tokyo with a medal, she never lets her setbacks define her worth or ability to succeed as a person and athlete. We can learn so much from her attitude towards success and setbacks. She will definitely be one to watch for in Paris 2024!

6. It is important to pursue your passions.

Name: Deon Kenzie

Age: 25

Sport: Para-athletics

Credit: Deon Kenzie

As a child, Deon accidentally discovered his passion for running after he began running to support his AFL training. He has been representing Australia, internationally for eight years, and Tokyo 2020 will be his second Olympic games. Deon is a world record holder and has an Olympic silver medal to his name. While running is his life, Deon also owns his own Kombucha brand. How cool is that!? Deon is a stellar example of how passion fuels success. We also learn from him that once you discover your passion, you should take it and run with it – quite literally in Deon’s case!

7. Hard work pays off.

Name: Christie Dawes

Age: 41

Sport: Para-athletics

Credit: Paralympics Australia

Christie has represented Australia in six consecutive Paralympic Games, which calculates to over 24 years of training and competition. Not only does she have two world titles and three medals to her name, but she is also a mother, wife and has a career in teaching as well! There is no doubt that Christie Dawes’ long career as an athlete is founded upon a hardworking, dedicated attitude to para-athletics.

8. Resilience is key.

Name: Alistair Donohoe

Age: 26

Sport: Para-cycling

Credit: Paralympics Australia

Alistair, since childhood, always had a tunnel vision goal of becoming an elite athlete, even after an incident at age 15 that could have stopped his pursuit of this dream altogether. Instead, after falling into para-cycling, Alistair put in the work, making it to Rio to compete in the 2016 Olympic games.

There is more we can learn from our Olympians and Paralympians beyond their pursuit of gold. 

Unfortunately, a collision on the course wiped him out of medal contention. Fast-forward 4 years, he is back at peak form to compete in the Tokyo games as a contender for gold AND as a reigning champion in two of his events. What a comeback!

9. It is never too late to follow your dreams.

Name: Zac Incerti

Age: 25

Sport: Swimming

Credit: Swimming Australia and Delly Carr

Zac Incerti is inspiring for two reasons. Firstly, Zac did not begin competitively swimming until he was 18 years old! He challenges the notion that all Olympians began training in childhood. More so, Zac uses his Instagram platform to openly speak of his mental health journey, namely his battle with anxiety. We can learn from Zac that there is no right timeframe to achieve our goals. He also teaches us the importance of both physical and mental health, contributing to normalising the conversation around mental health for men.

10. There is more than one way to reach your goals.

Name: Logan Martin

Age: 27

Sport: BMX Freestyle

Credit: Con Chronis, courtesy of AusCycling

Logan Martin is the protagonist in the epic story of a man who builds an Olympic sized BMX training park in his backyard to secure himself a gold medal in Tokyo. Martin had two options to remain competitive in his sport. He either had to move abroad for international competition or find a way to increase his training from home among the COVID-19 lockdown.

Logan’s story teaches us that there is always another way, and it is important to be resilient against our obstacles.

Yet, Martin found another way. He created a training facility in his backyard. Logan’s story teaches us that there is always another way, and it is important to be resilient against our obstacles. Logan could have quit or moved abroad, away from his family, but instead, he has left Tokyo with a shiny gold medal!

 

The adoption process is not easy, but for some parents adoption it is their last chance at a family.

After 10 years of In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) treatments, plus two and a half years of waiting in the adoption program, hairdresser Pina and her husband John were finally able to have that chance.

The Melbourne couple, are one of the lucky sets of parents who were able to adopt a baby boy 20 years ago. Both had wanted children since their mid to late-twenties and after exhausting all their options to have their own biological child, they turned to adoption.

The 10 years of IVF treatments had taken their toll on Pina physically and mentally, seeing her future continuously taken away from her, made her feel like the adoption process would be just another form of torture and in some respects it was.

Still, she felt she had nothing to lose and if IVF had taught her anything, it was that she was willing to risk it. Thankfully, luck was on her side and after 13 years of waiting, Pina and John welcomed a baby boy into their family.

Pina explains how the IVF treatments hurt her. “We kept making beautiful embryos, through IVF,” Pina shares.

“For whatever reason, they never stuck to me. However, I think there is a reason in life, why things happen – I was meant to have Damien.”

IVF is an intrusive procedure that has a success rate per fresh embryo transfer of 38.8% for live birth and 44.9% for clinical pregnancy (ages 18-34) and 32.2% (live birth), 41.7% (clinical pregnancy) for ages 35-38, ages greater than 38 it drops even further.

“They kept saying to me that there is absolutely nothing wrong, my husband had the low sperm count that’s the reason we went on it. As the woman, I had to go through a lot,” Pina recalls.

I was at the point where I thought, I’m not meant to have kids and that’s it, end of story.” It was then, Pina’s husband, John mentioned adoption.

Although adoption seems like a great back-up plan for a family, in reality, it’s a very complex system with the average wait time being between five and seven, if one passes the qualifying stages. Between 2018-2019 there was a total of 310 adoptions Australia wide, 82% were Australian born children and 67% of the 310 adoptions were from their foster parents.

With the increase in women’s rights and family planning and the resulting drop of children in the adoption system, means there are more parents waiting to adopt than there are children needing to be adopted.

Australia’s adoption policies differ depending on the States. In Victoria there are three kinds of adoption systems: local adoption, inter-country adoption and permanent care.

There are also only 13 partner countries with Australia for adopting children, each having independent rules and regulations which can restrict options. Factors such as being married, single, male or female, in a de-facto relationship, one’s age, gender orientation and sexuality can all affect one’s chances of adoption.

The local adoption requirements are less strict, for example a persons’ orientation or relationship status does not matter but there is a demanding application process which examines a person’s life in minute detail.

The biological parents learn everything about the adopting parents as well has gaining many rights, one of which is the right to visitation.

Even though we would be adopting their children, they still get to see them,” Pina says.

Pina didn’t have a problem with this requirement because she believes it’s important for a child, any person for that matter, to know their heritage to better understand oneself.

To be qualified and placed in the adoption program would take two years for Pina and John. As Pina says, “They wanted to get to know us better than we knew ourselves.”

Answering endless questions fuelled a gruelling and extensive qualification process. It was also yet another period of trying not to get their hopes up in fear of disappointment.

The final step, after 2.5 years of the application process, was an intimidating interview with a panel of lawyers, doctors, psychologists and Department of Human Services (DHS) staff.

Pina says she thought they were successful because of her view of it not mattering to her who or where the child was from, to her a child was a child and if she could supply the home then she would gladly do it.

Two months later, they got the call that they were to be the parents of a 4.5-month-old baby boy, whom they named Damien.

The first time I lay eyes on him, I just thought he was the most beautiful little baby ever,” Pina recalls.

However, their adoption story did not end there, it has always been in the background through Damien’s childhood, adolescence and even into adulthood.

Damien has known he was adopted from an early age. Pina took the approach to start filling him in as soon as he could understand.

Pina strongly wanted Damien never to question where he belonged, she made sure he knew he was a part of this family and nothing could change it.

I told him little bits and pieces and as he got older,” Pina says.

“He knows that he has biological siblings, and yes that was a bit hard, I did not know how he would take it. I suppose growing up he knew nothing other than us; we are his parents- this is his family. He never really questioned it and had no interest in meeting her (his biological mother) or his siblings.”

Although Damien never questioned who he was and where he belonged it was still difficult to understand why his biological mother gave him up, especially when she had children already.

Even though Damien’s biological mother hardly used the visitation rights, as she wanted a clean break, she has been in contact with Damien over the past 20 years.

In some ways it was more detrimental than good for Damien. Each time would raise his expectations, to have some sort of relationship and understanding, only to be rejected all over again.

Damien does not know who his biological father is, although he knows it is where he gets his aboriginal heritage. While having no information on the biological father has been challenging in having real access to the Australian Indigenous community for Damien, both Pina and John made sure he was in touch with his cultural heritage.

“Adoption is a gamble. Any child is a gamble. Whether you adopt or whether you have one biologically. They can grow up to be the best, they can grow up to be the worst they can grow up to be anything,” Pina explains.

It has nothing to do with whether you gave birth or not. In the end it’s all the same.”

Adoption and its process are not for the feint hearted but if fate is on side it’s the best chance at having a family.

While moving may be inevitable, its toll on the family can be minimised with a few conscious steps. 

According to Peter Martin’s Census 2016, on average, an Australian family will move interstate once every five years. Whether it be looking for a better job, escaping a broken relationship, wanting a bigger pool, or hating the land lord, regional migration is frequent in Australia. This means, Australians are on the go. But to what cost?

Every year, half a million Australians move interstate, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. From 2018 – 2019, this meant 404,000 people moved from one regional state to another. That’s more than four MCG stadiums at capacity.

the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG)

Challenges of moving

The reality of moving, particularly from one state to another, is unstable. Although moving could well seem like the most financially and socially viable option, our children don’t often have a say in these decisions. The mental cost of moving from one place to another is taxing on our kids.

Three happy kids laughing.

Depending on how frequently a family moves, children can find it much harder to nurture high quality relationships and foster a sense of belonging. This can be threatening to a child’s sense of identity down the line.

This is perhaps because the ages from 10 to 18 are formative years both for the body (i.e. undergoing puberty), socially (i.e. developing social skills in a school setting), and academically (i.e. figuring out our interests, strengths, and passions at school). Moving, whether it be experiencing the change yourself or having a close friend leave you, can be tremendously character building because of the strain it puts on the need to adapt to a new setting.

A group of teenagers sitting by the water.

Minimising its impacts

Easier said than done. As parents, being aware of the challenges our kids can face is a step in the right direction. The impacts of moving go hand in hand with the reasons for moving. For instance, moving to find a better job for one parent can mean losing a job for the other. Divorce is also another major reason for families deciding a change of scenery is best for everyone. The effects of moving paired with the stressful reasons prompting it, are always sensed by those that have the least say in it.

Flexibility when it comes to adjusting to children’s emotions, changes in interests, and attempts to adapt to new social circles is crucial to minimising a sense of instability.

A father carrying his young toddler.

This could mean:

  • Keeping them informed. Letting children know exactly why you’re moving and how long you’re expecting to stay is important to making them feel involved and part of the team. This also shows sensitivity to the risk of a child feeling unheard.
  • Being more open to technology. Something most parents haven’t experienced growing up is the diverse way technology can be used to maintain long distant relationships. Facetime and Skype are not the only ways of maintaining a long-distance friendship. Increasingly, collaborative activities such as video games are used to keep in touch through a fun, and shared interest. Although too much screen time is something to be avoided, stigma around their use should be minimalised.
  • Getting involved. Encouraging children to participate in community initiatives such as local sporting teams, volunteering organizations, and attending seasonal activities such as summer camps, are great way for both parents and children to get to know their new surroundings. Whether or not they prefer their new home, getting involved is an important step towards mitigating mental strains associated with moving.
  • Making a new home feel like home. The sooner you unpack your boxes and put all your treasures out on display, the more comfortable and established children feel. Makes sense: home is where the family is… and all your stuff!

No matter what the reasons for moving are, choosing to minimise its effects is achievable and crucial to maintaining our children’s happiness, as well as our own.

Two children having a pillow fight.

It’s 7.00 am in 2013. I am living in the suburbs of New York City. Papa is annoyed. I know this because Scottish pipes and drums are blasting from the Bose speakers in the kitchen – this means we are late to breakfast.

Different styles of music marked different stages of our day growing up. For example, on a normal week day, we played classical music at breakfast. As a result, from a young age, we were familiar with Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 and Mozart’s Requiem, K. 626. These composers and their pieces marked the beginning of every day. At lunch time, we listened to Neil Diamond in the 70s and Stan Getz’s Girl from Impanema. Dinner, however, was exclusively American and Italian jazz.  Frank is a big family favourite—always kicking off Saturday night appetisers with New York, New York.

For as long as I can remember, I have woken to classical and fallen asleep to jazz.

Graffiti of jazz musicians.

With my days structured in musical genres, I was able to use my spare time for exploring my own musical tastes. From rap, to country, to Pitbull – my Spotify playlists never seem to make much sense. Indeed, growing up listening to different types of music meant I could not only explore a myriad of musical epochs, but also developed an interest in their history, because of the important social and political role some musicians played.

The way my parents used music to break up our days and structure them according to meal times, meant to this day, I associate music with community, to a time for conversation, and a time to enjoy my food.

I credit my solid relationship with food with the benefits of music.

A young family sharing a meal together.

As I grow older, I am increasingly aware of the manner in which family dynamics around food and meals can shape and affect our children’s eating habits. The benefits of listening to music at home in a structured, but enjoyable way, meant, growing up, the time for eating was always a shared event. Music brought my family together around a small kitchen island for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

A happy family having a picnic.

Not only has the correlation between food and music positively affected the quality of our time spent eating, but as well as that of our conversation. If anything, music inspires taste and mood, which is reflected in the way people communicate.

Research on the association between music and its intellectual benefits for kids is common. The assumption is, however, that there is causation involved between listening to music and children earning higher marks. This didn’t play out for me because I was never patient enough to learn a musical instrument and always preferred kicking the soccer ball. However, alternative explanations could explain why children who grow up listening to music or playing a musical instrument achieve success. For instance, a child taking the time to learn to play the guitar might learn the skill of perseverance, which helps when tackling challenging homework.

Toddler playing the guitar at home.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) show that music has physical and emotional benefits. Music activates the emotional reward system of our brains and causes the release of dopamine. This is one of the main signaling molecules in our brains. It is often used to describe a small, pleasurable thrill. Music creates ‘peak emotional arousal’ following for instance, the anticipation of a beat drop or a particularly enjoyable passage.

This creates a similar feeling in our bodies as that of other ‘euphoria-inducing stimuli’ such as food, drugs and sex.

A model of the human brain.

When combined with other euphoric aspects of our lives – i.e. food and a happy family environment, music has incredible social and personal benefits. The natural benefits of music on the body explain why music is a universal concept among humans.

Young children often put non-food items in their mouths, such as grass or toys, because they’re curious about the world around them. However, children with Pica take this a step further and actually eat them.

A boy playing in the dirt

What is Pica?

Pica is an eating disorder characterised by the compulsive eating of non-food items. A person with Pica may eat relatively harmless substances, such as ice, but many crave potentially dangerous ones, including hair, dirt or faeces. This can lead to serious complications and occasionally death. The name is derived from the word ‘pica’, meaning magpie, based on the idea that magpies will eat almost anything.

Pica is diagnosed when:

  • A patient persistently eats non-food items for greater than a month
  • This consumption is developmentally and culturally inappropriate.

If the behaviour occurs in a patient with another disorder, such as autism, it must be persistent enough to warrant a separate diagnosis.

Who develops Pica?

Anyone can develop Pica, however it is most common in young children, pregnant women and people with developmental disabilities. It is unclear how many people are affected, but it is believed to be more prevalent in developing countries due to higher levels of malnutrition and food insecurity.

Pica can also be found in other animals, such as dogs or cats.

Causes

There is no clear cause of Pica, but doctors have found that it is more common in individuals who experience:

 

  • Malnutrition
    A boy playing on the beach
  • Iron deficiency
  • Autism
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • OCD
  • Schizophrenia
  • Trichotillomania
  • Excoriation disorder (also known as dermatillomania)
  • Emotional trauma
  • Parental neglect
  • Maternal deprivation
  • Family issues
  • Pregnancy

Pica and pregnancy

Pica in pregnant women is thought to be caused by iron deficiency anaemia. It’s not uncommon for pregnant women to crave strange combinations of food, however, to be diagnosed with Pica the woman must be craving and ingesting non-food items such as soil, ice, or laundry detergent.

Worldwide, Pica is thought to occur in 25% of pregnant women. The reasons for this are often attributed to the geographic region and the associated risk of malnutrition and anaemia.

Pica in children

Children with dirty hands

Young children often put non-food items in their mouths, such as grass or toys, because they’re curious about the world around them. However, children with Pica take this a step further, and actually consume them.

Small children make up 25 to 33 percent of all Pica cases. The minimum age for diagnosis is two years, as children under two often eat non-food items due to lack of understanding.

Pica in adults

In adults, Pica is usually a symptom of an underlying medical condition, such as iron deficiency anaemia. If not, it is often caused by psychiatric conditions or developmental disabilities.

It is difficult to determine the prevalence of Pica in adults, as many may not want to admit to craving and eating non-food items. In institutionalised adults, the prevalence is 21 to 26 percent.

In order for an adult to be diagnosed with Pica, the eating behaviour must be culturally inappropriate. In certain cultures, a non-food item may be considered appropriate for consumption. For example, eating dirt and clay is considered a custom in some parts of rural Mississippi.

Pica in animals

brown tabby cat in blue ceramic vase
A cat sitting beside a succulent

Many animals, such as cats and dogs, chew on non-food objects, but a much smaller percentage actually consume them. Pica behaviours are often caused by behavioural problems, such as anxiety, boredom, or compulsive behaviour. It is also seen in dogs who are teething.

Dangers

Eating non-food, non-digestible and potentially toxic materials can have numerous consequences, including:

  • Malnutrition
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Dental issues
  • Choking
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Internal bleeding
  • Damage to internal organs
  • Lead poisoning
  • Brain damage

Treatment

Treatments for Pica vary depending on the underlying cause. For example, if symptoms are due to iron deficiency, supplements and dietary changes may alleviate symptoms without other treatment methods.

Behavioural modification techniques are often used, assisting sufferers to unlearn Pica behaviours. These techniques include:

  • Aversion therapy, where the individual faces a negative consequence for eating non-food items. For example, a child may have his or her toys confiscated, and a dog may be sprayed with water.
  • Positive reinforcement, where the individual is rewarded for eating nutritious food, or for not engaging in Pica behaviours.
  • Overcorrection, where Pica behaviours result in the individual, usually a child, being required to dispose of non-edible objects, wash themselves, and participate in chore-based punishment when they engage in Pica behaviours.

Treatment may also include dealing with complications, such as surgery for intestinal obstruction.

boy holding ice cream with cone
A child eating an ice cream cone

Does Pica go away?

In young children and pregnant women, Pica often resolves on its own within a few months, or after childbirth. Similarly, if Pica behaviours are due to a nutritional deficiency, treatment and supplements should alleviate symptoms.

However, Pica doesn’t always go away. In those with mental illness or developmental disabilities, Pica may continue into adulthood. In these cases, ongoing treatment and support may be required, including counselling and behavioural modification techniques.

Perth Weekend Guide

We’ve found some fantastic fun and engaging things for the kids to do in Perth year-round, all you have to do is choose where to go first!

KEEP THEM ACTIVE

Are your kids bubbling with energy? These activities are sure to keep them entertained all day.

Zone Bowling Joondalup

Looking for a place with it all? With bowling, laser tag, an arcade and yummy food, Zone Bowling will keep them busy for hours. Visit: https://www.zonebowling.com/venues/wa/zone-bowling-joondalup

 

LatitudeAir Joondalup

Take the kids to LatitudeAir Joondalup to climb, bounce and fly. With over 3,000sqm of aerial entertainment, including trampolines and climbing walls, get the kids ready for a day packed full of activity. For more information, head to their website: https://latitudeair.com/?_ga=2.60282477.1790865332.1605578656-66651972.1605578656

The Climb Zone

At Kerem Adventure Park, the Climb Zone is a fun adventure packed experience – with high ropes, low ropes and rock climbing in a safe and fun family environment. Go to: https://www.theclimbzone.com.au

Adventure World

A favourite for the whole family, Adventure World is now open with awesome rides for everyone. If you’re a thrill-seeker, check out the big scary Abyss or the Kraken. Or if you’re looking for something a bit tamer, go see the Hawaiian resort-themed Kahuna Falls. There’s even something for the little ones in the Dragons Kingdom. Visit: https://adventureworld.net.au

Island Aqua Park

Located in Hillarys, this floating aqua park features climbing walls and slides, and is suitable for children 6 years and over. Just make sure to book 48 hours in advance. Go to: https://islandaquapark.com.au

Trees Adventure

Just one hour out of Perth, this action-packed treetop and zipline adventure is suitable for kids 4 years and older, and offers a great range of courses and challenges for the whole family to enjoy. Hopefully you’re not afraid of heights! Go to: https://treesadventure.com.au/park/lane-poole-park/

Bibra Lake Regional Playground

This playground has something for children of all ages, with everything from water squirting bulrushes to educational giant rocks telling local Nyungar stories. Located near Bibra Lake on Progress Drive, this playground has plenty of activities including a double flying fox, rope obstacle courses and climbing frames, and plenty of shade, so you can even bring a picnic. For more visit: https://www.cockburn.wa.gov.au/Recreation-and-Attractions/Parks-and-Playgrounds/Bibra-Lake-Regional-Playground

VR-Arrival

For the older kids, this fun and new Virtual Reality experience is suitable for children 11 years and older. Much more than just gaming, VR-ARRIVAL delivers extraordinary experiences, transporting you, your friends and family into immersive virtual worlds. Boasting the best in professional VR headset (HTC Vive Pro) and room-scale motion-tracking technology, VR-ARRIVAL lets you experience virtual reality at its very best, with unmatched immersion and realism. Walk freely inside virtual worlds and literally step INTO the experience. Visit: vr-arrival.com.au 

LEARN WHILE YOU PLAY

Keep them learning and growing on the weekends, by making their time off fun but educational.

AQWA

A family favourite located on Hillarys Boat Harbour, the Aquarium of Western Australia is the place to see and learn all about the underwater creatures of our coast as you go on a journey to learn and gain respect for our sea life. There is plenty to see and do, including diving or snorkelling with the sharks. For more info, go to: https://www.aqwa.com.au/

Fremantle Prison

Fremantle Prison has some fantastic experiences such as an Escape Tour, for children aged 5-12; and their making a mark art workshop! With tours for children aged 8-12, the prison is an excellent and exciting place to learn while you play, getting a glimpse into the life of a prisoner at Fremantle prison.  https://fremantleprison.com.au/visit-us/

Boola Bardip Museum

Located in the heart of Perth, the new and improved Perth Museum has finally reopened its doors and has a multitude of fun programs and activities to get up to. From their “Blast off! Stop Motion Animation” program about meteorites and our solar system, to their “Virtual Vortals program” about virtual reality and interactive digital adventures, plus many more. See: https://visit.museum.wa.gov.au/boolabardip/tours-programs-events

WA Maritime Museum

This weekend, head on down to the Maritime Museum in Fremantle to learn all about the fascinating world of the Vikings, with activities such as a Vikings themed game show, a choose-your-own-adventure story, or just relax and enjoy a fun-filled adventure of sailing, raiding and exploring. Go to: http://museum.wa.gov.au/museums/maritime

 

Gravity Discovery Centre and Observatory

Located only an hour north of Perth, become a rocket scientist for a day with their rocket making activities, and on Thursdays get the chance to become a space explorer with their school holiday program. Visit: Gravity Discovery Centre

SEE THE WILDLIFE

Are you an animal-loving family? There’s plenty of activities to get out and see some furry (or not so furry) friends.

Perth Zoo

A family favourite for wildlife is the Perth Zoo. There is plenty to do, from kids and youth programs to watching live streams of the animals and Zoocoustics where you can see some of the best emerging Australian musicians with your loved ones. Set in the lush gardens of the Zoo, these unique live acoustic music sessions will have hearts fluttering. There will be food trucks for those looking for a bite to eat, or pack a picnic and bring your own food with responsible BYO drinks. General tickets are $30. Perth Zoo members receive a discounted ticket price of $25 (A valid Perth Zoo membership card must be present upon entry).  For more information check out the website:  https://perthzoo.wa.gov.au/programs

Caversham Wildlife Park

Located inside of Whiteman Park, get the chance to meet a wombat, feed a kangaroo, meet the koalas or feed some penguins. Visit: https://www.cavershamwildlife.com.au/daily-attractions/

Yanchep National Park

Have a little explorer on your hands? There are more than 400 caves reported at Yanchep Park, each offering contrasting experiences. Not only this but there are koalas to visit, kangaroos to see, golf to play and the opportunity tolearn about the rich culture and history of the Noongar people of Australia’s South West. For more, go to: https://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/park/yanchep

Cohunu Koala Park

Have a chat with over 30 talking parrots, see dingoes, kangaroos, emus, deer and koalas, just to name a few of the animals that live at this park. Take a ride on the Cohunu Park Railway for $4, it zig-zags its way throughout the park most weekends & public holidays (subject to weather conditions). Visit: http://cohunu.com.au/pioneer-steam-museum/

 

Penguin Island

Just a five-minute ferry ride away, the beautiful white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters is an island known for its wildlife. Join them for a cruise to see some dolphins, rare Australian sea lions, as well as the world’s smallest penguins. Plus the chance to swim, snorkel, picnic and explore, Penguin Island is a dream for animal lovers. Go to: https://www.penguinisland.com.au/#welcome-1

Swan Valley Cuddly Animal Farm

Are cuddly farmyard animals more your style? With entry including free tractor/train rides, a free merry go round ride, free bottle and bucket feeding, and free tea and coffee for the grown-ups, this is a lovely day out for the family. Visit: https://www.cuddlyanimalfarm.com.au

Toodyay Fairy-Tale Farm

Located in the Avon Valley town of Toodyay, this family built and owned farm has a range of indoor and outdoor displays of all your favourite nursery rhymes and fairy tales, friendly farm animals for the kiddies to interact with, and even a vintage toy museum. Go to: https://www.fairytalefarm.com.au

Experiences are invaluable and make the best memories. Do something different, try something new, explore the city and have some family fun with our Sydney weekend activity guide.

ACTION
Activate the adrenaline and eliminate the boredom with this action-packed To-Do list. Bonus points if you do it too!

iFLY Sydney Indoor Skydiving
Pull-on your superhero suit and leap into the thrilling experience of indoor skydiving. In a controlled environment for ages 3 – 103 and no aeroplane to jump out of, there’s almost no excuse not to give it a try! www.iflyworld.com.au

Lets Go Surfing
Perhaps your local pool isn’t quite cutting it and your kids are keen on a new experience or a new hobby. A surf lesson is a fantastic way to dive into the summer and as a bonus, teach kids about resilience – if you fall down, you get back up and go again.

 

Lets Go Surfing facilitates private and group lessons for kids, families, and adults looking to take their water skills up a notch (bragging rights included!). Sydney locations include Bondi and Maroubra. https://letsgosurfing.com.au/

Treetop Adventure Park
It’s a choose your own adventure, in real life. Fly through tree-tops, climb, weave and wobble your way through 100 elevated obstacles. You might even meet some native Australian wildlife in the giant gum trees!
https://www.treetops.com.au/

Luna Park
Another park, but of the ride kind. You know the one. Endless fun and excitement for all!
https://www.lunaparksydney.com/

Ice Zoo
We know Sydney summers can be a scorcher. Pretend you’re in a winter wonderland and cool off at Ice Zoo Ice Skating.
www.icezoo.com/

9D Action Cinemas
If having a family feels action-fuelled and chaotic enough, this one might be for you!  Although you’ll be bearing the brunt of smoke, wind, snow, water, and fire via 3D glasses and 9D effects, you won’t need to reign it in or take the wheel on this one. Sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.
https://www.9dactioncinemas.com.au/

Manly Kayak Centre
Explore the pristine waters of North Harbour with kayak hire, stand-up paddleboard, boat hire, lessons, and tours at Manly Kayak Centre! You will be paddling in paradise, exploring exclusive beaches, and taking in the stunning scenery along the way!

Raging Waters Sydney
Slip, slop, slap, kick and splash at Sydney’s biggest water park. If sliding down a whirlwind is too much for your stomach to handle, race your family on the eight-lane water racecourse or relax in the Cabana retreat by the wave pool.
https://ragingwaterssydney.com.au/

EDUCATION AND MUSEUMS
Learning made easy by visiting these interactive, eye-opening exhibitions and attractions.

Powerhouse Museum
Have you ever wanted to walk through a koala train made from over 2,000 multi-coloured pom poms? Probably not. But artist Rosie Deacon has, and she’s brought it to life at the Powerhouse for the school holidays. There’s something for everyone, with further exhibitions exploring Australian music, the future home, science, and design.
https://maas.museum/powerhouse-museum/ 

Museum of Contemporary Art
The MCA makes learning fun and accessible with their new online activities based on the current exhibition Anywhere but here: MCA Primavera Acquisitions. The activities can take place online at home or in the galleries via audio-guide. Suitable for ages 4+, the activities include string and body mapping, paper storytelling, looking through the viewfinder, and drawing your celebration, inspired by featuring artists.
https://www.mca.com.au/ 

Australian National Maritime Museum
It’s all hands on deck at the Maritime Museum. There are exhibitions including Beach Couture – a collection of wearable artworks made from rubbish and plastic pollution in the ocean, performances, tours, creative workshops, ocean labs, and the immersive and magical experience of Badu by Erth.
All aboard the Sea Museum! https://www.sea.museum/

The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney
If you’ve been indoors for too long and are after a temporary escape from the city, immerse yourself in the Royal Botanic Garden. Have a sunset picnic or take a pleasant walk through the Palace Rose Garden. Join a crafty workshop or guided tour and hear the stories of the Cadigal people and the plants that grow.  https://www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/

Madame Tussauds
Superheroes, world leaders, Bollywood stars, Aussie icons, celebrities and fame, join the red carpet and be in the same room as your favourite people at Madame Tussauds. This jaw-dropping museum will have you rocking in the spotlight to your favourite songs, recreating album covers and transforming into a superhero using the museum’s new Augmented Reality featuring body-tracking sensors.
https://www.madametussauds.com/sydney/ 

Sea Life Aquarium
Just next door to Madame Tussauds you can explore the fascinating sea life at the Aquarium. Face your fears as you walk under some of the world’s biggest aquarium sharks, including Grey Nurse Sharks. This 180-degree tunnel experience is always a highlight!
https://www.visitsealife.com/sydney/

Creative and Cheap Ideas to Keep the Children Entertained at Home 

 

 

With school back in session, you may have run out of ideas to do with your kids, and due to last year,  maybe on a strict budget.
Well, here is a list of fun, creative, and fantastic ideas that are cheap, can be done in the comfort of your own home, that is sure to entertain the whole family!

Have an indoor picnic:

This is perfect for those scorching hot days when you don’t want to leave air-conditioned comfort or for those days when it is pouring outside. To make this activity a bit more unique, why not come up with a small menu that the kids can help out with.

Make a Fort:
Forts can be made out of just about everything, but if you want to get real creative try using cardboard boxes. The kids could draw on the of the cardboard boxes to replicate a castle or a garden.

Have a movie night:
Put sleeping bags in front of the television and cook microwave popcorn and hot chocolate. You can put on a marathon of movies like those from Disney or Christmas movies that the whole family will love.

Make your own Playdoh:
Making your own playdoh is always a great option as some store-bought play-doh may have toxic ingredients if accidentally eaten.  However, this particular recipe is safe and nontoxic!

Ingredients:

2 cups of flour.
½ cup of salt.
2 tablespoon of cream of tartar.
1 ¼ cup of boiling water.
1 ½ tablespoon of canola oil.
Sandwich bags.
Food colouring.

Directions:

Step 1:
In a bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients together.
Then, add the oil and boiling water to the mix.
Step 2:
With a spoon mix all of the ingredients in a bowl.
Once mixed thoroughly, and the mixture is warm (not hot), mix by hand.
Roll the playdough a few times on a flat surface using both hands (like pizza or bread though), until thoroughly mixed and soft.
Step 3:
Divide the playdough into 4 equal parts.
Press an indentation in the centre of each piece.
Step 4:
Place a few drops of food colouring in the indentations you made on each dough batch.
One by one, roll each playdough batch until the colour is thoroughly mixed into the playdough.

Scavenger Hunt:
Scavenger Hunts are an excellent and creative idea to entertain the kids at home. You can hide a few toys in the sandpit and send your kids on a hunt to find them. You could even go around the house and put together a list of items that are around the house and send the kids to find them. This is definitely a great indoor and outdoor activity, depending on the weather.

Build Something:
Building with blocks and Legos sparks the children’s imagination as well as their motor skills. You and the kids can come up with something to build, and you can have a competition trying to develop that idea.  A little healthy competition never hurt anyone.

Video Game Competition:
Have a competition with your child on their gaming console (Wii, Nintendo etc.). You can split the family into teams (girls vs boys; parents vs kids). This helps the children know what healthy competition is and how to deal with their emotions if they lose.

Play Dress Up:
Kids love to dress up as their favourited character, favourited princess, and even their parents. Maybe pick an outfit out of your closet and dress them up as if you were going to work. It will be fun for them and a cute picture for saving.

Dance Party:
Put on some of your child’s favourited music and dance with them. You can teach them dance moves that you learned from your parents. This can be anywhere from the waltz to the electric slide.

Learn to Juggle:
Try to learn how to juggle together. It will be fun to learn a new skill together and maybe a hobby you two can continue to learn and practice.

Paper Airplane Competition:
Make paper aeroplanes and see who has the one that can fly the furthest. There are many different plane design to follow, and you can test which one is the best option.

Create a Puppet Show:
Creating a puppet show will let the kids come up with the design of the puppets as well as the storyline of the puppet show. This can also include what the set, lighting, and script will be.

Backyard Picnic:
Pack up a healthy lunch or leftover. Grab a blanket and some pillows and set up a spot in the yard. While eating, you can set up an outdoor movie viewing of your favourite family film, or you can bring out books and read a chapter out loud to the whole family.

 

Bord Box Ideas:


Get the kids to decorate an empty tissue box. Write on pieces of paper various activities. This could include everything from playing a board game, reading a book, Skyping or calling a friend or watching a movie, to a chore like cleaning their room or washing the car. This tissue box then becomes the ‘I’m bored box’. If the kids say they don’t have anything to do, get them to choose a piece of paper from the box with a suggestion that they have to complete.



Educational:

Crash Course Kids

Crash Course Kids is a bi-weekly show educational Youtube from the producers of Crash courses all about grade school science, so if you have a science excited kid then this is sure to interest them.

 

Adventure Academy

This is a website is virtual games that incorporate learning into the. The kids can have fun but are mentally stimulated at the same time.

 



Virtual field trips for kids that like to learn:

Virtual field trips are fun and educational, and now you have the option to go places while in the comfort of your own home.

Google Arts and Culture Program:

This is an online program through Google that allows users to view images and videos of artworks and cultural artefacts from different museums from around the world.

Great Barrier Reef:

Now that Google has launched Google Street View, you can take a virtual dive of different Great Barrier Reef Dive Sites.

International Space Station:

This involves a live stream of the International Space Station that shows crews on duty, Earth views available from space and even audio conversations between the crew and mission control.


Arts and Craft:

Sensory activities differ from other types of play as the emphasis on the senses amplifies the activity. Sensory play is any activity that activates one or multiple senses, and all kinds of play have the potential to become a sensory activity.

Edible Fish Small World Sensory Play:

Materials:

Two Blue Jelly packages.

Colourful and edible fish.

Jumbo tweezers or any other fine motor tool.

Container.

Directions:

Follow the directions on the back of the jelly box.

Once the jelly is set, cut the jelly into cubes but leave it relatively untouched so the children can squish it up and create their own ocean all themselves. This is an excellent way to work in more fine motor practice.

Now it is time to add the fish. This is especially fun for a toddler as they love poking and squishing things, so burying the fish in the gelatin is loads of fun for them.

For older kids who are ready for more of a fine motor challenge, you can use tongs or tweezers for kids to go “fishing”. Those little fish are slippery, so it’s quite the task to catch them.

You  can extend the learning in this edible fish small world sensory play a bit more by:

  • incorporating counting as kids add or remove the fish from the sensory bin
  • working on sorting and having kids sort the fish by colour
  • practising patterning with the fish

And when you’re done have a refreshing squish snack!

 

DIY Snow globe:
Select a focal point object to use in your simple DIY snow globe jar.  It is helpful to have several sizes of jars available. Perhaps save a variety of types and sizes of jars before doing this craft. Clear glassworks the best. Use hot-glue to glue the focal point object to the centre of the lid of your jar. You may glue down other small things to the top such as pebbles or beads as long as they are not close to the edge where they would be in the way of being able to screw the lid onto the jar. Fill the jar halfway full of distilled water. Squirt in some clear glue and stir it into the water. This will thicken the water and cause the glitter to fall more slowly when the kids shake the snow globe. The more glue you use, the thicker the water will become. For extra fun, add some glitter. When you are content with the amount of water in your jar, screw the lid tightly onto the jar. The focal point object should fit nicely inside. You can glue the lid on if you’re concerned the kids will try to open it later.

Active:

Leapfrog
Many of us played leapfrog as kids and could play for hours. This is a great idea to play outdoors and will definitely tire the kids out. You can make it even harder to add more people to the line-up.


Hot lava:
Hot lava is a game that everyone should know. The object of the game is to jump or climb on anything that is not the floor when anyone says, “The Floor is Lava”. This one works best indoors but can be quite creative when playing outside. You can even go as far as setting up an obstacle course that everyone has to follow.


Circuits:
This can be set up outside and can have several stations where the kids have to do a particular exercise at each place. When the time runs out, then they would have to switch to the next one until they complete the course. This one will definitely tire them out and may even get them to take an afternoon nap.


Red light, green light:
Well, everyone knows this game. One person is the caller, and they will either yell red light or green light. Red means stop and freeze, and the green light means to go forward. The first person to get to the caller wins. It is a great way to get their heart rate going.


Science Experiments:

Skittles rainbow:

 



Supplies needed:
· Plate
· Warm water
· Skittles (Try different colours and flavours!)

Directions:
Grab your plate and organise the Skittles in a circle around the edge of the container. Kids can try different colour patterns each time they do the experiment.
Gently pour water in the centre of the plate. Warm water works better than cold. Make sure there is enough water to go past the Skittles while filling the container.
Wait and watch the Skittles colours move towards the centre of the plate with beautiful rainbow streaks.
That is it. It is so quick and easy!

Elephant toothpaste:

 


Supplies Needed:

A clean 473 ml plastic soda or water bottle.
A 20-volume hydrogen peroxide.
1 tablespoon of dry yeast.
3 tablespoons of warm water.
Liquid dish soap.
Food colouring.
Small cup.
Funnel.
Safety goggles.
Adult supervision.

Directions:

Use the funnel to carefully pour ½ cup of the hydrogen peroxide liquid into the bottle.
Add about 10 drops of your favourited food colouring into the bottle and mix the bottle around.
In the separate small cup, combine the warm water and the yeast together and mix for around 30 seconds.
Use the funnel to pour the yeast-water mixture into the bottle and watch the fun begin.

Disappearing Eggshell:

 


Take a raw egg and put it in a cup.
You should see bubbles collect around the shell (a sign that a chemical reaction is taking place).
Leave for 4 to 5 days.
Go to observe.
You should now be able to see shell residue in the vinegar and the yolk whole in the egg white. If you still see white residue on the egg, you can rub this off lightly with your finger. I tried to lift the whole egg out of the vinegar but broke the membrane, but it is possible to lift it out whole.

Craft:

Bread and peanut butter bird feeder:

What you will need is bread, peanut butter, cookie cutters, birdseed and twine or string. First, we started by placing slices of bread on a cutting board. Next, you will put the cookie cutter on the centre of the bread, then had my daughter push down. You might have to help your child push the cookie cutter all the way through the bread, depending on how old your child is. After we cut out the shapes, I poked a small hole at the top of each cut out using a paper straw. This is where the twine will go through, so you can hang your feeders outside. Next, we let the cut-outs dry on the cutting board overnight. This allows the bread to harden. I flipped the bread over just once so that both sides of the bread would harden evenly. Once the bread has set, use a butter knife to spread the peanut butter on to the bread. After you have spread peanut butter on both sides of the bread cut-outs, roll the bread in birdseed until completely coated. I had to use the paper straw again to remove any peanut butter and birdseed that got inside the holes. Next, cut a piece of twine and tie in a knot.

Mason jar aquariums:

 



Supplies:

You will need a mason jar with a lid, blue food colouring, filtered water (tap is fine but come out a little cloudier). For extra fun, you can also get aquarium figurines, plastic plants, or rocks.

Step 1:

Add rocks, plants to the mason jar

Step 2:

Fill with water and add plastic sea creatures.

Step 3:

Add blue food colouring until you are satisfied with the colour.

Step 4:

Add glittering only if you want.

Step 5:

If you add glitter to make sure to add a few drops of glycerine if you want the water to flow more slowly.

Step 6:

Screw lid shut (at this point you can glue the lid with hot glue if you would like)

Step 7:

Gently swirl to see your sea creatures swim!

Cooking/Baking:

Get in the kitchen! Get the kids to help make brownies, decorate biscuits or for the festive season, make and decorate a gingerbread house. This is an excellent idea with the holidays fast approaching!


Frozen Yogurt Bark:

This recipe is not only quick but healthy and fun to make.

 



Ingredients:

Yoghurt of any kind, but plain will work best.
Sliced strawberries or chocolate chips.

Instructions:

Spread a layer of yoghurt onto a parchment-lined baking tray.
Top with the sliced strawberries or chocolate chips.
Freeze until firm, then crack into pieces.
Eat quickly, the bark melts fast.

4 Ingredients Energy Oatmeal Balls:

Ingredients:

3  cups of quick oats

1 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup of honey

1/2 chocolate chips

Directions:

Step 1:

Combine all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and stir together until well combined. Cover with a lid and put in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.

Step 2:

Roll into balls (slightly smaller than a golf ball). Then either eat right away or put back into the fridge for later. 




Don’t worry about your kids becoming bored on the weekends because you can make memories in Melbourne with our Activity Guide. We’ve done all the hard work searching for ideas – so all you need to do is decide where to go first!

IN THE CITY:

The CBD offers a variety of interesting and exciting activities all year round. Check out what’s happening now:

  • IMAX is releasing an exclusive documentary SEA LIONS: LIFE BY A WHISKER 3D.Narrated by award-winning actor Sam Neill, this classic coming-of-age story tells the tale of Otto, a young Australian Sea Lion pup, and the Marine Park Ranger dedicated to saving her species. Presented in immersive 3D, the movie features stunning footage of the uninhabited wilderness of the Great Australian Bight and to the lush kelp forests off the Californian coast. Visit https://imaxmelbourne.com.au/ for more.
  • Looking for an exciting and educational day out? Take your family to one of Melbourne’s three biggest zoos where they can meet all sorts of animals! With everything from lions, to giraffes and Australian bush animals you’ll be sure to have a fun day out. Plus, don’t miss the new Dino Lab where your little ones can explore the giant dinosaurs and learn about their extinction. Visit Melbourne Zoo, Werribee Open Range Zoo and Healesville Zoo. Go to https://www.zoo.org.au/
  • Ride the Scenic Railway around the perimeter of Luna Park where you can catch the view of St Kilda beach or enjoy the range of children’s rides on offer. If you’re more of a thrill seeker, have a go on the Enterprise or Supernova to get your heart racing! Visit https://lunapark.com.au/
  • Catch the best views of the city on the Melbourne Star. The giant ferris wheel takes you 120 metres into the sky to see 360 degree views of the busy port, city gardens and streets and views towards Mount Macedon and the Dandenong Ranges. Go to https://melbournestar.com/
  • Walk amongst creatures of the deep at the Melbourne Aquarium. With everything from sharks to seahorses to the Mega Croc, you are guaranteed a fun day out. Plus, don’t miss the Ice Age 4D Cinema! Go to https://www.visitsealife.com/melbourne/

  • If your kids are interested in science, then Scienceworks is a must! With loads of live shows and self-guided activities, your kids will be sure to discover something new! Check out the new show Colour Uncovered! to learn about how and why we see colour or stop by one of the Planetarium shows! Go to https://museumsvictoria.com.au/scienceworks/
  • Discover the rare and beautiful plants in the Royal Botanical Gardens of Melbourne. Jump on a bus tour to explore the gardens or visit the new Arid Garden which is over 100 years in the making! Visit https://www.rbg.vic.gov.au/
  • Take a stroll down Hosier Lane to admire the artwork of some of Melbourne’s most talented graffiti artists.
  • Discover fresh produce and speciality shops at the Queen Victoria Market. Located on Queen St in the CBD, browse through hundreds of stalls covering 17 acres!

REGIONAL VICTORIA:

Looking to get out of the city for a day? Go for a drive through the beautiful countryside of Victoria where you will stumble upon a number of activities to entertain your family.

  • Summer is here, it’s the perfect time to be with your family and friends making the most of the warm summer evenings – immerse yourself in a magical world of myth and make believe!  Be captivated by a show of world class knights jousting on war horses – as you sip on a cold beer and all enjoy wood fired pizzas together. This summer’s ALL STAR program includes our favourite characters from Alice in wonderland, the Queen of Hearts, the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter and the White rabbit! Robin Hood and his crew will be defending the kingdom against the nasty Sheriff! Rapunzel and her Prince will plan an escape from the evil witch’s tower! And do not forget to meet our dragons and the brave knights who compete for the title in our world-famous Championship Joust! Go to: https://www.kryalcastle.com.au

  • Your Mornington Peninsula adventure starts here, at the top of Arthurs Seat. Hit the ground running with our ground-based adventure activities – all included with General Admission! Experience the all-new Sky Scramble as well as our garden mazes, stunning formal gardens & boardwalks, Canopy Walk, epic Tube Slides & giant brainteaser puzzles! Embark on an exciting eco-adventure and get your adrenaline pumping with our exhilarating Grand Tree Surfing course. For the little climbers, our Nippers Tree Surfing course is suitable for ages 4 & up. We highly recommend pre-booking to avoid any disappointment. Visit our website for more information and to book your tickets! www.enchantedadventure.com.au

  • Fancy a ride on a century old steam railway? The Puffing Billy takes you on a 25km journey through the Dandenong Ranges, providing a relaxing day out with fantastic photographic opportunities. Pack a picnic and bring your family along for an enjoyable visit just one hour out of Melbourne. Go to https://puffingbilly.com.au/

  • The Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery offers a delightful day of fun with hands on chocolate making classes, a showroom featuring thousands of chocolate products and daily tasting sessions! Don’t forget the landscaped gardens and an orchard, where you can go for a stroll while enjoying a treat from the café. Visit https://www.gorci.com.au/

  • Take a drive along the Great Ocean Road to see the famous Twelve Apostles and the beautiful Loch Ard Gorge. Continue along to reach the Great Otway National Park to enjoy a day of adventure.
  • Spend a relaxing day at the Peninsula Hot Springs where you can immerse yourself in the Bath House or relax in the private baths. Seeking a bit of R&R? Indulge in a spa treatment or massage. Visit https://www.peninsulahotsprings.com/

  • Located at the foot of the Grampians, Halls Gap Zoo is Victoria’s largest regional zoo with over 160 species of animals to keep you entertained all day. Experience a close encounter with cheetahs and red pandas or visit the endangered Tasmanian Devil! With over 600 individual animals to check out, you are guaranteed a day of fun! Go to https://hallsgapzoo.com.au/