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Funny mummy Ari contemplates the value of play dough for kids.

The great existential question that has been bothering me lately is, who the hell invented play dough? And how do we punish them?I’ll be frank. Play dough is one of the great loves of my son’s life. He is the king of play dough, in fact, and I freaking hate the stuff.

In fact, I hate it so much I hide it in a big plastic tub behind walls of chaos in the labyrinth of things-that-need-to-be-sorted-out-but-I-cannot-currently-deal-with that I call our garage. I hide it so well that pretty much no one can ever find it, not even me.

Except the child.

The child has a sixth sense about both hidden play dough places, and hidden chocolate biscuit places, I’ll give him that. He does not have a sixth sense about where his shoes, socks, school hat, library books or swimming goggles are, which would be far more useful.

It’s all about motivation I guess. He can find that damn play dough tub in about half a nano second. He will never, ever find his school hat or his second running shoe. As far as play dough goes, his modus operandi is quiet stealth, which I should have cottoned onto by now. If ever my kid, who is in the habit of providing a running narrative of exhausting questions I am required to answer non stop, is ever quiet I know he’s up to no good. NO. GOOD.

 

He will ask me a series of stupendously tedious and exhausting questions, while he observes me sidle towards the teapot so I don’t lose the will to live.

Sometimes, however, I just need to sit down and have a cup of tea, stare blankly into space and not answer any questions. Heck, sometimes I don’t KNOW THE ANSWERS TO HIS QUESTIONS, ISN’T THAT WHAT GOOGLE IS FOR? The kid knows the game. He will ask me a series of stupendously tedious and exhausting questions, while he observes me sidle towards the teapot so I don’t lose the will to live. In these moments of weakness, he ever-so-quietly tootles up the hallway and slips into the garage, scales the pile of stuff for the council pick up, like a mountain goat, and seizes the play dough tub toot suite.

Then he drags it into the play room and sets about making a complicated sea anemone that he saw some deranged mother, who has nothing better to do, make on YouTube. Of course, his sea anemone looks nothing like the YouTube mother’s sea anemone. OF COURSE IT DOESN’T. That YouTube play dough mother has an online play dough making course she’s selling. Why the heck else would you make a sea anemone out of play dough?

 

 

My son, bless his play dough loving heart, is not wise to the ways of crafty-YouTube-mothers-making-a-buck-on-the-side. He will spend five minutes trying to make his sea anemone look like a sea anemone, and not like a lump of pink and yellow stuff, and then yell, “MAMA, CAN YOU HELP ME?”

Then he drags it into the play room and sets about making a complicated sea anemone that he saw some deranged mother, who has nothing better to do, make on YouTube.

Obviously, the only thing to do is to pretend not to hear. Never works.

“MAMA, HELP PLEASE! HELP PLEASE! MAMA! MAMA! MAMA! MAAAMMAAAAAAAAAAA!”

The point is, this could go one for hours – me pretending not to hear, and the child chanting my name like some sort of mantra. The other point is, I will crumble first. So the only way to deal with it, is to sit down with the child and try to make a play dough sea anemone while fobbing off questions about why our sea anemone looks so rubbish in comparison to the YouTube one.

Toot suite.

This is a story about lost love, grief and the strength of one mother to keep going on after losing her husband the the father of her kids in a sudden and fatal accident.

On Saturday 25 June 2011, Graham Santich kissed his wife and two young children goodbye and left for work. He never returned home. A tragic accident on Perth’s Mitchell Freeway left a family shattered and struggling to find a new sense of normal without him.

The Santich family were in a state of bliss with their tenth wedding anniversary celebrations quickly followed by the birth of their second child Darcy, a much loved brother for three year old Charlotte. Sadly, their time together as a family of four was to be brief. Just eight weeks.

Michelle, still recovering from the caesarean delivery, vividly remembers the phone call from police telling her Graham had been in a car accident and how her world stopped in an instant.

“I have thought back many times to things that happened that day,” she recalls. “I was at the shops with the two kids when the police called and told me Graham had been in an accident and I needed to get somebody to drive me to Royal Perth Hospital as soon as I could. All I could think was that he was not going to make it and had horrific images going through my mind of what he might look like when I finally got to him.”

Her parents rallied to her aid, and soon they were met by uniformed police at the emergency department doors and led to a small conference room.

He was perfect. His eyes were closed. He looked like he was sleeping. There looked to be nothing wrong with him.

“It was then that I really knew,” she says. “I knew he was gone and the police confirmed my worst fear.”

Reliving the events, Michelle recalls seeing Graham for the first time after what seemed liked an eternity, on a hospital bed, in a hospital gown, with not a scratch on him.

He was perfect,” she says. “His eyes were closed. He looked like he was sleeping. There looked to be nothing wrong with him.

“I am grateful he looked the way he did but it was also very confusing, because what was in front of me didn’t match the images in my head.”

The details surrounding Graham’s death quickly raised more questions than answers. Police explained their suspicions that Graham had passed out while driving. It was a relatively minor accident, with minimal damage to the car. He became a case for the Coroner. And so began the long wait for answers.

The question of organ donation was raised and consent was given to retrieve his corneas. DonateLife quickly became the liaison between Michelle and the Coroner because, despite the retrieval, a transfer could not be made to a recipient until a cause of death was found.

In the weeks after the accident, as Michelle and her family struggled to come to terms with their loss, DonateLife offered counselling and information packs which included Bunnings vouchers to purchase a tree to grow in his memory. Michelle now utilises the free counselling service, which also provides some counselling to young Charlotte, and attends support groups.

Michelle describes one of the things that plays constantly on her mind is the memories the children will have of Graham and how the organ donation services have offered them ways to make special connections to him, including adding his name to a memorial wall at Lake Monger honouring all Western Australians that have made the ultimate gift and donated their tissues and organs.

“Since Graham passed we have always told Charlotte that her daddy is magic and lives amongst the stars,” she says. “So when DonateLife adopted a star for WA Donors, it gave us a place to send our goodnight wishes. Charlotte is always so eager to see if her daddy’s star will be the first one out.”

“As time goes on I know I am going to become more my own person and less the person I was with him. I don’t want to but I can’t stop it. I hate this new sense of normal.”

“For me, putting his name on the wall and having the coordinates to a star gives us more connections to him, more than just our memories. The kids will always know their daddy was someone special and did something wonderful. It gives us places to go and prompts us to tell stories about him.”

But it is the lack of personal memories the children will have that causes Michelle angst, in particular that Darcy will never have memories of his own and eventually Charlotte’s will fade.

“While family and friends will tell stories and teach Darcy about his dad, the difference will always be that Charlotte will have three years worth of photos with him, while Darcy has very few,” she says.

“I still go over the accident in my head and ask why him, what could I have done differently, worrying he was alone and if he suffered, and my anger that no one stopped to help him.

“I hope Darcy will develop a strong connection with Graham through our family, our love and our memories. I know that Charlotte will always feel close to him, she was his little girl and they thought the world of each other.”

Michelle has tried hard to establish traditions in his memory such as taking the kids to the beach and collecting shells on Graham’s birthday, something he loved to do with Charlotte. On his anniversary there is the Crackerjack Cup lawn bowls tournament at the Fremantle Bowls Club, the place of his wake and where he spent many hours as a keen player.

Meanwhile, balloons and rainbows have become symbolic with balloons often released in his memory and rainbows bridging a connection to his unforgettable grin.

“Any chance I can get to keep remembering him, I do it. I want to feel like he is still part of our family and to include him in our lives even if though he isn’t here,” she says.

The question of organ donation was raised and consent was given to retrieve his corneas. DonateLife quickly became the liaison between Michelle and the Coroner because, despite the retrieval, a transfer could not be made to a recipient until a cause of death was found.

Listening to Michelle describe how she is learning to live with only half a heart without her soul mate, it is obvious the love and adoration this couple shared. Michelle describes Graham as loyal and loved by many.

“He was one of those people who made friends wherever he went,” she explains. “He always had time for his family and was passionate about sport and music of all genres, and he was exceptionally dedicated to his landscaping business. But above all he was thrilled to be a dad, uncle and godfather and was always full of life when he was with the kids.”

Michelle recalls how she often had to pull the reins to get him to hurry along putting Charlotte to bed after numerous songs, books and giggling, and how at birthday parties he was termed King of the Kids, usually swamped by a pile of ankle bitters vying for his attention. But for Graham, it was never a chore. He saw it as a privilege and revelled in it.

“As much as I still expect him to walk through the door each night after work and sometimes still pick up my phone to send him a text, I have settled into this new life and it is hard to accept, especially because it is starting to feel normal without him. As time goes on I know I am going to become more my own person and less the person I was with him. I don’t want to but I can’t stop it. I hate this new sense of normal,” she says with a heavy heart.

An answer to his death finally came almost five months after the accident. The Coroners Court ruled that Graham died from choking. Michelle still finds it incredibly hard to accept this simple answer.

She, like many others, suspected the Used car, which he had owned just two days, had played a part in his passing. But other than perhaps isolating him from vital assistance, three independent mechanics ruled the car played no role.

“I have had lots of appointments with police, DonateLife and even the Coroners Court to try deal with my ongoing confusion about how he died,” she says. “I still go over the accident in my head and ask why him, what could I have done differently, worrying he was alone and if he suffered, and my anger that no one stopped to help him. More recently I have struggled with the terminology used to represent his cause of death.”

As horrible as the circumstances, Michelle marvels at the love and beauty she has discovered exists in the world through the seemingly endless lengths of support and friendship offered, at times from complete strangers.

As horrible as the circumstances, Michelle marvels at the love and beauty she has discovered exists in the world through the seemingly endless lengths of support and friendship offered, at times from complete strangers. She explains there have been donations to a trust fund for the children, grocery shopping and cooked meals, Graham’s business suppliers wiping their bills, his favourite football team signing a card and the drummer of one of his favourite bands visiting and having a mini jam session with Charlotte, and everything in between.

“I know people often didn’t know what to say or do but somehow they got the balance right. And clearly the willingness to help me and the kids is a testament to the person Graham was and the influence he left on the world,” she says.

And so the saying goes, and never rings more true than here, if love could have saved you, you would have lived forever.

 

For more information on becoming an organ donor with DonateLife visit www.donatelife.gov.au

Holidays are meant to be a relaxing time, right? Hm, well perhaps not when travelling with toddlers! If you have ever travelled with little ones, this may be something you can completely relate to.

Once Upon A Time when I was young, and didn’t have any wrinkles, and used to flit around the world on a whim, I’d watch parents board planes with toddlers and glower at them. Ferociously. I’d will them not to trail their child and all its paraphernalia in my direction and sit next to me. I didn’t care how apologetic they looked. I had been very busy and I had some relaxing to do, and they looked, well, frazzled and un-relaxed. Jeez, couldn’t they put on some clean clothes and brush their hair? What was all that stuff they were carrying, anyway? Hadn’t they heard of travelling light? Of minimalism? They probably had a whole house full of stuff. They probably had ten houses, actually, bursting with stuff and toddlers. I hoped they never moved next door to me, with all their stuff and overflowing bags and their ten houses and 1000 toddlers. Ugh, what was the deal with toddlers and snot, anyway? Couldn’t they wipe the kid’s nose?

And, so it went. Sometimes those harried parents would sit next to me, or in front of me, or behind me, which was hideous, obviously, with the snot and seat-kicking and everything, and sometimes they’d move past me and sit someplace else. At which juncture, I’d heave an exaggerated sigh of relief and thank my lucky stars.

Ah, well. I was young. The world turns, and most of us become wrinkled up parents of toddlers some day, and Karma, as they say, is one hell of a Beyotch.

I know this, because I married the best guy in the world who, romantically at the time, grew up in two different countries on the other side of the globe. Fantastic, I thought. Not only do I get to marry the best guy in the world, I get to travel back to his two countries for the rest of my life, stopping at a couple of places en route because the flights are so Very Very Very Long. Score!

Ahem. That deluded-ness was before I had my baby, who has turned into a toddler who somehow has Energizer Bunny batteries running 24/7. Unfortunately, my husband’s family and friends still live a gazillion miles away and, unless someone can tell me how to close my eyes and zap myself there in an instant, like Samantha from Bewitched, we’re long-hauling for the rest of our lives. Hello, Karma!

Touchingly, a lot of parents think that flying with their toddler won’t be that bad because, well, it’s their child. They are wrong. Always. 110 per cent wrong. Unless, of course, they have a Freak Toddler with a throwback Good Behaviour Gene – and if they do, they should see a health professional about that. Flying with a toddler is just a bad idea. I figured as much when I was an entitled world-flitter and now, after ten flights in four weeks, two of them around the 35-hour mark, I know it in my bones.

We started out well, I guess. We clipped out lists from those “Happy Long Haul Flights With Toddler” articles, and packed our carry-on bags – about six, but who’s counting? – accordingly. We tried. We had milk and water and crackers and toys and books and a blanky and a sooky and a portable DVD player and DVDs and nappies and wipes and tissues and flannels and toiletries and changes of clothes and fruit and, hilariously, a Kindle for me, loaded with all the books I was going to read.

The Toddler did okay on his first flight, probably because it was a novelty. The second wasn’t too bad, either. By the third, in a terrible portent of things to come, he’d had enough. HAD ENOUGH! Especially when we entered Mexico City’s airport, which was about 500 degrees with no air-conditioning. The Toddler was not down with that. He had San Francisco layers on! He became the flailing, thrashing, screeching manifestation of the Terrible Demonic Twos. He yelled. He cried. He insisted on crawling up the baggage scanner towards our ten-tonne cases hurtling towards him. Every time I pulled him off, he arched his back and foamed at the mouth, and then flung himself on the floor and howled until his face turned purple. I kept waiting for his head to spin around and fly off and hit the Baggage Scanner Lady in the neck. Luckily for us it didn’t, but I think we were close.

People stared at us and frowned. They whispered and moved away. Couples nudged each other and grinned, grateful for the Family Entertainment. The Toddler obliged, ramping up the angst a few hundred notches and sweating profusely. The airport felt like it was 900 degrees. I tried to get his goddamn layers off, while he hurled himself around the baggage cart wailing. Our ridiculous mountain of luggage teetered. Those couples grinned some more, waiting for our cases, knapsack, travel cot, camera bag, hand luggage and random water bottles, books, crackers and tissues to spill all over the floor. Obviously, I wanted the Toddler’s head to fly off and hit them smack bang in the mouth. That would have been just fine with me.

Regrettably, he refused to oblige. The Toddler’s screaming head stayed well and truly attached to his flailing, kicking, furious body. Ah, well. Like they say, Karma is a Beyotch. We were three flights down, and counting. Only, ahem, seven more flights to go.

If you’ve ever thought about putting your children in music class, you should definitely consider it. The benefits of children learning to play music extends to their physical, social and emotional skill!

Music researchers have found that the musical intellect of an adult is largely developed during the first five years of life. The first three years of a child’s life are fundamentally the time of the most growth physically, verbally and emotionally. Music stimulates, educates, helps concentration and soothes the soul.

Music stimulates, educates, helps concentration and soothes the soul.

Infants who are exposed to music with assisted movement will remember and later demonstrate their learning when they reach the age of independent movement and speech. Toddlers who are struggling with single syllable words will often sing complete phrases and those learning to walk spontaneously begin to dance.

Early Learning Music (ELM) offers enjoyable, educational music classes for children aged sixteen months to eight years, and beyond. They are designed to help children develop physical, emotional, social and musical skills in a fun environment full of singing, moving, dancing and playing percussion instruments. The classes are sequential and follow a developmental program that is suited to the needs and capabilities of each child.

The fun and stimulation of participating in ELM music classes for children not only supports children’s learning in general, it also develops children’s creativity and imagination.

 

The first three years of a child’s life are fundamentally the time of the most growth physically, verbally and emotionally. Music stimulates, educates, helps concentration and soothes the soul.

The classes are run by highly qualified, trained teachers who use their extensive knowledge of child development and music education to design programs specific to the needs of the children in each music class.

ELM is a Kodaly music school and a member of the Do-Re-Mi association of Australia. As children grow, so too do the Do Re Mi music classes. They move through the levels in a natural, sequential way, adding to and expanding on the true development of a child.

Operating at Scotch College in Swanbourne, ELM aims to immerse children in a musical world of discovery, while parents are taught how to enrich their child’s musical journey.

ELM strives to help families develop an appreciation and love of music that can be nurtured and shared, and last a lifetime.

If you’d like to find out about enrolling your child in a music program with ELM please email ELM@scotch.wa.edu.au

Self-regulation is the latest buzz word; it is frequently mentioned in newspapers and across a range of media but what does it really mean? And how do parents foster self-regulation in their children? Kim Johnson and Rosemary Redden, of the Ngala Education team, explain.

Contrary to common belief, self-regulation is more than just self-control. It is self-directional and encompasses the ways we interact appropriately with others, how we use initiative and how we develop the self-motivation to learn.

It encompasses the regulation of emotions, thoughts and behaviours.

CHILD DEVELOPMENT

Babies develop self-regulation through close relations with parents and receiving sensory-stimulating opportunities.

Toddlers view parents as a source of help, using strategies to get adults to respond and assist them to orientate themselves in new or challenging situations. Toddlers begin to put words to their emotions, to learn the concept of emotions and to interact with others. Parents can help their child interpret the actions and emotions of others by putting words to actions and feelings. Children form their own thinking from their experience with others. For example, rough and tumble play can help them learn when to stop when someone has had enough.

Children learn by absorbing information in their surroundings before age three and by their third or fourth year they begin to ask why. They begin to learn cause and effect in social situations and in patterns of behaviour. A child’s impulse control and wilful emotions will become more practiced resulting in thinking before acting. Learning impulse control is critical to brain development at this time; learning this later delays mastery of self-regulation.

By the age of six, children are capable of expressing their feelings, acting deliberately, planning, and controlling aggression both physically and relationally.

PARENTING IMPACTS

The experiences children have through interacting with their parents plays a central role in developing brain systems toward self-regulatory behaviours.

Parenting styles that are warm and responsive allow children to focus their attention and tune in to parents showing control of their own behaviour (first inkling of patience!).

The four main parenting styles are:

  • Indulgent or permissive – less demanding and more responsive, lenient and not requiring mature behaviour. Creating a family dynamic to help children explore their own self-regulation and to avoid conflict.
  • Authoritarian – less responsive and more demanding, expecting compliance without question, providing structured environments and establishing clear rules.
  • Authoritative – demanding and responsive, assertive but not restrictive or intrusive. Providing a supportive environment for learning alongside with clear expectations and allocations of responsibility.
  • Neglectful or uninvolved parents are low in both demands and responsiveness, in extreme cases rejecting and neglecting the essential needs of children.

 

Parenting styles have three primary dimensions:

1) Behavioural control – developing strategies that openly monitor behavioural expectations, establishing rules and limits that provide boundaries for managing behaviour.

2) Warmth – creating a supportive environment for self-expression, encouraging a child to participate in individual, group and community activities, and to form close attachment relationships.

3) Psychological control – being intrusive and overprotective, creating a sense of dependency in a child by implementing constraints, interrupting or ignoring the child, and manipulating a child both emotionally and psychologically.

The main difference between the authoritarian and authoritative parenting styles is the dimension of psychological control, with authoritarian parents expecting children to accept judgments or values without question, and authoritative parents being more open to give and take.

According to researchers, the authoritative parenting style is one of the most consistent predictors of self-regulatory competence from early childhood through adolescence into adulthood. This form of parenting effectively helps a child acquire the self-confidence and esteem necessary to face life’s challenges.

The five important elements across parenting styles that are conducive to developing resilience and self-regulation are:

  1. Availability – the foundation for children to learn to form trust in relationships starts with parents responding to their baby’s needs, as well as providing the security for their child to outgrow the dependency of infancy and confidently explore the wider world and its many challenges.
  2. Sensitivity – being aware as a parent of their child’s individual and unique perspective and encouraging their child to form his or her own feelings and opinions, even if they are different to their own.
  3. Acceptance – being child-centred and valuing the experiences and knowledge unique to their child.
  4. Co-operation – creating opportunities for children to contribute and be effective as children learn to make an impact on their environment. It is possible for parents to be on the child’s ‘team’ to work together solving problems and promoting the various competencies the child has. Success brings confidence to take on challenges and measure risks.
  5. Family membership – promote feelings of belonging and being significant to others.

 

INTERACTIONS – FAMILY ENVIRONMENT OF DISCIPLINE

The environment of the community and family within which a child is raised affects the self-regulation processes the child develops. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity; family and community environments that are resilient have more self-regulatory systems in place from which individuals can learn. Family conflict is inevitable and some dynamics are higher in emotion due to the temperaments of the individuals in the family. Studies have found that it is not the heat of the family conflict, but how it is resolved, that impacts a child’s ability to regulate in conflict.

Discipline of children affects the self-regulatory development of children. While 90 per cent of parents have used smacking at least once, studies find that any kind of physical discipline negatively effects self-regulation.

A parent’s ability to redirect a child’s attention away from the source of distress and re-engage the child in an on which to activity is the most basic, and an important, self-regulatory skill.

Timeout is often given as an alternative disciplinary tool, however time in with the child or staying in the vicinity of an upset child calms them faster than isolation.

 

CONCLUSION

Being able to self-regulate lays the foundation for many complex tasks and ways of thinking. Individuals are unique in a multitude of ways: physically, brain maturity, temperament and personality. Experience of the world from infancy onwards shapes our self-regulatory abilities.

Researchers now suggest that intentional movements assist a child’s brain to work more efficiently. Sport, music, stretching and slow, measured movement assists all bodies to self-regulate better, often by influencing breathing first and foremost, enabling the brain to calm, and thus to better process complex thoughts.

Parents who are skilled at interpreting their child’s signs, building learning upon current strengths and abilities, taking cues from the child’s perspective in play and respecting their rhythm of problem solving enhances their child’s capacity to learn self-regulatory behaviours.

Regardless of gifted ability or disability, circumstance and cultural differences, the best predictor of positive child behaviour is parental confidence in their own knowledge, acceptance of their child and having a warm relationship with them.

Ngala’s motto of ‘parenting with confidence’ aims to assist you parent your children positively and confidently.

Ngala Helpline 9368 9369.

To book into Ngala Understanding Guiding Children’s Behaviour workshop go to www.ngala.com.au

I have finally become ‘cool’ in the eyes of my children. My secret? Telling my boys that Mister Maker was going to be calling me. ‘That’s so cool Mum! You are so cool! Can you ask him how to make a rattle snake? Can you ask him to come to our house?’

It was at that moment I felt a bit nervous about the interview – and what I would tell my kids about Mister Maker afterwards. After all, I had to remember I wasn’t going to be speaking to Mister Maker, but the man behind the spotty vest and spiky hair, Phil Gallagher. It is always interesting when you interview someone who you see on television every day – there is a feeling that you know them already – so sometimes it can be a shock when they are not as you imagined them to be.

However, when my phone rings at 10.03am (only three minutes after our interview was scheduled), Phil apologies for keeping me waiting. I tell him it is fine because of my new ‘Cool Mum’ status and he laughs, asks all about the kids and tells me to say hi to them from him, and that he would love to see them at the show. He is lovely (cue Mum Crush) – and it is clear, from the onset, Phil loves being Mister Maker.

“Getting this job was the best day of my life and every day is even better,” he reflects. “It was always my dream to be a kids’ television presenter and the live shows have taken on a life of its own. It is beyond my wildest dreams.”

“I’m so excited to be coming back to Australia. This year we are bringing the biggest show we have ever done.”

I do not think Phil could ever have imagined how big ‘Mister Maker’ (and other series’ including Mister Maker Comes to Town, Mister Maker Around the World and the new Mister Maker Arty Party) would become since first airing on our screens in 2007. It now plays in over 100 countries and live shows are touring around the globe (he tells me that as well as touring around Australia and New Zealand, he will also be taking the latest live show to Hong Kong and across the UK later in the year).

Perhaps the popularity of the show comes from the fact that the show inspires parents to set up arts and crafts for children who are crying ‘I’m bored’, without fuss or expensive materials (and we know from Mister Maker’s ‘minute makes’ that you don’t necessarily have to put aside a whole afternoon to create something).

ARTY TIP: “Recycle and collect materials to use – something that is ordinary that you can turn into the extraordinary. Plan ahead and start your own ‘doodle drawer’.”

When I ask Phil what he believes is the main benefit of doing arts and crafts for children, he says the key thing is confidence. “When I was growing up I loved making things. I got a lot of pride from what I made, so I believe art and craft generates confidence,” he says. “That is not just for children but for grown-ups as well. I often have parents and grandparents talk to me after live shows and they say thank you because the show has shown them that they can be creative and they can be arty. That is the cause of the show at its very core – to teach simple techniques. Once that has been taught, we hope to inspire whatever age that they can have a go – and the materials are easily attainable. It makes me pleased and proud that people surprise themselves.”

(Breakout) MISTER MAKER’S FAVOURITE MAKE: Phil says ‘pom-pom bugs’ are his favourite arty make. “It was something I made with my grandad when I was little. I still have one I made over 30 years ago, which I treasure.”

The tour commences June 25 in Hobart – with performances following in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth. For complete tour and ticket information go to livenation.com.au – and if you do see Phil out-and-about, Mister Maker loves meeting his fans. “Quite often it is the grown-ups that stop me first,” Phil says. “A lovely thing is that children don’t expect to see me in any other way than in my spotty waistcoat and spiky hair, so it can take a while for a child to comprehend what’s going on. It is lovely when people say hello – grown-ups and mini makers alike.”
What should I include in my child’s ‘doodle drawer’?
If your child’s art and craft box only consists of paper and pencils, Phil offers some of his top arty material inclusions:

  • Pom-poms (Phil says they are his favourite arty material)
  • Googly eyes (or you can use white stickers and draw on the eyes with a black pen)
  • Pipe cleansers
  • Gloopy glue

TIP: Not the glitter…If you curse Mister Maker when you are cleaning up glitter after your child creates a masterpiece they saw on the show, Phil offers a handy ‘glitter clean-up tip: “A piece of sticky tape is a good trick. Gently push it onto a surface and the glitter sticks to the tape.”
“I do apologise to all the grown-ups about glitter,” he says. “Quite often parents will come up to me with a smile, put their arm around me and say ‘Why, Mister Maker? Why the glitter?’. I apologise for that. If it’s any consolation, I find glitter everywhere. My mum came to my house yesterday and as I was making her a cup of tea she remarked how much glitter there was in my kitchen… It follows me everywhere.”

 

“If I can’t find my perfect job, then I need to create it.”

This was the catalyst that encouraged 33-year-old Perth mother of two, Chevon Semmens, to launch Little Land, an interactive role-play centre for young children to play and learn.

 

From a young age, Chevon had a passion for play, she aspired to work with children and own a childcare centre. Despite these dreams, Chevon opted for a career in marketing and advertising.

 However, her interest in play and learning persisted. Chevon volunteered for over 10 years with Radio Lollipop, providing entertainment to children during their stay at Perth’s Princess Margaret Hospital. Chevon recalls always finding a way to integrate play and learning, even if they were “just playing Uno.”

While on maternity leave with her first child, Chevon stumbled across a photo of a little girl with a child size shopping trolley at a role play centre in the UK. Chevon was excited by the idea of a role-play centre, “I knew this concept would come to Perth eventually and was looking forward to being able to take my own children.”

 

Prompted by a desire to transition into a different career, Chevon used the opportunity of maternity leave to consider her options and compile a list of priorities, “I wanted it to be a business that involved working with children and it had to be something creative”.

Photo credit: Lanie Sims

“I knew my ideal job probably didn’t exist, so I had to invent it.”

Inspired by the image of the little girl with the shopping trolley, Chevon announced to her husband Kayne, “I am going to open up a role play centre. He thought I was mad.”

With unyielding determination, Chevon took on the challenge of convincing her husband she could make this dream a reality.

Chevon’s family and friends became sounding boards for her new venture. “Many thought it was a good idea but probably never assumed I would go through with it, while others felt the idea was too gimmicky.” Undeterred, Chevon used their constructive feedback as encouragement to eradicate potential flaws.

“I knew the concept could work and I knew I would enjoy taking my kids there, but would others?” Chevon put together an advisory group, consisting of Paediatric Occupational Therapists, Paediatric Speech Pathologists, Early Childhood Educators, Primary Teachers and professionals who worked with children with autism. Chevon used their expert knowledge in conjunction with her marketing expertise to educate parents about the benefits the role play centre would bring.

Despite Chevon’s confidence and robust business plan, the process from conceptualisation to delivery was anything but quick. Two years of extensive planning included a painstaking search for the right premises.

“I did not want to settle for a half option. The location needed to be central, close to families, with plenty of parking and onsite facilities.”

In the midst of the search, falling pregnant with her second child threw another “amazing spanner into the works.” Financially, Chevon also needed enough money to launch the business. Rather serendipitously, she was offered voluntary redundancy from her existing day job. “It happened to be the exact amount of money needed to get the idea of the ground.”

The dream was about to become a reality.

Chevon opened the doors of Little Land in May 2019. “We were fully booked for the first three months” and the success has continued, with some ebbs and flows in the mix, as they approach their one-year anniversary.*

What can someone expect from a trip to Little Land?

Little Land offers a welcome break from the usual loud colours and noises you expect of a childcare centre. “Many parents comment on how surprised they are at how calm the environment feels.” The welcome area is filled with calming pastel colours, while the sound system plays modern songs in the form of lullabies.

Beyond the welcome area, you will find Little Land’s ‘little town’, complete with a shopping centre, school; home; doctor’s surgery; café; hairdressing salon; construction zone and veterinary practice.

Role-play is at the forefront of play between the ages of 18 months and 8 years and so each area is uniquely designed to meet the needs of children within this age range. The numbers are kept to a maximum of 30 children per session with a total of four sessions per day to avoid overwhelm for the children.

Children are given the opportunity to explore formal settings in an informal way, enabling them to take control of the experience. Many children were recently role-playing evacuations and ‘safety first’ procedures following recent bush fires. Parents who visit the centre express how valuable it is for children to be able to visit these locations on a small scale and at their own pace.

What does the future hold for Little Land?

Chevon is proud to announce Little Land have worked with the Autism Association in Western Australia to launch weekly ‘Sensory Sessions’. “We reduce the number of people who attend, change the format and provide a story book for children to read beforehand of what to expect, we also use a timer instead of a bell to mark the end of the sessions.”

Chevon’s dream is for play and learning to be accessible to all Australians. “We currently have people travelling over an hour to see us, so I would like to possibly open a second location to make it more accessible. We have also launched several pop ups, including four stalls at local events and shopping centres to help spread awareness of the benefits of our centre.”

How to balance motherhood and business

As a mum to three a half year old Zack and 16 month old Archer, Chevon admits life can get busy.

“Someone said to me recently, maybe it’s not so much as trying to find a balance between being a mother and business owner, perhaps it’s finding a blend of the two.”

“I am fortunate that I have a great husband who helps pick up the slack, whether that’s with our children or the business. We try to eat well and get as much sleep as you can with a 16 month old.”

Chevon and her husband make time for themselves separately to re-energise, “I try to get up earlier a couple of days a week to go for an hour long walk, this gives me the energy I need for the next couple of days.”

Chevon also has a day that is non-negotiable, “I always have Mondays with my boys, to play and just spend time with them, it revitalises me and reminds me how we never stop learning.”

Photo credit: Lanie Sims

Despite the huge success of the business, Chevon has realised it’s the small wins she celebrates, “I found in the initial stages of Little Land, we were so busy ‘doing’ that we didn’t stop to appreciate what we had achieved, so now we make an effort to regularly pause and express gratitude for what we have accomplished.”

Keep up to date with the latest Little Land news, @littleland_perth

Thank you to Photographer, Lanie Sims for all images supplied in this article.

 *Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Little Land has closed for the unforeseeable future. During this time, we’re determined to continue inspiring play and learning for the community and we hope it isn’t too long before we see the return of big smiles on little faces as they run through our big and little doors to wander and explore the magic.

 

The novel virus known as COVID-19 started as a collection of similar cases emerging from Wuhan, China-  a city with a population of over 11 million.  

Australia was in the process of healing from a devastating fire season when the Coronavirus (soon to be titled COVID-19) became national news, with the World Health Organization (WHO) having heard the first reports of COVID-19 on the 31st of December 2019.

In the months that have followed the pandemic has spread across the globe, encompassing Australia and leaving millions without work, or at the very least financially affected by the virus and the subsequent lockdowns it has caused.

These are uncertain times, and as many of us wait for news of government aid, job opportunities or when our old lives will get back to normal, many are left without an income.

Below are some practical ways to lessen the financial stress during the disaster movie scenario we have found ourselves in.

Monitor what comes in and out of your bank- and eliminate the non-essential items

For many of us, we have multiple cards and multiple entertainment platforms, programs and everyday expenses that are direct debited.

This is convenient usually, but if you are now left with no income, that outcome needs to be cut down. Have a look on your outgoings on your banking app and make a list of what you pay every month- do you really need to be spending $25 a month on a live sport platform when all sport is postponed? Or could you be using that $25 on food and utilities? Unfortunately, the time for luxuries is not right now, so cut your expenses accordingly.

Call and ask for extensions/account freezes/pause in payments

Do not be ashamed to ask for help, we are all in this together. Many corporations and businesses are being very understanding in this time and providing extensions and pauses for payments.

Afterpay for example can give extensions/pauses in payments if you contact them and discuss your situation, the same could go for various other payments you may have coming up, so don’t be scared to ask! The following link discusses electricity companies that will be providing extra help for their customers during this crisis. https://www.finder.com.au/financial-hardship-programs-utilities

Live that vegetarian lifestyle

Meat is expensive and perishable, and with supermarkets losing the battle against panic buying shoppers, meat and other basics are hard to find. Do not panic or bulk buy– it is unfair on everyone, especially the most vulnerable.

Buy beans, lentils, grains- these are cheap, filling and last a long time- check out this lentil dahl recipe that is perfect for meal prepping and super tasty! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4pDLh11nmA

Keep up to date with the government’s response to the pandemic and if you are eligible for Centrelink payments

There is a lot of information regarding the COVID-19 in the media that is constantly updated, and the same goes for details of government assistance and how to access Centrelink payments if you now find yourself out of work. The below article by ABC shows a step by step guide to applying for Centrelink if you’ve never used the system before and is updated regularly as the situation progresses. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-24/coronavirus-how-to-apply-for-centrelink-jobseeker-newstart/12083948

Think of others and act accordingly – stay inside! 

Stay inside and practise social distancing, this won’t last forever, but it is important we all do the right thing and act with everyone in mind. We will all get through this by acting as a community, spreading kindness and thinking of our most vulnerable.

How to cure a headache during pregnancy? 

We’ve compiled a list of the best natural, at-home remedies to relieve your headache as quickly as possible!

by Henna Clark

Headaches are common in the initial months of the pregnancy. It varies from mild to severe, depending upon your health and lifestyle. It is very important that you take foods rich in fibers, antioxidants, vitamin C, CoQ10, and magnesium. You need adequate sleep as well as need to be properly hydrated to counteract its initial development.

Causes

Your body undergoes various changes during the initial months of the pregnancy, such as:

  • Change in hormone levels and volume of blood during the initial months
  • Low blood sugar levels
  • High blood pressure

Apart from these some of the other causes involve:

  • Stress
  • Eyestrain
  • Caffeine withdrawal symptoms for regular coffee drinkers
  • Dehydration due to frequent vomits in initial periods of your pregnancy
  • Migraines
  • Sometimes sinus infections are developed due to common cold, which is common during initial months of pregnancy

 

 

How to cure a headache during pregnancy? This is the question the majority of women ask, and they start taking various medications to get rid of it, which must be avoided. 

Always take the advice of your doctor before taking any medication to treat it, as doctors advice to avoid them. The reason being the unborn baby might get affected by certain medications that might harm their growth.

Aspirin is one of the medications which must be avoided, as it carries the risk of miscarriage and cardiovascular complications on the unborn child. Ergotamines are used for treating migraine pains. However, doctors advise not to use it. It causes birth defects if taken during the initial months of pregnancy.

There are various natural cures for headaches during your pregnancy. Which provides quick relief with no harm to you and your unborn child. The various natural remedies are as follows:

Relieving migraine pains

For migraine-associated headaches, you must avoid noisy surroundings and turn off your lights. Migraine suffering women are sensitive to them. Apart from these, having a sound sleep is also effective in relieving the pain. Sometimes sleep deprivation, less food, and water intake also causes migraines. Make sure you sleep well, regularly drink water, and have adequate food.

Processed and junk foods trigger migraine pains, completely avoid intake of this food to prevent migraines.

Cold compress

Apply an ice pack or towel dipped in cold water in your head while you take a nap. The Cold environment narrows the blood vessels in your head, which helps in providing relief to your headaches.

Warm compress

Apply warm compress on your eyes as well as on your nose for sinus-related headaches.

Consume water

As per the study, drinking enough water and consuming foods rich in water relieves headaches and is a preventive measure for stress and migraine-related headaches. Dehydration alleviates the symptoms of your headache and is the primary cause of migraines and stress-induced headaches.

Magnesium-rich foods

Magnesium controls the blood sugar and improves the blood circulation of the body. It helps in curbing the occurrence of headaches. Consume less magnesium at the beginning as too much intake leads to digestive issues. Some magnesium-rich foods are avocados, dark chocolate, nuts, legumes, tofu, whole grains, etc.

No alcohol

Alcohol dehydrates your body and causes headaches if consumed in excess. Its a strict no for pregnant women.

Adequate sleep

As per the study, people sleeping less than six hours suffered frequent headaches ranging from mild to severe.

Sleeping for seven to nine hours is a must for better health. Lack of sleep not only causes headaches but also has severe health complications. Having an adequate sleep is a natural way to cure headaches.

Essential oils

Essential oils such as peppermint and lavender oil are proven to be effective for headache relief. Apply these oils in your forehead or on your temples for better results. Lavender oil is also better known for relieving migraine headaches.

CoQ10 supplements

CoQ10 or coenzyme 10 is a mitochondrial nutrient that is present in all our cells. It releases energy and provides antioxidant support to the body. As we age, its proportions get reduced, which results in numerous health complications headache being one of them. Taking C0Q10 supplements helps in regaining the lost energy of your body and gets relief in your headache.

Acupressure

Acupressure points in our body are the natural healing points that give us quick relief from headaches. In your feet, locate a gall bladder 41 point between the 4th and 5th finger of your toe. This point is very effective for headaches. Take a deep breath and gently push that point for two minutes. If you find it difficult, then your partner can assist in doing that. For headaches caused due to stress and anxiety, there is another point in your foot called liver three to kidney one. You can locate it in between the thumb and first finger of your foot.

Apart from all these remedies, you need to avoid strong odors and fragrances as it triggers a headache.

The Bottom line is that these remedies have no side effects, and these are safe and efficient ways to treat your headache.

Author Bio:

Henna is a wellness lifestyle writer. She loves sharing her thoughts and personal experiences related to natural remedies, Ayurvedic, yoga and fitness through her writing. She currently writes for How To Cure. She can connect with others experiencing health concerns and help them through their recovery journeys through natural remedies

Sources:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0072975210970127

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15985108

Declaring your goals for a healthier year ahead can be exciting and empowering. You may have accelerated into 2020 with enthusiasm for the high expectations of what you will accomplish in the months ahead. Why then, is the reality of maintaining a new habit, so much easier said than done?

What exactly is a habit?

 

A ‘habit’ is defined as a behaviour we do automatically, requiring either very little or no thinking at all.

For example, loading the dishwasher every night after dinner is automatic. Brushing our teeth before bed?  Automatic. Purchasing that perfectly brewed cup of coffee each morning? Automatic. We have completed these behaviours repeatedly; therefore our brain requires very little effort to put these into action. It is expected. It is routine.

If habits require little effort, why is it so difficult to establish new ones?

The key to maintaining a new habit is having the opportunity for repetition.

Using the coffee example, every morning for as long as you can remember, you’ve been stopping at your favourite café on the way to work to buy that lovely cup of joy to help get you through your day. Perhaps in the beginning, before this ritual became established, you may have found it a bit of a challenge to go out a little earlier each morning to ensure you had enough time to grab your caffeine fix before work. And yet, following months of repeating this behaviour five days a week, it soon became second nature and now easily fits into your daily routine.

 

 

The science tells us that when we repeat a new behaviour, the nerves in our brain and nervous system are stimulated; this strengthens our neural pathways, which means over time, this behaviour becomes automatic.

We need to have an opportunity to repeat our new healthy habit, and this needs to fit easily into our day.

So, what exactly can I do to make sure I stick to my new healthy habit?

There are three steps we can take to help that new habit become more automatic:

 

1) You need to identify a behaviour that you want to become a habit. Make the behaviour clear and measurable. For example, you identify that you want to practice Yoga more often. You decide you want to practice one hour of Yoga, three times a week. Write this behaviour in your journal, or on a calendar.

2) You need a cue, something that will prompt you to complete this behaviour. This cue could be environmental, situational, physical, visual or auditory. For example, you may identify that the best time for you to practice Yoga would be your days off, after the school drop off. So the situational cue here would be returning home after dropping your children at school. Perhaps, you could even wear your workout clothes for the school run so that you are ready to go.

3) You need an opportunity to repeat this behaviour. How many times can you realistically fit Yoga into your week? You may identify the best time would be on your days off, when the house is quiet. This gives you the opportunity to repeat this behaviour three times a week.

Visual tools are great to help keep you on track. Check off your sessions on the calendar as you go, check in at the end of each week to see how you went. Do you need to amend the schedule to make it fit easier into your life? Make it work for you!

What barriers do I need to watch out for?

Disruption to your usual routine can be a potential obstacle. We are human; we get ill; appointments will crop up unexpectedly; our days off from work may change. Our lives are changeable and so we have to create contingencies. If you have a really busy week coming up and scheduling in three one-hour yoga sessions is too much, could you reduce the duration of your practice to just 30 minutes? Could you change your days? Remember, some things occasionally may take priority over your Yoga practice. Do not beat yourself up if you have to cancel a session; practice compassion and kindness to yourself. Move on with your day, reflect and get back on track the following week.

Be aware of your inner critic. Some of us live with an inner mean voice that will try and sabotage our progress. It can be easy to listen to that inner voice that tells you to give up, and tells you that you will never be able to reach your goal, but it is important you are able to close off that inner voice. Offer yourself the positive encouragement you would offer a friend.

You may also want to watch out for when the ‘honeymoon phase’ ends. When we make resolutions, we are often taken by the ‘high’ of their anticipated success. Vivid images of what we believe our lives will look like when we achieve our goals can often distract us from the journey itself. When we initially start implementing these habits, we feel excited by how easy it all seems, only this can soon change to feelings of ambivalence; the initial drive to change can slow down. It is important to acknowledge the end result is not the goal here; what is important is that you are making small changes to enhance your health.

Every step, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction. So please be kind to yourself and express gratitude at all times.

The take-away

Be realistic; plan feasible opportunities for you to practice this behaviour.

Keep it simple; do not try and introduce lots of new behaviours at one time. Take it one at a time and add in other challenges at a comfortable pace as you progress.

Have patience; developing and maintaining a new habit takes time. For some, it takes 21 days, for others, it can be 90 days, or even longer. Have patience and enjoy the journey.