Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Yummy Mummy Cookies... for the whole family!

Last month I was invited to review the New Zealand Totally Devoted range of cookies - how could I say no?!?!? I am always on the hunt for healthy snack alternatives, not only for my boys for also for myself and hubby! 

Whilst I am neither pregnant or breast-feeding at the moment, I wanted to share this product because I remember what it was like to have 24/7 nausea for the first 20weeks of my pregnancies, and I breast-fed both my boys and would have LOVED to have a healthy and easy snack such as this around as sometimes you just didn't get a chance to sit an have a healthy snack, let alone meal. 

Myself and my family tried the Family Cookies (which provide a healthy snack for the whole family), the Clever Cookies (which aim to improve memory and brain function) and the Pregnancy Cookies (which aim to relieve morning sickness and nausea) - and they were a HUGE hit! They were fresh, tasty and filling - very important for a snack food for a busy young family. I also believe that they would be great from those suffering morning sickness/nausea as I can distinctly remember not wanting to eat much other than biscuits and chips (carb laden food that's not overly nutritious) and these are a healthy biscuit that is sure to hold that sick feeling at bay. 

Kelly, the founder of The Yummy Food Food Company, decided to bring these New Zealand born goodies out to OZ and share them with Australian mother's and families. The range is dairy, wheat & preservative free and are packed full of nutritious 100% natural ingredients, specially researched and selected to help breastfeeding and pregnant mums to either assist in increasing milk supply or decreasing the symptoms of morning sickness.

The Breast-Feeding Cookies contain all natural ingredients like fenugreek and fennel plus more which are reputed to help you increase your breastmilk naturally and help promote healthy lactation for breastfeeding mums.
The Pregnancy Cookies contain all natural ingredients like ginger and chia seeds which may help to reduce the effects of morning sickness and many of the other not-so-comfortable effects of pregnancy. These cookies though may also assist anyone pregnant or not who suffers from nausea, indigestion or other sensitive stomach conditions.
The Clever Cookies contain ingredients shown to help increase blood flow to the brain to improve memory (so great for 'mummy-brain') and the Family Cookies make a great healthy, immune system boosting treat for the whole family and are great for school/kindy lunchbox snacks.

Follow the links above to learn more about this great product! They will be a staple in my cupboard for a healthy snack, and I'll be sharing these with friends who are soon-to-be and new mums!

(PLEASE NOTE: This is not a paid review).

Friday, 20 March 2015

#GoGinger Anti-Bullying Challenge

Today, March 20th, is National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence. 

Bullying and violence are ongoing issues that affect countless Australians annually – in fact 1 in 4 Australian school students reported that they were bullied in the previous year.

There are some brilliantly unique initiatives happening to raise awareness this year, and one of these is Buderim Ginger’s fiery new social campaign The #GoGinger Challenge. The nation-wide campaign will ask Aussies to take a stand against bullying by snapping a selfie with a ‘Tinge of Ginge’ (this can be anything from a ginger cat to a ginger wig) and posting it to Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with the hashtags #GoGinger and #BullyZero

The more people that participate in the campaign, the more money Buderim Ginger will donate. If over 100 people participate, Buderim Ginger will donate $1,000, over 500 participate and they will donate $1,500, and if over 1,000 people, Buderim Ginger will donate $2,000 to the anti-bullying charity Bully Zero Australia Foundation. The Bully Zero Australia Foundation is an organisation that works to provide support for victims of bullying and their families.

Why is Buderim Ginger supporting this? Because it’s no secret that it can be a tough world out there for Gingers, who have unfairly been misrepresented on throughout history. From every day stereotypes to being on the sharp end of teasing and name-calling, gingers have been labelled everything from fiery-tempered, and promiscuous to evil and treacherous.

The challenge will run until 20th April, giving entrants one month to participate, the #GoGinger Challenge will help raise awareness of the cause, and every photo will provide much-needed donations to support Australian victims of bullying and violence in a way that is uniquely ginger. 

Want to know more? Check out Buderim Ginger's Facebook page or Website.

(This is NOT a sponsored post. I am passionate about anti-bullying).

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Being a casual teacher

It's a hard gig being the casual/relief teacher - probably the toughest teaching job going!! You're expected to turn up to a school (if you're lucky you're familiar with it, the staff and students) and take over a class of students for a day. Sometimes instructions, management tips, class and school rules as well as programming and lesson plans have been organised and left for you to follow - but more often than not, you walk into school, are shown what room you'll be in and... that's about it. You're left to sink or swim! 

I've been fairly lucky in my teaching career to pick up contracts for a year at a time - but in between having my boys I have done my fair share of casual work and temp blocks, and in some pretty tough schools and neighbourhoods. Being part of a Facebook group for Casual and Relief teachers has prompted me to write this blog that provides some of my tips, tricks and essentials for surviving the life of a casual teacher:

Pre-packed wheelie-box and teacher bag
Those early morning calls can catch you off guard, and the last thing you want to be doing is running around trying to collect resources for the class you've been allocated. Generally I have my wheelie-box in the boot of my car loaded up with the following:
  • Teacher's bag - You can read more about my "Thirty One Utility Organising Tote" or Teacher's bag here - this is the best bag I have ever come across! Trust me, you'll want one! 
  • Casual Teachers Daily Diary - this will be your best friend. You can write your own plans in there, write in what you did during the day, note down student names, issues you had, resources you used etc. etc. etc. Sometimes I photocopy  my daily plan and leave it on the teachers desk.
  • Variety of casual teacher activity books - have a number of books that have a variety of activities that can accommodate a variety of ages (including pre-school and up to year 7/8). Sometimes you just need to make up a booklet of activities that can be used when kids are restless or finished their set work.
  • Bank of games -if you're only on a class for a day, you don't want to go in with just worksheets (you won't get many calls back no matter how desperate the school is) and the kids will revolt! A bank of indoor and outdoor games will provide movement breaks and a chance for the kids to prove themselves, behaviour wise.
  • Supply of Stationary - ensure you have a set of different coloured Whiteboard markers and an eraser, pens, lead pencils, rubbers and sharpeners, coloured textas, crayons and pencils, sticky tape, stapler, hole punch etc. You will be surprised at how many classrooms you'll turn up to where you can't find any stationary (or none has been left for you). 
  • Toiletries bag - stock up on the essentials to ensure you have everything you need handy - in mine you'll find hand sanitiser, tissues, deodorant (no one wants to be "that smelly teacher"), hair ties and bobby-pins, perfume, hand cream, lip gloss, suncream or a tinted moisturiser (I like Natio's 50+), tampons and pads (no one wants to get caught out when AF shows up unannounced) and probably the most important thing - Panadol! (No explanation needed). Some other things I include in my bag are mascara, powder and a nasal spray/inhaler and cough lollies in winter.
***NOTE: Just be careful with deodorant and perfume if you're going into a Special Education setting, as even the slightest scent can be detected by these children and trigger sensory issues. Same goes for hand creams, lip gloss, hair sprays etc.
  • Rewards - I usually have a variety with me including raffle tickets, marbles, small prizes and lollies. Some schools discourage lollies/junk food as a reward so always have something else up your sleeve. And remember, discuss your expectations, rules, rewards and consequences at the start of the day as this will set the tone with the kids.
  • Name labels - this is more for your own sanity, especially if you've got 3 Chloe's, or 2 Jack's in your class! You can use sticky labels which come in a roll, or get some old business cards and get the kids to decorate them then pin them or stick them to their shirt or desk.
  • A Hat - It doesn't have to be fancy or in style, but it should be comfortable and provide some cover from the rays - you will almost always have a duty, or you may well have to cover for the PE teacher, or get called in to help out at a carnival. It's also good to set the example - if the kids are expected to wear a hat, then so should we.
  • A water bottle - It is very important, especially in an Australian summer, to sip throughout the day to maintain moisture - not only for your general health but also your voice! 
Createl's CRT Weekly Planner

A variety of activity books to cover all ages and all interests.
Some other things that I've learnt over the years:
  • Have a bank of 'teacher appropriate outfits' ready to go. Secondary teachers can often wear nice skirts, tops and shoes but as a casual Primary teacher you're best off going safe with a nice pair of flats, nice pants or shorts and a nice top - when you get that call in the morning you aren't informed if your class will have PE, music, art, swimming etc. so play it safe and go with something smart, comfortable and versatile. If you're working in a Special Education setting you'll need shoes and an outfit that you can run in, as you will be chasing after children, even if it's only in the form of play. For more information on appropriate attire, check out this post which provides links to the DEC's employee dress code.
  • Be prepared to travel. I drove an hour each way for a job one year. While it may seem tough and costly, you will have work and the opportunity to learn and be part of a staff is invaluable.
  • Invest in relevant and useful literature and resources. Some of my favourite books are often found on my bedside table and in my teacher bags. The following books are my go-to texts and ones that are well-used. I can highly recommend these texts.
    • Behaviour Solutions for the Inclusive Classroom - Beth Aune, Beth Burt & Peter Gennaro
    • Classroom Management: A Survival Guide - Deslea Konza, Jessica Grainger & Keith Bradshaw
    • Teaching Children with Reading Difficulties - Deslea Konza

I hope you have found this post helpful. If there is anything that has helped you as a casual teacher, please share in the comments below.

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 http://www.physiotherapy.asn.au/APAWCM/Physio_and_You/Children.aspx

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: https://www.nswtf.org.au/files/dec_dress_code.pdf

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!

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