How to Manage Sibling Rivalry: A Parent’s Guide to Peace
Whether it’s the last slice of pizza or who gets the window seat, sibling rivalry can get out of control fast. So be sure to check out our handy tips to get a hold of sibling rivalries before they turn into lifelong competition 👇
One minute they’re playing and laughing together, the next they’re in a screaming match. Sibling rivalry is an inevitable part of raising multiple children. While it’s most prominent between children less than two years apart, it can happen in any sibling dynamic.
While common, sibling rivalry can be challenging for any parent. Therefore, understanding its roots and how to manage it can lead to a happier and more peaceful household.
In this post, we’ll explore the dynamics of sibling rivalry, its underlying causes, and practical strategies for parents and caregivers to foster healthy relationships among siblings.
Is Sibling Rivalry Normal?
Sibling rivalry is a natural part of growing up. Brothers and sisters are children’s first peers. However, unlike in social situations or school, siblings often infringe on children’s most sacred spaces. In other words, the home.
This forces children out of their comfort zone. They’re forced to share, cooperate, and co-exist with another in areas that were once entirely their own. This often takes the form of sharing toys, food, attention, and space!
Children, especially toddlers, are territorial and experience what experts call the ‘mine stage.’ Therefore, having to suddenly share the back seat, play spaces, or even their room is a huge dynamic shift for children. And keep in mind that a new baby or stepsibling is effectively a total stranger to a child.
However, it’s an invaluable lesson that forces children to accept an inescapable fact of life – change. You can’t always control your situation or circumstances, and sibling rivalry forces children to accept this reality and develop coping mechanisms.
What Causes Sibling Rivalry?
While it can be easy to look at sibling rivalry from an adult perspective, try and put yourself in your child’s shoes. For their whole life, your child has been the centre of the universe. They’ve had food all to themselves, toys, and more attention than they could ever need.
Then one day, that all changes. They’re now forced to share and have their source of attention halved overnight. This is a huge and understandably jarring shift for children of any age. In some ways, it can feel like their entire routine has been split down the middle.
And as children get older, these feelings may intensify and grow more complex as children develop differing interests. Understanding that each child has unique needs can help address this, as well as taking a deep dive into the core causes of sibling rivalry:
- Competition for Resources – siblings may consider limited resources like toys, space, or parental time as their own, leading to rivalries when these resources are challenged or divided.
- Identity and Individuality – as children develop their identities, they may compete to establish themselves within the family or for parental approval.
- Developmental Differences – siblings of different ages have distinct needs, leading to competition as they grow and mature where one child may excel in areas while another struggles.
Effective Strategies for Managing Sibling Rivalry
With the causes of sibling rivalry in mind, where do you go from here? While you can’t wave a magic wand to stop sibling rivalry from occurring, there are many ways you can manage it.
1. Encourage Individuality
This is perhaps the most important step to preventing childhood sibling rivalries from growing into lifelong competition. If you’re child loves sports, wonderful! Get out and kick the ball together or sign them up for a local team. If they’re artsy and love to draw, terrific! Get creative with them and encourage this passion.
Importantly, don’t compare or label them purely on these passions. Empower them to thrive in their own special way by celebrating their achievements.
2. Avoid Labels
Have you ever found yourself calling one of your children ‘the sporty one’ or ‘the smart one’? While this may seem harmless, labels inevitably draw comparisons and may lead to inadequacy in children. If one child is struggling academically, seeing their sibling praised as ‘the brainy one’ may hinder their motivation and limit their potential.
Therefore, try to be mindful of the labels you’re using. It’s a natural habit in modern society to feel the need to label and categorise the world around us. It gives a sense of security and comfort to know exactly how things and people fit in. However, people (especially children) are full of complexity and need to have their sense of individuality nurtured from an early age.
3. Stay in Control
No matter what you try, you’ll inevitably have to play referee between bickering siblings. However, children feed off your tone and body language. Therefore, joining the fight won’t exactly help to restore peace to the household.
Instead, try and remain as calm and neutral as possible – don’t play favourites! Over time, you’ll start to pick up cues for when a fight is starting to escalate into aggression and when you need to step in.
4. Set Clear Boundaries
Although sibling rivalries are often trivial and harmless, they can quickly cross the line into physicality. Be sure to be clear and assertive if siblings become aggressive, abusive, or violent with one another.
Set clear boundaries that respect and fairness are non-negotiables in the household and that physical violence is never the solution to an argument. Writing up house rules or having children sign a family contract can help to reinforce these values.
5. Be There to Listen
Emotional regulation is a vital lifelong skill for children. Likewise, fights between siblings often arise from perceived injustice. Therefore, sitting down with your child one-on-one after the conflict is a healthy outlet for children to express and articulate their feelings.
Children are far more likely to hear you out when they feel like they’re being heard and understood, rather than being told what to do. This will also aid in their emotional maturity and strengthen your bond with your child.
6. Quality Time with Each Child
Listening to your child isn’t always enough. Be sure to spend plenty of time one-on-one with your child engaging in their favourite activities, passions, or emerging interests.
While co-operation and spending time as a family is a must, it’s just as important to spend quality alone time with children. Talk with them, listen to their thoughts, and stimulate their budding curiosities.
7. Trust your Children
Despite all your best efforts, sometimes you have to let children work it out themselves. Of course, intervene if arguments become physically or verbally abusive. However, disagreements and discourse are a natural part of life and something your child will have to learn to navigate.
What may seem like a ‘fight’ may just be children using their problem-solving skills to resolve a conflict. This is an incredibly healthy sign for children as they learn to navigate social interactions and compromise. So be sure to congratulate children when they work issues out on their own – this is a huge developmental step!
Overall, sibling rivalry is a natural part of growing up, but with the right guidance and approach, it can be a valuable learning experience for children and parents. By understanding the causes, benefits, and effective strategies for managing sibling rivalry, parents and caregivers can create a nurturing environment where siblings build stronger bonds, empathy, and lifelong bonds.
Remember, fostering healthy sibling relationships takes time and patience. As children grow and change, so will the dynamics of their interactions. The key is to provide a supportive foundation that allows them to navigate rivalry while building a lasting connection, even if you will have to endure the arguments over toy dinosaurs and imaginary injustices.
Maternity Hospital Bag Checklist: What to Pack for Childbirth
Are you approaching your third trimester? If so, stop what you’re doing and read through our maternity bag checklist to ensure you and your family are ready for the big day!
Preparing for the arrival of a child is an exciting and sometimes daunting experience, whether it’s your first time or your fifth. Therefore, packing your maternity hospital bag well in advance will save you a lot of time and stress.
In this post, we provide a handy maternity bag checklist for everything you need to make your hospital stay as comfortable and stress-free as possible.
For a PDF of the following list – click here.
When Should You Have Your Maternity Bag Packed?
We suggest having a maternity bag packed and ready by the door (or in the car), around the 36 week mark, which is well into the third trimester. This will give you plenty of time to ensure everything is ready for the big day, night, or early morning (labour often strikes when you least expect it!).
However, every pregnancy is unique. Some women may prefer to have their bags packed earlier, especially if there are known risk factors or signs of preterm labour.
Why is a Hospital Maternity Bag Important?
You may be asking yourself why you need a hospital maternity bag at all. Hospitals are staffed by doctors and professional midwives, so they’ll have everything you need, right?
While the hospital will provide essentials, they won’t provide extra clothing for the baby, books, entertainment devices, snacks, personal toiletries, etc. Although hospitals are great at what they do, they aren’t supermarkets!
Therefore, we recommend sitting down with your partner, family, or doctor to run through the following list and check off any items that need to be added or removed. Once you have your personalised list, set aside an afternoon to pack your bag and prepare for the big day!
Essential Documents and Information
- Birth plan (if you have one)
- Medicare card
- ID and hospital paperwork
- Health insurance information
- List of important phone numbers (family, friends, and support network)
- Loose-fitting nightgowns or pyjamas
- Comfortable nursing bras or maternity bras
- Recovery pants
- Warm socks and slippers
- Loose-fitting outfit to wear when leaving the hospital
Personal Care Items
- Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc.)
- Hairbrush and hair ties
- Lip balm
- Maternity pads
- Nursing pads and nipple balm (if planning to breastfeed)
- Disposable postpartum underwear and/or full-brief underwear
- Any personal medication if needed
- Newborn nappies
- Baby blankets
- Onesies or baby clothes
- Hat and mittens
- Burp cloths
- Nursing pillow (if desired)
- Going-home outfit for the baby
- Car seat or capsule (installed in the car prior to going to the hospital)
- Infant formula (only if planning to use a milk replacement formula to feed your baby)
Comfort and Entertainment
- Pillows (for extra comfort during labour)
- Extra blanket for partner/support person
- Snacks and drinks for labour and postpartum
- Water bottle with a straw for easy sipping during labour
- Entertainment device (phone, tablet, e-reader, laptop, etc.) and charger
- Camera or video recorder
- Books and/or magazines
- Nursing cover (if desired)
- Nursing-friendly nightwear for easy breastfeeding
- Extra clothes and toiletries for your partner/support person
- Cash or change for vending machines or parking
- Breast pump (if planning to use one)
- Any special items for support during labour such as a TENS machine
Overall, preparing your maternity bag in advance is an exciting milestone as you approach your due date. By having a well-organised and well-stocked bag, you can ensure you’ll have all the essential items you’ll need during labour, delivery, and postpartum.
Remember – every birth experience is unique, so feel free to customise the list based on your preferences and needs. With your maternity bag packed and ready, you can focus on welcoming your precious child into the world.
Age-Appropriate Chores for Toddlers: Independence from an Early Age
When can toddlers start pitching in around the house? And what are the benefits for their development? Read on for our full list of age-appropriate chores 👇
Chores may seem like just another part of growing up. However, they teach children responsibility and independence from an early age. But what are some age-appropriate chores for children? And when are they old enough to start pitching in?
In this post, we explore a range of engaging age-appropriate chores for toddlers to learn all about routine, independence, and the importance of working together to achieve a common goal.
When is the Best Age to Start Giving Chores?
Experts suggest that children as early as two years old can benefit from chores on a semi-regular basis, so long as they’re supervised. However, there’s no hard and fast rule for when you can start doling out chores to children. It’s important to consider your child’s developmental stage and maturity to determine whether they’re ready to take on the extra responsibility.
Naturally, a two year old will be limited in how much they can help around the house. Nevertheless, something as simple as packing up after play introduces children to community values. You can then build on these as they progress through early childhood, primary school, and well into adolescence.
1. Putting Away Toys
Encourage your toddler to pick up and put away their toys after playtime. This simple act will save you time cleaning up and teach your child to take responsibility of their spaces.
Additionally, you can extend this to public places and the environment. Something as simple as picking up their rubbish at the park teaches children the importance of sustainability and conservation from an early age.
2. Setting the Table
Involve your toddler in the mealtime routine by setting the table together. Teach them to place plates, cups, spoons, and forks on their proper places.
This activity enhances fine motor skills and helps children understand the importance of family meals. In fact, studies suggest that family mealtimes boost children’s motivation, personal identity, and self-esteem. You might be surprised how eager children are to lend a hand when food’s on the way!
3. Sorting Laundry
While folding clothes might be too complex for toddlers, they can certainly help sort the laundry. Ask them to help you separate clean clothes by colour or type. This age-appropriate chore teaches children about categorisation and enhances hand-eye coordination.
You can even make a game of it. Invite them to sort all the red clothes into one pile and the blues in other.
4. Watering Plants
Toddlers love playing with water, so why not focus that enthusiasm into a chore? Give your child a small watering can and show them how to water indoor plants or a small garden outside.
This activity teaches children about the life cycle of plants and caring for all living things. Better yet, you can expand this experience by planting seedlings or starting a herb garden. This small act introduces your child to the wonders of nature and the importance of empathy.
5. Wiping Surfaces
Give your toddler with a damp cloth and show them how to wipe surfaces such as tables, countertops, or windowsills. It won’t be perfect, but their efforts contribute to keeping the house clean and germ-free, while also honing their fine motor skills.
Just be careful not to assign them anything too dirty. Dust can kick up and may trigger nasty allergies or asthma. As with all items on this list, always supervise your child when engaging in these age-appropriate chores.
6. Feeding Pets
If you have pets, involving your toddler in their care is a wonderful way to teach responsibility and proper care. Help your child pour the right amount of food or water into your pet’s bowl.
This chore highlights compassion, empathy, and the importance of caring for all living things. Not to mention it makes for some great additions to the photo album!
7. Picking up Books
Encourage your child to tidy their bookshelf by picking up and organising their books. Likewise, demonstrate how to place books upright and stack them neatly. This chore nurtures children’s love for reading while also bringing a sense of orderliness to play areas.
You can also use this exercise to encourage reading, storytelling, and writing! Children love story time, so you can use this experience to combine responsibility and imagination.
8. Help Prepare Meals
Invite your toddler to help prepare meals by peeling fruits, washing veggies, or rolling out dough. If your child isn’t quite ready for these tasks, something as simple as scooping cereal into the bowl provides a tremendous sense of independence.
Ultimately, age-appropriate chores are a fantastic way for toddlers to embrace independence, responsibility, and a sense of accomplishment. By making chores engaging and fun, it won’t be long before your child is actively participating in more complex household tasks.
Remember, it’s essential to offer guidance, praise their efforts, and make chores a positive experience. So be sure to empower toddlers and as they grow into responsible individuals who’ll be helping you bring in the groceries before you know it!
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9 Fun Rainy Day Activities in Melbourne
Looking for some fun rainy day activities with the children? Read on for our must-visit attractions around Melbourne this winter 👇
Rainy days in Melbourne don’t have to be dreary! Instead of letting the cold weather get you down, embrace the opportunity to get the children out of the house and exploring Melbourne’s vibrant indoor attractions. Not only do these activities get children active, but they also get them engaging with the community and learning all kinds of physical and social skills.
Whether you’re a local or just visiting Melbourne for the weekend, here are our top 9 rainy activities for those wintery days.
1. Melbourne Museum
Take a trip through history and culture at the renowned Melbourne Museum. Explore fascinating exhibits, including natural history, art, science, and Aboriginal culture. Through interactive displays and engaging programs, the Museum offers an educational and entertaining experience for all ages.
Better yet, the Museum introduces children to the vast and fascinating history of our planet. Importantly, that history is pretty cool – filled with amazing creatures and natural events.
If you’re planning on visiting the Museum, be sure to check out the Museum’s Pauline Gandel Children’s Gallery. This exhibition is for babies all the way up to age 5, and features hands-on exploration, play-based learning, immersive environments, and unique exhibits the little ones are sure to love!
2. Live Theatre
Worried your child is spending too much time on screens? Take them to the live theatre instead! There are loads of age-appropriate performances for children around Melbourne, from magic shows to Disney on Ice.
Not only are live theatre shows a wonderful day out of the cold, but they also teach children valuable social skills. Unlike television shows or movies that can often overstimulate children, live theatre requires children to exercise concentration and patience, while also boosting their attention spans.
Dive into an underwater wonderland at SEA LIFE Melbourne! A trip to the Aquarium introduces your little one to a whole new world filled with breath-talking natural creatures and environments. From majestic sharks to adorable penguins, your child is sure to enjoy this aquatic day out.
Explore interactive exhibits, walk through tunnels surrounded by captivating sea creatures, and learn about the importance of ocean conservation. And who knows – you might just inspire a future marine biologist.
For Lego enthusiasts over three years of age, the Legoland Discovery Centre is a must-visit this winter. Legoland is an open-ended experience filled with creativity and imagination through an abundance of Lego-themed activities and attractions.
Together, you and your child can build and race Lego cars, explore miniature Lego cities, and construct anything their not-so-little imaginations can conjure – the possibilities are endless. Additionally, Lego boosts children’s fine motor skills and problem-solving abilities, helping them become better learners.
5. Cook Together
Rainy days provide the perfect opportunity to stay indoors and indulge in some culinary creativity. Gather the children, choose a recipe, dust off the whisk and embark on a cooking adventure as a family.
Cooking is also a great learning experience for children. They engage with all kinds of smells, textures, and chemical reactions from the boiling of the pot to the oil floating in water. You can also use this as an opportunity to explore measurements and reading instructions. Additionally, cooking helps children identify different fruits and vegetables, food storage, and general kitchen safety.
Importantly, it teaches children that food can be tasty and good for you.
6. The Library
Escape the rain by delving into the exciting world of books at one of Melbourne’s many public libraries. Whether you’re raising a little bookworm or just trying to get them away from the screens for an afternoon, libraries offer a peaceful and stimulating environment for children of all ages. Introduce them to captivating board books, discover new authors, or participate in children’s book club discussions and events.
The library is also a great way to meet local families to organise play groups so your little one can make new friends!
7. Get Crafty
A day inside is the perfect opportunity to challenge your child to get crafty. With just a few materials, you can finger paint, stamp craft, or make some clay masterpieces. Arts and crafts are always a hit with children, as it encourages them to explore their creativity and see a project through from start to finish. In other words, it teaches them the nature of cause and effect.
The best part is there’s no right or wrong way – just get your child’s imagination active!
Unleash your creativity and immerse your child (and yourself) in the mind-bending optical illusions at ArtVo Melbourne. This interactive art gallery provides a unique experience where you become part of the artwork.
Strike a pose, take amazing photos, and let your imagination run wild as your child explores the captivating 3D paintings. This is the perfect way to introduce children to the mind-bending nature of perspective, geometry, and how things aren’t always as they seem.
9. Museum of Play and Art (MOPA)
Experience a world of creativity and play at the Museum of Play and Art (MOPA). This interactive experience offers hands-on exhibits and activities designed to ignite the imagination of children and adults alike. From sensory play areas to art workshops, it’s a rainy day haven for budding creatives.
And don’t take our word for it. Visit Victoria called MOPA ‘Australia’s most acclaimed Children’s Museum.’ This is a day out you don’t want to miss – they also make a great coffee!
Overall, rainy days in Melbourne don’t have to be dull. With these 9 fun indoor activities, you can make the most of these precious moments with your child, while also staying dry. From live theatre and museums to playing with Lego, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. So why not embrace everything that Melbourne has to offer and create some unforgettable memories?
Healthy (and Tasty) Easter Treats for Children
Easter is a time for family, fun, and treats! However, it’s also a time where we can get carried away with sugar-filled, highly processed chocolates. Read on for our comprehensive list of 7 creative treats for your child’s basket this Easter!
Easter is a time for family, fun, and of course, treats! A little chocolate won’t hurt, but it’s easy to get carried away and load up the little one’s baskets with sugar-filled, highly processed eggs and chocolate bunnies.
If you’re looking for a healthier option this year, there are plenty of creative options for making an Easter basket that’s still filled with fun and tasty treats. Here are seven healthy Easter treats for your child’s basket!
1. Rabbit-Shaped Sandwiches
Sandwiches are a great way to get creative while also providing a healthy meal for the little ones. Simply use a bunny-shaped cookie cutter over multigrain sandwiches filled with delicious fillings like ham, turkey, cheese and plenty of veggies.
You can also incorporate the Easter theme into the fillings like egg salad, cucumbers and shredded carrot! Feel free to make them as creative as possible, as children are more likely to engage with healthy eating when it’s colourful and fun.
2. Carrots and Hummus
Carrots are a fitting snack for Easter, as they’re the Easter Bunny’s favourite treat. Experiment with veggies to make little bunnies, creative platters or baby carrot flowerpots. Additionally, hummus comes in a range of flavours and variations for even the fussiest of eaters.
Best of all, hummus is full of nutrients, fibre and protein which are essential for growing bodies. If you’re going for storebought, just avoid anything too spicy for the little ones! There’s loads of recipes online to make your own, which can be a wonderful bonding experience.
3. Fresh Fruit
Fill your child’s Easter basket with a variety of colourful fruits, such as sliced apples, bananas, oranges, berries or grapes. Fresh fruit is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which are vital to children’s physical and psychological development.
Additionally, fruits – especially grapes and berries – are naturally sweet, making them a great alternative to lollies and chocolate. Just add a small container of grapes or berries to your child’s basket, or even freeze them for a fun and refreshing treat.
Popcorn is an underrated healthy snack. It can be salty or sweet and it’s full of fibre and important antioxidants. Pop or your own or opt for store bought, just be sure to read the labels carefully. Many store-bought popcorns are filled with sugar, butter and salt.
You can then portion out the popcorn and get decorative with colourful packaging, ribbons and cards!
5. Homemade Easter Treats
Children love helping out in the kitchen – they just don’t like to clean up the mess! Get the little ones involved in the kitchen to make a whole range of healthy easter treats such as carrot cake bites, hot cross buns, muffins, biscuits, banana bread, energy balls or fruit leather.
This is a great way to get creative in the kitchen while also providing children with a healthier alternative to store-bought treats that are often filled with loads of sugar and nasty preservatives.
6. Chocolate Covered Fruit
Remember, creating a healthy Easter basket is all about balance and moderation. Therefore, coating healthier foods like strawberries, bananas, kiwi fruit or watermelon is a great way to get the best of both worlds. It’s still chocolate, but not in the dense blocks or eggs you’ll find in a typical Easter basket.
This is also a great opportunity to get creative with platters, colours and designs. And remember – you don’t need to cover the entire fruit. A half-covered strawberry or the tip of a mandarin slice is a tasteful, and aesthetic, way to manage your child’s chocolate intake.
7. Sugar-free Chocolate
If pure chocolate is a must, consider a sugar-free (or low sugar) option. These are made with natural sweeteners such as stevia, without comprising the taste. The lack of sugar will result in less hyperactivity, sugar crashes, and trips to the dentist in the long term.
In recent years, sugar-free alternatives to everyday treats have exploded in popularity. Most supermarkets now stock ample sugar-free and low sugar alternatives in their health food aisles.
Just remember to always get your little one to brush after eating even these sugar-free treats. For tips on how to get your little one brushing, check out our blog post here.
Overall, Easter baskets don’t have to be a pit of sugar-filled, processed chocolate and sweets. In fact, they’re an opportunity to teach children about healthy eating and to broaden their palette. Through a mixture of homemade and storebought Easter basket treats, you can ensure your child indulges their sweet tooth.
How to Get Children Excited About Toothbrushing
Does teeth time become tantrum time in your household? Check out our blog for our top tips to get the little ones brushing.
From the moment children’s teeth erupt, they need brushing. Experts say children’s teeth need cleaning twice a day – and the same goes for adults! While this sounds fine in theory, does teeth time become tantrum time in your household?
Head shakes, crying, and firmly shut mouths are daily struggles for parents when teaching children the brushing basics. In this post, we’ve listed some fun ways to motivate your child to brush from newborns all the way to their first visit from the Tooth Fairy!
0 – 6 months
Although baby teeth don’t usually emerge until around six months, you can gently wipe their gums with a damp washcloth or gauze pad. This is best done after feeding and before bed. Importantly, a toothbrush or toothpaste isn’t needed at this age. Be soothing and gentle, as babies are at a delicate stage of development.
6 – 18 months
This age is often where the trouble begins, as it’s when the toothbrush enters the picture. This can be particularly problematic for highly sensitive or autistic children. However, small changes to your brushing routine can ease the experience for any child:
- Sing songs while brushing
- Use lukewarm water – children aren’t ready for toothpaste at this age, and water’s that’s too cold can irritate sensitivity
- Use a mirror to ensure slow circular motions in all corners of the mouth
- Play music (soothing for younger children, upbeat for older)
- Be gentle, but thorough
Furthermore, children love to imitate adults. Brushing your teeth alongside them is a great way to get them to take the initiative. Additionally, children thrive on independence. Tying their shoelaces or pouring their cereal are big steps for the little ones. Therefore, framing toothbrushing as a grown up activity can be a huge motivator.
Lastly, always remember to always replace brushes every three months, only use a pea-sized amount of age-appropriate toothpaste and remind children to never swallow toothpaste.
18 months – 3 years
By now, children are fully immersed in the experience, with the toothbrush, low-fluoride toothpaste and flossing (when teeth touch at around two to three years old) all a part of the equation. Naturally, this may make children apprehensive with all the new routines and sensations.
Remember, toothbrushing is repetitive – needed twice every single day – so it’s understandable if children get bored, as they often avoid difficult tasks. They prefer what’s familiar and easy. Also, young children don’t understand long term consequences for their actions. If their teeth aren’t rotting that second, they don’t see the problem.
Some activities to get children brushing at this age include:
- Star charts – a reward system to encourage brushing for consecutive days.
- A fun toothbrush – try your child’s favourite character, colour or design.
- Bring in a stuffed toy – children feel in charge when ‘brushing’ their favourite toy’s teeth, so getting teddy involved can be the difference.
- Apps – there are loads of apps from Disney, the Wiggles and many more which offer an immersive brushing experience.
- Picture books – there are countless board books about the importance of brushing teeth which pairs perfectly with story time.
- Get the family involved – children look up to family members, so get brothers, sisters, mum, dad, grandparents or cousins into the picture – whoever it takes to get them brushing!
3 – 6 years
At this age, children are more attuned to their environment. Therefore, you can start adding more complex elements like games, educating them about why toothbrushing is important and, of course, the Tooth Fairy! Although children don’t start losing their baby teeth until around age six, you can begin introducing them to the idea. Be sure to remind them that the Tooth Fairy only accepts clean teeth!
Nevertheless, there’s no one method or life hack to get children brushing. Each child is different and responds to encouragement in their own unique way. Therefore, it’s best to experiment and borrow elements from different approaches to discover what works best for your child.
By around six, children develop the necessary responsibility and motor skills to brush independently. Of course, this doesn’t mean they’ll magically start brushing morning and night without issue. Rather, managing children’s healthy brushing habits continues well into adolescence. If unchecked, poor habits can bleed into adulthood and lead to a variety of physical, psychological, social, and even financial issues for your child.
Overall, getting children brushing early in life is crucial to developing long-term hygiene habits. After all, it’s more than just to maintain a good smile, although that is a nice perk.
How (and Why) to Raise a Child Inventor
Is your child going through an inventing phase? It’s more important for early childhood development than you might think. Read on for all the benefits of encouraging little inventors!
Children love inventing. It’s the perfect mix of imagination and creation. They have an idea, make concept art, work with different materials and end with a finished product. Additionally, inventing develops children’s problem-solving, fine and gross motor skills, manual dexterity and intelligence.
However, inventing is more than just a learning exercise. History is full of children creating everyday inventions from toy trucks to braille! So, to celebrate Kid Inventors’ Day, we look at the benefits of encouraging little inventors, as well as listing some famous child inventors for inspiration.
How to Encourage Inventing at Home
There are several ways to promote invention at home. And remember, not all inventions require crafts or elaborate parts. Many are simple alterations to existing objects. Moreover, just creating concept art is a huge step for the little ones!
A few ways to encourage children to invent are:
- Ask them to identify an everyday problem
- Write a story about an inventor (real or imagined)
- Invite them to draw an invention
Likewise, inventor kits have exploded in popularity in recent years. These are containers or boxes filled with everyday household items and loose parts. Inventor boxes present an evocative safe space for children to explore their senses, while also flexing their creative muscles. They can be bought pre-made or you can create your own in just a few easy steps. You’d be surprised at what children can create with the most basic materials!
Why is Inventing Important for Children?
Inventing is the ultimate form of creativity, as it encourages children to think critically and use their motor skills to turn an idea into a physical form. Importantly, this process engages both sides of their brain, which is fundamental to cognitive development. Moreover, creativity has emerged as a priceless skill across all industries, not just those in creative fields.
At Explorers, our Reggio Emilia inspired philosophy encourages play-based learning goals through project-based education. Therefore, if a child has an idea or passion in a specific area, our Educators actively motivate them down this innovative path. Children need to enjoy learning and be free to explore and create in their own unique way.
Educators, therefore, act as guides. They keep children from straying too far into the fanciful and make sure to ask the right questions. Importantly, they reward curiosity. This is integral to the Reggio Emilia approach, and early learning more broadly.
Famous Child Inventors
Toy Truck – Robert W. Patch (Age 6)
Robert Patch was just six when he invented the toy truck out of shoeboxes, bottle caps and a nail. While it sounds simple, Patch became the youngest person in history to receive an official US patent. Importantly, Patch’s invention didn’t require elaborate parts or intricate designs – just a few materials and a good idea.
Crayon Holder – Cassidy Goldstein (age 11)
In 2006, Cassidy Goldstein was named Youth Inventor of the Year by Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation. This was thanks to her ingenious Crayon Holders, which allowed broken crayons to be reused through a retractable plastic tube. Cassidy’s invention solved a common problem children faced daily, as well as drastically reducing crayon waste.
Popsicle – Frank Epperson (Age 11)
Sometimes, a great invention isn’t enough. At age 11, Frank Epperson accidently invented the popsicle (icy poles) by leaving a sugary mixture out on a cold night, the wooden mixing stick frozen inside. Yet, it was a story of perseverance for Epperson. It took over a decade pitching his product around the neighbourhood, beaches and a fireman’s ball to finally get the project off the ground. Children can learn a lot from Epperson, as hard work does pay off!
Braille – Louis Braille (age 15)
By age five, Louis Braille was blind in both eyes. However, this didn’t deter the brilliant young inventor. At the time, reading and writing systems for the visually impaired were costly and inefficient. So, a 12 year-old Braille embarked on developing an entirely new system. By 15, he’d invented the raised-dot system we know today. Braille is now standard across all blind communities, and it’s not just for books. It can be found on signs in public spaces, keypads, restaurant menus, door signs, medicine labels and so much more.
Overall, inventing is a wonderful way to get children’s brains buzzing. In these early years, children start to understand that they’re part of a wider community. Importantly, they learn that their ideas and innovations can impact the world around them. So be sure to encourage and reward children’s ideas, no matter how silly they might seem. You never know – that electric toothbrush sticky taped to a fork might just be the next million dollar idea!
7 Handy Tips to Reduce Food Waste
Is your bin filled with expired food? Read on to save your hard-earned money while also teaching your child about healthy eating and sustainable habits!
Every year, 7.6 million tonnes of food is wasted – and that’s just in Australia. What’s worse, 70% of food that ends up in landfills and incinerators was perfectly inedible when discarded. To fight food waste, the United Nations established the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste Reduction to campaign for sustainable solutions to food waste from the farm to your plate.
To contribute to the conversation, we’ve listed seven handy tips to reduce food waste and save your hard-earn money. These aren’t life-changing adjustments, but something as simple as buying an ugly cucumber is the first step to introduce your child to sustainable habits and healthy eating.
1. Buy Ugly Food
Firstly, keep an eye out for disfigured or misshapen fruit and veg at the supermarket. A shocking amount of fresh produce is discarded by farmers that don’t meet supermarkets aesthetic standards, with 45% of all produce being thrown away. Ugly produce is often disregarded by shoppers and left to the reduced bin, with many of that nutritious produce thrown out as supermarkets discard up to 10% of their food.
Thankfully, some supermarket chains have identified this needless waste through marketing ugly fruit separately, such as Coles ‘I’m Perfect’ range and Woolworths ‘the Odd Bunch.’ Importantly, this demonstrates how consumer spending habits directly influence the policies of the big players in food waste.
2. Make a List
Have you ever wondered why milk is always at the back of the store and the produce is waiting for you at the front? Or why the chocolate bars are tantalisingly placed at the checkout? The design of supermarkets and the placement of their products are specifically engineered to make you buy on impulse, therefore making a list is vital to ensure you only buy what you need.
Additionally, a list promotes mindful shopping. When buying those birthday cake flavoured biscuits, ask yourself – do I really need this? Often you realise you actually don’t, and they end up going stale before eventually meeting the bin.
3. Keep Leftovers
Meal-prepping and freezing meals is a wonderful way to reduce your household food waste as you can prepare meals on weekends or cook several days worth a few nights a week.
A recent survey found that Australians throw away in one in five bags worth of groceries, which is equivalent to around 312kg per person each year – equalling $2,500 wasted annually per family.
Pre-cooking meals reduces waste, saves money on takeout and promotes healthy eating habits for your child (you can get them involved in the cooking too!).
4. Understand Use-By and Best-Before Dates
Many people don’t understand the difference between use-by and before dates. While use-by dates are required on meat products and cannot be sold after this date, best-before dates are only an estimation of when food will be at its highest quality. Essentially, this is guess work by the manufacturer, which can result in consumers conflating best-before and use-by dates.
One study estimated that 24% of Europeans believed food is unsafe to eat beyond its best-before date. Some UK supermarket chains have even taken steps to prevent this misconception, with Aldi, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and M&S removing best-before dates on many produce, milk and yogurt lines. This is in line with research outlining that the three most wasted foods are fruit, veg and bread.
5. Buy Local
Your local farmers market or baker are a fantastic way to reduce waste and support your local community. Local food markets control their own food production and distribution chains, so they’re not constrained by supermarket aesthetic standards or large-scale transit concerns.
Additionally, local traders have a better understanding of how much they need to make and what sells. Moreover, they often have better systems in place to handle leftovers, such as allowing staff to take home leftover stock or even giving it away before closing.
There are countless not-for-profit organisations that specialize in taking leftover food for homeless shelters, compost or animal feed. While some supermarkets partner with these groups and even allow customers to take discarded produce for animal feed, they are often hampered by legal waivers and forms.
Organisations such as FareShare, Foodbank Victoria and Empower Australia are just a few foodbanks that are always looking for donations!
7. Grow your Own!
Starting a veggie garden is a great bonding opportunity for you and your little one. It teaches them the wonders of nature, sustainability and the benefits of clean eating (and you control the pesticides).
We love gardening at Explorers. Our Educators and children maintain our herb and veggie gardens, and families are welcome to take home produce to enjoy! Children engage in the planting process and even harvest the veggies, which are then cooked by our chefs and enjoyed in daily meals.
In conclusion, food waste is an unavoidable part of food production, but we can take steps to reduce it from the farm to your fridge. You don’t have to become a food waste advocate, but the first step is stopping at the supermarket to ask yourself – do I really need garlic bread flavoured potato chips?
7 Sentimental DIY Father’s Day Gifts
Looking for something more meaningful than a new power drill? Read on for some DIY Father’s Day gifts that are sure to make Dad’s special day even better!
It’s almost Father’s Day! The commercials are filled with specials on toolboxes, neckties are on sale and you’re glaring at that homebrewing kit you bought last year that’s never been used.
With more gift choices now than ever, we’ve done away with the quirky socks and ‘World’s Best Dad’ mugs to list some wonderfully sentimental – and environmentally friendly – DIY gifts that will mean so much more to Dad, Grandad or the special person in your life than a new power drill.
1. Father’s Day Picture Frame
In a world of smartphones, computers and screens seemingly everywhere, it can be easy to forget the simple magic of a framed photograph. A family photo is the perfect addition to a bedside table or office desk, so why not make it extra special?
With some basic materials, you and your little one can create a unique picture frame for Dad in a few easy steps! Once you’ve assembled your desired frame, just add glue and decorate. For example, you can use sequin, glitter, buttons, stamps, old newspaper scraps, seashells or even twigs! The possibilities are endless, so get as creative as you like.
Do you have a little Michelangelo at home? If so, artwork is the perfect gift for Dad while also providing your child a sense of accomplishment. Whether it’s a portrait, a sketch of a special moment or just some squiggly lines, Dad’s love seeing their children’s artistic spirit come to life.
Moreover, you can print drawings onto t-shirts, mousepads, posters, Father’s Day cards and fridge magnets. Not to mention they make a fine addition to a custom picture frame.
3. Wooden Coaster
If you come across some fallen branch, why not take it home for a DIY project?
All you need is a thick enough branch (at least 9cm in diameter), a saw, a brush, some sandpaper (heavy and fine) and clear varnish. It’s a surprisingly simple process with remarkably personal results:
- Cut the thick parts of the branch with a saw into desired coaster sized discs.
- Sandpaper the top and bottom. Use a heavy paper for the wider areas and a fine paper for the harder to reach nooks – don’t sandpaper the bark on the outside.
- Coat all around the wood with clear varnish and let it dry.
This one requires strict parental supervision, however your child can pitch in by helping apply the varnish with a brush or even team up on the saw. Additionally, you can personalise a coaster further by using a wood burner to write out a message or signature.
For a more in-depth guide, click here.
A custom bookmark is the perfect gift for bookworms this Father’s Day. All you need is some coloured card, scissors, ribbons, a hole punch, some texters and an idea.
DIY bookmarks are a wonderful gift because they can be effortlessly personalised. If he’s a keen fisher, make a fishing rod. If he’s a foodie, make a spatula. Does he love golf? You get the idea. Lastly, you can go the extra mile by writing out a special message or poem to make this bookmark stand out!
5. Clay Creation
Clay play is a deeply sensory experience for children because they use both hands to feel and work the material. Moreover, it’s a popular form of messy play which aids in children’s emotional and physical developmental in an environmentally friendly way. Just make sure to look out for non-toxic clay and always supervise your child during clay time.
You can create mugs, bowls, pencil holders, paperweights or anything your child desires. A dragon? A mini football? A mould of their hand? The only limit is their imagination because clay is the perfect blank canvas. Mistakes are easily reversed by mushing the art and starting over. However, make sure you take finished products to a ceramist to be professionally fired in a kiln as conventional ovens don’t get nearly hot enough to fire clay.
Need something to put into that clay-fired plant pot? Plants are a sentimental and environmentally friendly Father’s Day gift without breaking the bank. Cacti are a Father’s Day favourite, as are bonsai trees, spider plants and dragon trees.
In recent years, Jade plants – also known as money plants – have exploded in popularity. This is likely because they’re considered lucky, require little care and make the perfect addition to a study, bedroom or office space. Just give them water, light and lots of love and they’ll last for years!
7. Baked Goods
If you think dad will force a smile at all the above, why not keep it simple? Baking your special someone their favourite treat is a foolproof plan because homemade food is so much more personal than grabbing the first thing you see at the supermarket.
You can personalise baked goodies with edible toppers and food dye to celebrate their favourite sports team, hobby or tv show. However, baked goods won’t last (at least you hope they won’t!), so you can always pair them with another gift like a homemade plate or mug filled with freshly brewed coffee.
In conclusion, Dad, Grandad or whoever you celebrate the day with deserves to be spoiled on their special day. Whether it’s a framed drawing, a prickly cactus or a tray of brownies, be sure to thank them for everything they do and to celebrate the occasion together. After all, they deserve so much more than a new screwdriver.
Rug Up: How to Dress Your Child this Winter
Winter’s back! To fight off the runny noses, read on so your little ones are all rugged up for the chilly times ahead.
Winter is upon us in Melbourne. The puffer jacket’s out of the closet, soup is back on the menu and you need to give yourself a pep talk just to crawl out of bed. With temperatures reaching the lowest in years, it’s vital that you and your little ones are all rugged up for the chilly times ahead.
We’ve compiled some handy tips to dress your child this winter without breaking the bank.
Layers of Winter Clothing
When picking clothes, it’s important to remember the three layers of clothing for children:
- Base layer: underwear, singlets, stockings, socks, etc. – this layer protects the skin from irritation, fits snugly and wicks away moisture.
- Mid layer: shirts, vests, lightweight wool, pants, etc. – this layer provides warmth, insulates body heat and doesn’t add much bulk.
- Outer layer: waterproof jacket, boots, gloves, beanie, etc. – this layer keeps wind and moisture away and makes up most of the bulk. It’s essential that this layer is waterproof and durable.
Remember: it’s better to have too many layers than not enough, because layers can always be removed. The last thing you want is your child shivering at the park, on a playdate or in childcare for lack of a jacket!
This is doubly important as some children aren’t verbal yet – or have learning disabilities – so they may not be able to communicate to an adult or Educator that they’re actually cold. It’s always best to err on the side of caution and rug up (just make sure to label each layer so they don’t end up in the lost property box at childcare!).
A handy rule of thumb for toddlers is to consider how many layers you would need to keep yourself warm, then add one more.
The Winter Essentials
- Undershirts are a wonderful and cost-effective base layer to keep your child warm – especially for babies. Leggings and long sleeve shirts are a handy fit for all ages and sizes.
- Winter jackets are a must for outer layers – just be mindful of the size and material to avoid sweat chills.
- Woolly socks are perfect for frosty weather, but make sure they’re fitted tightly to avoid slipping on wooden floors (especially when playing games). However, socks are not the item to splurge on in winter; they go missing, they turn up with mysterious holes and they’re likely to get muddy and sopping wet when swimming in a puddle-filled gumboot. We recommend you opt for quantity here.
- Fleece-lined pants are a terrific choice as they’re light, breath well and are easy to clean and dry. Although more durable – avoid jeans. When wet they get heavy and can take a very long time to dry out.
- Gloves and beanies are a must this winter, but make sure any headgear covers the ears!
- Gumboots – an Australian classic for a reason. They’re durable, waterproof and come in a range of colours and designs. If it’s not going to be wet, you can’t go wrong with some trusty runners!
Best Winter Clothing Materials
The right choice of material is important to ensure comfort, warmth and to reduce irritation. Merino wool is an ideal underlayer as its odour-resistant, breaths well, naturally insulates and is super soft – so no need to worry about itchy skin!
Synthetics such as polyester and Gore-Tex materials work well as an outer layer due to their waterproof nature, which is perfect for rain, outdoor activities and is durable enough for playdates and childcare. Avoid cotton as it insulates poorly, absorbs moisture and traps it to the skin, which actually makes you colder.
If you’re wanting to dig deeper, you may want to explore the Thermal Overall Grade (TOG) – a standard unit of measurement to indicate a garment’s thermal insulation. This can help give you a map of what kind of clothes, and what combination, will work for your child without making them too hot. If you would like to read more about TOG ratings, click here.
Our Educators at Explorers Early Learning always keep an eye on the little ones – especially outdoors – to ensure they’re properly fitted for all conditions. Additionally, the temperature of our rooms are carefully controlled so no child is too hot or too cold to learn and play.