Sunday, October 27, 2013

toddler noms: banana, date, and cocoa smoothies

a new kids' cafe has opened up in our neighbourhood, and we've been a few times in the last week because arty is in love with the smoothies they make.

since he's so into them, i decided i'd try and make our own version at home. they've turned out quite differently to the ones in the cafe, but arty still loves them, so i'm calling the experiment a win.

banana, date, and cocoa smoothies


one banana
5 dates
3 cups milk
1 tbsp cocoa


  • place all ingredients in a blender, and blend (if you have an 'ice' function on your blender, it will make the most efficient work of the dates. otherwise, just stick it on a reasonably high speed and leave it for a couple of minutes).

this makes enough to share among two or three kids.

Monday, October 21, 2013

family noms: banana maple muffins

arty is very much enjoying helping in the kitchen at the moment, so we're making a point of doing a little bit of baking each week so that he can participate.

this week, we had an overripe banana sitting on the bench, so i decided to use it in whatever we made.

this recipe is very easy, and involves many opportunities for enthusiastic young helpers to participate (sifting, pouring, stirring, mashing).

banana maple muffins


2 cups self raising flour
1 cup sugar
pinch salt
2 small eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 large ripe banana
1/4 cup maple syrup


  • preheat oven to 180 degrees
  • put muffin cases into a 12 hole muffin tin
  • sift flour into a medium mixing bowl, and add sugar and salt
  • in a jug or smaller bowl, combine eggs, milk, canola oil, and vanilla
  • pour wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients, and stir til thoroughly combined
  • spoon mixture into cases
  • in a separate bowl, mash the banana with the maple syrup
  • place a spoonful of the banana maple mixture on top of each muffin
  • bake for 20-25 minutes


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

is that your grown up?

i often find myself in conversations with kids at the park. precocious and friendly ones come up to chat, shy ones sidle over and want to play with arty and need a little encouragement. however it happens, by virtue of having my own, i invariably find myself in conversation with someone else's small child at some point in my average day.

a lot of the time, these conversations involve some reference to the adult they have with them. for a while, i found myself referring to said adult as 'mummy' or 'daddy', but then i interrogated that impulse, and realised it was massively presumptuous. what do i know about these kids' families? they might have mums, they might have dads, they might be foster kids, in the care of other family members, or out with their nanny. assuming a standard parent/child relationship with people i don't know privileges this kind of relationship over others. if their family doesn't look or function that way, it could make them feel like their own is 'different' or 'other'.

maybe i'm overly conscious of this because our family is a little non-traditional, but i just i don't want anyone else's kids having to justify their family structure to me. if they're safe and happy, it's none of my business.

arty at the park with his oddmother
their matching curls can be misleading :)

so now when i'm at the park, instead of asking "is that your daddy?" i ask "is that your grown up?" because i know that kids can have a whole range of excellent adults in their lives, and that they don't have to be a mummy, or a daddy to be important.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

spotty painting

painting with a paintbrush is marvellous fun, but sometimes it's interesting to try something different.
the other day, we had a go at doing spotty painting with cotton buds.

at first, arty was a little frustrated by the fact that he couldn't use them to flamboyantly smear paint all over the paper, the way he's used to doing, but he came around to the dabbing motion, and enjoyed it in the end.

we sang the "put a spot over here" song as we played, which made it more fun still.

we even did some spotty painting with the paintbrush to see how the same motion with different tools produced different effects

(full disclosure: the above photo is my painting. i'm showing it off because i like it :) )

this activity should be helpful for improving fine motor control, and simply for gaining an appreciation of different ways to work with paint.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

arty's top five ipad apps

we are a nerdy family. we make no apologies for the fact that we enjoy our screen time as much as our out-in-the-park time, and our computer games as much as our board games.
pleasingly, arty is now developing the attention span, and the fine motor control to be able to enjoy the ipad.

if you've ever perused the app store, you'll know that there's no shortage of toddler apps out there. i've downloaded loads of them, only to delete them immediately because they were riddled with ads, or were just badly made. precious few have lived up to my standards, and of those, fewer still have met with the approval of arty himself. however, some have made the cut, and provide excellent education, distraction and relaxation opportunities for our boy.

here are his top five:

this app is full of bright, bold colours, and features animals, vehicles, and funny noises. basically: toddler win. 
it has very straightforward action (the baby can touch any point on the screen to move the story forward), and uncomplicated graphics. this was the first app arty used on the ipad, and it was a very good introduction.

there are 9 mini games in the full version of this app, but you get two of them for free, and then have the option of buying the rest with an in-game purchase. arty's favourite is one of the free ones, called 'tap farm'. it's a screen with a range of different animals on it, and as you tap them, they make their noises. that is literally all there i to it, but it keeps him amused for ages. he also enjoys one of the paid games called 'balloon burst', in which balloons float up the screen and he taps them to burst them - this one seems particularly good for developing hand/eye coordination. the other games in this app are for 2 & 3 year olds, and i look forward to exploring them with him as he gets a bit older.

i love the detail in this app. the artwork is whimsical and very sweet. every time a child taps an object or a character in the scene it reacts by moving, and making a sound. the bus drives away, the man on the corner does star jumps, the dog catches the toast as it pops out of the toaster.
the scale and complexity of the artwork invites the child to peer right in and explore all the tiny details represented. it has a calm and gentle feel to it, with a soft, unintrusive soundtrack.
some concentration and precision are required for the child to get exactly what they're aiming for with this one - screen-mashing doesn't get results. i'm using this one to help arty exercise patience and care when using the ipad!
the first scene (morning) is free, and the second two can be bought in-app. there are other apps in this series, including my zoo animals, and tiny firefighters.

caspar babypants (aka chris ballew of 'presidents of the united states of america' fame) is a kids singer/songwriter. he's taken his songs, and made them even more fun for kids by allowing them to play along. there are four modes in this app - a xylophone, a guitar, drums and percussion, and lyrics and chords. all the instruments are tuned so that as the child plays along, they are in tune with the song, but can strum or tap away in their own way. 
the free app comes with a bunch of great songs, and you can buy more in-app if you want to.

ours is a peppa-loving household. she is absolutely arty's favourite tv character, so a peppa app was a must for us. this one features six mini games, but the original happy mrs chicken is his favourite. it is literally the same as the game you see the characters play on the show. you make mrs chicken lay eggs, and then they hatch. the best bit about it is the excellent farting noise she makes as she lays each egg.
other games include a maze, puzzles, and of course, muddy puddle jumping.

finally, i'd like to give an honourable mention to nursery rhymes with storytime.
it's not one of arty's most favourites, but i really like it. it's a pretty app, featuring well known nursery rhymes, including, three blind mice, the grand old duke of york, and baa baa black sheep. children can not only see and hear the text, but also interact with the images by shearing the black sheep, or knocking humpty dumpty off his wall.

if you've come across some great toddler-friendly apps i'd be very glad to hear about them in the comments!

n.b. this is not a sponsored post, i'm just sharing our experience.

Monday, October 7, 2013

colour sorting for toddlers

among about a thousand other things, arty is currently in the midst of learning about colours (gosh, being a toddler is busy!). he knows how to say most of the basic colour names, and is just beginning to match them up reliably with examples. we're doing our best to help him, usually by describing the colours of different objects that he shows an interest in, and by talking about colours while we paint and draw, but i thought it would be fun to play another sort of game with colours. this one occurred to me last night as i was lying in bed, and we gave it a go today...

what you'll need:

red, yellow, and blue paint
a paintbrush
three pieces of paper
several red, yellow, and blue objects (i used large wooden beads because we had them to hand, but you could use pegs, blocks, spoons, or even fruit, vegetables, or flowers from the garden)

what to do:

  • on one piece of paper, paint a large red circle
  • on the next paint a large blue circle
  • on the last piece, paint a large yellow circle
  • allow them to dry
  • lay the pieces of paper out on a table that is an appropriate height for your child to stand at
  • present them with the different coloured objects you have selected, and help them place each one on the circle of the corresponding colour


  • model the activity for your child before you ask them to begin. as this is an activity for young children who are still getting a grip on language, being shown what to do is going to be more effective than being told.
  • remember that it's a good thing if your child doesn't execute this task perfectly the first time around (arty certainly didn't!) - if they do it's not helping them learn anything. repetition and gentle guidance will help them make the associations they need to.
  • once they've got the hang of primary colours, start introducing green, purple, orange and pink. using a familiar task to integrate new knowledge is a really effective way to learn.
  • make sure you are cautious in your choice of objects, and beware of choking hazards.
  • if you're parenting a toddler, you don't need me to tell you about the limits of their attention span - don't stress if they wander on and off task. while we were having a go this afternoon, arty decided that he wanted to stack the beads instead of sorting them, and that was also plenty of fun

as i was loading these photos onto my laptop this evening, arty sat beside me, pointed to the beads on the screen, and said, "red! yellow! blue!" so it's clearly made some impression. we'll keep playing, and he'll have mastered them all in no time.

p.s. here's a colour sorting game for preschoolers, and here's one where kids sort coloured pompoms through tubes - fun!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

getting over a fear of the bath

a couple of weeks ago, while the bath was filling, the faucet popped off, and water started gushing out. arty was in the room at the time, and it gave him a big fright. since then he's been scared of getting in the bath.

we hoped it would pass in a day or two, but it was quite persistent. bathtime involved him clinging to our necks, as he tried to clamber out of the tub. not a lot of washing got done.

we tried a range of things to help, from getting in the bath with him, to just having a shower instead, but he still froze up and started crying the minute we took him into the bathroom. his heart would start thumping, his whole body would go rigid, and he'd cling to us so tightly that sometimes it hurt. this wasn't toddler theatrics, it was real fear.

then a couple of days ago, i was out shopping with my mum and we spied a set of bath crayons. we thought this might be just the thing to distract a boy who loves to draw just long enough to get him clean.

it worked.

now after dinner, he straight away asks "bath? drawing?" just like that, instead of associating the bath with a scary memory, he associates it with something he really enjoys.

oh, and sj gets a chance to practise her drawing skills, which is just a bonus on the side:

i think we're going to need to buy shares in the bath crayon industry, because we'll be burning through them at our place for the next little while...