Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Fine motor fun with Lalaboom beads

For the last few years we have been a somewhat Montessori family, especially when it comes to toys and learning. In our house our toys are all presented on open kallax shelving so that the girls can choose which toys they want to play with. We also rotate the toys regularly based on their interests and provide toys that help them develop specific developmental skills.

We believe that so much learning happens during play so we've invested in some great toys and resources in the past few years. The majority of the time this means I purchase wooden toys, however my main desire in any toy we bring into the home is that it's open ended. For this reason I'm quite selective with the items we have for the girls. I love toys that can be used in multiple ways and to teach multiple skills and our latest addition has been Lalaboom beads.






WHAT IS LALABOOM?


Lalaboom is a range of vibrant coloured, textured, interlocking beads. The range consists of eight styles, a combination of 16 different shapes, 12 exciting textures and 10 vivid colours to explore. However, Lalaboom is more than a collection of snap-together beads, it’s a beautifully innovative developmental experience. Senses are engaged as little ones explore the unique textures, vibrant colours and smooth twisting movements. As children grow, they’ll discover endless connective and stacking possibilities, strengthening creativity, pattern recognition, fine motor and problem-solving skills. 

Lalaboom products where to find in Australia
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Designed for children aged 10 to 36 months, Lalaboom beads provide children with a wonderful opportunity to learn through play. The simple shapes of the beads allow small children to practise and acquire the fine motor skills that are essential to their development. The beads are large enough that they can be easily grasped and manipulated by toddlers {as with all loose parts though please supervise children at all times}.






Lalaboom is directly inspired by the Montessori method of education: taking the child’s needs into consideration, allowing them to learn at their own pace and encouraging them to discover their senses and skills through play. The many features of Lalaboom toys require children to make use of their cognitive functions such as attention, perception, memory or reasoning meaning they will develop their talents naturally whilst playing.



HOW MANY DIFFERENT WAYS CAN YOU PLAY WITH LALABOOM BEADS?


The beauty of open ended toys is that the possibilities are pretty much endless as kids can use their imagination to come up with a number of different ways to play. The most obvious way to play with the Lalaboom beads is to twist or pop them together to create weird and wonderful stacking towers. The beads can be connected together an endless number of ways, with each different type and size able to interlock with the other beads. Different colours, textures and patterns can be combined to create colourful creatures and towers.


One of the other great benefits of Lalaboom beads is that they grow with your child and can be used in even more ways as your child's developmental skills improve. In the beginning children from as young as 10 months can pop whole beads together, then by approximately 15-18 months they can twist the individual bead pieces together. By 24 months they should be able to stack the beads on top of each other to form towers. Once their fine motor skills are even further progressed, they can move onto lacing the Lalaboom beads with lacing needles.

In addition to fine motor development, Lalaboom beads can also be sorted by colour, pattern, shape and size as children get older and start moving onto learning these concepts. The Lalaboom Educational Peg Board brings all of these concepts together using a board with interchangeable picture cards that slide into the base. Children have to pop or twist the beads onto the board to match the picture.



Learning Opportunities with Lalaboom


- Colour recognition
- Pattern recognition
- Pincer grip
- Hand strengthening
- Hand/eye co-ordination
- Problem solving
- Spacial awareness
- Tactile sensory input

My 2yr old has loved playing with the Lalaboom beads and peg board for a few weeks now {her 6yr old sister has even played with them a few times}. I love how open ended they are and that each time she plays her structures end up looking different.  I also love that while she's playing she's also working hard to perfect the fine motor movements needed for writing later on {of course she's oblivious to this and is just having fun - exactly the way learning should be for toddlers}. 

At 2 and a half she's already mastered how to pop and twist all of the beads together, but occasionally needs some help to pull them apart again. Playing with the beads has helped increase her vocabulary too as we've been using lots of motion words like pop, twist, turn, push, pull while we're playing {yep I play with them too!}. We also use them to practice colours where we pick certain coloured beads to match together. I have no doubt the Lalaboom beads will be on high rotation on our toy shelves over the next few years.

Lalaboom products are available in Australia from Lime Tree Kids, Mr Toys Toyworld, Catch and other leading toy stores. For a full list of stockists please call Jasnor on 1300 881 940 or send an email to enquiry@jasnor.com



Disclosure - I was kindly gifted some Lalaboom beads and a peg board from Jasnor for the purpose of review. 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. Stock images have been used with permission.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Story Antics: personalised story books for children

Do you remember getting personalised items as a child? I never really got any, because Toni wasn't {and still isn't} a common girl's name. I grew up when all the girls were called Emma, Sarah, Amanda and Lauren. My mum was clearly ahead of her time and had the audacity to call me a boys name {which I hated when I was young, but actually really like now}. The upside was nobody ever had the same name as me, except once I had a teacher called Toni, but that didn't count because we couldn't call her by her first name anyway. The downside was I never got the personalised stickers, stationary, money boxes and other novelty stuff sold at every newsagent. Seems like a total first world problem I know, but to tween me it was a big deal.

Fast forward and I now have my own children and while both of them have pretty standard names, only one can be found on most gimmicky personalised product stands, because I didn't use the traditional spelling for the other one {sorry, not sorry}. I can never find her name with the correct spelling in shops anywhere. However, the good thing for my kids is that they're growing up with the internet, and thanks to the internet I can pretty much personalise anything I want with their correct names. Hooray for small mercies, they'll never know the pain of not having their name permanently marked on things... where was the internet in the 1980's when I needed it?  Just sayin.

Thanks to my own experience as a child I have a natural desire to collect all the personalised stuff for my own kids. My greatest love when it comes to personalised products is picture books. I love that I can inject my children into a story and make them feel as though that book was written especially for them and about them. I recently created a personalised story book from Story Antics that features both of my girls.


AUSTRALIA'S NEWEST PERSONALISED STORY BOOKS FROM STORY ANTICS


Story Antics is a new online store specialising, as the name suggests, in stories. Story Antics brings together a dedicated team of authors and illustrators who create beautiful personalised stories for children under 5. There are stories about bravery, adventure, excitement, imagination, fun and humour.



Story Antics currently have 6 different personalised books available and you can read through each book online {Monster Macarons isn't pictured in the image above}.. I looked through all the books online with my 6yr old and chose The Cheeky Owl for my girls as it was the best fit for a number of reasons. Firstly, my eldest has had an affinity for owls since she was really young, so she loved the book as soon as she saw the owl on the cover. Secondly, one of the illustrations for the main character looked really similar to her and I could also include her sister as the baby. Thirdly, all 6yr old's are pretty much obsessed with talking about poo and this book involves poo, so as much as I don't love all the toilet talk going on at our place this year, I knew it would appeal to her. Don't let the poo put you off though, it really is a cute story {and was written by Story Antics founder Lara Solomon}.


HOW TO PERSONALISE A STORY ANTICS BOOK


The process of ordering a Story Antics books online is really simple. Once you decide which story you want you then get the option to personalise each of the characters.



Clicking on each character image brings up the different options available, which generally includes illustrations with different hairstyles, hair colour and clothing colours. Some characters can also be interchanged between male and female. Below is an example of The Cheeky Owl characters changed and renamed {no those aren't my kids real names}.


After the characters have all been finalised you can then choose to add a personalised dedication page. Once you've finished creating the book you can flip through a virtual proof to ensure there are no mistakes, then after placing your order it takes approximately two weeks to arrive at your door.

OUR PERSONALISED STORY ANTICS BOOK


When our story book arrived it was even better than I was anticipating. It was packaged beautifully and extremely carefully so it wouldn't get damaged in the mail. The book itself is a lovely big A4 size with large text making it easy for little readers to read aloud or follow along with. The pages are thick good quality 200gsm paper, so they're built to withstand all the love and affection the kids will inevitably smother it with over the years.



My 6yr old was so excited when the book arrived and it looked just like the one she helped me put together online{she named the owl and picked out the colours when I was ordering it}. We sat down and she read through the entire story herself. She only started school this year and has gone from not being able to read at all to now reading entire picture books. I'm so incredibly proud of how determined and excited she's been to learn how to read, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to get a special book just about her.

If you're looking for a truly unique present for your little one for a special occasion, or just because, Story Antics books are definitely worth checking out. With so many different story options there's sure to be one to suit your child, or children.

Toni x



Disclosure ~ I was provided with a Story Antics book of my choosing in exchange for a review.  All opinions expressed are based on my ordering experience and our experience with the product. I did not receive payment for this post.
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Saturday, November 9, 2019

The perfect teacher gift: 5 picture books to say thank you to your teacher

In our house we love books and have been reading them to the girls since they were born. I'm a little scared to count how many we actually have in the house, but I'm sure each and every one has been a valuable addition to our home. We have a tradition of picking books for fathers day and mothers day and we use books to celebrate special holidays like Christmas and Easter. We also love to use books for bookish play activities. It should come as no surprise then that we also love to give books as gifts for special occasions and I can't think of a more perfect teacher gift idea than a special book. I've never met a teacher who doesn't love books.

Throughout the early years of schooling {prep, foundation, kindy, preschool etc} teachers impart a huge amount of knowledge, empowering our children with fundamental skills they'll take right through their schooling years and beyond, so it seems only fitting to thank them for their time and effort. These are our favourite picture books that are perfect for end of year or teacher appreciation day gifts to say thank you to kindy, primary and elementary school teachers.


*This post contains some affiliate links*



PICTURE BOOKS TO SAY THANK YOU TO TEACHERS 
- THE PERFECT TEACHER APPRECIATION DAY OR END OF YEAR GIFTS -




Because I Had a Teacher | Kobi Yamanda

Because I Had a Teacher is a beautiful book to say thank you to your favourite teacher. Each page is an individual thank you for a new skill or feeling a child now has because they had a teacher. It's a gorgeous picture book for any teacher, teacher aide, childcare educator or mentor.







Sandy Gingras so aptly points out in the introduction to her book Thank You, a life lived well is perhaps the highest form of thanks a person can give to teachers as a way of repaying them for their attention and effort. A simple thank-you is also nice. Thank You is Gingras's own delightful way of conveying this sentiment. This charming keepsake book features her soft, sweet watercolour artwork and thoughtful original text celebrating teachers and all they do for us.







Teachers Rock | Todd Parr

Teachers Rock is a fun, bright, positive and heart warming picture book about why teachers are so special. With bright colourful illustrations, Teachers Rock, takes us through all the reasons why Todd Parr loves teachers and everything they do. 









Thanks from the very hungry caterpillar isn't specifically written for teachers, but would certainly make a great teacher gift as well as a general thank you gift for friends and family members to acknowledge an important loved one. Eric Carle uses his distinctive, colourful illustrations to say thanks to whomever you choose for their encouragement and guidance.








I DID MY HOMEWORK IN MY HEAD | Alyssa Cowit & Greg Dunbar

I Did My Homework In My Head is the hilarious result of the instagram account @LivefromSnackTime where Alyssa Cowit and Greg Dunbar share funny reader submitted kids quotes. The book is a compilation of the many innocent {and sometimes not-so-innocent} things children say. Full of excuses and funny musings about life, pets, family, relationships and homework, this book is sure to bring a smile to your teachers face!



The great thing about all these books is that, if by chance your teacher already has them in their personal collection, they can still use your gift in the classroom or the school library for other students to enjoy. Books really are the teacher gift that keeps on giving for generations.

Picture book stack




Disclosure - 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. All books purchased from Book Depository come with free worldwide shipping.
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Monday, October 21, 2019

Cute halloween craft ideas for home and the classroom using free printables.

Halloween has been huge in America for years and is becoming more and more popular here in Australia. My kids have been wanting to celebrate it more each year, however as a parent I often struggle with the stranger danger and horror elements of the holiday. We don't do trick or treating or turn our house into a house of horrors, but we do love doing halloween play activities and decorating the inside of the house.

How do you celebrate Halloween without exposing young kids to too much gore and horror? 

I've scoured the internet to find the cutest free halloween craft printables perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. These printables are great for decorating the house, classroom activities, cute costumes and sugar free halloween fun... and the best part is they're all free and can be downloaded in seconds. All you need for most of them is access to a printer and some paper, scissors and pens or crayons to decorate.

Free halloween puppets, garlands, colouring in sheets, activity books and more
* This post contains some affiliate links *

MAKE CUTE PUPPETS AND MORE WITH THESE FREE HALLOWEEN CHARACTER PAGE PRINTABLES


Mini character colouring in sheets are a great craft activity, starting with a blank canvas, kids can put their own personal touch and bring the characters to life with different colours and fun facial expressions. With a little imagination they can also be turned into some pretty cool props. Cut out the finished images and you can turn them into puppets, magnets, gift tags, buntings and more.

create your own monster puppets using this free halloween monster template

Dabbles and babbles has a really cute free monster colouring in page which we turned into monster puppets for story telling with the book That's Not My Monster. My daughter and I coloured in the monsters then we glued on some googly eyes and taped them to popsicle sticks to turn them into puppets. Download the monster colouring in sheet here.


Create dress up ghost puppets using this free halloween printable

One of the first halloween craft activities I ever did with my girls was to make these cute dress up ghost puppets using the template from Barley and Birch. We printed off the template, coloured in the accessories with crayons then laminated them. I stuck the ghosts to some sticks and attached the accessories using blu tack so they could still be moved around. You can also use the template to make cute ghost stickers following this tutorial. This template is normally 99c but you can use the code FMY19 to download it for free here.


Have fun creating cool designs with these free mini halloween character colouring in sheets

These cute halloween mini character colouring in pages from Picklebums include blank sheets of pumpkins, ghosts and skulls. Kids can get creative and decorate jack-o-lanterns, make casper the friendly ghost and all his friends and colour in some fabulous sugar skulls. Download the free template from Picklebums here.



FREE HALLOWEEN COLOURING IN SHEETS AND BOOKS


Colouring in pages are a great way for parents to entertain kids at home and can also be used by teachers as a classroom activity. These colouring sheets and booklets allow the kids to have some Halloween fun without getting too scary. 


Cute halloween character colouring in sheets free printable

These cute halloween colouring in pages from Gift of Curiosity come in a set of 10 pages. The drawings are nice and simple and the pack comes with a number of characters that aren't too scary.




This kawaii style halloween treats colouring in page is super cute and lets kids have some candy fun without the sugar high or the need to trick or treat. Download the free PDF from Fun For Little Ones.




This free halloween colouring in pages and cards set includes 5 adorable full sheet designs which can be used as colouring in pages and 3 designs that can be folded up and used as cards. Download the free templates from Rock Your Homeschool here.

Fun classroom dot activities using these free halloween printables
These free do a dot halloween printables from Gift of Curiosity include 27 different designs. Use colourful dot markers to practice fine motor skills and fill in the empty spaces to complete the pictures. Alternatively the sheets could be laminated and used with colourful counters, dot stickers and playdough. Find out even more activity ideas for these printables and download the free template here.


Practice numbers, writing and reading with this free halloween counting book

This printable halloween counting book has 11 pages and allows kids to practice writing, reading and counting. There are 10 different halloween related animals and objects so kids can count from 1-10 as they work through the book. This would make an excellent classroom maths activity. Download the free template from Teach Beside Me here.



Learn sight words with this cute free trick or treat easy reader book

For some colouring in fun and reading practice download this Trick or Treat Easy Reader Book from 3 Dinosaurs. Kids will love colouring in the cute illustrations and it's a great way for emergent readers to practice beginner sight words. The book is 10 pages long featuring different costume ideas for trick or treating and would make a great classroom activity.


MAKE READING FUN WITH THESE FREE HALLOWEEN BOOKMARKS


Do you read spooky books at halloween time? Even if you don't, you can give your current read a bit of Halloween cuteness by using one of these free printable halloween bookmarks. To make them last longer laminate them once they're decorated.


Design your own halloween bookmarks with these free colouring in printables

I'm loving these colouring in halloween bookmarks from Real Life At Home. Not only are they super cute, kids can also add their own touch by colouring them in. It'd make a great classroom activity too, or use them as classroom gifts for your students. Download the template from Real Life At Home here.



These free printable bookmarks are coloured in and ready to go, simply print and laminate. They'd be great for preschoolers to use in the classroom or school library.


DRESS UP WITH THESE FREE HALLOWEEN MASKS

Young kids love dress up fun and {apart from book week} Halloween is arguably one of the best excuses for a dress up party! For some quick, no fuss costume solutions, download these spooky cute Halloween masks from Mr PrintablesBlack cat, skull, spider, green monster, Jack-O-Lantern and the moth make quick and easy disguises and all you'll need is a printer, paper, scissors and some string.


DECORATE THE HOUSE OR CLASSROOM WITH THESE FREE HALLOWEEN GARLANDS


Halloween decorations aren't always spooky and scary, decorate the house or the classroom with these cute free halloween garlands. To make them last longer I recommend either printing them out on cardstock or laminating them once you're done decorating them.


This pacman halloween garland brings back all the nostalgia for me! How cute are the little ghosts?! To make this garland download the template from Mini Eco. You could make the garland up in black as shown here or leave the ghosts white, or even mix it up with bright colours for a retro feel.



This free candy corn halloween garland has loads of learning opportunities as well as being super cute. It has letters to trace to spell out halloween, kids can colour it in and use it to recognise different emotions. To create your candy corn garland and find out all the learning possibilities, download the template from Tot School Resources.




Click here for some fun Halloween Sensory Play Ideas

Click here to make super easy Halloween Toilet Paper Mummies 

For more ideas visit my Halloween Pinterest Board



Disclosure - 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, October 9, 2019

5 minute Toilet Paper Roll Houses

Most people automatically put their empty toilet paper rolls in the bin {recycling bin hopefully}, however if you have small children you should stop this straight away. Toilet paper rolls are one of, if not the greatest, recyclable craft item ever... and the best thing is every home has an abundant supply of them. Another big bonus of toilet paper rolls is they're free and they can be used for so many different craft projects. Our latest creation has been toilet paper houses for our peg dolls.



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HOW TO MAKE TOILET PAPER HOUSES IN LESS THAN 5 MINUTES



** Please note this craft activity is intended to be done by children over 5yrs old who have developed scissor and writing skills {under adult supervision} or by adults themselves **


WHAT YOU WILL NEED


- Toilet Rolls 
- Egg carton
- Scissors
- Pen

The beauty of this craft activity is that all items needed can be found around the house for free. It also probably takes longer to gather all the supplies than it does to actually make the toilet paper roll houses. Fast, free and easy... yes please!


HOW TO CREATE TOILET PAPER ROLL HOUSES


1. Cut the egg carton base into individual pieces
2. Trim the edges to create little cap roofs
3. Measure the door on the toilet roll
4. Draw the door frame
5. Carefully cut out the door frame
6. Draw on window frames
7. Put egg carton lid roofs on top of toilet paper rolls
8. Decorate your houses {optional}

The first step you need to do is to cut out each of the egg holders in the egg carton into individual pieces by cutting in between each row and down the centre of the carton base. Once they're separated they'll have a square edge, trim the edges off so they have rounded edges and look like little round caps. 

Next take your peg doll, fairy, elf, gnome {whatever figurine you will be using with your houses} and hold it up against the toilet paper roll to measure the height and width needed for the door frame to allow them to fit inside. Draw a frame on with pen and then carefully cut it out with scissors. This can be a bit fiddly so is easier to do using small scissors. Once it's cut out your figurine should fit easily inside the door frame.



You can add character to your houses by drawing on different window designs {maybe take a bit more care than we did}. You could also cut these out, but that will require a stanley knife as it's too tricky with scissors. To finish off your toilet paper houses add the egg carton roof on top. The roof should fit on nice and snug, but still be easy to remove. 


As you can see from our photos I kept our designs really simple and haven't properly decorated them yet. I'm planning on painting each roof a colour of our peg dolls so that we can use the houses for colour sorting as well as imaginary play. I might also make some more and decorate them as toad stools or tree stump houses with paints and pen details. For now the girls are having lots of fun using the houses with our different felt play mats and if they get a little rough and accidentally destroy them, it'll be super easy to make some more.



Do you have fun using toilet paper rolls for craft?


Toni x



Disclosure - 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. Our peg dolls and play mat are from My Big World Playscapes on Etsy.
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