Monday, June 30, 2014

Birthday Celebrations

I am not sure how a birthday ends up being a drawn out week event but somehow we manage to do it each year. Both my kids are summer babies. It is very hard organising parties with school friends when everyone is on vacation so I have to arrange a party for friends before they break up for the summer then one with extended family and a day when we go out as a small family unit. 

A few of the presents

Every girl likes Frozen

Party table

Homemade gluten free cake

Pass the parcel
Some of the gifts

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Love of Reading

Judy Moody and Friends
Robert Munsch
Magnetic book markers
 Gosh! How things have changed. If I had had access to the internet as a kid I would have been glued to it. There is so much information to learn that I think my studies would have been that much better. I think I would have loved reading more too. I say this because there are some wonderful children's book authors who have the most fabulous websites and interactive pages to make the books come alive in a way that I could never have imagined as a child.

The list I have provided is a sample of sites I think are fantastic for kids and not just for kids who love to read but also encourage them to read books more. The authors have excellent reviews from their readers as an added bonus.

I have yet to read any of David William's books but I recongnise him from the television. I also know him from a book that has had great reviews, Gangsta Granny. Check out his site it is wonderfully colourful has videos, games and competitions. You may recognise the illustrator too, Quentin Blake.

Quentin Blake is also known for illustrating books for Roald Dahl. Not only is there a website for Roald Dahl and his books but there is also a museum   which sadly I never got to go to. My kids love The Enormous Crocodile, we use a crocodile puppet and change the names to our kids names and they love it.

Both my children and I love Winnie the Witch. Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul are the creators to these wonderful stories. The books are wonderfully illustrated and the website has printable drawing and colouring activities and party game ideas and how to dress like Winnie. Kids love to dress like Winnie the Witch and have Wilbur the cat by their side.

Robert Munsch. You can't not like his books. His website is fantastic too. The kids love Smelly Socks, Mud Puddles, I Have to Go and more. Our Canadian family whom are mostly made up of teachers love to buy the young children in the family these books. And why not? They are truly lovely stories.

Judy Moody and Friends.  Great reading book for kids who are ready for long chapter books but still want pictures. My eldest has yet to start reading her first Judy Moody and Friends series she has many other books on the go. But from what I can see she will love it.

I want to name more but there are just too many. These are just to wet the appetite for the love of reading.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Science for Kids

One of the birthday gifts my eldest received was a science kit. The science kits are awesome for kids. The Steve Spangler Science creations can come in individual packs or single packs. I have bought these products before and my kids love them. The one my daughter received had a a number of experiments, each one with at least two options. There are crystals that expand but first you need to add the colour tablets in first to colour the water then add the crystals. Watch it fizz, expand and change in colour. There are colour beads that change in different types of light. Snow that expands but it must be measured correctly or it can get slushy! Dry sand even when wet and a dino that expands in water and over a period of time. There is a leaflet that explains why and how it works. 

I give this kit a 10 out if 10. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

An Outing with Friends at Colony Farm

A few days earlier we decided to go out as a group to Colony Farm. It happened to be a beautiful, sunny , bright Vancouver day. Nothing more lovely than meeting with friends and ending with a picnic and a play. 

This time we started off by the communal gardens. 

Beautiful day.

The communal gardens are very well maintained, some grow fruit and veg and flowers. There is a lovely feel to the place and it was a great place to start and end our walk. 

Taking a break.

On our way back, there was some serious conversation going on here.

We ended our walk by the gardens. Thankfully there are toilets and a picnic area with a large grassy area for the kids to play and they are always within eye range. They particularly liked the long grassy area. 

A fantastic day was had by all.  

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Kids Book Club

Reading for my 5 year old
My youngest chose this book and what a great book to start the summer reading program. Infact both my kids chose several books from the library but these ones stood out from the rest. She loved, Hooray for Reading Day and she was able to read most of it with me. My eldest daughter also enjoyed this book and it took her no time at all to read it. But her reading is now at another level and one of the books she chose was, Charles Dickens and Friends.

Reading for my 8 year old
This Charles Dickens book is written like a comic strip and is a very condensed version of the classics. Oliver Twist is one of the stories and did this story ever draw up a conversation! The first words out of my eldest's mouth was, "I don't like this book the people are mean". I gave her a snapshot of the era and why the author wrote these stories and how children were treated in the Victorian period and it was not a nice time for the poor. My daughter was appalled and couldn't quite believe people could be so aweful. She then went to her little sister and told her what the book was about and how dreadful she thought it was.

I was so happy to hear her talking about the book, learning something from it and asking questions. I can only hope this will spark a love for reading.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

First Aid Kits for Kids - Me4Kidz

I was in my local pharmacy store when I stumbled across a travel sized first aid kit for kids. It is a little bigger than a glasses case and includes stickers for being brave kids (I assume), band aids, sanitizes, gauze and a large band-aid. It is a really handy kit for taking out on day trips and packaged in a nice bright colour. There are a number of colours to choose from however the store I went to only stocked orange and green. When supplies run out it will be easy to refill. The easy to grab box which fits nicely in a small-ish sized bag will keep everything in one place and keep the dirt out.

I haven't used it yet. The only thing I would add to it is Polysporin or Savlon cream. Come to think of it I am not sure I can get Savlon in Canada but I do have some at home.

The company name is me4kids.

Me 4 Kidz


We started to personalize ours.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Baking with Kids

Lemon Cakes. Nothing more lovely than lemon cakes drizzled with lemon icing. We used a heart-shaped silicon mold hence the shape. I used the recipe from The Boy Who Bakes. Ed Kimber won the 2010 The Great British Bake off and has gone from strength to strength.  He has some amazing recipes and they always taste good and are easy to follow. 

The kids love to help in the kitchen particularly when I am baking sweet things. It is a great way to get them to understand how to measure and weigh, learn a little about food science and best of all learning how to cook. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Planning a Kids Birthday Party

I have been planning a birthday party for the past two weeks. I am not sure I would call it planning as such, I had a list in my mind of things to do and what to buy. I can organise large corporate events but organising a kids party fills me with fear, it is not necessarily the planning it is the idea of having to entertain ten kids.

I asked my friends what they do and I have been given various ideas. There are parents who hire venues and let the organisers sort it all out, buy the pizza and cake in. Go for a picnic at a park but have a plan for wet conditions. The home party, I am doing this, where you make your own food or buy it in and organise your own entertainment.

My home based party will have homemade cake, banners, sandwiches, crisps (UK term crisps, N.A term is chips), fruit and popcorn. This is a very British thing to do. I am keeping to what I know. I have planned this party around hot weather and because of the strikes the kids could not have sports day so I have my own version of it. There is a badminton set for four players, a trampoline for four at a time, a large paddling pool, water guns, skipping, hula hoops and a few other things. We have tried out the badminton set as a family and it is tonnes of fun. Key thing is to give them an activity or two to do have some food and cake and a party bag to take home.

Other than keeping the kids safe and doing my best to entertain them generally the best thing to do is to go with the flow but have at least an idea of activities to keep them entertained.  I have a few back-up plans like musical chairs and pass the parcel and regardless of the weather the kids are going outside!

I will post the party event and let you know how it went.

Party hats and paper straws

Birthday Banner for decoration

Party bags

Shop bought cupcakes to go around my homemade cake

Flowers for decoration

Friday, June 20, 2014

Kids Summer Book Club

Our local library is running a summer reading program where children have to read for 20mins everyday and write down in their little booklet the books they have read. After seven days of reading they go back to the library and receive a sticker. The program runs for seven weeks and if they read everyday and complete their booklet each child receives a reading medal.

I think this is a wonderful thing to get kids using libraries and keeps them reading while not at school. My kids are super excited about it all too. Since we have signed up they have read three books per day. One short so they can read to me, a book where I read to them that is a little longer and a book where they sit quietly on their own. My eldest reads just fine but my youngest needs more help with reading but she is picking it up fast. If I read a bigger book with my youngest she will help me read it and she shouts out the words she knows. My eldest will read out loud too, it is nice to listen to them read and it gets them used to reading fluently infront of an audience.

We are working on week one and I will post books and reviews as we go each week.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Alternative Schooling

Have you heard of schools that teach outdoors? Have your kids ever attended such a school? I have done a little research into this area and found that there are a number of countries that teach outdoors and have seen the benefits of this unconventional method.

I discovered via a shared post on Facebook an Environmental School in Maple Ridge. It is an outdoor school for grades K - 7. Yes you heard me right, outdoors, there are no class rooms, they build fortes and learn in a natural environment no matter the weather conditions. Unfortunately I am outside the school district and the area I live in seems to be one of a few that does not have such a program but I am hoping this project will prove a success so that it expands. I believe there are other schools similar in North Vancouver and Richmond.

This video below is a Forest School in the UK.

Having had one of my kids in a Forest School in the UK I have an understanding what these schools provide. They love to be outdoors as much as possible, learning to sit quiet on a log or patch of grass, near a stream etc, learn to listen to the sounds, what is around them, observe their surroundings. You will be surprised how hard kids find it to be still and quiet. Reading stories, learning about nature, how to work with nature. Build hotels for bugs, create art from nature, climb trees, build fortes, working as a team. Kids work differently outside too and another side of their personalities come out, even the quiet and timid seem to blossom when they have space. You may be pleased to know Forest Schools have now been bought to Canada.

As I have mentioned in an earlier post I went to a one day training program for helpers who wish to participate at the school. It was a wet, cold, grey English day but we dressed for the weather and we had a fabulous time. I felt fresh and alive and I had energy, I also slept like a baby that night too. I have also met Jon Cree the Chair of the UK Forest School Association. He can climb trees better than anyone I have ever seen.

To get an idea of what it is all about and see some of the videos visit their site here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Colony Farm Nature Walk

Today we went on a nature walk at Colony Farm. The kids thought we were going on an actual farm to pet animals but when I explained what it was this is what they said.  "What are we going for? What is there? But there is nothing to see". I had to sell it to them by saying there will be birds to see, flowers to smell and we can play Pooh sticks too. They were suspicious and not totally convinced. I told them they could take pictures and collect things along the way. They started to brighten up to this idea. 

I packed our bag with a camera for the kids, my own camera and snacks and a small bag to collect found things. Once I gave the camera to them and the collection bag they really got into it, they started to observe what was around them. It was lovely. 

We sang songs, skipped, took pictures, played Pooh sticks, had a break and a snack, climbed and I had to bribe them with hot chocolate on the way back home. 

 Colony farm is a lovely place to visit and a great place to take a bike which is what we will do next time.

Here are some of the pictures we took.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

School Strikes in British Columbia

BC school teachers are striking, I don't blame them but it is frustrating and not fair on the kids. Here is a letter from a teacher, it will give you a teachers point of view. I do not want to get started on this so I will focus on my kids.

The kids have an extra long summer vacation. What is a family to do when the kids are off? I am lucky that I can work from home but I can't always justify paying a few hundred dollars here and there not since I have spent a small fortune on summer camps plus all the day trips we will have together.

Today I decided they needed an activity to keep them occupied where they do not need to rely on my input or help. I got them Lego. They have been busy building for a few hours now and they are playing with the characters. Phew! Today I have managed to keep their minds active. But what about tomorrow and the next day, I need to build a lesson plan, a calendar, a routine of sorts. Each morning they help with chores. They have to read each day, that is a given. We either read to them or they read to us or both. They of course get to play, imaginative play is the best, afterall they are only little once.

They like to play in the carport where they make mud pies and play on their bikes and scooters, they can do this in all weather and often do. I plan to take them on forest walks with bear spray in hand. They love to be outdoors and there are plenty of free activities to do, hiking, spray parks, outdoor pools, cycling and scooter-ing. I also have the support of family who can take them off my hands on odd days.

I have a birthday party to plan which is particularly challenging because I can't pick up any surprises while the kids are with me.

Hopefully the next few weeks will not be too bad for all.