13 Must-Read Books for Book Week 2023
Read, Grow, Inspire. This year’s Book Week theme is all about fostering future creatives. To give your child the best start in their creative journey, check out our list of 13 must-read books for Book Week 2023 👇
Book Week has exploded in popularity in recent years with school and library events, activities, and dress-up parades taking centre stage. However, it’s important to remember the true purpose of Book Week which is, of course, reading!
This year’s Book Week theme – Read, Grow, Inspire – perfectly illustrates the importance of reading and engaging with stories from an early age. In fact, experts suggest that reading with toddlers promotes bonding and builds lasting relationships.
To celebrate Book Week 2023, we’ve compiled a list of 13 books that every child should read. The stories vary from rhyming cats to wombat stew, while also planning a costume or two!
1. How the Birds Got Their Colours by Mary Albert and Pamela Lofts
This Dreaming story is a wonderful introduction for children into the incredible world of Indigenous Australian culture. Mary Albert, a woman of the Bardi people, beautifully combines retellings of Dreamtime stories and children’s paintings to form a mosaic of Indigenous heritage.
If you have a passion for the more extravagant costumes, honour this important story by dressing your child as their favourite bird – just make sure to use plenty of colour!
2. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
At just 224 words long, Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar has endured as a bestseller for over 50 years. Carle’s story cleverly teaches children the days of the week, counting, patterns, and healthy eating while also being a captivating read for adults.
The best part of this costume is its simplicity. All you need is a stripy green shirt and a few materials to make the crown. Alternatively, there’s plenty of The Very Hungry Caterpillar costumes in stores or online.
3. The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
One look at The Rainbow Fish proves it’s a book like no other. Pfister’s ingenious use of holographic foil for the shimmering scales meant this book was destined for greatness. But like the Rainbow Fish himself, it’s about what’s beneath the surface. Take a journey of self-discovery with your child and delve into The Rainbow Fish to learn all about sharing and the power of friendship.
Dress your child as the glittering Rainbow Fish complete with shiny scales, and use the opportunity to discuss the importance of kindness and generosity.
4. Wombat Stew by Marcia K. Vaughan and Pamela Lofts
Marcia K. Vaughan’s Wombat Stew seamlessly intertwines Australian wildlife into a story of teamwork, cunning, and whimsy. This is one to read aloud with its captivating illustrations and unique rhymes!
Grab a onesie and encourage your child to dress up as a mischievous wombat, a cheeky dingo, a friendly platypus, or any of the other Australian animals featured in Wombat Stew. The best part about this is it also reduces waste as they’ll get plenty of use out of a cosy onesie in the colder months.
5. Possum Magic by Mem Fox and Julie Vivas
Mem Fox’s enchanting tale of an invisible possum is an unforgettable celebration of Australia’s native wildlife and the need to preserve them. Even better, both Mem Fox and illustrator Julie Vivas are Australian, so you’re supporting local authors while enjoying this timeless Aussie classic.
Invite your child to dress up as Hush, the invisible possum, or her friend Grandma Poss. This is an opportunity to get creative with stars, face paint, and props!
6. Neil, the
Boring Amazing Sea Cucumber by Amelia McInerney and Lucinda Gifford
Did you ever think you’d reach for a story starring a sea cucumber? This hilarious aquatic story is one for children and parents alike. Through deadpan delivery, plenty of puns, and smooth illustrations, this is one your child won’t soon forget.
The beauty of this costume is its simplicity – all you need is some glasses and plenty of green!
7. The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
Take a stroll with a mouse in a deep dark wood. The Gruffalo endures to this day as a regular on children’s bookshelves, thanks to its clever turn of phrase, striking illustrations, and clever storytelling.
As for costumes, there’s so many animals to choose from in The Gruffalo! While a costume of the Gruffalo himself may be a bit too crafty for some, there’s plenty to work with for the mouse, snake, owl, or the silly old fox!
8. Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley
Jackie French’s Diary of a Wombat took home the Young Australian Readers’ Award, Kids Own Australian Literature Award: Best Picture Book, and so many more. Like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Diary of a Wombat cleverly teaches children the days of the week and even the times of the day.
Dress your child as Mothball the sleepy wombat – just be sure to bring plenty of carrots for props.
9. The Rainbow Serpent by Dick Roughsey and Percy Trezise
This Dreamtime classic is a must-read for children to broaden their understanding and appreciation of Indigenous heritage. The Rainbow Serpent is a cornerstone of Aboriginal traditions, with land rock art depicting the brilliant serpent more than 6,000 years ago!
To spread the word of this important cultural story, dress your child as the titular rainbow serpent! Just remember to be mindful and respectful of cultural traditions when dressing your child as this iconic figure.
10. Respect by Fay Stewart-Muir and Sue Lawson
This important book teaches children about the oldest living civilisation, the importance of respecting others, and the unending beauty of nature from the flickering stars to the red earth.
Dressing to convey the natural beauty of Australia fits for this wonderful story. From the scarlet robin on the cover to a cunning crow, there’s plenty to chose from in this moving tale.
11. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Despite being written in the 60s, Maurice Dendak’s Where the Wild Things Are has endured as a must-read children’s classic to this day. With a short film, an opera, a video game, and a feature length film based on the book, there’s a reason this story has remained in the public consciousness for decades (and showing no signs of slowing).
Encourage your child to don Max’s crowned wolf suit or go all out and make a Wild Things costume complete with horns, fur, and bulging yellow eyes. This one will make for some unforgettable snaps for the photo album.
12. The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
Today you are you, that is true. There is no one alive who is youer than you. We could have chosen from dozens of iconic Dr. Seuss quotes and tales, which really need no introduction. However, it’s hard to pass the iconic classic of The Cat in the Hat. This colourful masterpiece teaches children about counting, rhyme, and the virtue of honesty.
Get out the whiskers and grab a stripy red hat to dress your child as the mischievous Cat in the Hat and enjoy the rhymes together. Conversely, dress them up as any character in the Seuss books – just don’t forget the green eggs and ham!
13. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit regularly features in top children’s book lists, despite being written over 100 years ago! And this enduring legacy is for good reason. Few books have illustrated the dangers of adult life and the consequences of our actions quite like Peter Rabbit’s venture into McGregor’s woods.
Peter Rabbit, Mrs. Rabbit, Farmer McGregor; there’s so many costume choices from this wonderful book – just don’t be surprised if your little one wants a pet rabbit after this Book Week!
Why Is Reading Important for Children?
Whether your child is into the fantastical, the everyday, or a story about a sea cucumber, reading is essential for growing minds. In fact, the Children’s Bureau of Southern California outlines 7 key benefits for reading:
- Supported cognitive development
- Improved language skills
- Preparation for academic success
- Developing a special bond with your child
- Increased concentration and discipline
- Improved imagination and creativity
- Cultivating a lifelong love of reading
So, be sure to encourage your child’s reading and writing habits, no matter what the genre or style. Read widely and nurture their interests as they to progress from picture books to middle grade and young adult. And most of all, try not to stress over the Book Week festivities! The costumes and events are all in service of the real meaning of Book Week – to read, grow, and inspire.
7 Eco-Friendly Science Week Experiments for Children
Science Week is a time to embrace the beakers and break out the lab coat! To help inspire your child, check out our fun (and sustainable) science experiments that’ll get the little one’s brains buzzing 👇
Every August, schools, universities, libraries, and museums around the country join for a week to celebrate all things STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). This year’s Science Week theme is all about inspiring future world-changers – Innovation: Powering Future Industries.
Moreover, Science Week is the perfect time to spark children’s curiosity through eco-friendly science experiments. By using sustainable materials, you can inspire your child’s scientific curiosity while also introducing them to conservation and sustainable practises.
1. Dancing Sultanas
Simply fill a clear glass with sparkling water, then gently place a few sultanas inside. As bubbles form on the sultanas, you’ll notice some will ascend to the water’s surface before falling, creating a ‘dancing’ effect.
This experiment elegantly demonstrates how the density of objects change based on their environment. Initially the sultanas, being denser than the water, sink. However, as bubbles stick to them, their density decreases, making them to rise to the surface. Eventually these bubbles burst, causing the sultanas to return to the bottom.
Better yet, this experiment generates absolutely no waste! Simply enjoy the remaining sparkling water and sultanas.
What You’ll Need:
- A glass
- Sparkling water
2. Upcycled Rainbow Spinners
Do you have a box of old CDs lying around? Get into the spirit of upcycling by cutting CDs into small shapes to explore light and reflection. Then, drill a small hole in each new shape and invite your child to help thread a piece of twine through the holes. Lastly, hang your colourful new spinner by a window and watch as the sunlight transforms into rainbows. This is the perfect opportunity for additional learning about light and reflections.
What You’ll Need:
- Old CDs
- Power drill
3. Lemon Juice Invisible Ink
Demonstrate the power of chemistry with this simple experiment. Start by squeezing half a lemon or some store-bought lemon juice into a bowl. Next, invite your child to write a message on paper with a brush. It could be their name, a shape, a tree – anything works!
Then, let the ink dry.
The acidic juices will remain invisible until they’re heated with a hairdryer or held close to a light bulb (just be careful not to get the paper too hot to avoid fire risks). Due to oxidisation, the hidden message will appear dark brown as the acid from the lemon juice is heated. Afterwards, hang the paper or recycle it so it doesn’t go to waste!
What You’ll Need:
- Lemon/lemon juice
- Paint brush
- Hairdryer or light bulb
4. DIY Compass
Explore the mind-boggling concepts of magnetism with this DIY experiment.
Start by stroking a needle with one end of a bar magnet 20-30 times, making sure to lift the magnet after each stroke and only stroking in one direction, not back and forth. Next, fill a bowl of water and place your cork in the water.
Lastly, place the now magnetised needle on top of the floating cork and watch as it spins to align the needles to North and South – just like a real compass! This experiment introduces children to the wonders of science and nature, with only a few simple materials that can be reused.
What You’ll Need:
- Small cork
- Steel needle
- Bar magnet
5. Paper Mâché Volcano
The paper mâché volcano is a classic for a reason. This time-honoured experiment offers an engaging way to understand volcanic eruptions and the power of nature, while also providing an opportunity for children to get creative.
Start by taping a clean plastic bottle to your cardboard base. Next, scrunch up some foil to act as the bulk of your mountain. Then, create a paper mâché mixture with flour and water and paste it over layers of old newspapers. This will act as the exterior of your volcano.
Once dried, get your child involved by painting the volcano in browns for rock, greens for grass, or any colours you like! Lastly, carefully pour 2-3 tsps of baking soda into the top of the volcano, add a few drops of your desired food colouring, and add a splash of vinegar to watch the magic erupt.
What You’ll Need:
- Recycled newspaper strips or scrap paper
- A plastic bottle
- Recycled cardboard (as the base)
- Non-toxic paint or natural dyes
- Baking soda
- Optional: food colouring or natural pigments
6. Ocean-in-a-Jar Ecosystem
Teach your child about ecosystems and sustainability with an ocean-in-a-jar experiment. Fill a glass jar with water (collected rainwater works best), leaving about an inch of space at the top. Add a handful of clean sand or small pebbles for the ‘ocean floor.’ Then, place a few aquatic plants or seaweed (real or recycled craft materials) and a tiny figurine representing a marine animal. Seal the jar and place it near a window with indirect sunlight.
Over time, the plants will release oxygen, while the water evaporates and condenses on the sides, creating a self-sustaining mini-ecosystem. This experiment illustrates the delicate balance of ecosystems and the importance of conserving our oceans.
What You’ll Need:
- Glass jar
- Water (preferably collected rainwater)
- Sand or small pebbles
- Aquatic plants or seaweed
- Tiny figurine or toy
7. Sustainable Water Filtration
Raise awareness about water pollution through a sustainable water filtration experiment. Start by filling a large glass container with water and mix in some dirt to simulate polluted water. Next, cut an old plastic bottle in half and punch a hole in the lid.
Then, put the lid back on the top half of the bottle and place it (facing down) inside a clear jar. Carefully pour a cup of sand, gravel, or activated charcoal into the bottle to complete your filtration system.
To complete the experiment, pour the polluted water through the filtration system and observe how the layers clean the water. This visually demonstrates the process of water purification and the need for clean water sources. Remember – don’t drink your filtered water! Although it may look clean, it hasn’t removed the potentially harmful bacteria. Rather, use the leftover water for your garden or indoor plants.
What You’ll Need:
- Recycled plastic bottle and lid
- Clear jar
- Sand, gravel, or activated charcoal
What are the Benefits of Science Experiments for Children?
Eco-friendly science experiments provide valuable learning opportunities for children, while also embedding environmental responsibility from an early age.
And it’s not just for a fun afternoon with invisible ink and dancing sultanas. Science Week is one of the most important yearly events for the future of Australian – and global – innovation. Recently, Ed Husic, the Minister of Science and Innovation, stressed the importance of inspiring future STEM superstars.
‘Why is this so important? Because we want a future made in Australia. One based on our expertise in quantum computing, medical science, renewables, and other advanced technologies. To get there, we’ll need to grow our STEM talent pool.’
Remember, today’s children are tomorrow’s scientists, inventors, and environmental champions!
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?
How is Easter Celebrated Around the World?
Have you ever wondered how Easter is celebrated in different countries? Read on for all the unique ways Easter is celebrated around the world!
Easter is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the world, with at least 95 countries embracing the chocolate eggs and hot cross buns. Although it’s often associated with Christian traditions and Western culture, it’s also observed in various cultural contexts. From Easter egg hunts to religious processions, the celebration of Easter is a rich tapestry of customs, beliefs, and practices.
In this post, we look at some of the unique ways Easter is celebrated around the world.
They love Easter in Germany! One of their most famous holiday traditions is that of the Easter Egg tree, otherwise known as ostereierbaum. This tradition involves decorating trees and bushes with hand decorated eggs, creating colourful displays from the natural landscape.
Branches are also used and decorated in homes (similar to a small Christmas tree), while larger trees are displayed in local parks.
The biggest Easter Egg tree stood for 50 years in Saalfeld, Germany, which held up to 50,000 eggs – all hand decorated by one German family.
In Sweden, Easter is celebrated with the tradition of the Easter Witch. Children (and even some of the grown-ups) dress up as witches, complete with broomsticks, headscarves and painted faces. The ‘witches’ then go door-to-door, offering painted eggs in exchange for sweets, similar to Halloween trick-or-treating. The tradition dates back centuries and is still observed by Swedish locals to this day!
For many Catholics around the world, Easter is the most important time of year. In Rome – one of the most devout cities in the world – Holy Week is a particularly significant event, with various processions and religious ceremonies occurring throughout the week.
On Good Friday, a procession takes place in which the Pope leads the fourteen stations of the cross from the Colosseum, with thousands of people following behind, carrying candles. The children get involved in the festival by singing songs and assisting in church services.
4. South Africa
Easter in South Africa is a time for faith, food and family. Locals typically gather for an afternoon church service on Easter Sunday, followed by a family get together to enjoy traditional South African foods such as roast lamb, pickled fish and braai (South African barbecue).
However, since the 1980s, the day after Easter Sunday is recognised as Family Day. This is an official public holiday which is observed to encourage families from all faiths to spend the day with their loved ones.
In Greece, Easter is celebrated with the Orthodox Christian tradition of the Holy Fire. The night before Easter Sunday, a flame is lit at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and flown to Greece, where it is used to light candles in churches across the country.
This tradition dates back 1,200 years, and is celebrated widely as the flame is believed to be a symbol of the resurrection of Christ. Crowds of up to 10,000 gather around the Holy Sepulchre for the event, chanting ‘Kyrie eleison’ which translates to ‘Lord, have mercy.’
When you think of Easter, kites probably don’t come to mind. However, in Bermuda, no Good Friday is complete without the locals getting out into the fresh air and flying homemade kites around the natural landscapes.
The origin of this tradition dates back to a Bermudan Sunday school teacher explaining the resurrection of Christ through a kite demonstration. Ever since, kites and Easter have become intertwined in Bermuda.
On Easter Sunday, Poles get up bright and early (6am) for the Resurrection mass. Following the service, families gather for a hearty breakfast of cold meats, eggs, bread and pâté. Cakes, sweets and cheesecakes are enjoyed throughout the day, making Polish Easter one of the tastiest around the world!
The Monday after, however, takes an interesting twist with children throwing buckets of water on each other in a tradition known as Wet Monday (they take water fights very seriously!).
In Brazil, the town of Ouro Preto is known for its elaborate Holy Week celebrations. The town’s churches and roads are decorated with flowers and lights, making brilliant artwork throughout the streets. Additionally, processions take place throughout the week, with participants carrying images of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary.
Easter is a holiday that is celebrated in many different ways around the world, each with its unique traditions and customs. Whether it’s a religious procession, the decoration of Easter trees, dressing up as witches or just enjoying some hot cross buns, Easter is a time to come together with family and friends, celebrate the arrival of spring, and reflect with those closest to you.
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.
7 Ways to Manage Separation Anxiety in Childcare
Is your little one struggling with separation anxiety? Don’t worry, we’ve got your back! Read on for our list of 7 strategies to help manage the transition into childcare.
Separation anxiety is a normal part of a child’s development and can be just as stressful for parents as it is for children. It’s not uncommon for the little ones to experience separation anxiety during the transition to starting childcare.
As children develop and grow, they become more aware of their surroundings and develop a strong attachment to their primary caregiver (i.e. you). This attachment provides them with a sense of safety and security, making them feel protected and loved. Therefore, when a child is separated from their caregiver, they may feel uncertain, scared or anxious.
Rest assured, this usually doesn’t last long as children adapt to their settings quicker than you might think. However, having a structured plan in place to manage this transition can do wonders in saving you and your little one the unnecessary stress.
In this post, we list seven ways to help your child cope with separation anxiety.
1. Explain What Will Happen
It’s important that your child understands where they are, why you’re leaving and that you’ll come back. Tell them that they’ll play their favourite game with their friends, have a tasty lunch and get to play outside.
Additionally, let them know what time you’ll come to pick them up. You don’t have to give them the exact minute, but something as simple as ‘I’ll be back to pick you up after afternoon tea’ can mean the world to a child. Likewise, a settled routine can make the transition into care, primary school or just visiting friends much easier for children who thrive on structure and predictability.
2. Create a Goodbye Routine
Developing a special goodbye routine with your little one every time you drop off can do wonders in easing separation anxiety. This could include a special handshake, a hug, a kiss or anything that’s meaningful to you and your child. Establishing a consistent routine can help your child feel more secure and less anxious when you leave.
3. Speak with the Centre Team
Our Educators are knowledgeable, understanding and, most of all, caring! They understand that while many children ease into care seamlessly, others require a gentler transition process. Together with your child’s Room Leader, you can develop a plan to help your child adjust.
This could include providing extra attention and reassurance during the transition period, phone calls to your child’s room to check in with the Educators, and plenty of positive encouragement and praise throughout the day from both parents and Educators alike.
4. Establish Familiarity
Some families may choose to start with bookings of just two or three days a week to ease their child into care. However, more days early on builds consistency and fast tracks a child’s familiarity with their new environment.
When commencing at Explorers, all children attend an Orientation Session to familiarise themselves with the Educators, environment and other children. If you feel your child needs more time, you can book an extra Orientation Session to help your child further adjust to their new learning spaces.
Additionally, research has shown that familiarity is perhaps the most important factor for reducing stress during periods of separation, as ‘at around 10 months, most babies get upset if a stranger comes up to them in an unfamiliar room. Only 50% get upset if they have time to get used to the room. This means that in new situations, babies cope better when they come across new things gradually.’
Before commencing care, you can also practise time apart at home by leaving your child with a family member for increasing amounts of time, ‘I’m just going into the garden for a bit. Pop will look after you while I’m gone.’
5. Provide Comfort Items
A comfort item, such as a stuffed animal or favourite blanket, can help your child feel more secure about entering an unfamiliar environment. It’s like taking a little bit of home with them. Therefore, comfort items provide children a sense of reassurance and companionship, which can help them calm down, sleep and even join in on activities.
Be sure to provide plenty of positive attention and encouragement for your little one’s comfort item, whether it be a teddy, a blanket or even a piece of clothing.
6. Stay Calm and Be Patient
It’s important to be patient when dealing with even the most anxious child, even if their crying and tantrums are making you anxious. Reacting with frustration or being negative about their experience will only make the situation more challenging. Moreover, be relaxed and cheerful so your child knows they’re somewhere safe, as children have a remarkable ability to identify – and imitate – the actions of adults.
7. Keep Goodbyes Short and Sweet
Kiss and go. Lingering with your child will only prolong the experience and can make it worse for the both of you. If you feel your child is really struggling to adapt their new play space, try and spend a little time with them doing something they enjoy in the room or outside at pick up to help them feel more comfortable and confident.
When to Seek Help for Separation Anxiety
Although separation anxiety usually goes away on its own, it’s important to be aware that it can develop into Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD). This disorder develops when it:
- interferes with your child’s life and your family life.
- is more severe than the anxiety of other children the same age.
- has gone on for at least 4 weeks.
If you’re concerned about your child’s separation anxiety, it’s important to speak with your child’s healthcare provider or your Centre Leadership Team for guidance and support.
In conclusion, separation anxiety is a normal part of a child’s development. While it can be challenging, there are several things that you can do to help manage separation anxiety and make the transition smoother. By establishing a consistent routine, gradually increasing separation time and providing reassurance, you can ease your child’s anxiety and build their confidence for childcare, primary school and the world beyond.
5 Fun Ways to Celebrate World Wildlife Day
Happy World Wildlife Day! This day raises awareness for global conservation efforts. Read on for our 5 fun ways to celebrate this important day!
World Wildlife Day is observed annually on 3 March to raise awareness for global wildlife conservation efforts. Likewise, it’s a chance to celebrate the amazing biodiversity of plant and animal life which inhabit our planet.
Each year, World Wildlife Day has a specific theme that focuses on a different aspect of wildlife preservation and protection. This year’s theme is ‘Partnerships for Wildlife Conservation.’
To celebrate World Wildlife Day, we’ve listed five fun ways you can get your little one out in nature and learning about the importance of sustainability.
1. Make a Garden
Not only does gardening get children active, but it also teaches them about responsibility as they learn to care for a living thing. You can create a special space in your backyard for your little one to plant seeds, water them and watch them grow. Additionally, you can incorporate different plant species, build birdhouses and add homemade decorations like coloured rocks and little signs. This is a wonderful way to teach children the beauty of natural spaces and how they can help protect them.
At Explorers, we encourage budding green thumbs through our One World, One Planet program. Our Garden and Sustainability Teacher regularly visits the Centres, introducing children to the joys of gardening, sustainability and watching things grow.
2. Go on a Nature Walk
A nature walk is a great way to get your little one exploring the world. Take your child to a local park, nature reserve or lake and encourage them to observe the plants and animals in their natural ecosystem. To help out, Museums Victoria has a Field Guide smartphone app to help you identify different species. Try making a game of it by seeing how many you can find!
3. Make Wildlife-Themed Crafts
Arts and crafts are perfect for engaging children’s creativity and teaching them about wildlife. You can make animal masks, bird feeders or even create a mini ecosystem in a jar. All you need is a clear bottle, some patches of moss, soil and small rocks!
Otherwise, loose parts and recycled materials are ideal for teaching children about recycling, while also letting them flex their creative muscles. At Explorers, we gather loose parts through our Recycle Stations and repurpose them in new and exciting ways. These experiences teach children about sustainability, recycling and waste reduction.
4. Visit the Zoo or Aquarium
A trip to the Melbourne Zoo is a fun and educational activity to help children learn about different species and their habitats. Not only is the Melbourne Zoo globally recognised in zoo management, but it also offers a host of child-friendly activities. There are picnics, toy animals, maps with fun facts, interactive activities and educational programs for the children.
Alternatively, the Melbourne Aquarium is the perfect weekend activity. In fact, the World Wildlife Day theme just a few years ago was, ‘Life below water: for people and planet.’ The Aquarium regularly champions conservation efforts through their partnership with SEA Life Trust.
5. Read Wildlife-Themed Books
Reading wildlife themed books introduces children to different species and their habitats while also stimulating their imagination. You can read them as a family and discuss the themes and lessons of the story. Thankfully, there are many wonderful children’s books from Australian authors available that teach about animals, their behaviour and their environment. Just a few examples include:
🐭 Bilby Secrets by Edel Wignell and illustrated by Mark Jackson
🐟 Saving the Spotted Handfish by Gina Newton and illustrated by Rachel Tribou
🦘 Jumping Joeys by Sarah Allen
🌏 Big World, Tiny World: Reef by Jess Racklyeft
In conclusion, World Wildlife Day is the perfect opportunity to teach children about the significance of conservation and the amazing diversity in nature. With these child-friendly activities, you can engage your child’s curiosity about the natural world and pave the way for the next generation of world leaders. After all, 2017’s World Wildlife Day theme was ‘Listen to the Young Voices’, which speaks volumes about the wisdom of even the littlest among us.
Why is My Toddler Hitting Others?
Is your toddler going through a hitting phase? Read on for the science behind why this is normal – and how to deal with it.
Watching your toddler hitting, pushing or even biting their peers can be embarrassing and stressful for first-time and veteran parents alike. What follows is often guilt, anger and that nagging imposter syndrome – am I a bad parent?
The short answer is no. You’re not a bad parent if you catch your toddler hitting or pushing others. In fact, it’s a common phase in early childhood.
In this post, we look at the science behind why your toddler may be hitting others, and some ways to use this as a learning opportunity to teach boundaries, social skills and emotional regulation.
The development of empathy is a major factor in toddler hitting. In short, empathy is the capacity to understand the feelings of others and to put yourself into their shoes.
However, a common misconception is that empathy is genetic. This is untrue. Rather, empathy is a skill that must be taught, practised and developed over time.
Studies show that toddlers begin developing genuine empathy at around two years old. This can take many forms after a child sees another in distress, including:
- Offering to share their food.
- Giving them a toy or comfort item.
- Hugging or showing affection.
- Reacting in distress themselves.
However, developing empathy sometimes causes toddlers to lash out. For example, if another child has a sore stomach and is showing clear signs of pain (facial expressions, crying, holding their stomach), a toddler may actually hit the child in the stomach. Yet, this isn’t an act of malice or cruelty. Rather, the toddler doesn’t understand how to approach the situation that’s made them feel uncomfortable, resulting in ‘aggression’ towards the problem area.
2. Sensory Exploration
Children love to touch, see and smell the world around them. This is a result of their developing neurochemistry, as they begin to create a more three-dimensional understanding of their environment.
However, they still lack proper social skills and spatial awareness. Therefore, children may ‘squeeze, pinch, push, and kick other children’ to experience their surroundings and participate in social interactions in the only way they know how.
It’s important to understand that children aren’t pushing out of cruelty. Dr. Gwen Dewar put it best, suggesting this sort of behaviour reflects a lack of impulse control, rather than malice.
Likewise, children are essentially powerless. Beyond being physically small, they lack the financial, intellectual and social means to exert any real power over the world around them, and this continues well into childhood and adolescence. Therefore, when toddlers exert power over another and get a real reaction, it’s mind-blowing for them.
Dr Laura Markham outlines how this feeling of power is key to why your child is acting out:
They are learning how to have an impact on the world, which means they are learning how to use power. So, they experiment with physical force, to see what happens. Add to this a child who is physically larger than his peers, and you get a kid who is likely to experiment with using physical force against others.
4. Managing Toddler Hitting
Firstly, try not to punish them. This can be difficult as parents tend to react with anger or shame if their child hits or pushes another, which is understandable. Likewise, we tend to view toddler hitting from our adult point-of-view, where such acts are unthinkable in everyday social situations.
However, this intense reaction is likely to have the opposite effect, according to Dr. Markham:
Punishing him won’t help the situation because it just teaches him that bigger people can use force on smaller people, which is exactly what you’re trying to show him is not ok.
Rather, it’s more effective to have a calm – but firm – talk with your child. Dr. Markham recommends removing your child from the situation immediately and taking the opportunity to explain why hitting others is never okay. Additionally, she suggests that preparing children in advance can be helpful, as overstimulation and unpredictability are common causes for overstepping boundaries.
If you get mad, you tell me, and I will help you, ok? If you forget and push, we will need to stop having fun and leave right away. So, let’s remember to keep our hands on our own bodies and have fun with the other boys, ok?
Lastly, demonstrating empathy for the hurt child is a subtle way of implying disapproval of your child’s actions.
Oh no, poor Charlie is crying. I think that really upset him.
5. Be Patient
Overall, it’s important to understand that this is a phase that toddlers outgrow as their empathy and social awareness develop. Yet, it can still be a particularly challenging time for parents due to complicated emotions and social embarrassment (nobody wants to be that parent with the pushy child).
Rest assured – it will pass. You’re not a bad parent and your child isn’t a monster. They’re just learning how to navigate a world filled with social cues, interactions, conventions and unspoken rules that even adults sometimes forget.
They’ll learn and become better for it. Just remember to stay calm, don’t overthink it and give yourself some credit – you’re doing great!