Friday, July 19, 2019

How to create a clean and healthy sleep environment for your family

Did you know most people spend the majority of their time at home in bed asleep? 

Maybe that's not entirely accurate for those of us who are up and down all night tending to small children, but on average most people spend a third of each day in bed. When you factor in hours spent working, travelling to work, and out socialising this means sleeping, or laying in bed trying to sleep, is the longest activity we do while at home. Despite all the time spent in bed, ensuring a clean and healthy sleep environment can often be overlooked. I've been guilty of this myself, forgetting to do things like regularly washing sheets and flipping the mattress. It makes me cringe knowing what I do now.


While you may not actually realise it, your mattress is probably one of the dirtiest areas of your home, even if the rest of your house is spotless. Each night while we're sleeping we're also shedding millions of dead skin flakes and losing up to 1L of sweat. It's a bit disturbing when you think about it isn't it? All of that soaks directly into the mattress, providing the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. So what are you really sleeping on?

> Allergenic particles such as dead skin cells, pet dander and dust mite waste.

> Dust mites are microscopic {less than half a mm} and can't be seen by the naked eye. They feed off dead skin cells. An unprotected mattress generally has 100000 to 2 million dust mites inside. While they don't bite, their waste is a common trigger for asthma and allergic reactions. Each dust mite produces 10-20 waste particles a day. Up to 30% of the population are allergic to dust mite waste {and if you're not it's still gross knowing they're crawling around in there}.

> Bed Bugs are becoming increasingly common in Australia. They're small {4-6mm} parasitic bugs that feed off human blood. Yes you read that right, they eat our blood. Ouch. Their bites can cause skin reactions such as redness, swelling and itching.

> Bacteria and mould can grow as a result of moisture.

> Stains can result from sweating, bed wetting and accidental spills.

Most mattresses look relatively clean on the surface, but lurking below is a veritable delight of excrement soup which is also a never-ending smörgåsbord for microscopic bugs. Thankfully though there are many ways to combat the nasties that want to take refuge in your bed.


One of the easiest ways to protect a mattress from uninvited guests is to use a mattress protector. A mattress protector sits directly over, or completely encases, a mattress to provide a waterproof protection layer between the person sleeping and the mattress. It creates a barrier to shield against potential bugs, skin cells, spills and moisture.

As well as the allergen benefits of fitting a mattress protector, they're also particularly useful for small children who naturally bed wet or people who are prone to incontinence issues. I'm 100% guilty of thinking mattress protectors were something only used for kids who wet the bed, but mattress protectors play an important part in prolonging the life of a mattress and are often an overlooked requirement of mattress replacement guarantees.

In addition to using a protector, it's also recommended all bedding is washed regularly and vacuuming the mattress itself will reduce the amount of dead skin cells and dust mites present.


When researching different types of mattress protectors and their various benefits, I chose tencel mattress protectors for our family. Tencel is the common name used for lyocell and modal fibres. I'm very familiar with tencel having managed a clothing store for many years before I had children. It has a lovely soft feel and wears well. The fibers are softer than silk, cooler than linen, more absorbent than cotton, but still super strong.


Sustainable Manufacturing process
Tencel is a cellulose fiber derived from regenerated wood pulp. It's sourced from eucalyptus trees sustainably harvested from tree farms. There are no pesticides or synthetic solvents used in the production process. Tencel production is a closed loop environmentally sound process which recycles process water and recovers more than 99% of the non toxic solvent used. 

In addition to the manufacturing process having an extremely low ecological impact, lyocell and modal fibres are certified biodegradable and compostable.

Moisture Wicking
Tencel is naturally moisture wicking meaning it draws moisture to the fibre core leaving the surface feeling dry.

Thermal Regulation
Tencel's moisture absorption and breathability supports the body's natural thermal regulation helping to keep cool in summer and warm in winter.

Odourless Non Allergenic Fibres
Because tencel absorbs moisture so well there's less moisture on the surface for bacteria to grow. Up to 2000 less bacteria grow on tencel in comparison to synthetic fibres. Supported by the Eczema Association as Sensitive Skin Tried and Tested, it's a great fabric choice for people with sensitive skin, eczema or rhinitis.

Machine Washable & Quick Drying
Tencel is machine washable and also dries very quickly which is extremely beneficial on bed washing day. Nobody wants to still have wet bedding at bed time!

I have to admit I haven't always used a mattress protector on our current mattress, I didn't really think it was a big deal for us, but I've always had them on the kids beds. I always associated them with bed wetting, hence having them for the kids. After I started researching everything that can be lying underneath us while we're asleep I started to feel ill, especially with a partner who sweats profusely overnight. Our mattress is almost ten years old now, and with my newfound knowledge of what's lurking underneath we're thinking of replacing it soon, and will definitely be using a mattress protector 100% of the time with the new one. I'm even going to get a spare one and I've got tencel pillowcase protectors for our pillows too.

Have you always used a mattress protector on your mattress? 

Toni x

Disclosure - We were kindly gifted mattress protectors of our choice from Protect-A-Bed®. I did not receive monetary payment for this post.

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Thursday, June 27, 2019

Leapfrog Violet Peek-A-Boo Lap Pup

I kept a handful of bub's plastic baby toys and one of baby girl's favourite's was her sister's old toy laptop, but it doesn't do anything so she gets bored of it quickly. I'd been thinking of getting her an interactive laptop style toy for a while, so it was perfect timing when the opportunity arose to test run the new Leapfrog Lap Pup. The Lap Pup comes in either Scout or Violet versions and is Leapfrog's latest toy laptop featuring over 50 different learning activities and songs. We chose Violet because despite having quite a few Lap Frog toys, we didn't have any Violet versions.


The main reason I wanted to try out the Lap Pup originally is the interactive coloured crayons. Baby girl has started showing a natural interest in colours lately... pointing out {aka guessing} the colour of cars that drive past or toys we're playing with. I've been reinforcing colours with her every time she asks or points one out, so I thought it'd be good to have a toy that also does this for her when she's playing independently. When she presses a crayon Violet says the colour then tells her items that are that colour. There's also games where Violet asks her to touch a specific coloured crayon.

As well as colours, Violet teaches shapes and numbers via the circle, square and triangle buttons. The shape buttons play different rhymes about shapes, colours and numbers. Violets name badge button also lets kids play a game of peek a boo with Violet where she moves her paws over her face and says different peek a boo phrases. This is probably the most worn out button because baby girl loves playing peek-a-boo {what toddler doesn't}.


Peek-A-Boo Violet loves to sing and without a doubt baby girl's favourite song is the alphabet song {she generally skips past all the others to replay it over and over}. She's like a little sponge, I mean all children are, but she really seems to be able to soak in everything around her and retain all this new knowledge, certainly much quicker than her sister did. Over the last few weeks she's taught herself how to sing the alphabet from mimicking Violet. Obviously she doesn't understand what the actual letters are, but she started out mumbling along to the song and now a few weeks later will randomly break into singing the alphabet, unprompted, while playing. She pronounces the letters quite clearly now too.

The Lap Pup is one of baby girl's favourite toys at the moment and she takes it everywhere. The handle makes it easy for her to carry around the house and it's compact enough to easily pack away in our toy basket {or be taken in the car for school drop off and pick up, or taken to grandma's house, or taken to the shops... she basically goes everywhere}. If you have a little one who's interested in learning their ABCs or colours, it's definitely a great investment. 

Peek-A-Boo LapPup Scout and Violet are suitable for infants from 6 months and available from June at Mr Toys Toyworld and other toy stores and online retailers. Find out more about the Lap Pup here.

Toni x

Disclosure - We were kindly gifted a Violet Lap Pup from Leapfrog for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed are based on our experience playing with Violet. I did not receive payment for this review, however this post contains some affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you, should you make a purchase.
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Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Make learning fun with educational games.

I've long been an advocate for learning through play. I believe kids naturally stay focused for longer, and subsequently learn more, when they're having fun... and what's more fun than playing?

I've fostered my kids passion for play and learning in many different ways over the years and their stand out favourites have always been sensory play and small world play. However, since my big girl started school she's been exposed to more structured ways of learning and she's getting more capable of doing structured play activities like board games. Board games provide an easy, structured, yet fun and engaging way for kids to play... with a lot of incidental learning thrown in. They're a gentle way to introduce them to playing with instructions in order to reach a desired outcome, however they also have an element of chance, so each time they're played the game will be slightly different.

I have fond memories of sitting around the dining room table playing games of rummy and scrabble with my family on school holidays and I'd love to create similar memories for my girls as they get older. I've started investing in board games and we have regular games afternoons to wind down after school. Obviously at 5yrs old we're not up to any complex games yet, so I've been researching and collecting some simple, educational board games for preschoolers {we'll move onto scrabble in a few years}.

Learning made fun with Orchard Toys

When I think of iconic educational games I automatically think of Orchard Toys. I first discovered the brand a few years ago, thanks to some teacher friends, and I've literally been counting down waiting for my 5yr old to be old enough to play some of the games. We would have a huge collection of Orchard Toys games already if it wasn't for her dad constantly reminding me she won't be old enough to play that for years, you don't need it yet. Well finally, after years of waiting, she's old enough for most of the games... and so our collection begins!

For those not familiar with the brand, Orchard Toys are a UK manufacturer of educational games and puzzles. Based in Norfolk, they've been around for 40 years, and now ship to over 50 different countries. They're recognised worldwide thanks to distinctive, colourful cartoon illustrations and known for high quality educational products.

Learning made fun is Orchard Toys motto and at the heart of product development. The company work in conjunction with teachers, educational professionals and children to ensure their games and jigsaws provide the perfect balance between educational benefits and play value {aka fun!}. Their product range covers a diverse number of interests including animals, fairies, pirates, dinosaurs and vehicles {amongst others} and various scenarios such as shopping, cooking, travelling, parties and solving mysteries. Each game or puzzle focuses on a certain developmental skill such as language, literacy, numbers, colours, shapes, cognitive skills, interpersonal skills, fine motor skills and imaginary play; with many products covering multiple skills. Below are a few of our favourite Orchard Toys games, how to play them and how they help build different skills through play.

Shopping List Game + Shopping List Extras

The Shopping List game is probably the most well known and popular Orchard Toys game available and has been on our wish list for some time now.  Shopping List is a fun, engaging and age appropriate memory game where children have to find {and remember} where the groceries from their shopping list are in order to fill their shopping trolley or basket. The game comes with 4 different shopping lists, 2 shopping trolleys, 2 shopping baskets and 32 super cute individual grocery tiles. It's recommended for 3-7 year old children {and adults who are big kids at heart} and can be played by 2-4 players at a time.

How to Play:

Each player chooses a shopping list and either a shopping trolley or basket to collect their items into. The grocery tiles are placed upside down and each player takes turns turning over a tile until they've collected all items on their list. If a player picks an item that isn't on their list they turn it back over and play moves onto the next player. The first player to collect all items on their list is the winner.

How to extend play:

Games sometimes seem a little one dimensional as they have a particular way of playing and a specific outcome, however Shopping List can still be tweaked in a number of ways to change it up. If playing with less than 4 players, the game can be made easier by only using the tiles from the lists being used; or harder by using all tiles {making the game last longer}. Other ways to change the Shopping list game include:

> Adding the clothing extras pack or fruit and veg extras pack to allow up to 8 players by adding different lists and groceries to the game.
> Categorising food in different ways - e.g. by types {dairy, fruit, veg, packaged} or by colour.
> Matching the tiles with play food/empty packaging at home.
> Taking one of the shopping lists grocery shopping and getting the kids to find the items while in the store.

Learning Opportunities:

- Cognitive skills {memory & matching}
- Strategic thinking & problem solving
- Improves concentration & observational skills
- Hypothesising {where will the correct card be}
- Categorising groceries
- Pincer grip practice {picking up the tiles}
- Language development
- Reading comprehension
- Interpersonal skills {turn taking}
- Counting

What we think

The quality of the Shopping List game and extras packs are really good, all of the play pieces are on thick cardboard making them quite durable {even when rough little toddler hands get to them}. The cartoon style images are really cute and I love how the shopping lists are depicted on different pieces of paper, and even a smartphone version, making them familiar and realistic for kids. 

As Orchard Toys are UK based, some of the names of the items are different to what we use here in Australia, e.g. aubergines for eggplants, which has been a great way to expand on my 5yr old's language base and has opened up discussions about how foods and items can have different names in different parts of the world. I've noticed her concentration levels have increased as she tries hard to remember where her items are after I've flipped them over and put them back down. She loves playing the shopping list game and so do I, her favourite part is the little grocery tiles and how you get to collect all different items {the monster toy is the best apparently}.

Pop to the shops {International Edition}

Pop to the shops is a traditional board game where children get to travel to different shops to purchase different items. The game includes a jigsaw game base with 4 different shops, 4 characters, 48 different grocery items and play money. Throughout the game children get to take on the roles of both customer and shopkeeper both buying and selling items. There's also a designated banker in charge of the remaining coins. Pop to the shops is a great way to introduce children to money value {using 10c, 20c and 50c piece coins} and simple calculations as they work out how many coins are needed to purchase an item and how much change must be given to each customer.

How to Play:

Each player picks a character which determines their shop colour. Grocery tiles are placed upside down and each player chooses a tile, then rolls the dice to travel to the correct shop and purchase that item, ensuring they have enough money to do so. Once they've purchased an item they pick another grocery tile as their next item. The player that fills their shopping bag first is the winner.

Learning opportunities:

- Counting
- Money values
- Addition & Subtraction
- Language development
- Interpersonal skills {turn taking}
- Pincer grip practice {picking up the tiles}
- Imaginary play

What we think

Pop to the shops reminds me of a really simplified kids version of Monopoly. While playing the game you travel around the board {albeit in different directions, not clockwise} and collect money for passing a certain point from the bank. Instead of buying and selling property you buy items from different shops.

My favourite element of the game is the play money as it's been a great way to introduce my 5yr old to simple monetary value, without overwhelming her. The game only uses 10c, 20c and 50c cardboard coins and each items purchase value can be made with different derivatives of those coins, making the money calculations quite simple. My daughter is almost 6 and can count to 100, however she's not sure how to count in units of 10 or 20, so it's been a bit challenging for her and she's needed help to work out how many coins to use. I fully anticipated this though as while she knows what money is, until now she's had no understanding of it's monetary value. Despite needing help with the coins, she still really enjoys the game and asks to play it often.

We got our Orchard Toys games from Toy Universe an online only Australian kids toy store. Founded in 2011, Toy Universe was born out of a passion to provide high play value toys for newborns through to teenagers, at super affordable prices. Toy Universe is 100% Australian owned and source worldwide toys for Australian and New Zealand children from their regional warehouse in Sydney. They stock a wide variety of toys including games and jigsaws, dress ups, electronic games, action figures, animal figurines, outdoor toys and many other educational toys.

Toni x

Disclosure - We were kindly gifted the Orchard Toys games shown in this post from Toy Universe for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed are based on our experience playing the games. I did not receive monetary compensation for this post.

*This post contains some affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you, should you make a purchase.

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Friday, May 24, 2019

Mum For Sale by Zanni Louise & Philip Bunting

*This post contains affiliate links.

My involvement in the Australian parenting blogging community for the last seven years has lead to some wonderful connections with so many creative women, many who I now call friends. Some of them have gone on to do great things, like become best selling children's authors. One of these women is Zanni Louise who I first met online a few years ago reading her My Little Sunshine House blog. Even though we still haven't met in person, I'm fortunate to have Zanni as one of my friends and I've seen her writing career evolve from her very first published book to where she is today. I still have a little fan girl moment every time I see one of her picture books on the shelves in stores or in online book catalogues. One of the perks of knowing an author is I've also been able to review a few of her amazing books when they've been released and this month we received a copy of Mum for Sale, her new picture book.

In Mum for sale familiar characters Errol, a cheeky penguin, and his mum {from Zanni's popular children's book Errol!} return for a new picture book adventure. Errol is desperately trying to get his mum's attention, but like a lot of us at times, she's fully engrossed in a phone conversation and doesn't respond to him. Errol tries numerous times to grab, even demand, her attention but it all falls on deaf ears... so he decides to take things into his own hands.

Author Zanni Louise holding a copy of her new childrens book Mum for Sale featuring popular character Errol
Children's book author Zanni Louise with her new book Mum for Sale

Mum for Sale is a story we as parents can all relate to. I know for sure there's been times where I've unintentionally {and sometimes intentionally} ignored my own children whilst on the phone. Sometimes it's necessary, like when I was trying to sort out child assistance on the phone to Centrelink and needed to pay attention to what was being said. Other times I'm simply oblivious to the fact I'm doing it.

It's so easy to accidentally do, especially with modern day technology where our phones aren't simply for talking anymore. Now they're our diaries, camera, inbox, pretty much our whole computer and occasionally I even use it to call people {just kidding, I usually only text}. Ever been watching a YouTube video on your phone and not heard your child calling out? I'm guilty. Sometimes I just get so sucked into what's going on on my phone screen, I forget the world around me.

Mum For Sale highlights an important everyday issue facing parents, in a subtle and humorous way, and gives us a gentle reminder to be more aware of our children and their needs. Zanni has achieved this in a much more interactive way than a lot of ads and videos I've seen targeting the same topic. The book provides an opportunity to start a conversation with your child about being noticed, being heard, how much time is spent on technology etc. It gives them the opportunity to open up a dialogue about their needs in a non confrontational setting.

Minimal words make it easy for young readers to digest and Philip Bunting's simple illustrations allow those who aren't yet reading to follow along with the story. Of course the best way to enjoy Mum for Sale is to read together. We like to read it during quiet time in the afternoons after school, or to help calm down before bed time. The first time we read it I asked questions to expand on the story with my 5yr old.

"How do you think Errol was feeling?" 
"Do you sometimes feel like Errol did?" 
"Is there a way mummy {or daddy} can make sure you don't feel that way?" 

Asking these type of questions after reading the book gives a great insight into your child's own perspective and can lead to some interesting conversations.

I know you're all wanting to know if Errol actually sells his mum... To find out you'll have to read Mum for Sale for yourself {sorry, no spoilers here}. Good news though, Zanni has kindly given me a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader, so you can find out exactly what happens.

Book review and giveaway of Mum for Sale the new childrens picture book from author Zanni Louise featuring popular character Errol.


For a chance to win a copy of Mum for Sale follow the prompts in the rafflecopter widget below and answer this question in the comments: What item do you think your child would sell you for? 

For an extra chance to win you can also enter on this post on Instagram. Get creative and think like a toddler... the most creative answer {as judged by my panel of experts, aka kids} will be the winner.

Toni x

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions: Giveaway commences upon publication and closes at 10pm {AEST} 31st May 2019. One winner will receive a hardcover copy of Mum for Sale {RRP $17.99}. Finding Myself Young will not be held liable should the prize be lost in transit. Competition is open to Australian residents only, excluding ACT. This competition is a game of skill and will be judged as such. All mandatory entry steps must be completed to constitute a valid entry. Incomplete entries will be deemed invalid and excluded from judging. Entries can be made via and Instagram and one winner will be selected from the total entry pool. Winner will have 48hrs to respond or prize will be redrawn. This competition is in no way endorsed, promoted or administered by Instagram.

Disclosure - I was gifted a copy of Mum For Sale in exchange for this review and giveaway. I did not receive payment for this review and all opinions expressed are my own. 

*This post contains some affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you, should you make a purchase.
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Saturday, April 13, 2019

How I protected my baby before she was even born

This post is in collaboration with Brand Meets Blog

April is a pretty big deal these days in our house. Not only is there all the excitement of the Easter bunny coming to visit, it's also birthday month for baby girl. With all the Facebook memory photos popping up on my phone each day, I can't help but reminisce about my pregnancy and all the emotions I felt awaiting her arrival. I remember those last few weeks so vividly as I was so close to finally having our very longed for second baby in our arms. The sheer happiness and excitement that we were going to meet her was also mixed with fear and trepidation as the weeks kept ticking by. The photo below was taken at exactly 40 weeks, I thought for sure she was close, but I still had 5 more loooong days to wait.

I think it's a natural instinct for all mothers to want to protect their baby. For me that instinct kicked in very early, long before she was actually born, in fact it was from the very moment I found out we'd finally conceived {which was at just 3 weeks pregnant}. We'd spent so many agonising months trying to fall pregnant so I was determined to do everything I could to foster a healthy pregnancy hoping to have a healthy baby in my arms 9 months later.

I ate all the right foods. Ok, a better way to phrase that would be I avoided all the bad pregnancy foods. As hard as it was, I avoided soft serve ice-cream, seafood, sushi, soft cheese and pretty much anything that could even remotely give me food poisoning. I did succumb to cheeseburgers and chocolate quite often though.

I consciously avoided sick people {as much as possible}. I was a stay at home mum during my second pregnancy so it was a lot easier than when I was working. I cancelled play dates when necessary and even stopped doing the grocery shopping during the later months of my pregnancy so I wouldn't pick up germs from trolleys at the shops.

In addition to avoiding germs, I also got the pertussis {dTpa} vaccine again while pregnant {after 28 weeks} so baby girl would have protection against whooping cough. New babies can't be vaccinated against whooping cough until 6 weeks so having the vaccination myself while pregnant gave me some relief knowing she'd have some protection should she be exposed to it before she could get immunised. I'm petrified of needles myself, but the thought of her getting sick terrified me more, and to be honest after the constant barrage of weekly blood tests and daily hormone injections while trying to conceive, a once off vaccination needle didn't seem that bad. 

We also made sure all other family members were up to date with their boosters to limit the chance of her being exposed, even to carriers of the disease. Any chance she might contract it was too high a risk. The thought of spending years trying to get pregnant, then 9 months growing her inside me, to possibly lose her to a potentially fatal disease scared the hell out of me. My grandmother has had whooping cough and I've seen videos of infected babies battling to breathe in hospital and it's beyond heartbreaking. I've had severe asthma all my life so I know what it feels like gasping for air and I wouldn't wish that on anyone, especially a tiny baby.

I would have got vaccinated for influenza while pregnant as well {both vaccinations are free for pregnant mothers under the National Immunisation Program} but there was a shortage of the flu vaccine when my GP recommended getting it and it didn't become available again before I gave birth. Influenza can affect mothers quite severely in the second and third trimesters and it can affect the baby in the first few months after birth, even causing death, so it's worth discussing the vaccination with your GP, midwife or obstetrician once you fall pregnant. I'm so grateful that I live in a day and age where we have the medicine available to help protect not only ourselves but also our vulnerable newborn babies from diseases which could have devastating consequences. 

Thankfully our gorgeous girl arrived safe and well in April 2017 and while we've had our share of hardships with allergies, tongue tie and sleep issues, we haven't had to deal with any major life threatening health concerns. It's hard to believe my tiny little baby has been with us for two years already and is now a rambunctious toddler causing havoc and plenty of laughs everywhere she goes. 

Unfortunately the need to protect her and constant worrying didn't stop once she was born, so I just have oh the rest of her life to continue worrying! This parenting gig sure is a tough one.

Toni x

Disclosure - This is a sponsored post as per my disclosure policy. For more information regarding free vaccinations during pregnancy please visit The Immunisation Coalition is a not for profit organisation, and is the leading voice in whole-of-life immunisation in Australia, protecting all Australians against communicable diseases.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Dig, dump, roll sensory bookish play for preschoolers

*This post contains affiliate links

Ever since I was really little I've always had an innate love of books and reading, so it's no surprise that my children have developed their own love of reading at a young age too. It's probably directly related to the number of children's books we have all over the house. You can never have too many right? Unless you ask their dad, he definitely thinks we have too many... and yet I keep finding even more to add to our collection {sorry, not sorry}. Our latest addition is Dig, Dump, Roll by Sally Sutton.

Dig, Dump, Roll is the follow-up to the wildly popular picture book Roadworks. In this book Sally Sutton uses interactive, rhyming text to entice children to guess what kind of vehicle is at work on each page. Bright cropped illustrations work alongside the descriptive text to give further clues before all is revealed over the page.

Crash-a-rumble Smash-a-grumble 
What’s at work? 
Here’s a clue: It will clear the ground for you. 

 Bulldozer! Coming through! 

My 5yr old can't read herself yet, but she very much enjoyed the descriptive text {it's entirely possible I'm a little too enthusiastic when reading aloud} and guessing what would come next. To my surprise she was very quick to guess the final surprise, but then she admitted to me they'd read this book before at kindy {cheater!}. Clearly that proves that it's a book kids love to read over and over, even when they somewhat remember what comes next. 

Dig, Dump, Roll has been selected for the prestigious 2019 Storylines Notable Book List. Since 1999 Storylines has produced an annual list of outstanding books for children and young people published in New Zealand by New Zealand authors and illustrators during the previous calendar year. The annual list of Notable Books ensures that children, parents/grandparents, teachers, librarians and the public are all made aware of the large range of high quality New Zealand books being published.


After we finished reading the book together I brought out a little small world bookish play activity I'd prepared while she was at school. Bookish play is a general term for any play based activity that is centered around a particular book. Its a great way to extend the story or main theme of a book beyond the pages and onto the craft table or into the playroom. With its descriptive, interactive text, Dig, Dump, Roll is the perfect starting point for some messy, fun, construction themed sensory bookish play. Of course I went with a cutlery tray construction small world because the girls love sensory play and small worlds, so it was a no brainer. 

<<< Please note this activity poses a choking risk to children under 3yrs of age due to small parts. This activity is intended for children aged 3+ and to be done under strict adult supervision >>>

What you will need:

~ A cutlery tray {we use an Ikea one}
~ Construction vehicles {ours are from Kmart}
~ Construction loose parts {rocks, sticks}
~ Sensory construction bases {chickpeas, blackbeans}
~ Chocolate playdough
~ Chocolate dirt {recipe further below}
~ Wooden letters

If you've been following me on Instagram for a while, you'll know I love using cutlery trays as a base for small world play {search #cutlerytrayplay for some of my other play ideas}. They're particularly perfect for scenes that use many different sensory bases as each compartment contains the individual bases so they don't mix together {until the kids get to it anyway}. The tray slots are also great for defining separate play spaces like animal enclosures for a zoo, or in this case different construction zones. 

I deliberately chose sensory bases that would all be taste safe, just in case my 1yr old was awake when we did this activity and she wanted to explore it as well. While I never encourage the girls to eat any of the sensory materials I put out for play, I know with a mouthing toddler it's inevitable that it could happen, so I'd rather use items that won't cause harm if accidentally ingested. I chose beans, chickpeas, edible dirt and playdough specifically because they all work in well size and texture wise with the construction vehicles I paired them with. I included the rocks and sticks because this set up was for my 5yr old, however if I intended to do it with both girls I would remove the rocks and sticks to be safe.

We've lived with fake grass for years now so my kids have never really had the chance to play with real dirt or mud. I substitute mud by making oobleck, but until now I've never had a substitute for dirt. This week I watched Lycie's video about how to make cloud dough on Instagram and decided to try and make a chocolate edible dirt version. Full disclosure, I only watched Lycie's instructions up until finding the ratio of flour to oil needed, then made up my recipe amounts based on what I had in the cupboard.

Edible dirt recipe

1 cup flour
1/3 cup chocolate powder
1/8 cup canola oil

Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl with a spoon and add oil slowly until it resembles a crumbly dirt consistency. Squeeze mixture with hands, it should hold its shape under pressure, similar to kinetic sand. Add more oil sparingly if required.

For our chocolate flavouring and dirt colour I simply used chocolate powder sachets that I've been keeping for sensory play. You could also use cocoa powder, drinking chocolate or Milo. Just insure your chocolate element is powder based so the cloud dough mixes properly.

I added in our small wooden letters to spell out the title of the book, with hints from the vehicles, for some bonus word recognition for my daughter. After we read the book together I brought out the tray and at first she sounded out the words trying to figure out what they were. She got dig and dump relatively easy and needed a little bit of help with roll. I think she did pretty well considering they haven't started on sight words yet at school and they haven't finished learning all the letter sounds. She then drove all the letters around in the different vehicles which was great incidental letter recognition. Eventually her play moved on from reenacting the story to planting the chickpeas into the dirt and using the sticks as plants that sprouted from the seeds. I love how bookish play uses a story as a springboard that leads to all sorts of other imaginary play. An added bonus of this particular activity is that the aroma of chocolate was ah-mazing.

 Learning Opportunities

- Hypothesising {how do the machines work, how can we build with each material}
- Categorising types of construction materials
- Sensory input {touch, smell and taste}
- Hand strengthening {squishing the sensory materials}
- Pincer grip practice {picking up the beans and chickpeas}
- Hand/eye co-ordination

- Language development
- Sight word practice
- Letter recognition
- Imaginary play

Toni x

Disclosure - We were kindly gifted a copy of Dig, Dump, Roll by Walker Books for the purpose of review. All other products featured within this post are part of our personal sensory play resources and were previously purchased by myself. Puggle and Kit {who we got our wooden letters from} have kindly offered Finding Myself Young readers 10% off all purchases, simply use the code YOUNG10. Dig, Dump, Roll can be purchased with free worldwide shipping from Book Depository.

*This post contains some affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you, should you make a purchase.
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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Small changes at home can have a big impact on the environment

This post is in conjunction with Brand Meets Blog

Since having children, I've become increasingly aware of my environmental impact. It was always instilled in me from a young age to reduce, reuse and recycle. Long before water tanks were mandatory, my mum had us saving our shower water in buckets to reuse on the garden. She'd make us use every last piece of anything and everything so we weren't inadvertently throwing out things that were still useful. Consequently, I've always been quite environmentally conscious when it comes to my life choices, but having little people and thinking about their future really brings home just how important it is. We're all responsible for taking care of the environment and leaving behind the best possible planet we can for our children, and I want to play a positive part in that.

We don't have the cash flow to make big changes like installing solar panels on our roof, or the backyard to cultivate a big veggie patch and compost {I really wish we did}, but our lack of space and funds hasn't stopped us from making other smaller eco friendly changes in our household. Not all environmental changes have to be grandiose and expensive, but they can still have a significant impact on the environment over time. I'm hopeful that making these changes as a family will give our girls the same eco friendly mentality that was instilled in me as a child.

Reduce, reuse and recycle

One of the simplest ways we help is by recycling almost everything that we can. I say almost everything because some of our old packaging like cardboard, tissue paper, bubble wrap and egg cartons are squirreled away to be transformed into weird and wonderful crafty masterpieces. One man's trash is quite often two little girls treasure.

Speaking of treasure, I'm also an avid op shopper and love breathing new life into other people's discarded objects. You could go as far as saying it's a bit of an addiction. I've never met a monkey pod tray or basket I didn't like, and I can find a million uses for them. We also regularly donate our unused items to charity so that someone else can get some benefit from them, instead of creating waste. I really love that the girls are developing a genuine desire to help others {and an appreciation for their own circumstances and belongings} each time they choose to donate some of their old things.

Minimising the plastic in our household

For years now I've been very passionate about choosing sustainable open ended wooden toys for the girls as opposed to single use plastic toys that chew through batteries. Most of the toys we own now are extremely versatile, and will likely be passed onto my grandkids at some stage. Instead of adding to landfill with discarded toys the girls have gotten bored of quickly, we invest in quality toys made from sustainable wood that will be used for years {and eventually breakdown much quicker than plastic alternatives}. An added bonus is they also don't randomly start flashing and singing in the middle of the night {thankgod}.

One of the more recent changes we've made to reduce the plastic in our home, is switching to environmentally friendly Boo Boo bamboo toothbrushes, instead of using plastic supermarket ones. Boo Boo toothbrushes are made from organically grown Moso bamboo which is naturally antimicrobial and biodegradable, so it's great for both our teeth and the environment. I'd never really considered toothbrushes to be an environmental issue before, but then I found out approximately 350 tonnes of plastic toothbrushes are thrown into landfill, in Australia alone, each year. It certainly puts into perspective how something seemingly insignificant to one family can have an immense detrimental impact overall.

Thankfully we're no longer adding to this waste as we've all got our own bamboo brush, including the girls. Seriously, how cute are these toothbrushes?! I love the minimalist black and white design and they even have cute sayings on the back that you can read while brushing {and anything that helps motivate the kids to brush their teeth is a winner}. They also get delivered straight to our door with free shipping. Yep free shipping. I love it when being eco friendly is convenient and doesn't cost the earth {see what I did there}.

I'm by no means a greenie, or an environmentalist, but I'm hoping that these small changes we're making as a family, will have a positive impact on the world around us. Imagine the cumulative effect if each one of us took small steps in our respective homes. It would undoubtedly result in a better planet for our children to grow up in and that's one of the best legacies we can leave behind.

Have you made any changes at home to help the environment?

Toni x

This is a sponsored post as per my disclosure policy.
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