8 Solutions for bored children — February 11, 2015

8 Solutions for bored children

Having just had 2 primary school aged boys at home for 8 weeks over the summer/Christmas break, the following a few of the tricks that served me well. My boys are 9 and 6 years old, so the activities are probably better suited for younger kids rather than teenagers.

1. Treasure Hunt: I hit upon the simplest treasure hunt template, that can be used either outdoors or indoors. Get a sheet of paper and divide into 8 squares – easiest is to fold it half lengthways and then fold twice breadthways. In each square either write a random letter or a colour. The kids then have to find items that start with the particular letter or are that colour and then draw them in the square. You can make it as easy or complicated as you want and even allocate areas in the house where each kid can “hunt”. I have also sometimes, for older kids, put in simple maths, and then armed them with a ruler to find items that are of that length.

2. Chalk and Draw: A box of chalk goes a long way on a warm day with nothing much to do. Either get the kids to draw welcome messages to the driveway to the house, or do shadow drawing of each other. I, sometimes, get the kids to do alien drawings of themselves. One kid draws the outline of the other kid lying on the ground. The kid whose outline it is, then fills in the bits of the body. Being an alien the eyes and ears etc can go anywhere and can have as many. They can also draw antennae or zappers or contraptions and can keep them entertained for a while.

3. Cubby Houses: Good for cold or wet days – give the kids a bunch of blankets, pillows and cushions and let them create their own cubby/hideaway houses.

4. Cooking/Baking Together: Another good activity for wet days, is to bake together. My wife is a much better baker than me and includes the kids in making cookies, muffins, tarts etc. I usually get the kids involved in making meals – like putting the toppings on the pizza or helping mix and stir.

5.Board Games: Probably the most under utilised and under appreciated mode of entertainment in our house – but it can easily fill in a couple of hours. A game of monopoly or scrabble is entertaining for all.

6. Story Telling: This involves a lot of effort from the parents, however is a great way to spend a large part of the day. I get the kids to make up a story, one sentence at a time. I start it off with something innocuous like “Once upon a time there was a little boy called ZZZ”, and then the kids take over saying one sentence at a time. Usually I record the story on my phone and then after its told, I get them to draw pictures of the main bits of the story. Later in the day, we do a show for my wife, with the story being played from the phone and the kids holding up the pictures at the appropriate times.

7. Local Library: Australia is very lucky to have well stocked local public libraries all over the country. They are all free to join and have a collection of books for kids of all ages. A lot of them also run activities and story telling sessions during holidays.

8. Music and Dance: Probably the easiest of the lot, turn on some dancing music and put on your dancing shoes. Each child gets to dance solo and impress the others and at the end of each song, the best voted gets to pick the next song. The secondary advantage of this is that it tires out the kids as well.

Dads Daily Poem to his kids — February 5, 2015

Dads Daily Poem to his kids

My two boys started back at school this week and I made it a point to write them a little poem in their lunch box every day.

– Poems for my 10 year old – needless to say he was very embarrassed and made me promise that I would write anything about how much I loved him 😦

Poem - B - 20150202 Poem - B - 20150203 Poem - B - 20150204 Poem - B - 20150205

– Poems for my 6 year old – he on the other hand was very very excited to find the note everyday and shared it with all his friends and his class teacher

Poem - M - 20150202 Poem - M - 20150205 Poem - M - 20150204 Poem - M - 20150203

Cricket World Cup 2015 Kids Activities — January 13, 2015

Cricket World Cup 2015 Kids Activities

I created a bunch of Cricket World Cup 2015 themed activities to keep my kids entertained during the school holidays. I have updated some of them so they include all nations – however a couple of them are only for Australian supporters 🙂

CWC 15 – Bookmarks – Cut out bookmarks with your team

CWC 15 – Bunting – Country Names – Bunting with the names of all participating teams

CWC 15 – Bunting – Flags – Bunting with the flags of all the participating nations.

My kids used a combination of the above to create a composite bunting of their favourite teams.

CWC 15 – Word Puzzle – Australian Team – Find the names of the Australian team

CWC 15 – Word Puzzle – Team Names – Find the names of the all the participating nations

CWC 15 – Word Puzzle – Young Kids – Suitable for younger kids – find the cricket related words in the puzzle

If you do download and use any of the above, please tweet or share the final result.

Travelling with Kids – Yamba — January 2, 2015

Travelling with Kids – Yamba

We come to Yamba (http://www.yambansw.com.au/main.html) atleast once a year for a week long beach holiday. It is a great family destination, and all our kids (2, 7 and 10 years old) love visiting.

Getting here

There are daily flights from Sydney to Ballina and Gold Coast. We normally fly to  Ballina on JetStar and then rent a car. We once flew into the Gold Coast and drove from there, however it is a much longer drive. The flight times to Ballina are quite good as well as you could depart Sydney at lunch time and be in Yamba by dinner. On the way back, you could do the same, and have lunch in Yamba, drive to Ballina and be back in Sydney by dinner time. It should be noted that there is NO public transport in Yamba, so if you don’t have a car, you must be prepared to walk. Having said that, if you stay anywhere near Main, Turner or Pippy’s beach you can easily walk to town (15 min walk max) – however it is quite hilly so it could be hard for little kids.

Accommodation

As mentioned earlier, during the school holidays most of the accommodation is weekly rentals. Every real estate agent has their own website with a complete listing. Most units don’t provide linen, however it can be rented locally. During school holidays and especially Christmas, every rental property gets booked out – so get in early. Moreover, every property is “cleaned” between 10 and 2 on Saturday, so the quality of the clean is very superficial. Outside of school holidays you can get the holiday rentals for only a few days if required.

Breakfast/Coffee Places

A list of all my TripAdvisor reviews for Yamba can be found at http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/members-citypage/DaddyBlogger1/g529051.

For Coffee and Breakfast, I would recommend the following

1. Irons and Craig on Cold Stream St – limited menu but freshly prepared, good food at a reasonable price. Lots of room for pram storage and high chairs available. They also have an outdoor seating area in the front and out the back.

2. A new cafe (with no name) next to the Plank Shop on Clarence Street. This place has the best coffee in Yamba – we were addicted and visited every morning. The cafe is small with a very limited menu. There is only one shared table indoors and high chairs facing out from the front window. There are no high chairs. There is some seating outdoors and, since the street is not very busy, we sat outside with the kids and let them run around.

3. Caperberry on Coldstream St. A Yamba institution, however it is very cramped and on a major intersection (as major as you get in Yamba). Not much room for kids, however they do have high chairs and a standard breakfast menu.

Lunch/Dinner places

1. Sol Cantina on Coldstream St. Normal mexican fare with outdoor seating. Good food, quick service and not too spicy.

2. The Tavern: The only place in Yamba that has a kids play area alongside the restaurant. Bistro style food with normal kids menu The play area is shaded and you can watch the kids from all tables.

Things to Do

1. Movies: Yamba Cinemas – all shows all day $8. Small theatre but has the latest releases.

2. Surfing Lesson: Jeremy (+61 405 388 581) runs group or individual surfing lessons on most week days at Turners Beach. He is best contacted by text on his mobile.

3. Skate Park at the end of Coldstream street. Has ramps of various heights and complexity for varying skill levels. There is also a little playground with slides around the back for little kids.

4. Library across from the Bowling Club. Has a huge selection of kids books and activities.

Enjoy your visit.

Getting time away — December 4, 2014

Getting time away

Last week my wife and I went away for a few nights to celebrate our wedding anniversary. It was the first time in 5 years that the kids had been away from both of us for 3 nights. And while they enjoyed the time spent with their grandparents, I think we enjoyed the time away just as much.

We got to do things that were simple but something that we never seem to get time to do anymore. We went on walks, ate dinner at a leisurely pace, sat around and read books/newspapers etc. Most importantly we got to talk….without being interrupted.

We love our kids and we live for them. They make our lives worth living and give us joy and enjoyment every day and in everything that they do. However, spending alone and quality time just with my wife made me realise how much I still loved her and why I had fallen in love with her all those years ago.

Most of the conversations reverted back to the kids, however they ranged from the past – funny/interesting things they had done – to the future – what lay ahead for them. It gave us pause to realise that time was fleeting and how their personalities had developed the past few years.

I think sometimes, we get so caught up with living our lives, doing the daily chores, that we don’t pause to reflect on what we have. It is a fault that I have and I am sure others do too. Kids are relentless, chores are never ending, house work is limitless, work is time consuming and balancing it all stressful. However, spending just a few days alone with my life partner, the person I want to share everything with, the person who makes me laugh and makes me angry more than anyone else in the world, the person who completes me – made me realise how lucky my life really was.

The dishes can wait …while I give my kids another hug, the late night work can be paused … while I give my wife another hug. Most importantly jobs and chores can be delayed while I enjoy the moment that is now.

Travelling with kids … 2 … The Destination — November 20, 2014

Travelling with kids … 2 … The Destination

As a follow up to my previous post on some tips on travelling with kids, this time I focus on some tips on how to deal with kids at the destination. These are some of the things we always try to do when travelling with our 3 little kids and it seems to work well for us

  1. Have a Home Base: The first time my wife and I travelled with our son (3 years old then), we planned out trip as if it were just the two of us. We travelled across the breadth of Switzerland, starting in St Moritz and ending in Geneva, spending one night in each location and sightseeing/travelling during the day. This was a terrible idea and we haven’t done it since. Now when we travel we usually stay a few days in one hotel and one location. We then do day trips or tours from here. This means the kids have a “home base” to come back to every night. It also provides some consistency during the trip.
  2. Plan for Down Days: While there is always the desire to plan as many activities as possible on every day of the holiday, plan to have some “down days”. Days when you don’t have any tour or activity planned and you can have a lazy breakfast, go to the park or just wander and recover.
  3. Find parks: Research your destination before you get there and find parks or play areas that might exist near your hotel. Some shopping centres have kids play areas too. This is a great activity to do during the down days, when the kids can just be kids and run around.
  4. Themed Restaurants: Try and find a couple of themed restaurants in every city you visit. These are great experiences and also allows you to have a unique dining restaurant. Some of the themed restaurants we have visited include Alices Teacup (New York), Charlie Brown Cafe (Hong Kong), Dragon Feast (Macau) etc.
  5. Kid Friendly Tours: Research the tours that you want to go on and find ones that are accommodating of kids. There are tour companies (like Paris Muse) that run kid themed tours, and their tour of Louvre was a highlight of our visit to Paris. Also look for tours that the kids will enjoy doing – like activity tours, themed tours etc. In our recent trip to Hong Kong we went to see Pink Dolphins, a food tour visiting various restaurants/cafes and a harbour boat cruise.
  6. Travel kids: Get the kids to keep a travel journal. This is a great way for them to spend a few minutes each morning to write about their highlights of the previous day. Our kids have started writing a journal from when they turn 5 and can write. There are travel diaries for little kids that you can buy from book stores that have questions and activities for each day and place to draw pictures etc. The older kids usually take a blank journal and write what they liked and enjoyed about each day. In our last trip, my 9 year old, who is obsessed with the “Diary of a Wimpy kid” series, wrote his journal titled “Diary of an Awesome Kid” with himself as the main character. It is a great memento of the trip and makes a great keepsake of the trip.
  7. Buffet Breakfast: Invest in a buffet breakfast for the family in whichever hotel you are staying in. Buffet breakfasts around the world have consistent foods like cereal, porridge, toast etc. Especially if you are travelling to exotic locations where the food is quite different, the breakfast buffet serves as comfort food. It is also handy to use the buffet to pack some snacks for the rest of the day – especially for little ones. In our last trip we would make a ham/cheese sandwich and take a boiled egg for the little one for a mid morning snack as we were out and about.
  8. Use Public Transport: Kids love buses, trains, trams, ferries, etc etc. Whereever possible use public transport, they will be entertained, and it will save you a lot of money than having to use a taxi/hire car everywhere.

The final tip is to always travel with baby wipes and a small towel – you just never know when you might need it. And anyone who has travelled with kids will tell you – you need it more than you realise 🙂

Happy Travels….

Date Night — October 22, 2014

Date Night

Having two boys under 10, it is very hard to spend any quality time individually with them. For the past few months, my wife and I have been having date night with the kids. Once a month, I take one child out for dinner while she takes the other and we alternate. The kids get to decide where to go and they get one on one time with a parent. Personally it has been a very insightful experience and I get a very interesting comprehension of what they are thinking and is top of mind for them. My eldest talked about his friends and sport in our last dinner. My youngest, on the other hand, talked about Maths and spent the whole dinner explaining why he loved it and looked forward to lessons.

Its a special treat for the kids with a single parent with their undivided attention. And most importantly, what is discussed at dinner is beyond reproach and creates a safe place to share thoughts.

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