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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Planting and Nature Activities for Kids

The kids love to plant flowers, vegetables and fruits. Planting is a really fun activity to do with kids. It also teaches them about nature and science. It is the best science experiment. Kids learn by watching the seeds grow into seedlings and plants. What better way to learn than to watch the plants grow each day before your very eyes.

Sometimes when we are at a hardware store with a section that sells plants, soils and fertilizers, the kids would request to buy seeds. The enjoy picking the seeds and imagining what sorts of plants will grow from those seeds.

We have tried to plant various flowers, fruits and vegetables. It is a joy when our first flower started flowering. The kids really enjoy planting. Sometimes we are successful, sometimes we are not. We only had one tomato from our previous time trying to plant a tomato.

Our current planting project is planting broccoli and asparagus picked out by the kids. The kids selected the seeds themselves. We planted them into little pots. The broccoli seeds sprouted after just a day or two. Amazing! It was so fast!

We are still waiting for the asparagus seedlings to sprout. It has been more than a week now. Perhaps my girl burried them a little too far into the soil so it is taking more time. My boy merely sprinkled the broccoli seeds onto the soil whereas my girl placed her seeds inside the soil. She said that is the way it is supposed to be. That is what is called planting. You have to put the seeds inside the soil not on top of it. Well, now she knows that there is more than one way to plant a vegetable. ;)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Parenting is a delicate Balancing Act

Parenting is a delicate Balancing Act. First of all, you have to balance between family and work. Then there are all other sorts of balancing acts you have to do. You have to balance between...
  • holding on and letting go
  • balancing your time between work and play
  • scheduling your children's time between work and play
  • being firm and being indulgent (as in discipline vs love)
These are some of the big balancing act a parent has to do. Then there are the little parenting balancing acts like:
  • how much junk food to allow vs vegetables and fruits
  • how much sleep should a child get vs waking hours
  • allowing freedom of expression vs rudeness and talking back
  • spreading time out between your kids so that each gets enough individual attention
  • allowing more freedom to go out vs I'm your mum thats why!
  • time for yourself vs time for your children

Sometimes, it can get rather tiring. Since the kids final exams are approaching, I am currently trying to tip the scale to more work and less play. However, recently, I received this remark....

"Mummy, I'm going to get 100% for you." (Horror of horrors! Surely I have not made her think that getting 100 is all that important in my effort to balance the work play scales? My reply: Get 100 for yourself not for me! Its the effort that counts not the marks)

"Mummy, I'm going to finish all my homework and do workbooks and do them very fast. Please remind me. I want to do this so that I have time to continue typing my novel." (The girl is 'working' on her Chinese novel in all seriousness and all she wants is time to sit and type out her story. So she wants to rush through all her work just so she can continue typing her story. The boy on the other hand wants to rush through his work so that he can play pc games.)

While mummy here is getting a serious headache on how to balance the work play scales. That is my current parenting balancing act. Which act are you balancing now?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Building Self Esteem in Kids

One of the ways to teach build self esteem in kids is to teach them to be proud of their own achievements. Recently, the kids piano teacher said that she had checked their ABRSM Piano test results online. She does not have the full details of the marks yet but according to her, the boy has a distinction for his Grade 1 while the girl has a merit in her Grade 3 Piano Exam.

 Previously the girl had a distinction in her ABRSM Piano Grade 1 exam and daddy framed up her certificate and hung it on the certificate wall along with mummy's and daddy's certificates. When the boy learned that he had scored a distinction he was very happy because he had been promised a place on the certificate wall.

  "Yay! Mummy,can I choose my own frame? I want gold!"

He was very proud of his achievement and we will definitely make it a big thing to take him to the shop to get his certificate framed up and later we will let him choose a spot on the wall and hang it up. With every success, there is an opportunity to build self esteem which should not be missed. 

Of course, one should not overdo the praise as well for children must learn that chasing papers and certificates are not whats important. Getting the certificate itself is not the important part, it is the effort put behind it that is important. We constantly try to remind our kids this.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Transition Back To School

Wallmonkeys Peel and Stick Wall Graphic - Going to School
The kids had to go back to school recently after a break. However, they know the routine by now. Each time before they go back to school, I would sit with them and go through their school stuff together with them. We would decide what needs to be thrown out of their school bags, then we would pack it together. We would also pack their pencil cases and sharpen all their colour pencils and pencils and make sure they have all the school stationery they need. This packing and going through school things really helps in the transition back to school.

It puts them back in the school going mode. It is a bonding activity too for me and them. I would buy a few new things for them to make going back to school more exciting. However, sitting down and sharpening their old pencils teaches them to value used items.

Then we would go through their school work to make sure that they had completed any assignments that needs to be done so that they don't feel any anxiety or worry. It is also important to make sure that they start following the school routine bedtime hours so that their body gets used to the transition back to school as well.

In this manner, we're all set to go back to school, mentally and physically.

Read more tips about going back to school on my squidoo lenses:

1. How to Make Going Back to School Fun
2. Cute Back to School Supplies

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Simple Baking Project For Kids

I can't bake even though I attended home science classes years ago. However, my children wanted to bake. So I had to find a simple baking project for kids so that I can have some fun bonding baking time with my kids. Finally I found a simple baking project for kids in one of their kids activity books.

So, this mom who can't bake, baked some cookies with her kids.

Cooking Ingredients for Kids Baking Project - Shaped Cookies
  • 100g butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 200 g plain flour
Recipe for Kids Baking Project - Shaped Cookies
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius
  2. Mix Butter and Sugar in a bowl
  3. Add in the egg
  4. Add in the flour through a sieve
  5. Knead mixture into smooth dough and refrigerate for 15 minutes
  6. Roll out the dough onto floured surface with rolling pin
  7. Cut into shapes and place onto greased or buttered baking tray
  8. Bake for 10  minutes till golden brown
I think I can do that. It sounds simple enough. So, we set upon our baking adventure.

Baking Project for kids equipment and ingredients

Mix Butter with Sugar (We have no whisk we mix the mixture by hand using a plastic or wooden spoon the way my mum used to do)

Add the egg (Stirring by hand again)

Knead mixture into a smooth dough (Err we have two here because I have two little helpers)

Our floured surface for rolling the dough and the greased baking tray (Oops! I forgot to take a picture of the cutting process as I was too busy having fun cutting. Slaps Forehead)

Baked Cookies all ready to be decorated with pink and white royal icing

I see with my little eye a ginger bread man, two stars, cars and scary bats cookies

Here are some leaves, flowers, pineapples and heart shaped cookies

Simple Recipe for Royal Icing:
  • 1 egg white
  • 100g icing sugar
  • Food Colouring (Optional)
How to make Royal Icing:
  • Beat egg white in a bowl with a fork. Add sugar and beat till icing thickens. Separate and put in food colouring of choice for different colours
What went wrong:

It did not matter that we did not have some baking equipment like a mixer or whisk or an icing syringe. We just used spoons like they do in the old days. However, what mattered was we did not have measuring equipment. Everything was by estimation. I over estimated the ratio of flour over other things and our cookies turned out rock hard! Our icing turned out a little runny and did not harden till the next day!

What went right:

The kids had a rocking good time. They enjoyed themselves tremendously and loved the cookies despite them being hard as rocks. They enjoyed kneading the dough and had pride in cutting and decorating the cookies. We cut out some of them ourselves and used our cookie cutters for the rest.

Though this baking project is for no experienced bakers, it is simple enough for children and a mom who can't bake. You can use the same recipe to bake bat cookies for halloween. Just cut them out into bat shapes and add evil eyes and lips. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Physical Activities For Kids

All Kids Love Physical Activities

All kids love physical activities. Most kids love to run, play, jump, kick a ball and do many other physical activities. Kids don't "hate" exercise.They naturally love physical activities. So if you make exercise time fun for kids, you will be able to get your kid out of that couch in front of the tv or off the seat in front of the computer in no time!

My child has epilepsy so I have been asked by her neurologist to include as much physical activities as I can for her. This is no easy task because she attends a school in a system which focuses on homework and school work rather than physical play. We can hardly find the time but we have to!

How to Get Your Child Off the Couch and Moving

The very first thing I did was to inform the kids that we will factor some time for fun and games in their routine. They whooped for joy! Next, we drew up a time-table. Their schedule is rather tight with after school tuition, piano lessons and other activities so we actually had to squeeze in some time, factor that time in and draw up a time-table to commit ourselves.

The kids were delighted. They sat down with me and we planned their "gym time" or "sports time" together. It would be ideal for us to include sports activities daily but it simply isn't possible for us so we made Mondays and Fridays "Sports Time". They really look forward to Mondays and Fridays now.

Ideas for Outdoor Physical Actvities for Kids

After drawing up and making the time commitment for physical activities, we had to come up with some physical activities and games. This is very simple for young kids. They naturally love to run and jump. Here are some ideas for physical games and activities for kids and they are all very simple and cost next to nothing.

Outdoor Activities Ideas for Kids
  1. Take them to the playground. This is the easiest way out. Kids love the playground. They love the swings, the monkey bars, the see-saws and slides. You can just let them play whatever they fancy here. They outdoors will do you good too.
  2. Organise a family jog. Jogging together as a family and you will have a chance to improve your fitness levels as well. You can jog around the neighbourhood, at the park or even around your house from room to room and up and down stairs if it rains.
  3. Get a ball. A ball is great for kicking, throwing, balancing. All of which encourages physical activities. Bring your ball to the park or play it in your own garden or porch.
  4. Introduce a racquet game. Tennis or badminton are good games which will improve coordination and make your child run and sweat. It is also more fun than just running if your child prefers a challenge.
  5. Play hopscotch in your porch. All you need is a box or chalk. Get your child to draw and design their own hopscotch and jump along according to their personalised self designed hopscotch. Once my kids drew up to 40 boxes of various sizes and shapes and jumped in and out of them according to the numbers they assigned to each box.
  6. Get a skipping rope. Have the kids skip or play jump rope. They can play high jump with two other family members holding each end of the rope or long jump by using the rope as a benchmark.
  7. Teach them to ride a bike. A bicycle is perfect for riding around the park or neighbourhood and is sure to work up some sweat but always make sure your child rides in a safe place away from traffic.
  8. Swimming is perfect for an all around body workout for your child and you too!
  9. Play catching or hide and seek with your child. This is sure to generate some laughs plus it gets you running around and sweating too! (And definitely more fun than a computer game). You child will love the attention she gets from you when you play with her and that is more important to her than any cartoon on tv or the most addictive pc game. Try it! You can play this indoors too!
  10. Get a hula hoop or two. Challenge your kid to see who can hula hoop for longer. That ought to keep your heart rate up too!

Indoor Activities Ideas for Kids

What happens when it rains? Do you stop all physical activities and stay home drawing, coloring, playing board games, doing puzzles or watching tv instead? Of course not! Why should you. If you have included physical activities in your child's routine, you can stick to it by being innovative.

Indoor Activities Ideas for Kids
  1. Play with balloons. Blow up as many balloons as possible then throw them up in the air. Ask your kids to keep them afloat in the air. The challenge is not to let any balloon drop to the floor. This will get everyone running about excitedly. Join in the game to improve your fitness levels.
  2. Dance, dance, dance! One of the things my kids love to do is dance. We would often put on a instrumental cd then have everyone interpret the music in a dance. It is funny to watch the dances they come up with. Some music makes them march around the room. Some make them wiggle like a snake. I often join them and sometimes we march around like a train. This gets me panting and sweating too.
  3. Set up an obstacle course. Use anything you can think off. We used the children's pop up tunnel, the hula hoop, some chairs and stools and set up an obstacle course. Then we timed the kids to see who could go back and forth the obstacle course in the fastest time.
  4. Bean bags are fun and cheap! You can sew your own bean bag. Cut a cloth into two squares. Sew them together. Stuff in some beans and close up the bag by sewing in the ends. Then get the kids to balance them on their heads or hands and run around without dropping the bean bag. Or you can throw the bean bag to one another. Or throw them up in the air, turn a full circle and catch the bean bag before it drops. Or throw two bean bags to each other and making sure you catch each other's bean bag without dropping.
  5. Hula Hoop, Catching, Hide and Seek and other games can be played indoors too.
  6. Aerobics fun. We take turns becoming "gym instructor" where one child will become the gym instructor while the rest follow his moves. Mum can take turns becoming "gym instructor" or join in as a participant too. This is a great warm up or cool down method. After warming up the neck, hands and legs and entire body, you can speed things up by doing jumping jacks or running on the spot. This will certainly turn up the heat and your heart rate too!

Physical Fitness is cheap

Most of the activities we have at home are cheap. We do not need to send the kids to expensive gym classes or yoga classes. You can do them in the comfort of your home with a few simple home-made tools.
Physical fitness is good for developing minds. Make time for it. Then the next step is to make sure the kids have proper nutrition and lots of rest and good sleep.

Hope you have fun trying out these activities with your kids. They will love you for it and you will enjoy yourself too. However, you do have to make a commitment to set aside some time for it. Like everything else in life, no pain, no gain. First, you must commit yourself to it, otherwise how can you convince your child that physical activities is more fun than the latest computer game, Ben 10 or Barbie Cartoon?

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