Funny Face Biscuits

Post by Be A Fun Mum contributor, Amanda from Food Before 5
Basic Biscuit Recipe - great for decorating funny faces

This is one of my favourite recipes that my children and I have fun cooking & decorating together. If I want the faces to look perfect, I’ll do them myself but most of the fun comes in seeing what the kids themselves create. They also make a great (& inexpensive) party favour for little ones, a fun birthday party activity (have the biscuits made and have kids decorate them they way they like) or special school holiday/weekend fun.

Basic Biscuit Recipe Ingredients

125g butter, melted
¾ cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 ½ cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 Tbspn icing sugar (for decorating)
Lollies, teeth, licorice, sprinkles (for decorating)

Basic Biscuit Recipe - great for decorating

Method

  1. In a large bowl, add melted butter, sugar, eggs & vanilla & whisk until combined.

Basic Biscuit Recipe - great for decorating

  1. Stir in flour & baking powder until a soft dough forms. 

Basic Biscuit Recipe - great for decorating

  1. Wrap dough in plastic wrap & freeze for 30 mins.

Wrap dough in plastic wrap & freeze for 30 mins.

  1. Preheat oven to 200oC. Line 2 oven trays with baking paper.
  1. Roll out dough onto a floured surface approx ½ cm thick. Cut out circles using a cookie cutter or rim of a glass (approx 7cm diameter).

Basic Biscuit Recipe - great for decorating

  1. Place on baking trays & bake in preheated oven for 6 – 8 mins or until golden. Remove from oven & allow to cool completely.

Decorating

Basic Biscuit Recipe - great for decorating

  1. Mix icing sugar with a little water to make a thick paste. Use this paste to stick lollies & sprinkles onto biscuits to make funny faces.

Basic Biscuit Recipe - great for decorating funny faces

This recipe is from the eBook Kids Party Food and can be purchased from www.foodbefore5.com.au for only $5.95.

Basic Biscuit Recipe
A great basic biscuit recipe. Great for decorating!
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Prep Time
40 min
Cook Time
8 min
Total Time
48 min
Prep Time
40 min
Cook Time
8 min
Total Time
48 min
Ingredients
  1. 125g butter, melted
  2. ¾ cup caster sugar
  3. 2 eggs
  4. 1 tsp vanilla essence
  5. 2 ½ cups plain flour
  6. 1 tsp baking powder
  7. 2 Tbspn icing sugar (for decorating)
  8. Lollies, teeth, licorice, sprinkles (for decorating)
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, add melted butter, sugar, eggs & vanilla & whisk until combined.
  2. Stir in flour & baking powder until a soft dough forms.
  3. Wrap dough in plastic wrap & freeze for 30 mins.
  4. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius.
  5. Line 2 oven trays with baking paper.
  6. Roll out dough onto a floured surface approx ½ cm thick. Cut out circles using a cookie cutter or rim of a glass (approx 7cm diameter).
  7. Place on baking trays & bake in preheated oven for 6 – 8 mins or until golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before decorating with icing or melted chocolate.
Notes
  1. Decorating
  2. Mix icing sugar with a little water to make a thick paste. Use this paste to stick lollies & sprinkles onto biscuits to make funny faces.
Be A Fun Mum http://beafunmum.com/

More Recipes by Amanda

Apricot Chicken Hurry (in a hurry)

Lemon Cheesecake

Chicken Stew

About Amanda Arnold

My name is Amanda and I am mum to 3 young kids and author of a new cookbook called ‘Food before 5’.  

‘Food before 5? is a cookbook with 85 recipes that are easy, affordable and realistic for any home cook. It includes lunch boxes, starters & sides, main meals and desserts that can all be made ahead of time. It is the perfect tool for busy families with that afternoon school rush, people that like to cook in bulk and freeze, students learning to cook and basically anyone who loves simple, tasty recipes. 

 ‘Food before 5’ is only $19.95 (free post) and available from www.foodbefore5.com.au.  Please check out my facebook page www.Facebook.com/foodbefore5

Play Baking: An Experiment

Guest Post by Nicole Grant from Gateway Therapies

Play Baking: An Experiment

Play Baking Experiment activity - Science with Kids

“Let’s do science!” says my 6-year-old Preppie, who had been recently introduced to this subject area at school. I kind of groaned. After a messy morning, which included sandy feet from a trip to the beachside park, a putty incident, and toast, I was not keen for water play or much else that involved possible explosions, overflows, or general muck.

Then I came up with this idea. “Let’s bake a cake,” I said, thinking that I could at least control the amount of mess to be made. “But you can do ALL the cooking. I’ll give you the ingredients, and you can make the mixture”. The kids and I often bake, but it’s very well supervised and always to a specific recipe. I felt confident that they now (at 4 and 6) understood the concept of baking, and that they would be able to throw something together that resembled cake mix. The kids were amazed at the suggestion, and I received wide-eyed stares and gasps – “really?”

Here’s what we did:

  1. I found 2 tiny springform cake tins and pre-sprayed them with oil.
  2. I roughly estimated how much SR flour, sugar, oil, egg (pre-beaten), and milk would be needed and put these into bowls. I wasn’t really worried about specific quantities, as this was very much going to be an experiment cake! (There’s our science).
  3. I also made sultanas and a bit of honey available.
  4. The kids were given bowls, spoons, measuring cups and scales to use as they saw fit.
  5. I explained to them that they were each to use half of all the ingredients.
  6. And that was it. I left them to it!

Approximate Ingredients

If you want a rough guide, below is some general cake measurements (but it’s good for the kids to experiment with the amounts and work out the texture so it doesn’t have to be exact).

1-2 tablespoons of oil

1/2 cup of sugar

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

1 cup SR flour

Optional: Sprinkles, sultanas, honey or frozen blueberries are a fun addition

Optional: Extra butter, sugar and cinnamon mixture to smear on the top of the cake once it’s cooked and still hot

Set Up

  • Small bowls work well to separate ingredients.  
  • Provide a selection of kitchen tools for example: spoons, spatulas, measuring cups, tea towel.

play baking

I watched from a safe distance to see how they used their ingredients. I was delighted to see them share the different bowls, and discuss how much would be half each.

play baking

The children relished in their independence and took to the task with enthusiasm and care. They chatted as they worked and offered encouragement to each other. While each child’s cake was prepared separately, it was very much a joint task that required communication, turn taking and sharing.

 play baking

Once the batter was mixed, I did a quick check to see if their creations looked kind of right. I added a dash of milk to one, and a bit of flour to the other, and was sure that we would end up with something that resembled a cake.

The girls poured their mixture into the tins and then excitedly realized they each had their own bowls and spoons to lick!

play baking

To our surprise and joy, the cakes both rose. We let them cool, and then removed the tins. It was like Christmas – we had no idea what to expect! Before long we were conducting taste tests. My little chefs had done really well, and while there were differences in texture and sweetness, both were edible.

play baking

Even if the cakes had not tasted great or did not cook well or hold together, this still would have been a fun activity, with lots of opportunity to learn and expand many different skills.

As an Occupational Therapist, I find that I am drawn to activities that promote important daily living skills, and have function and meaning. I love this play baking activity for the many and varied skills it develops, which are done so through a play-based activity that is essentially (and most importantly) fun.

About Nicole

nicole grant picNicole is a privately practicing Occupational Therapist (OT) in Brisbane, Queensland. She is mother to 2 beautiful girls aged four and six. More information about Nicole can be found here:    www.gatewaytherapies.com.au

Follow Nicole: Facebook

.

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Finding the line: Ensure Safety | Allow Experimentation

Guest Post from Nicole from Gateway Therapies

Is that such a good idea?

I was recently watching my girls, aged 3 and 4, play in a designated area at the local shopping centre. On an elevated patch, slightly away from the road and the thoroughfare of the restaurants, this area had two pieces of play equipment. One was a rocking thing, and the other a roundabout type thing that could be pushed around or sat on. My girls were joined by their 3 year old cousin, and I sat with my mother and sister at a table nearby. My sister and I reminisced about playgrounds we visited as a child, and remembered one particular piece of equipment that spun around, like the one in front of us. What suddenly dawned on me, was the stark difference between their design. The one our kids were using, was padded and low to the ground. All mechanisms were concealed to avoid trapping little fingers, and the ground beneath was rubber. Safe. Crazy safe. The one my sisters and I frequented on the other hand, was a death trap. Metal bars formed the ‘seat’. There were massive gaps between the bars and the mechanisms were exposed. It was reasonably high off the ground, largely due to the fact that a gully had worn beneath the equipment, from many pairs of feet dragging along while their bodies whirled around. The ground was pure dirt. And rocks. And sticks. Pointy sharp rocks and sticks. I remember there were falls, and cuts and scrapes, possibly resulting in tears shed and bandaid shortages, but gosh it was fun!

merry-go-round

So I sat with my family watching the children, and had another sudden thought. Our kids are so protected these days! And in many ways this is a good thing. I am sure there are stats on how there has been a massive reduction in playground injuries etc, but what are our kids learning (or not learning) by being constantly bubble wrapped? How are they to learn good judgment, if not allowed to judge situations for themselves?

I was reading a discussion thread recently on Be a Fun Mum’s Facebook page on playing with your food, and there was some debate about this topic.  The post had been a terrific idea for sensory play – coloured yoghurt to ‘paint’ with. Paint that could be eaten and smeared! Messy, fun. Well-meaning commenters wondered if this type of activity would confuse kids, encourage them to play with their food, and promote bad table manners. I feel that once again, these perceptions – this inability to give our children the benefit of the doubt – could have an impact on their ability to develop good judgment. I also fear that our children are missing out on amazing opportunities to explore and experience their world. Are we desensitizing them?

We need to give our kids the benefit of the doubt. Often they understand more than we think. We need to let them learn from their experiences. Within reason of course. But eventually you learn that standing up in the middle of a thing that spins really, really fast so much that you lose your balance and go crashing down onto thick metal bars, is a bad idea. And you learn that smearing coloured yoghurt on your highchair tray is fun, and okay at home if given the ‘go ahead’, but when you do that with your pumpkin soup at Sizzler, Mum gets really cross and so you probably shouldn’t do that there.

Some kids struggle with learning to ‘judge’, and that can be because they just haven’t developed that skill yet, or it may be a symptom of a developmental delay. Laying down the rules visually and verbally, and ensuring kids are aware of your expectations and consequences, can help.

One final word. Judgment is a skill that develops over time. Kids of all ages will continue to make bad decisions, misjudge, and take risks. As parents, it’s up to us to be informed, and choose when to step in, or step back. It’s a tough gig, this parenting thing!

How do find the balance between ensuring your children’s safety and allowing them the room to experiment?

playing in the mud

 

About Nicole

Nicole is a privately practicing Occupational Therapist (OT) in Brisbane, Queensland and mother to 2 beautiful girls. More information about Nicole can be found here: www.gatewaytherapies.com.au

Read all Nicole’s posts here.

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iReview: iPad

iReview: iPad — Post by Nicole Grant

ipad games reviewI knew I needed an iPad as soon as I saw them. I am not usually one to embrace new technology so quickly, however these were exceptional circumstances. This device was like my much-loved iPhone. But bigger! Little did I realise how much a part of our every day life this new toy would become.

I’m going to give you an overview of the iPad, that will hopefully be a little different to the gazillion other articles that exist on this topic.

I initially had no intention of allowing my children anywhere near my iPad. They already had fairly open access to my iPhone, and this new device was to be mine, all mine. I think this rule lasted about 5 minutes after I loaded the first app.

I am an Occupational Therapist working with children with special needs. Some of the children I work with, particularly those on the autism spectrum, respond extremely well to visual stimuli and learn a great deal from information delivered in this format. I therefore downloaded applications that targeted developing specific skills such as identifying colours and shapes, letter formation, letter recognition, spelling, and visual processing (e.g. puzzles, mazes). My kids were perfect testers, and shortly their adoration of the iPad equalled mine.

My initial reservations about giving my children access to the iPad were based on the fact that I really couldn’t see any benefit for them. My two aren’t school-aged and I believe that everything they need to learn, they can do so through play, their daily experiences, and interactions with the people in their world. What I hadn’t realized (and obviously do now), is that the iPad does not replace any of these things, but can be a fun way to further explore and explain my children’s world.

Here’s an example:

Each night my husband reads a bedtime story to the children. One particular book they have, has pictures of animals from Canada. One night, the kids were particularly attentive, so their father grabbed the iPad and searched for North American animal images and videos to show the girls. They loved it!

ipad apps for kids

Now think of all the benefits of that experience –

  • Greater understanding of different animals, how they look and behave, and where they are located geographically.
  • Opportunity to open discussion about nature and the environment.
  • Opportunity to practice good attention and concentration.
  • Bonding time between a father and his children.

I have many, many educational apps on my iPad, all organized into neat little folders categorised by skill area – e.g. handwriting, literacy, problem-solving, sensory processing, communication skills, etc. Now brace yourselves for a slightly controversial statement. Not all apps need to be educational or have a purpose or be particularly meaningful. I have apps installed that I just think are fun. Usually we end up learning something anyway, but I want my kids to be kids most of the time and do fun kid stuff. Kids need their downtime too!

10 Tips for Using an iPad with Children

So in summary, here are my Top 10 tips for using an iPad with children (typically developing or with special needs):

  1. Choose a time limit that you feel is appropriate for your child’s age and abilities. For my kids (aged 3 and 4), 15 minutes is about my preference.
  2. Buy a case and screen protector. Your children will drop your iPad and spill juice or dribble all over it. It will happen. Be prepared for it. A Griffin iPad case is very sturdy and waterproof.
  3. Enable Airplane Mode (under Settings) if you would rather your child not send their latest doodle to your tax accountant via email.
  4. Turn ON Restrictions (also under Settings). Select Deleting Apps and in-App purchases to be turned off. Set the ratings for Movies and TV Shows to G if preferred, and you may wish to disable You Tube if you don’t want your children to stumble across inappropriate material.
  5. Try out any apps that you have purchased before allowing your children to use them. Some apps aren’t always what they advertise to be.
  6. Choose apps that do not contain advertising or links to web pages. Kids that are pre-reading will get frustrated when they accidentally click on these as usually they can’t get back into their game.
  7. Download a ‘lite’ or free version of an app before paying for it. Some apps cost quite a bit and you don’t always know what you’re paying for. If a free version is not on offer, do a Google search for a review to see what others are saying about it.
  8. Delete any apps you or your kids no longer use. They just take up space. You can always download them again at a later date if you change your mind. You shouldn’t be charged again.
  9. To save your kids’ latest brilliant artwork or picture, or anything they have on screen worth saving for posterity, hold down home and on/off buttons briefly to save the screen to the photo app.
  10. Don’t forget to check for updates through the app store as many apps are being constantly revised and improved.

iPad App Recommendations

My favourite apps for kids:

Interactive Story

Pretend Play

Colouring

Geography

Anatomy

 

Music

 

Literacy Skills

Letter Formation

Currency

Communication

Shapes

Mazes

Sorting

Puzzles

Memory

Strategy

 

Quiz

What are your favourite iPad apps? Leave them in the comments below.

App Recommendations and Reviews

Appitic: – a directory of apps for education, apparently tested for a variety of different grade levels, instructional strategies and classroom settings.

 iPads for Education: – an Australian-based site for educators to learn about using iPads in education.

About Nicole

Nicole is a privately practicing Occupational Therapist (OT) in Brisbane, Queensland. She is mother to 2 beautiful girls aged two and four. More information about Nicole can be found here:    www.gatewaytherapies.com.au

Follow Nicole: Facebook

Other Relevant Links

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Communication in Children: Development of Speech Sounds: 0-5 years

I’m welcoming my lovely online friend Julie back to the blog today. Julie is a Mum, Speech Pathologist and blogger (at The Useful Box).  Julie has an amazing way of explaining speech development in children and I appreciate her generosity in sharing her expertise on my blog. You see all Julie’s comprehensive posts about communication in children here: Julie Miller — Communication in Children.

Development of Speech Sounds: 0-5 years

Communication in Children: Development of Speech Sounds: 0-5 years

Speech Pathologists are probably most commonly known for assisting children with speech sounds. Though this is not all we do, speech sound development is important in preschool-aged children as a precursor to development of pre-literacy and literacy skills. If you think your child is having difficulty with production of speech sounds, early referral to a Speech Pathologist is always recommended.

Guidelines for speech sound development

The guidelines indicate what is observed in at least 75% of children at a given age.

At 1 year, most children are:

  • Able to alternate consonant sounds in their babble (also known as variegated babbling) e.g. bada, gaba, deebee
  • Using a variety of consonant-vowel combinations (usually without meaning) e.g. boo, ma, goo
  • Using some consonant-vowel-consonant combinations (again, without meaning) e.g. gab, baf, fad
  • Beginning to imitate adult intonation (pitch, sentence contours) in babble
  • Attempting one or more meaningful single words. Sound errors often occur (e.g. mum, dar (for car), wower (for flower)

Contact a Speech Pathologist if:

  • Your 1-year-old is not babbling at all
  • Your 1-year-old has a limited repertoire of speech sounds (e.g. no consonant sounds or only one consonant sound such as “b”)

At 2 years, most children are:

  • Able to be understood by a familiar adult (parent) 50-75% of the time
  • Commonly making errors in the production of their speech sounds
  • Likely to exhibit the following ‘normal’ speech production error patterns (referred to as phonological processes)
      • Deletion of final consonant sounds (e.g. dog – “do”, card – “car”)
      • Fronting of back consonant sounds (‘k’ and ‘g’ become ‘t’ and ‘d’, so car – “tar”, go – “dough”)
      • Stopping of fricative (longer, airy) speech sounds (s, f, and sh sounds e.g. soap – “doap”, fish – “bish”)

Contact a Speech Pathologist if:

  • You are unable to understand your 2-year-old’s speech (more than 50% of the time)
  • Your 2-year-old has no consistent patterns in their speech errors (e.g. one day “dog” is produced “do”, the next day it is “gok”, the next day it is “ba”)
  • Your 2-year-old seems to have weak or insufficient control of oral muscles (This can often be noted in excessive dribbling and/or difficulty with chewing/ eating solid, crunchy or chewy foods, in addition to difficulty with speech sound production)

At 3 years, most children are:

  • Able to be understood by a familiar adult (parent, preschool teacher) 75 – 100% of the time.
  • Able to produce the following speech sounds accurately in most contexts (sometimes children struggle to produce a particular sound in one or two specific words only – this is not a cause for concern at age 3): h, y, w, ng (as in sing, m, n p, b, t, d, k, g)
  • Able to produce the ‘f’ sound accurately in most contexts by 3.5 years
  • Likely to exhibit the following sound production error patterns (phonological processes)
      • Assimilation of consonant sounds (both or all consonants in a word are produced in the same position in the mouth, although the child can use the sounds correctly in other word contexts) e.g. dog – “gog” or “dod”; mine  – “mime”, yellow – “lellow”
      • Deletion of weak (unstressed) syllables in words (e.g. elephant – “efent”, potato – “tato)
      • Cluster reduction (when 2 or more consonant sounds occur together e.g. cl, br, fr, spl, one consonant sound is omitted) e.g. spoon – “poon”, train – “tain”, clean – “cean”)

Contact a Speech Pathologist if:

  • Your 3-year-old has no consistent patterns in their speech errors (see “2 years” section above)
  • Your 3-year-old appears to have weak or insufficient oral muscle control (see “2 years” section above)
  • You have difficulty understanding what your 3-year-old says to you
  • Your 3-year-old is not able to produce h, y, w, ng, m, n, p, b, t, d, k, g sounds in most contexts
  • Your 3.5-year-old is not able to produce f sounds in most contexts
  • Your 3-year-old is continuing to delete final consonant sounds in words (e.g. dog – “do”), stop fricative consonants (e.g. soap – “doap”, fish – “bish”) or front the back consonant sounds (e.g. car – “tar”)

{My daughter is about 3 year, 3 months in these clips. She demonstrates a lisp on production of ‘s’ and ‘z’ sounds (common up to 4.5 years). My son is just under 2 in the first section and just over 2 in the second part of the clip. He uses most of the common patterns of sound errors. You may notice deleting of final and beginning consonant sounds, fronting of k/g sounds to t/d, deletion of syllables, assimilation of consonant sounds. You may not comprehend much of what Mr. 2 says! This is normal at age 2.}

At 4 years, most children are:

  • Able to be understood by a familiar adult almost 100% of the time.
  • Able to produce all ‘3-year-old’ speech sounds accurately in most contexts, as well as producing the ‘l’, ‘sh’ and ‘ch’ sounds accurately in most contexts
  • Able to produce the ‘j’, ‘s’ and ‘z’ sounds accurately by 4.5 years in most contexts
  • Likely to exhibit the following sound production error patterns (phonological processes)
      • Stopping of ‘sh’, ‘ch’ and ‘j’ sounds so they are produced as ‘d’ or ‘t’ e.g. share – “dare”, jump – “dump”, chair – “tair”
      • Gliding of ‘l’ and ‘r’ sounds to be produced as ‘w’ or ‘y’ e.g. run – “wun”, leg – “yeg”
      • Stopping of ‘th’ sounds so they are produced as ‘t’ or ‘d’ e.g. them – “dem”, thing – “ting”
  • Possibly still producing a lisp sound on production of ‘s’ and ‘z’ sounds. (The tongue protrudes between the front teeth on production of this sound). This type of lisp is common in children until 4.5 years.

Contact a Speech Pathologist if:

  • Your 4-year-old displays any difficulties as outlined in the 2 and 3-year-old sections above
  • Your 4-year-old is unable to produce ‘l’, ‘sh’ and ‘ch’ sounds accurately in most contexts
  • Your 4-year-old is continuing to assimilate consonant sounds in words (e.g. dog – “dod” or “gog”)
  • Your 4-year-old consistently omits sounds in consonant clusters (e.g. spoon – “poon”, glass – “gass”)
  • Your 4-year-old consistently omits syllables in multiple words (e.g. elephant – “efent”, tomato – “mato”)
  • Your 4.5-year-old in unable to produce the ‘j’, ‘s’ and ‘z’ sounds accurately in most contexts
  • Your 4.5-year-old continues to lisp on production of the “s’, “z” sounds, or produces a lisp on “sh”, “ch” or “j” sounds

At 5 years, most children:

  • Still have difficulty with production of ‘r’ sounds (accurate production develops by 6 years in 75% or children) and ‘v’ sounds (accurate production also by 6 years).
  • May produce ‘th’ sounds as ‘f’ or ‘v’ e.g. think – “fink”, bath – “baf”. Accurate production generally develops by 8.5 years, however in some areas, ‘th’ produced as ‘f’ is considered an acceptable variant. This does not impact on listener comprehension.

Contact a Speech Pathologist if:

  • Your child demonstrating any of the difficulties as outlined in the 2,3 and 4-year-old sections above
  • Your child is unable to produce the ‘r’ and ‘v’ sounds accurately by age 6.
  • You feel that your child’s literacy development is being impacted by difficulty with speech sound production

Please contact a Speech Pathologist if you have any concerns about your child’s speech sound production…or feel free to leave any questions in the comments below and I’ll pop by and answer them.

Reference: Bowen, C. (1998) Developmental Phonological Disorders: A Practical Guide for Families and Teachers. Melbourne: ACER Press

Read Julie’s Other Posts

Baby Communication: Newborn to 1

Communication in Children: 12 months to 24 months

Communication in Children: 2-3 years

Communication in Children: 3-4 years

Communication in Children: Development of Speech Sounds: 0-5 years

A Monster Problem: Children and Anxiety

Guest post by Nicole from Gateway Therapies

DISCLAIMER: The following post is entirely the thoughts and opinion of the author. Any surveys or interviews have been conducted independently and are not linked to any other research being undertaken by the author. The responses from the survey participants have been de-identified for protection of privacy.

A Monster Problem

anxiety in childrenI was recently asked to prepare some information for my OT colleagues about working with children with anxiety. I am really interested in psychology – to the point where my first degree was one in this field, and this passion to learn more about how we think and feel has in many ways shaped my current practice.

In preparing the requested information, I consulted my usual resources – articles from experts, and information from health professionals in the field; however I thought it would also be worthwhile to hear some anecdotes and stories from real life mums and dads, with first hand experience with anxious children.

The experts say that a certain amount of ‘stress’ is normal for everyone. Do parents agree?

I informally surveyed a group of 45 parents and asked them questions about their children and their experiences with anxiety. Parents ticked which statement best fit their opinion on this matter.

Table 1: Is Anxiety normal or healthy?
anxiety in children -- is anxiety normal or healthy?

So, it seems parents and the experts agree.

It is important to teach kids it is normal to occasionally feel angry, upset, frustrated, or anxious. It is also important to teach kids to effectively deal with these emotions, and the situations that cause these emotions to surface.

What makes kids anxious? Many things it seems! The parents who replied to the survey reported the following:

Table 2: What makes your child/ren anxious (that you know of)? Tick all that apply.

anxiety in children -- what makes your children anxious?

Other responses included thunder, dogs, balloons, swimming, conflict with friends, and being disciplined. One parent wrote:

“Since experiencing a bad storm last year my 8 year old is very anxious about any bad weather event. Even rain triggers a bit of anxiety. During the bad storm we lost power and I think she is particularly concerned about the house going dark in a storm again”.

The more common triggers appear to be fear of unfamiliar situations, places and people. One could argue that these are sensible fears, as they can protect us from danger. But the next question is, when does anxiety become a problem?

“Anxiety is a normal part of children’s development. But it’s estimated that anywhere between 8-22% of children experience anxiety more intensely and more often than other children, stopping them from getting the most out of life”.
Raising Children Network, 2009.

So, anxiety can become a problem. The good news is there is a lot you can do to help. It’s about finding what works best for you and your family. I asked parents in the survey how they help their child when they are anxious.

Table 3: Which strategies do you use to help your children when anxious?
anxiety in children -- which strategies doyou use to help your children when anxious?

Debbie Hopper from Lifeskills 4 Kids shares these additional tips for helping kids to cope with stressful situations:

  1. Teach your child effective relaxation strategies e.g breathing techniques, deep pressure, and visualizations.
  2. Empathise, and show that you understand your child’s concerns.
  3. Don’t trivialize your child’s fears or make fun of them.
  4. Children learn by observing their parents. Model good coping skills.
  5. Prevent or remove sensory overload.

Relaxation techniques can definitely help too.

The things that cause anxiety in children vary over time. The way in which you respond, and the techniques you use, will also need to change over time. The strategies you use must be age-appropriate and a good-fit for your family to be effective.

If you are concerned that your child experiences anxiety beyond what you are comfortable with, or you would like some help finding the right strategies for your child – visit your GP or paediatrician for further advice.

For more information on this topic visit:

Lifeskills 4 kids

Raising Children Network

References

Hopper, D, 2010, Relaxation Skills 4 Kids: An educational resource for parents, teachers and professionals, www.lifeskills4kids.com.au

Raising Children Network, 2009

About Nicole

Nicole is a privately practicing Occupational Therapist (OT) in Brisbane, Queensland.   She is mother to 2 beautiful girls aged two and four.  More information about Nicole can be found here: www.gatewaytherapies.com.au

Communication in children: From 3 – 4 years

Guest Post — Julie Miller (Speech Pathologist) from The Useful Box

Communication in children: From 3 – 4 years

communication in children aged 3 to 4 years of age

In my last post, I wrote about the development of communication between 2 and 3 years of age. From 2-3 years is a time of rapid growth in communication skills. Expectations of communication at age 3 are vastly different to those at age 2.

Though the leap from 3-4 years is more subtle, it is no less significant. From 3-4 years, children continue to hone their communication skills. They are continuing down the continuum toward the abstract and literate language that will be required of them in their school years. From 3-4 years language is becoming increasingly complex with extended sentence length, an increase in use and ability to answer questions and an increasing ability to talk about past and future events rather than only about the “here and now”.

Below are the expectations for communication development in an average 3 year old and 4 year old:

Average communication development: 3- 4 years

At 3 years, most children are:

  • Following 2-step related commands (e.g. “Pick up the book and put it on the table”).
  • Using up to 900 words (if you are still counting!)
  • Using different types of words: nouns (object words e.g. dog, ball), verbs (action words e.g. run, stop, go), adjectives and adverbs (describing words e.g. hot, dirty, happily), negatives (e.g. no, not), words for recurrence (e.g. more, again). It is important for sentence development that children have words from all these categories. I have seen children in therapy with literally hundreds of single words, but few sentences, because they are only using nouns!
  • Using 3-4 word sentences, mostly simple sentences (e.g. The boy jumped).
  • Using some grammar in sentences: plurals (e.g. shoes), -ing endings (e.g. running), pronouns (e.g. me, I, he) and prepositions (location words e.g. on, under, in).
  • Able to be understood 80% of the time by an unfamiliar adult.
  • Talking mostly about the “here” and “now”. They may have difficulty talking about past or future events or abstract concepts (e.g. emotions, reasons, causes)

At 4 years most children:

  • Comprehend (though not always follow!) 2 and 3 step commands (e.g. Finish brushing your teeth, then get your bag and come out to the car).
  • Use 1500-1600 words
  • Ask LOTS of questions
  • Use longer and more complex sentences (e.g. including regular use of “and”, “but”, “because” – “I am sad because Thomas hit me”)
  • Begin to use …who… and …that… sentences (e.g. “The man who was wearing a red hat, got on the train”; “The hat that was red flew out the window”)
  • Use describing words regularly (e.g. fast, hungry, happy)
  • Still make some grammar errors (e.g. irregular plurals “foots”, “sheeps” or irregular past tense “runned”, “goed”)
    • Recount stories and recent events
    • Understand most questions (may struggle with “how” or “why”)
    • Begin to talk about simple emotions (sad, happy, angry, embarrassed) and reasons (I feel sad because Sarah pushed me over).
    • Make simple predictions (“What will happen next?”)

After reading these checklists, you may have concerns about your child’s language development. If you have any concerns please contact a local Speech Pathologist (through your school, community health centre or private clinic). Also, feel free to drop me an email: julie (at) theusefulbox (dot) com if you want to ask me any questions privately.

Apart from seeking professional help if required, there are simple things we can be doing to help our children develop their language skills between 3 and 4 years of age.

Promoting language development: 3 – 4 years

1) Talk, listen, play

Allocate some time each day to spend with your child. Allow your child to determine the focus of play and conversation. Listen to your child’s speech. Comment on what your child is doing. Avoid asking questions or giving instructions. Look for opportunities to model specific language structures as required (see below).

2) Read with your child daily

Introduce your child to more complex (but meaningful) language by sharing books. Don’t be scared of complex language at this stage of development. Choose books that have a mixture of simple and complex sentences, new concepts, some abstract ideas and/or talk about emotions.

Use books to probe more complex language skills. Stop at the end of a page and ask your child; “What might happen next?”, “What is the problem?”, “What could they do?”, “How does the boy feel?” or relate the story to real-life experiences; “Has that ever happened to you?”, “What makes you feel happy?”…

3) Simplify/ Modify your language

I have mentioned “simplifying your language” in previous posts. Perhaps at this stage of language development, it could more correctly be termed “modifying your language”.

When communicating with a 3-year-old, you are likely to be modelling expanded and increasingly complex sentences

e.g. Child says: “You brush my hair mummy”

       Parent says: “I’ll brush your hair so it won’t get too messy

Or,       

       Child says: “That man has black shoes”

       Parent says: “The man who is sitting at the bus stop has black shoes”

4) Model specific vocabulary or grammar

Modelling is about altering your speech/language to help your child’s communication development. There is no response required from your child. You do not provide any direct feedback on what your child says or how they say it. You simply use your child’s language output as a guide to determine how/ what you will model.

Examples: 

a)  Child says “I drawed a picture for you”

     Parent says “Oh, you drew a picture, thanks!”

b)  Child says: “Let’s go in a camping house”.

     Parent says “Do you want to stay in a tent?” (with emphasis on “tent”).

Modelling does not involve asking your child to say the sentence again or “drilling” the error. Provide the correct model, with emphasis, and then move on in the conversation. 

5) Consider social interaction, play skills and speech sound development

All these areas can have a huge impact on communication development. If you have any concerns with your child’s ability to interact with peers and adults, to demonstrate appropriate attention to task in play situations, or to play appropriately, consult a Speech Pathologist or paediatrician (or again, feel free to email me with any questions).

For more information on communication in babies (0-1 year), children (1-2 years) and children (2-3 years) see my previous guest posts:

Baby Communication: Newborn to 1

Communication in Children: 12 months to 24 months

Communication in Children: 2-3 years

julie millerJulie Miller is a Speech Pathologist, wife, mother and blogger. She has worked in private practice, community health and early intervention programs since graduating in 2000. 

Read Julie’s Other Posts

Baby Communication: Newborn to 1

Communication in Children: 12 months to 24 months

Communication in Children: 2-3 years

Communication in Children: 3-4 years

Communication in Children: Development of Speech Sounds: 0-5 years

Communication in Children 2 to 3 years

I feel privileged to have Julie Miller guest posting for me today. Julie shares her expertise in the field of speech pathology with us in an age related series about communication in children.

Communication in children: From 2 – 3 years

Communication in Children 2 to 3 years

From 2 years of age, our toddlers are becoming much more verbal. Until 18-24 months, much of a toddlers’ communication is primarily non-verbal (expressed through play, gesture, sound effects and shared experiences), but this begins to change from age 2.

It is also from about 2 years of age that gender differences emerge. Ever heard someone say “Girls develop so much faster than boys”?  When it comes to communication, this is true. Girls tend to reach the stage of using mostly verbal communication (talking rather than gesture etc) from around 18 months. For boys it tends to be closer to 2 years of age. Even among children of the same gender, there is wide discrepancy in communication skills at age 2. Some children are beginning to use their first single words at this age. Some children are chattering away in full sentences by age 2. So when should we be concerned?

Red flags of communication development:

At 2 years, most children are:

* Confidently using pretend play and extending play episodes (e.g. loading blocks into a truck, pushing truck to another location, dumping blocks or feeding dolly, cuddling dolly, wrapping dolly and putting dolly to bed)

* Using communication (verbal and non-verbal) to make things happen (e.g. pointing to preferred choice of food or drink, asking for a toy, pointing out an aeroplane in the sky for an adult to look at)

*Using communication for make requests (ask for something), refuse an object or activity and share an observation with a parent/ other person.

* Understanding and following simple single-part instructions (e.g. “get your shoes”, “give the ball to mummy”).

* Beginning to answer simple questions (e.g. “what’s that?”, “who’s that?).

* Using around 50-100 single words (these are not all clear, but can be understood in context) and beginning to use some 2 word phrases (e.g. mummy go, push car.

By 3 years, most children are:

* Following 2-step related commands (e.g. “Pick up the book and put it on the table”).

* Using up to 900 words (though I don’t know who would still be counting! Even as a Speech Pathologist, I stopped counting my daughter’s words at 500, and my son’s (second child) at about 150).

* Using different types of words: nouns (object words e.g. dog, ball), verbs (action words e.g. run, stop, go), adjectives and adverbs (describing words e.g. hot, dirty, happily), negatives (e.g. no, not), words for recurrence (e.g. more, again). It is important for sentence development that children have words from all these categories. I have seen children in therapy with literally hundreds of single words, but few sentences, because they are only using nouns!

* Using 3-4 word sentences, mostly simple sentences (e.g. The boy jumped).

* Using some grammar in sentences: plurals (e.g. shoes), -ing endings (e.g. running), pronouns (e.g. me, I, he) and prepositions (location words e.g. on, under, in).

* Able to be understood 80% of the time by an unfamiliar adult.

As you can see, there is quite a jump in expectations of children’s verbal language from 2 years to 3 years of age. If you have any concerns about your child’s language development having read the checklists above, please contact a local Speech Pathologist (through your school, community health centre or private clinic). Also, feel free to drop me an email: julie (at) theusefulbox (dot) com if you want to ask me any questions privately…

How can we help our children to make those big leaps in language that we expect between 2 and 3 years of age?

Helpful Hints for promoting language development

from 2-3 years

boys talking  communication in children 2 to 3 years

1) Promote joint conversation

In order to do this effectively, you need to observe your child. What is his/ her focus of attention? What does he/she enjoy talking about? What is most meaningful to your child? Talk about these things in context. Avoid just giving instructions and asking questions of your child. Spend time commenting on what he/ she is doing and playing together.

2) Read with your child daily and introduce nursery rhymes

An easy way to introduce your child to more complex (but meaningful) language is by sharing books. In order to promote a shared reading experience, observe what your child is doing. Don’t just keep plowing on through the book if your child is on the other side of the room! Engage your child with the pictures. If the text is too much for their attention or comprehension at this stage, just label or describe the pictures. Ask your child to point things out, etc… 

Nursery rhymes are invaluable in terms of both language and later literacy development. Read this post if you want to know more: English for Toddlers — Nursery Rhymes.

3) Simplify your language

Simplifying your language is really just that – making your language easier for your toddler to follow. Try to aim your language at the level just above the language your child is using. You want to show your child what they are aiming for, in terms of language.

If your child is not using any words, or only a few single words, you would mostly be using single words, with a few two-word phrases (e.g. Child points to daddy and grunts or says “dah”…Parent may say “yes, daddy!” or Child says – “daddy”…Parent may say “daddy’s home“, “look daddy”, “daddy go”)

When your child is beginning to use more language, you continue to use what they say as a guide, adding one or two words above what your child says (e.g. Child says “Daddy ball”… Parent says “Daddy throw ball”, “Give daddy ball” or Child says “Give ball daddy”… Parent says “Mummy give ball to daddy”)

It really isn’t hard in theory, but can be hard to actually do this in practice. It does take some time to think about how you can simplify your language, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.

4) Model specific vocabulary or grammar

Modeling is aboutaltering your speech/language to help your child’s communication development. There is no response required from your child. You do not provide any direct feedback on what your child says or how they say it. You simply use your child’s language output as a guide to determine how/ what you will model.

Examples: 

a)  Child says “I goed shops”

      Parent says “Oh, you went to the shops, did you?”

b)  Child says: “Her took it”.

       Parent says “Oh, she took it” (with emphasis on “she”).

Do not ask you child to say the sentence again or “drill” the error (e.g. make them say it correctly over and over). Provide the correct model, with emphasis, and then move on in the conversation. 

The hardest part of language modeling is trying to identify language goals that are relevant to your child. You may need a Speech Pathologist or “tuned in” friend to help you determine appropriate goals helping your child’s communication development.

5) Consider social interaction, play skills and speech sound development

These are all topics requiring posts in themselves, but all can have a huge impact on communication development. If you have any concerns with your child’s ability to interact with peers and adults, to demonstrate appropriate attention to task in play situations, or to play appropriately, consult a Speech Pathologist or paediatrician (or again, feel free to email me with any questions).

Speech sounds are not expected to be clear to unfamiliar adults until after 3 years of age. It is important however to begin to observe patterns of errors in your child’s speech after age 2. If your child seems to be very inconsistent with speech productions (e.g. produces the same word completely differently on different occasions) or his/her speech is regularly unable to be understood by close family members, a consult with a speech pathologist may be warranted. I hope to expand on speech sound development/ articulation in a later post.

For more information on communication in babies (0-1 year) and children (1-2 years) see my previous guest posts:

Baby Communication: Newborn to 1

Communication in Children: 12 months to 24 months

What changes are you observing in your child’s communication at the moment?

Julie MillerJulie Miller is a Speech Pathologist, wife, mother and blogger. She has worked in private practice, community health and early intervention programs since graduating in 2000. Julie blogs at  The Useful Box.

Read Julie’s Other Posts

Baby Communication: Newborn to 1

Communication in Children: 12 months to 24 months

Communication in Children: 2-3 years

Communication in Children: 3-4 years

Communication in Children: Development of Speech Sounds: 0-5 years

Children and Coping with Transitions

Guest Post by Nicole Grant

coping with transitions childrenWith some major natural disasters and political events occurring in Australia and around the world recently, there has been much discussion about how kids learn to process and cope with major change. As parents, we generally understand that children will need help to adjust to change and disruption to their usual circumstances such as a new baby, a new home, or the start of prep year. What is not often considered, is how children react to change on a much simpler scale – transitioning between activities as they go about their day.

According to The Oxford Dictionary, Transition means “the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another”.  In my practice as an Occupational Therapist, I often work with children who have difficulty managing transitions. Their parents report resistance to packing up one activity and moving on to the next, or experiencing a meltdown when told it’s time to leave the house to go to the shops.

Difficulties with transitions can often occur with children who have a neuro-developmental condition, such as an autism spectrum disorder, however many kids who are typically developing can also struggle. Do you recognise any of the following behaviours in your child?

* You are dropping your son off at childcare. You are late for work and rushing. Your son, who was happily watching the TV suddenly starts to cry and dig in his heels.

* At playgroup, your daughter is told it’s time to pack up the blocks. It’s time for a story. She packs up the blocks as requested, but is unable to sit through the story, is distracted and fidgets.

* Your children are sitting at the kitchen table, contentedly drawing and colouring-in. Your older child gets up and turns on a radio. The sudden loud noise startles your younger child and he becomes agitated and unsettled. It takes a while for him to calm down.

* It’s dinner time. You call for your daughter to come to the table. She won’t come after you call three times. After 15 minutes, you have to go and get her, and lead her to her chair. She protests along the way, complaining that she hadn’t finished her game.

Some children struggle more than others with transitions, and both mother and child can become quite stressed and anxious when meltdowns occur frequently throughout the day as a result.

There are things that you can do, as a mum (or dad) to help your child with transitions. Pinky McKay in her book Toddler Tactics describes creating Family Rituals and working out your Daily Rhythms. She states that children who have predictable rhythm in their day are more likely to be cooperative. They know their place in the world and feel secure when “they know what they can count on”. Developing routines (allowing for some flexibility) can assist with this.

Other tips to help kids transition include:

* Look for natural breaks in their activities to initiate change e.g wait for their game to end before announcing it’s time to go to the shops.

* Give your child plenty of warning when you are about to initiate a new activity.  E.g “When you are finished your game, we will be going to the shops”.

* Kids are very visual learners. From a very young age, they can recognise symbols and attach meaning to pictures. Create a visual schedule that shows them what their routine will be for that day. There are some great businesses specialising in routine charts such as Magnetic Moves and Little Billies.

* Young children have a poor concept of time. It’s better to use words like “Now, Then, and Next” to explain the sequence of events occuring on that day e.g. “NOW it’s time for morning tea. NEXT we are going to the shops. THEN we will stop by Grandma’s house”. Children can be taught time, and spoken to in terms of timeframes when they are older e.g at 10:00am we are going to our swimming lesson.

* Talk to your children about why they are fussing, if they appear to be struggling with a transition. It may be that they need to go to the toilet first, are hungry, or have some concerns about the next activity.

* Some children have sensory processing difficulties and may react to sudden changes such as  increase or decrease in noise, temperature, or room brightness. If your child falls into this category, find ways to ease the transition e.g sunglasses for light sensitivity, layered clothing for temperature issues, and earmuffs for difficulties with sudden loud noise. If you suspect your child has sensory processing issues, an Occupational Therapist can help you identify specific sensitivities and provide strategies to address these issues.

References:

1. Oxford Dictionaries

2. Toddler Tactics, Pinky McKay, 2008, Penguin Books

3. Strategies for Helping Children with Transition Challenges

4. Helping Children make Transitions Between Activities

Nicole Grant Occupational Therpist

Nicole is a privately practicing  Occupational Therapist  (OT) in Brisbane, Queensland.   She is mother to 2 beautiful girls aged two and three. Nicole is currently completing a PhD, undertaking research in autism.  More information about Nicole can be found here:  www.nicolegrant.net & www.brissieot.blogspot.com

 Read other posts written by Nicole

Self-care: I Can Do It!

Social Stories

Reading

Handwriting

Different Learning Styles in Children: Part 1

Guest post: Bonnie Olyslagers

Different Learning Styles in Children Multiple=

I have three children.  2 girls (Butternut 11, Baby Blue 7) and 1 boy (Japp 10).  I’m astounded at the differences between them all.  I guess I shouldn’t be, because of course they’re different … but I am!  The girls I understand.  I come from a family of 4 girls and so it feels very natural to understand their thinking.  But my son?  He is from Mars!  It’s so important that I not only understand him but I encourage him where his strengths are.  This is my goal as a mother for all my children.

It is also my goal in the classroom. A teacher will have, on average, anywhere between 18 – 26 children in the classroom.   Each child represents a different learning style.  You can imagine the challenges that present themselves as a teacher attempts to reach each child where they are at.

A man called Howard Gardner came up with a theory he called “Multiple Intelligences”.  I use these “intelligences” in my classroom during guided reading.  I found a very comprehensive list of the intelligences on the internet I feel is worth sharing. What are the types of multiple intelligences?

Types of Multiple Intelligences (drawn from LDPride.net)

Visual/Spatial Intelligence

Visual/Spatial Intelligence: ability to perceive the visual. These learners tend to think in pictures and need to create vivid mental images to retain information. They enjoy looking at maps, charts, pictures, videos, and movies.

Their skills include: puzzle building, reading, writing, understanding charts and graphs, a good sense of direction, sketching, painting, creating visual metaphors and analogies (perhaps through the visual arts), manipulating images, constructing, fixing, designing practical objects, interpreting visual images.

Possible career interests: navigators, sculptors, visual artists, inventors, architects, interior designers, mechanics, engineers

Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence

Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence: ability to use words and language. These learners have highly developed auditory skills and are generally elegant speakers. They think in words rather than pictures.

Their skills include:  listening, speaking, writing, storytelling, explaining, teaching, using humour, understanding the syntax and meaning of words, remembering information, convincing someone of their point of view, analysing language usage.

Logical/Mathematical Intelligence

Logical/Mathematical Intelligence: ability to use reason, logic and numbers. These learners think conceptually in logical and numerical patterns making connections between pieces of information. Always curious about the world around them, these learner ask lots of questions and like to do experiments.

Their skills include:  problem solving, classifying and categorizing information, working with abstract concepts to figure out the relationship of each to the other, handling long chains of reason to make local progressions, doing controlled experiments, questioning and wondering about natural events, performing complex mathematical calculations, working with geometric shapes

Bodily/Kinaesthetic Intelligence

Bodily/Kinaesthetic Intelligence: ability to control body movements and handle objects skilfully. These learners express themselves through movement. They have a good sense of balance and eye-hand co-ordination. (e.g. ball play, balancing beams). Through interacting with the space around them, they are able to remember and process information.

Their skills include: dancing, physical co-ordination, sports, hands on experimentation, using body language, crafts, acting, miming, using their hands to create or build, expressing emotions through the body

Musical/Rhythmic Intelligence

Musical/Rhythmic Intelligence: ability to produce and appreciate music. These musically inclined learners think in sounds, rhythms and patterns. They immediately respond to music either appreciating or criticizing what they hear. Many of these learners are extremely sensitive to environmental sounds (e.g. crickets, bells, dripping taps).

Their skills include:  singing, whistling, playing musical instruments, recognizing tonal patterns, composing music, remembering melodies, understanding the structure and rhythm of music

Interpersonal Intelligence

Interpersonal Intelligence: ability to relate and understand others. These learners try to see things from other people’s point of view in order to understand how they think and feel. They often have an uncanny ability to sense feelings, intentions and motivations. They are great organizers, although they sometimes resort to manipulation. Generally they try to maintain peace in group settings and encourage co-operation. They use both verbal (e.g. speaking) and non-verbal language (e.g. eye contact, body language)  to open communication channels with others.

Their skills include:  seeing things from other perspectives (dual-perspective), listening, using empathy, understanding other people’s moods and feelings, counseling, co-operating with groups, noticing people’s moods, motivations and intentions, communicating both verbally and non-verbally, building trust, peaceful conflict resolution, establishing positive relations with other people.

Intrapersonal Intelligence

Intrapersonal Intelligence: ability to self-reflect and be aware of one’s inner state of being. These learners try to understand their inner feelings, dreams, relationships with others, and strengths and weaknesses.

Their skills include:  Recognizing their own strengths and weaknesses, reflecting and analysing themselves, awareness of their inner feelings, desires and dreams, evaluating their thinking patterns, reasoning with themselves, understanding their role in relationship to others.

There is more information available on this subject at the website.

As a parent, it is very useful to know where your own child’s intelligences lie. (And I write intelligences deliberately because often children can display multiple). Unfortunately, the regular classroom can’t always cater for every child completely.  For example, Butternut (11) is very musical.  At her local state school, they do 30 minutes of music per week.  This doesn’t really cut it for a child who has musical/rhythmic intelligence.  She is also learning flute and piano.  Having this side of her intelligence satisfied will build her self esteem and help her feel positive about approaching other learning styles that may not be completely “her”.

I hope you can enjoy reading about these multiple intelligences and it assists you to see where your child’s strengths are.  Once you know that, you can encourage them at home to look for ways to develop and understand their world through the lens that suits them best, while still encouraging them to have a go at the intelligences that may not come quite so naturally to them.

“Encourage your child to look for ways to develop and understand their world through the lens that suits them best, while still encouraging them to have a go at the intelligences that may not come quite so naturally to them.”

Bonnie has been a teacher in the Brisbane Valley region for the last 6 years.  She has taught German and dabbled in Special Education.  However, currently she is teaching at a small country school called Patrick Estate State School. She is mother of 3 children and is juggling full time work with mothering and loving the challenges that come as a result of such a combination!  Bonnie , her husband and 3 children live near the Brisbane River.

Follow Bonnie: Twitter & Facebook

Other Posts by Bonnie

Approaching a Teacher with a Problem

Other School Posts

Head Lice Treatment Options

Go Green: Environmentally Friendly School Products

How Can I Support My School Child

Covering School Books

Approaching a School Teacher With a Problem

Take Mum to School: Make a School First Aid Kit

Encouraging Strength of Character

I Have Three Crushes

Social Stories

External Links

Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences by Howard Gardner

Learning Styles

About Howard Gardner

Kids Safety Using Knives

Guest post by Colin Wee

I formerly ran a Montessori playgroup where you’d see lovely flower vases, ceramic plates, and glassware laid out for the children’s morning tea. Children learn to move around a table setting more typically seen at an adults sit down affair. Our mindset is that children can be taught to enjoy their surroundings. Allowing them to use beautiful plates shows them a certain level of respect that they we can trust them to manage themselves to handle delicate beautiful equipment. And if things ever break, the clean up is also a fun learning process without admonishment.

Much of how I’ve approached kids safety using knives whilst cooking has been influenced by my exposure to the Montessori Method.

Age Appropriateness for the Job
You will need to assess your child for their hand-eye coordination, their concentration ability, and the sizing of knife grip used. Avoid the tendency as a parent to dwell on sharpness of the blade or possible injury. Focus on the mechanical processes and determine the age appropriateness of the processes you’ll be stepping your child through.

Work Area and Processes to be Tidy and Clear
Your role is to make sure that your child can concentrate on you and the processes you are demonstrating. Keeping the work area tidy and clear also helps the child focus on the tasks at hand. Essentially, you want to demonstrate to your child the proper way of doing things. Montessori recommends demonstrating the tasks with as few words as possible. I personally would demonstrate the cutting job with as few words as possible, then repeat with descriptive phrases on what you’d expect to be done, and then repeat with safety instructions. Handing over the job to your child then requires you to observe if your child has understood what you’ve said without trying to interrupt too often or to give too many instructions. Let the child perform simple processes and only stop him or her if the child is in immediate danger. You may of course choose to repeat the lesson if you think a lesson has to be repeated.

Task
Simple. Uncomplicated. Uninterrupted. You can’t expect the child to learn everything all at once so let your child focus on your words and phase in the refinement of lessons. Return to basics and to highlight safety aspects or ways to improve processing when needed.

Knife Handling
If you would go through the MasterChef magazines and look through the sections for junior recipes, you’d notice that instructions would include to use either a ‘bridge’ or a ‘claw’ hold. The bridge hold lets you handle odd shaped or rounded foods so you can cut them in half. Your fingers and thumb forms what looks like a bridge, and your knife is inserted under this bridge and cuts down vertically. The ‘claw’ technique is used when you’re chopping: the tips of the fingers form a claw to hold on to the food and the first knuckle is placed directly against the knife blade. The knife is lifted only high enough so the food is able to be slid under (not the fingers), and cuts down cleanly. If you don’t know either of these techniques, you should definitely educate yourself in them through youtube.

Safety
Direct supervision is the only supervision – but don’t patronise your child! Teach techniques with safety in mind and never distract your child. If you’ve never formally learn how to use knives, you can reach out to the net to figure out better ways of blade handling in order to reduce the incidents of cuts and nicks.

As you see in the photos, my son William 9yo has been cooking regularly for the last year and has been injury free despite using our knives (which I keep very sharp) to cut a variety of different foods. From both him and I, we wish you many sessions of safe knife use whilst enjoying food prep and cooking with the entire family!

kids safely using knives

A Guide to Improving Your Knife Skills

Other Be A Fun Mum Posts

Self-care: I Can Do It!

Social Stories

Why Is There So Much Rain Mum?

Guest Post by Matthew Burstow

Why is there so much rain in Brisbane, Queensland, AustraliaI can remember a time, only around 5 years ago, when the site of rain and the sound of a storm would invoke such wonder in my young children.  At that time, Australia was in the middle of one of the worst droughts on record, and the number of times the children had actually seen rain could be counted on one hand!  What a difference a few years makes…now there is so much water!  Brisbane (our nearest major city) has had 449mm (almost 18 inches) for December; this is the wettest month for 14yrs and one of the wettest Decembers on record.

So why is it so rainy?  Time for a quick lesson in Meteorology!  Australia’s weather is influenced by a particular air pattern called the Walker Circulation in the tropical pacific (see Fig 1).  Trade winds bring moisture over northern Australia, this air rises over the warm coastal waters and this leads to rainfall.  The air then travels east and sinks over the cooler waters off South America. At this stage, the air is dry and rainfall is scare (this cooler water borders the Atacama desert, one of the driest places on Earth).

Typical Walker Circulation Pattern Weather

Fig 1. Source

The next piece of the puzzle is the Southern Oscillation index (SOI).  Put simply, the SOI is a monthly measure the average air pressure difference between Tahiti and Darwin.  When the SOI is persistently positive, then this tends to indicate a strengthening of the Walker Circulation and increased rainfall over the Australian continent.  This weather pattern is called La Niña  (Lah Nee-Nyah), which is Spanish for “the girl-child”, and yes, there is another associated weather pattern called El Niño  (el NEEN-yo) which is Spanish for “the boy-child”.  Strong La Niña events have in the past caused severe floods (Brisbane 1974, inland Australia 1989) and are associated with below average temperatures in northern and eastern Australia, and increased tropical cyclone formation in the Coral Sea.  Conversely, in an El Niño event, the opposite tends to occur, with a weakening in the Walker Circulation and a persistently negative SOI, leading to dryer conditions over eastern Australia, and if severe, drought.

southern Oscillation Index SOI Weather

Fig 2.  Source

 southern Oscillation Index SOI Weather 1969 to 1976

Fig 3.  Source

At present the 30 day SOI value is 22: this is very high (in the top 5% of historical observations), and the SOI has been positive for 8-9 months (Fig 2).  Compare this to the SOI graph (Fig 3) which includes 1974, the wettest year ever recorded in Australia, and there are similarities.  Long-term forecasts expect this La Niña to continue for the first quarter of 2011, but the intensity will start to decrease.

So now when your stir crazy child(ren) asks why is it so rainy you can introduce them to ‘the girl’ and ‘the boy’ who influence Australia’s weather.

The Bureau of Meteorology (www.bom.gov.au) website is a fantastic resource for all things weather related (Australia).  It has great education section which can be found here — great for school projects.

Matthew is a husband, father of 4 children (3 girls and a boy), and has a passion for all things scientific.  He holds a Bachelor of Science (UQ), Bachelor of Medicine (University of Newcastle) and is currently an advanced trainee in General Surgery.

Images: La Niña vs El Niño (the girl-child and the boy-child)

ElNinoLaNina_Weather

What causes El Niño and La Niña weather? 

Watch the BOM El Nino – La Nina Animation

References:

http://www.bom.gov.au/info/leaflets/nino-nina.pdf

http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/enso/

http://www.bom.gov.au/announcements/media_releases/qld/20101004.shtml

http://www.weatherzone.com.au/news/a-wet-wet-christmas-for-brisbane-and-gold-coast/15734

http://www.weatherzone.com.au/qld/brisbane/brisbane

Communication in Children: 12 months to 24 months

Guest post by Speech Pathologist, Julie Miller

Babies change enormously and learn many new skills between 12 and 24 months. Communication, particularly verbal communication (talking), develops rapidly from 12 months onwards. Many babies progress from humble beginnings (an average of 3 single words at 12 months), to becoming little chatterboxes by age 2 (an average of 100 single words, and 2-3 word combinations emerging). Many important non-verbal communication skills are also developing over this time.

What should I expect?

When working with children under 3 years of age with delayed communication development, Speech Pathologists usually consider 6 key areas:

1. Play Development

By 12 months of age, babies are generally able to demonstrate appropriate toy use. Prior to about 9 months, babies will explore all toys in the same way – usually by mouthing (putting a toy in their mouth), shaking, hitting or banging toys together. From 9 -12 months, babies begin to understand what certain toys are used for. At 12 months, you can expect your baby to be pushing a car along the ground (maybe accompanied by “brm brm” noises), cuddling a doll, or “eating” from a spoon.

By 18 months – 2 years, play episodes start to extend. You may observe your 18 month+ child pushing a truck, then loading blocks onto the truck, then driving the truck away to dump the blocks or feeding a doll, cuddling the doll and putting the doll to bed. If play development appears to be delayed, modelling age appropriate play and providing opportunities for baby to imitate will be an important part of promoting communication. Play is the most natural and effective tool for early language development.

2. Communicative Intention

Intentional communication begins to develop from 9 months of age. This is when baby first becomes aware that their actions can influence the responses of those around them. I talked a bit about this in my post Baby Communication: Newborn to 1 year.

Prompting communicative intention can begin by providing temptations for communication (e.g. a desired food object in a clear container or a preferred toy on a high shelf), observing babies’ responses and waiting for a communicative attempt (including pointing, pulling parent to object, placing object in parents’ hands, making a sound or word use). If no intentional attempts are made, intent may be attributed to baby’s general actions until baby begins to understand that he/ she can influence his/her environment.

3. Range of Communication Functions

From 12 – 18 months of age, babies should be making attempts to communicate a variety of functions (whether through gesture/pointing, sounds/babble or words). We consider whether babies are using some form of communication to make requests (ask for something), refuse an object or activity, and to comment (share an observation/object with parent).

4. Forms of Communication Used

Communication generally progresses from reliance on gesture to adding vowel-like sounds (ah, oo), to adding consonant-like sounds (bah, dee) to use of real words (mum, dog). While gesture is the predominant communication form at 12 months, most children should progress to using predominantly real words for communication by 2 years of age. Modelling and “upping the ante” are important techniques to help children progress to more mature communication forms. At 12 months a child may be provided with a desired object by simply pointing at the object, however by 18 months, you may begin to encourage use of a consonant-like sound or real word before responding to the child’s request.

5. Comprehension

Children between 12-24 months of age can generally comprehend far more language than they are able to use. Comprehension can be enhanced in this age group by parents adapting their language input in a few key ways:

• Following child’s focus of attention and talking about what he/she is looking at.

• Simplifying language to a level just above what the child is using (e.g. for non-verbal children, use lots of single word labels).

• Expanding on what the child says (e.g. child says “dog”, parent says “big dog”).

Because Speech Pathologists can tend to focus on these techniques in early intervention for children with delayed language development, parents can sometimes feel that they are to blame for their child’s language delay. Research actually shows that most parents of children with language delay provide the same type of language input to their child as parents of children with normally developing language. The only difference is that the children with normal language development provide more responses, thus giving the parents more opportunities to expand and extend language input.

6. Speech Motor Development/ Sound Development

Children in the 12-24 month age group DO NOT speak clearly. One of the best things parents can do for their child’s language development in this age group is to interpret. As parents, we can attribute meaning to our child’s attempts and model the correct productions back to the child.

My 15-month-old son (who is quite a good talker for his age) uses the sound “dar” quite frequently. Depending on the context, or what he is pointing to, I know that “dar” can refer to “car”, “star”, “ta”, “grass” and probably some others that I have forgotten. At this stage of his development, all his attempts are rewarded. I try to locate what he is referring to and repeat “yes, a car” or “star” etc. I do not make any demands on him to repeat words clearly. At 15 months, I am just encouraging all verbal attempts. I would expect more differentiation of sounds by 2 years of age.

General tips for communication with your 12-24 month old

• Talk, talk, talk – about everything and anything that grabs your baby’s attention. Think about using a range of vocabulary including nouns (light, chair, dog), verbs (push, go, stop, help) and adjectives (big, happy, hot).

• Share books everyday – read the stories, but also spend time talking about the pictures. Again, follow your baby’s focus

• Play with songs and nursery rhymes. Babies and toddlers love rhythm, rhyme and repetition.

• Interpret your baby/toddler’s attempts. Praise any approximations of words, and provide a correct model.

• Have fun!

If you have any concerns about your child’s communication development, don’t hesitate to contact your local Speech Pathologist. Speech Pathologists can be contacted through your local Community Health Centre, educational facilities (preschools, schools) or private clinics.

Julie Miller is a Speech Pathologist, wife, mother and blogger. She has worked in private practice, community health and early intervention programs since graduating in 2000.

Read Julie’s Other Posts

Baby Communication: Newborn to 1

Communication in Children: 12 months to 24 months

Communication in Children: 2-3 years

Communication in Children: 3-4 years

Communication in Children: Development of Speech Sounds: 0-5 years

Approaching a Teacher with a Problem

Guest Post

Have you had to approach a teacher about a problem you can see with your child? Has your stomach been full of butterflies as you try and sort out in your mind what you want to say?

This has happened to me. I am a teacher myself but I was unhappy with the way things were being handled in the classroom with my Gifted and Talented daughter (aka Baby Blue). I knew I needed to speak to the teacher when June/July holidays came around and my little girl got excited about going into year 2 (and she still had 6 months left of year 1!). I planned my conversation carefully, using the formula explained below. I hope others might find power in this model too.

The first thing I did was speak to a couple of people I trusted about my concerns. I presented the situation to them and asked if I was over reacting. I think it’s important to get this viewpoint because if you are seeing things close-minded, you should have someone within your circle who can tell you that.

Secondly, I skimmed Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott. I have been extremely impressed by the work put out by  Susan Scott and recommend her books to anyone who has to have any type of conversations (which is all of us! ).

I then planned my conversation using Susan Scott’s “Mineral Rights” conversation model. Planning is important because it makes clear in YOUR head what you are there to talk to the teacher about. I used the following:

Tips for Mineral Rights

Challenge people to distinctly define the truth by repeating the question: “What is the truth about that?” as many times as necessary to uncover the core nugget of truth in a given situation. This unlocks a persons’ own capacity to strip away the unimportant and distracting issues so they gain a clear sense of the actual or ground truth.

Identify fears: People resist change out of fear of the unknown. Allow people to surface their fears and talk about them by asking simply: “What are you most afraid of?”

Dig deeper: Understand the first one or two responses a person offers rarely gets to the core of their own truth or issue. Keep them talking and exploring with open probes such as: “Can you say more about that?” or, “Tell me more.”

Avoid Laying Blame: This creates a space where people can talk about mistakes and failures without shutting down. “In any situation, the person who can most accurately describe reality without laying blame will emerge as the leader, whether designated or not.” – Edwin Friedman

Remove the word “but” from vocabulary and substitute the word “and”: “I hear what you’re saying, but…” will be better received if you say, “I hear what you’re saying, and …” This shows the person you can make room for multiple realities and reduces defensiveness.

Put into real life terms, this is what my planning looked like:

What is the truth? My daughter is not behaving in class. She is coming home bored. She is begging for school work from me. (I presented these “truths” to the teacher).

What am I afraid of? I was afraid my daughter would continue to develop naughty habits whenever she was bored. I was also afraid she would grow up believing that mediocre is enough.

Avoid Laying Blame. I made sure I took responsibility for Baby Blue’s behaviour at home and asked what I could do to make sure she is well behaved in class.

Tell me more. At this point, I asked the teacher what she was doing with Baby Blue in the class. I wanted to know her perspective. You can give more detail yourself in this section too, if it’s warranted.

Not But AND. I love this sentence: “I hear what you’re saying AND…” So in Baby Blue’s case, I said, “I hear what you are saying and I would LOVE to see Baby Blue challenged with her reading.”

So the next time you head into a parent/teacher interview with issues to discuss remember to:

1. Plan the conversation

2. Make sure you embrace TRUTH

3. Identify fears

4. Avoid blame

5. Dig deeper … “Tell me more”

6. Not Buts, just Ands

Have you ever had to approach a teacher about a problem you can see with your child?

Bonnie has been a teacher in the Brisbane Valley region for the last 6 years.  She has taught German and dabbled in Special Education.  However, currently she is teaching at a small country school called Patrick Estate State School. She is mother of 3 children and is juggling full time work with mothering and loving the challenges that come as a result of such a combination!  Bonnie and her husband and 3 children live near the Brisbane River.

Follow Bonnie: @flutterbon & facebook

Be A Fun Mum Links

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Handwriting

Reading with children

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Baby Communication

External Links

Queensland Association for Gifted and Talented Children

Gifted and Talented Education

Defining Gifted and Talented students