Monday, 2 February 2015

Educational Fun with Lego Duplo

Lego and Duplo may not strike you as an obvious educational toy - I know most kids certainly don't see it that way! But, children who play with the Lego ranges can benefit from cognitive, linguistic, physical and social/emotional boosts that can actually help them develop faster and learn while they are having fun! 

Disney Planes Skippers Hanger

My boys love their Duplo! It's the item that gets played with the most - and despite the mess it can make on my lounge room floor, I greatly encourage it! Not only is is highly educational but it is great for building fine motor skills and social skills such as sharing and team work.

Duplo is part of the Lego brand and is specifically created for little hands (ages 18months to 5years). Like Lego, you can buy Duplo sets (we own the Number Train, construction site, Disney Planes & Disney Planes Fire & Rescue sets, farm & zoo sets) but children can build various structures by either referring to the easy-to-follow instructions included with the Duplo set, or let their imaginations run wild and mix and match pieces to create their own masterpiece.

Big Farm
Lego Duplo bricks are made from non-toxic material making them safe for toddlers, even if they chomp on the bricks!! The bricks are also large, so young toddlers can easily hold the toys in their hands and connect them easily. They come in a variety of bright colours and shapes to grab the attention of children and stimulate their minds.
Playing with Lego Duplo allows toddlers to practice their motor skills and develop their creativity, which they can use later in life.
Number Train
Lego Duplo is great for young children and children with special needs because: 
Colour, size and shape recognition: Young children who play with early Lego Duplo can use it to learn and identify the differences between colours, sizes and shape. It can also be used to teach basic counting skills.
Hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills: Toddlers who want to pick up a certain Duplo brick and put it on top of another one will start to develop their hand-eye coordination awareness in a practical way. Continued use can also help promote their fine motor skills and build up the strength in their fingers, hands & forearms. These can be further developed as children get older and move into the regular Lego ranges as smaller bricks help them hone their abilities to choose, pick up, control, place and manipulate smaller objects (this links directly to handwriting as children work to move from the palmer-grip to the pincer-grip).
Language skills: Of course Lego Duplo, in itself, can't teach kids to talk. But, if they are playing with adults or even with their peers in a social setting you may see some significant developments. Basic construction can help younger children learn the practical use of key prepositions such as 'on', 'under', 'in' and 'above' and can help them start to negotiate the verbal world of size and shape. They will learn to listen to instructions and commands and, as they get older, to express these concepts themselves. Children who make up Lego in kit form can also get a literacy boost - they want to build the model in the box, they will have to follow the instructions! (The visual instructions are great for those students who need visual aids to complete tasks, and this can also be used as a form of assessment). 
Spatial awareness: Playing with blocks and objects in the Lego Duplo range is often one of the first practical experiences a child has of manipulating and using three-dimensional objects. This can help develop spatial and form awareness.
Logic and problem solving skills: Put a few pieces of Lego Duplo together (either as a loose collection or as a specific kit) and you have a puzzle that needs to be solved. Children can learn to follow steps and stages in a logical order via formal instruction sheets that come with a kit or can use free-flow problem solving if they are building their own creations. Lego can actually give a good basic introduction to maths, engineering and construction principles through natural play.
Imaginative/creative play: Children may follow kit instructions to make up models, but many will also use their bricks to make their own creations - Master L is obsessed with Disney Planes Fire & Rescue at the moment so really enjoys making a fire & rescue centre and buildings that catch on fire for Blade & Dusty to extinguish. I really enjoy watching him play, and playing with the boys as this type of play encourages creativity and fosters their use of imagination.
Sharing and collaborative play: Something that all parents want their children to master is sharing & collaborative play! Lego Duple can entertain a single child, sometimes for a few hours at a time! Yet it can also be a good way of helping children, be it siblings or class/play mates learn how to play together. Playing with Lego Duplo can encourage them to work as a team, to share and to collaborate on how to make bricks do what they want them to do. Lego Duplo appeals to all ages so is also a fantastic way for a family to spend time together.
Self-worth and achievement: I love seeing either boys face when they've created something using the Lego Duplo blocks - I might not know what it is but they do, and they single-handedly built it! Children who build kits or create their own constructions will have gone through a type of problem-solving process at their own pace. Making something helps them feel good about themselves and promotes a feeling of self-worth and independence.

I have just as much fun building and creating as the boys! Let your children play and create with Lego, secretly knowing that they're learning whilst playing! 
***This post is not sponsored. I simply like the Lego Duplo products range and want to share the benefits of them with you.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Back to School tips - wearing a backpack and getting kids active‏ .

With school returning for most of us Aussies this week, many parents will be receiving lists of what their children need for school, and will busily be collecting uniforms, shoes and backpacks.
Backpacks/School Bags are an essential part of school life - they hold lunch boxes, drink bottles, pencil cases, notebooks, folders, instruments, sports gear, a change of clothes and on goes the list! Below is some great information I received from the Australia Physiotherapy Association forwarded me with regards to buying the best backpack for your child, to ensure they maintain correct posture and optimal health during their growing years.
Physiotherapists share tips to avoid breaking the back when going back to school
With school starting back next week, the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) is advising parents to buy safe school backpacks for their kids. The APA is also encouraging parents to look for ways to incorporate physical activity into their child’s school days.
APA physiotherapists recommend school children should wear a backpack that weighs no more than 10 per cent of a child’s body weight, yet research on back problems in children aged 12-17 years found 61% carried more than 10 per cent of their bodyweight on their backs on a daily basis[i].
“Far too many students are carrying around very heavy weights on their back - particularly those in high school,” APA National President Marcus Dripps said. “We know an overloaded or incorrectly-worn backpack can be a major source of chronic strain, and can cause shoulder, neck and back pain in children.
“Stress put on the spine can cause your child to lean too far forward and experience distortion of the natural curve, rolling their shoulders and causing a more rounded upper-back. Neck and shoulder pain can also develop from wearing a bag on one shoulder, or a bag with straps that are too thin that dig into the shoulder muscles and strain the neck,” Mr Dripps said.
The APA has also said 2015 is the year to move more and sit less to combat the issue of childhood obesity. “Around a quarter of all children aged 2–16 are overweight or obese and this statistic continues to rise,” Mr Dripps said. 
“Parents play a vital role in nurturing their children’s attitudes towards physical activity. If you’re active yourself and incorporate it as part of your every family life, it will be easier for your child to follow your lead. Whether it’s walking with your children to school, or positively encouraging your children get involved in school or extracurricular activities they like can help to keep them active. It will manage weight gain, while also helping to build and maintain a strong spine.”
Key tips to remember when your child starts school:
  • Wear backpack load close to the spine - pack the heaviest items nearest to your child’s back
  • Children must wear both straps at all times
  • Backpacks should always weigh less than 10 per cent of your child’s body weight
  • Ensure your child is carrying only what they need - encourage your child to be organised and check their timetable when packing their bag for school
  • To decrease the load your child should have separate folders for each subject so that they can only bring home what they need for their homework
  • Encourage your child to be physically active – walking to school every day has many benefits for you, your children and your community.
  • Parents should contact a physiotherapist if they are concerned about their child's posture, back health or obesity and weight management related conditions. Paediatric physiotherapists have particular expertise in this area.
Five things to look for when choosing a back pack:
  • Wide shoulder straps that are comfortable and sit well on the shoulder
  • Waist and chest straps to help transfer some of the load to the hips and pelvis
  • A padded back-support that allows the pack to fit ‘snugly’ on the back
  • The backpack must fit the child. Don’t buy a big pack to ‘grow’ into, when sitting with the backpack on, the pack should not extend higher than the child’s shoulders
  • Look for one that carries an endorsement from a professional health organisation. The APA endorses Spartan Physiopaks.   
For more information, visit

Thanks to Kate for sharing this wonderful information!!

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Australia Day Linky Party & Resources

Happy New Year everyone!!!!!!!
We are still enjoying our Christmas/summer holidays here in Australia, but it's never too early to think about what you're going to do in those first few days back at work.

Those first 1-2 weeks  can be stressful, especially for new teachers, as they are about getting to know your kids, basic assessment and data collection, setting up the classroom, taking new enrolments and settling in new staff. So, whether you’ve got a class of baby-faced kindy’s, or a bunch of year 6 student’s eager to take on the role of playground kings and queens, you will be in need of some activities that are educational as well as engaging, and to some extent, independent.

This is why I wanted to create a Blog Link Party, so that my fellow Australian teachers, and those who teach abroad, could share their favourite resources for celebrating Australia Day - and surviving the first few days and weeks of school! So add your blog button below and join in the sharing of resources!

Australia Day activities:
January 26th is Australia’s official day – it’s a day we celebrate all that is great about being an Aussie! Officially, the day is about commemorating the landing of The First Fleet (in 1788) and the colonisation of Australia, but in today’s society it is about celebrating our diverse cultural society and mateship – BBQs are a familiar site on this day, and are shared with family and friends either in our backyards, by the beach, river or the local park.
Below is a list of some activities I like to do in my classes, including my own resources “Let's learn about Australia”, "Australian Activity Matrix" and “AustralianGold Rush”, which can be purchased over at my TpT store.
Aussie Clue Cracker – this would be best suited to your Stage 2 & 3 students
Australian Activity Matrix

Grab the button, re-post in your latest blog and share the love!!! Best of luck for the New Year everyone, I hope it is a great one!!! xo

Monday, 29 December 2014

Teacher Style #1

As teachers, we are part of a profession that is educating and shaping the adults of tomorrow – so it goes without saying that if we are a professional (and want to be considered as one by the wider community), then we should dress like one!

I have always been a lover of fashion. While at this point in my life and career I won’t spend a lot on my day-to-day work wear (which also doubles as day-to-day mummy wear), I do still like to look put together and fashionable.

Since having children it has been tricky to find clothes that fit my ever changing body shape - but this has also taught me to shop smartly and look at different styles - and as a primary teacher it is difficult to walk that fine line between looking professional and not caring whether you get paint, glitter, glue or bodily fluids on your outfit (a common hazard in my current workplace). High school teachers have the worry of dressing professionally without gaining unwanted attention and comments from their students – even as a sports teacher I need to be wary of what I wear to training.

So I have started looking to Pinterest and other Teacher Blogs for inspiration, and thankfully a lot of teachers love sharing what they’re wearing – and most importantly, where they got the gear!!! Some of my favourite teacher style blogs include:

All Things Katie Marie – probably my FAVOURITE teacher fashion blog to follow!
Teacher Look Book

Classy in the Classroom

Lilly Style

Stephanie Teaches

MK’s Outfit Posts – not necessarily a teacher specific blog, but the fashion is perfect!
J’s Everyday Fashion – again, not written specifically for teachers, but has great outfits that are perfect!

Recently the NSW Department of Education put out a ‘revised’ policy about acceptable work wear. By nature I am a very conservative, classic dresser but to read (and also witness) some teachers turning up to work in ripped jeans, thongs, singlets and boardies (not on swimming carnival day) I was a little shocked – I can’t believe that fully grown, educated adults need to be told what is acceptable work attire! You can find the actual policy here:

While some of the blogs and images I’ve linked to above have teachers wearing jeans to work (it is expected that we don’t wear jeans to work here in NSW and Australia), you can still use the rest of the outfit as inspiration – just change the pants. It’s also important to have the appropriate footwear – for example, in the school that I was working at in 2014, sandals, wedges, heels of any kind and open-toed shoes were a no-go. It’s just not practical when you might have to run after a child, jump fences – or worse, get a splash of bodily fluids when toileting.
Navy Blue Capped Sleeve Top - Tempt
Paisley Gypsy Pants - Portmans
Shoes - Payless Shoes
Bangle - gift
Navy Blue Capped Sleeve Top - Tempt
Light Chambray Linen Pants - Target
Shoes - Payless Shoes
Necklace - gift from a past student
White Sleeveless Top - Portmans
Cropped Jacket -
Pants - Supre
Shoes - Wanted
Necklace - Collette
Bangle - gift
DKNY Watch - gift
 I will hopefully start taking pictures and uploading them to show you what I wear – and most of my stuff can be worn when I’m being a stay-at-home mum or a classroom teacher – versatility is the key!!! Here are some of the things I wore towards the end of 2014… (I’ll even try to provide links of where to buy items). And check out my Pinterest page for more inspiration.

Please feel free to comment below and share some of your favourite outfits and blogs!

Monday, 8 December 2014

Christmas Matrix

Running out of ideas for what to do with your students? Do they seem to be getting rowdier each day? Are you finding it hard to come up with a range of activities that cater to all those individuals contained within the four walls of your room? Then I have the answer you've been searching for...
My "Christmas Matrix" is fast becoming one of the popular purchases over at my TpT store at the moment. A Blooms Taxonomy & Multiple Intelligence activity matrix that is used for Christmas time. Activities are aimed for students to complete them independently or in small groups, but some can be completed as a whole class.

So make sure you head on over to my store and pick up a copy for yourself! This will be a great tool to have when the end of the year rolls around!

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Christmas gift ideas for teachers - written by a teacher

Christmas gifts for teachers:

After being asked by many of my friends, and seeing many more posts on social media, I thought I would do a post to answer the question “What present should I buy my child’s teacher?”

As teacher’s we don’t actually expect anything – so when we receive gifts, we are truly amazed and grateful. It shows that you’ve appreciated what we’ve done for your child across the year, and that you respect us. Whether it’s a Christmas present, a thank you note/card or just an end-of-year farewell gift, here are some of the gifts I’ve received in the past:
I love getting cute Christmas ornaments and they always have a special place in my house or on our Christmas tree (and the other bonus is they’re small aren’t dust collectors that get in the way). I’ve have even kept some in my classroom boxes and use them to decorate the classroom tree!

A beautiful Maxwell Williams Christmas
plate with some Choccies
A nice Christmas dish and some delectables are never scoffed at – I got this lovely Maxwell Williams plate and box of Lindt Choccies this week from one of the parents of a child I taught this year! It’s nice to feel appreciated.

I’ve also received some lovely gifts including perfume (and a good one at that), coffee mugs, photo frames, stationary, chocolates and glassware.

A very special gift I received at the end of my first teaching job was two beautiful Willow Tree ornaments – these were from a mother of a boy who had ASD. I worked very hard with him in the two terms I had him, and he made tremendous progress. Agan, it’s things like these that I keep and provide me with a reminder of the appreciation some have for the work I do.

So here are my top gift ideas for teachers:

1.    A hand written note/card – this reinforces that you appreciate what we have done throughout the year. It’s the simplest things that often make the biggest impact.

2.  Vouchers – movie, iTunes, coffee, local cafes & restaurants - and if you know your teacher well enough, a voucher to their favourite clothing, nail or hair salon or homewares/craft store is also a nice idea.

3.   Simple (and inexpensive) jewellery – now you do have to be careful here because what you may like, the teacher necessarily won’t, but if you know your teacher well enough go ahead!

4.   Nice pamper packs – now some sites say to stear clear of these, but if they’re a good quality brand I quite like receiving them as I often leave a hand cream in my bag, car, on my desk, near the kitchen sink, bedside table etc.

5.   Massage voucher – I don’t know of anyone who would turn down one of these! Especially at the end of the year! If there is a good place near where your teacher lives, go for it!
6.  Baked Goods - and don't just do them for your child's teacher. Make a big tin of yummy treats and send it in to the staffroom. Trust me, you'll be everyone's favourite parent!

Some things NOT to give to teachers may include:

·   Money – we cannot accept this (as much as we’d like to).

·   Coffee Mugs – I personally don’t drink coffee (yes, I know I’m strange), and these can add up pretty quickly over the years.

·   Anything ‘teacher theme’ – as cute as you may think anything with a ruler, apple, schoolhouse or chalkboard themed trinket may be, where exactly are we to keep all of these throughout our teaching years? Classrooms are small and have limited space as it is, and I don’t have a ‘ode-to-teaching’ decorated room at home.

·   A photo of your child – as much as I liked them, I don’t need an individual photo of them. Their class photo is enough to ensure I’ll remember them.

·   A gardening kit or a pot decorated with your child’s hand prints and some quip about “how my child bloomed this year” or thanking them for “planting the seeds of knowledge.”

Monday, 24 November 2014

24 Christmas craft activities for young children

24 Christmas Craft Activities for Infants:

Below you will find a list of 24 cute, fun and engaging activities that I have come across on during my Pinterest trawling sessions. These are activities that can be done with toddlers, pre-schoolers and infants aged children (K-2) as well as children with special needs.

Hand & Foot print crafts:

1.    Snowmen Feet

2.    Handprint Reindeer – Crafty Morning

4.    Christmas Elf Handprint Art – Classified Mom

5.    Candy Cane Christmas Card – Leapfrog & Ladybugs

Paper Plate crafts:

6.    DIY Snowmen Paper Plate Activity – Crafty Morning

7.    Paper Plate Elves – Crafty Morning

8.    Paper Plate Christmas Ornament – Crafty Morning

9.    Paper Plate Laced Christmas Tree – I Heart Crafty Things (great for fine motor work!)

Popsicle stick crafts:

10.  Popsicle stick Christmas tree craft – Hands on as we grow

11.  Popsicle stick star ornament – Powerful Mothering

13.  Toy Soldier Ornament - Fireflies and Mudpies (this is a personal favourite).

14.  Popsicle stick snowflake ornament – Crafts by Courtney

Stamping crafts:

15.  Stamped Snowman – it’s done with Marshmallows here, but you could use cotton balls, carrots, sponges etc.

16.  Potato Stamping – Crafty Morning

17.  Pom Pom Painting Christmas Crafts – Fantastic Fun & Learning (this could also be done using bauble, star and present cut-outs).

18.  DIY Christmas gift wrap – Celebrations

19.  Ornament stamped Christmas tree craft – I Heart Crafty Things


21.  Christmas Sensory Book – Baby Centre Blog

22.  Printable Gingerbread Ornaments to decorate – Powerful Mothering

23.  Cupcake liner Snowman Craft – I Heart Crafty Things

24.  Cupcake liner Christmas tree ornament – One Perfect Day

Check out my Pinterest page for more Christmas crafts, and watch out later in the week for my post on “24 Christmas craft activities for Primary students”.

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