We have one small boy in our house who will be off to school soon. It seems like he is ready for this big change, even if I am not. I have been thinking a bit about what "school ready" looks like. These are some of the the things that I have picked up as being important for a child to be beginning to get a handle on before they start school:
Be able to recognise their own name
Be able to hold a pen or pencil correctly
Be able to use scissors
Be able to go to the toilet by themselves
Be able to sit on the mat and listen to a teacher
Recognise some or all of the alphabet
Recognise numbers and count to twenty
Know their basic colours
Possibly be able to write some of the letters of the alphabet.
Tips for parents on the transition to school include:
Label all their school things
Get them used to their new environment gradually, eg trips to the school playground at the weekend
Show them where the toilets are
Talk to them about morning tea and lunch breaks - remind them not to eat everything at morning tea
Ensure they have comfortable solid footwear
Ensure their clothes are comfortable and easy for them to get on and off so they can get changed and go to the toilet easily
Play-dates with children starting at the same time as your child are a good idea as they may help your child settle
Talk about school, and what it will be like and explain how it might be different to their early childhood experiences so far
Try and be relaxed about the process, if you can, as they get their emotional cues from you.
I just love this little dog and the illustrations in A dog like that! Authored by Janene Cooper, illustrated by Evie Kemp and published by Duck Creek Press, this book was a previous finalist in the New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards.
Voting for the the 2012 Children's Book Awards closes this Friday. Your kids can check out the finalists for this year and vote for their favourite book at booksellers.co.nz. Your child (and their school) could win $500 if they vote. Why wouldn't you vote?
April 22 is Earth Day. This is a celebration of what is considered to be the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970.
Reading Sarah Mankelow's article Eco-warriors, in Tots to Teens magazine reminded me that it is never too early to encourage our small people to make environmentally friendly choices. She had the following suggestions for inspiring Under 5's to be good global citizens:
Draw and paint on both sides of a piece of paper
Use children's art as wrapping paper for gifts
Collect recyclables such as egg cartons, bottle tops, yogurt containers for art and crafts (most early childhood centres can not get enough of such stuff)
Turn taps of while children are brushing their teeth
Recycle as much as you can, help children learn what can be recycled.
Other ideas that we have thought of include:
When they are tall enough, encourage children to turn lights off when they leave a room
Remind children to keep doors to heated rooms closed
Swap toys with other children
Utilise toy libraries
Instead of buying new toys and clothes, acquire pre-loved toys or clothes from secondhand stores
Donate old toys and clothes to secondhand stores, or to other families
Encourage children to develop the joy of gardening - one day they may plant their own.
It is thought that pumpkins originated in South America, but they are now enjoyed throughout the world. The words pumpkin and squash are used interchangeably. They are high in vitamin A.
Pumpkin is a very versatile vegetable. Roast it, boil it, mash it. Add it to baking, curries and of course make it into soup. Cooked and cooled they are also good in a salad.
My favourite way to cook pumpkin by adding it to a risotto. Because I often find it hard to cut through the skin of pumpkin (which, did you know, you can eat once it is cooked) I normally roast the pumpkin first with lots of fresh herbs, remove the skin and add it part way through cooking the risotto.
The other day I needed a recipe that I could prepare ahead and needed little attention while cooking. I tried Donna Hay's baked pumpkin and pancetta risotto from her fabulous No Time to Cook, p130. It was very tasty, and used only one pan. This is the recipe:
1 cup (200g) risotto rice
2.5 cups (625 ml) chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon sage leaves
400g pumpkin, peeled and diced
6 thin slices pancetta, chopped
25 g finely grated parmesan
salt and pepper to season
Pre-heat oven to 190C. In a large pot combine rice, stock, butter, sage, pumpkin and pancetta and cover tightly. Preferably with a lid, but you could use tinfoil. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the rice is soft. Remove from oven and stir in parmesan, salt and pepper. Continue stirring until the risotto is creamy and stock has been absorbed. This recipe serves two people.
Anything that makes it a little easier for those raising children has got to be a good thing. So three cheers for Sue Moroney's Parental Leave and Employment Protection (Six Months Paid Leave) Amendment Bill. It seeks to increase the entitlement of paid parental leave from 14 weeks to 6 months over the next couple of years.
The Labour Party bill was drawn from the members' ballot last week and looks set to get the support needed to pass at least its first reading, without the support of the National Party. Unfortunately, the National has said it would most likely veto the Bill at its third reading.
Putting aside whether it is an affordable change and where it will get to in the legislative cycle, this Bill could have been excellent news for parents and those planning to be parents in the future.
Wouldn't it be great if the Bill went further though? I personally would like to see the sections that protects a parent's right to return to work after parental leave to be extended from 12 months to 18 months. Allowing a working parent to be at home longer with their children before returning to work.
There are many parents who might like or need to return to work after taking parental leave, but may not feel ready or able to when their child is only one, or younger. It is stressful for the whole family if a parent returns to work before they feel ready. There are many parents of pre-term babies and families with twins or more who might benefit from such a further change. Such a change would obviously further supports parents-to-be and those raising small children by supporting their parents at a time that is critical for their development. It would also support those who choose to breastfeed past 12 months without the stress of pumping, bottles and the like.
Did you over do it on the sugar consumption front this Easter? We did. There are some tips at pevonia that might help you recover from an on over indulgent Easter, which is where we sourced this very cute picture from.
Plums are juicy and can be eaten fresh, made into jam or used in baking. Dried plums are known as prunes, and are usually sweet and juicy and contain several antioxidants. Plums or prunes are a great lunch box item. Both plums and prunes are known for having a laxitive effect.
I have been thinking a lot about plums recently as I want to plant a plum tree in our garden. After puzzling over which type to plant, I think I have settled on a Santa Rosa because they are somewhat self-fertile. Many other plum varieties require another tree for fertilisation.
I want a plum tree so that one day I can make home-made plum jam. The other day I made some using a kg of Omega plums from the supermarket and a kg of jam setting sugar. This made a sweet and sour jam with almost a jelly consistency. I roughly followed the Chelsea jam setting sugar recipe (which could be used with many other fruits):
1 kg plums, stoned
1 kg jam setting sugar
15 g butter
Sterilise five to six medium jars. I boiled mine on the stove top then using tongs I transferred them to a hot oven to dry and keep warm.
In a food processor, or with a stick blender roughly pulp the fruit. Add plums and sugar to a large heavy based pan or preserving pan. Warm over a low heat and dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the butter.
Bring fruit to a boil. Skim off foam as it rises to the surface. After approximately five minutes check to see if jam is ready to set. You can do this by putting a blob onto the cold plate (i put the plate in the freezer), if you run your finger through this and the surface wrinkles and does not run or bleed the jam is likely to be ready. Keep boiling until the jam passes the set test.
Transfer jam into the sterilised jars, seal with lids and label. Spread liberally on toast. Enjoy.
Composting is good for the environment because it reduces the size of landfills and reduces gas emmisions. Compost provides gardeners with a source of recycled, local, free food for their plants.
Most of us will also know that food scraps, grass clippings and other garden waste can be composted. But who knew you could compost dryer lint?
Not me or my four year old. Reading the children's book Compost Stew, by Mary McKenna Siddals, recently set of a flurry of composting experimentation at our house. We spent several afternoons creating potions to add to our backyard compost bin. Having previously not been one to clear the dryer lint filter until the clothes were starting to come out fluffy, we now have a permanently emptied dryer lint tray thanks to the vigilance of the four year old composting expert.
From Compost Stew we also learnt that human hair will compost. Other things that you may not have known you can compost include:
Coffee grounds and tea bags
Eggshells (crushed is best)
Toilet and handy towels and their rolls
Bills, reciepts, old newspaper (shredded)
Put all or any of these in your compost bin, then "moisten. Toss Lightly. Cover. Let brew...."
Do you have anything weird that you have successfully composted?
My son and I both loved this book. It is beautiful to read and is also informative. An "A to Z Recipe for the Earth", by Mary McKenna Siddals. The illustrations, by Ashley Wolff, are unique. Based on collage they add an extra visual dimension and underscore the recycling ethos of the book.
Now it probably seems like a silly time to talk about strawberries as their fruiting
season is coming to an end. However, if you had a crack at growing them this
season like I did then you might be ready to grow some new plants
from your plant's "runners" for next season.
Runners have been dangling from my plants for quite some
time. I knew that these could be used to grow more plants, but was mystified as
to how and when to do this.On the very lovely blog,
mydarlinglemonthyme an excellent post is shared on what to do with strawberry
runners. It clearly sets out what to do with them and has photos to show you
what they are, and how to identify the shoots and new roots.
to the wisdom of lemonthyme's mother, I now know I should have picked the first
set of runners (there are usually two sets) when they appeared early in the
season. Not doing so is possibly what has led to the not particularly fruitful
season. Next time I will pull of the first set of runners that appear and
compost them and plan to propigate new plants from later runners. Leaving the
first set on sucks energy from the plant, which if picked would be directed
into fruit formation.
fruit my plants did produce never made it as far as the kitchen. Most were
eaten straight from the plant in stolen moments between hanging out the washing
and emptying the compost. The few produced were the most delicious I have
tasted in a very long time. It is recommended that strawberries not be washed as this apparently removes scent and flavour from them.
strawberry jam this year, and it was a family effort. We used strawberries bought in bulk from windemere gardents. Grandparents and children
were involved in the process, and it was accomplished with wisdom from great grandparents no
longer with us. Most people will have their own recipes for jam that work for
them, but we used a trick of my husband's grandmothers which seemed to work
really well - cut up the strawberries the night before, put them in your jam
pan and cover with the sugar. They maccerate and start to breakdown. We
followed some of her other advice which is that small strawberries are best for
jam. The jam was delicious and one of our kids thought we should sell at the
Do you have any jam making tips or secrets to share? Do you have any strawberry growing tips?