Is grandma fit to babysit? The Checklist

the Sibyls

Sibyl, Kerry Cue, has an hilarious Grandma Checklist published on Independent Australia. Here’s just a part of the list. For more laughs go here.Grandma Test 1New

Imagine this … toys for tots that don’t cost an arm and a leg

by Penny Cook

Sibylesque toy grandparent quote quote

OK! I’m going to be blunt here….if you’re a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, neighbour of a young child…never let toy companies con you into thinking they have something you don’t have in your cupboard. If you have pots’n’pans, plastic containers, jars, interesting cooking utensils, then you have a toyshop!!!

Children love exploring and they love it even more when they’re not presented with glitzy, plastic, brightly coloured so called educational toys. And you know why??? Cos all of those mass produced plastic toys do not…and I say…DO NOT….engage children’s imaginations.

Sibylesque  Saucepan Kid

Open the cupboard, let them explore, explore with them. Play with them…pretend with them. Cook the soup, stir the pot and have yet another cup of tea!! Find your old lids and mismatched containers. Let the 2 year old have a go at organising your plastics and drum on your saucepans. If you do that, you will be doing more for their intellectual development than presenting them with coloured ‘bangs and whistle’ toys that only do one thing…bang and whistle.

Great Start Quotes

Great Start Website: Fab resource for parents and grandparents of pre-schoolers

Let’s honour and respect children’s imaginations and open the cupboards and drawers. Watch what they do. You will see mathematical and scientific thinkers and you will hear their thinking as they explore, wonder, try out (that’s called hypothesising in the big world, but children do it all the time), and come up with some amazing thoughts, questions and ideas.

How come there is a whole multinational toy industry? Oh!! It’s because it’s a multinational toy industry. Take the pressure off yourselves and find what engages kids minds and souls, and I can tell you, it won’t be pink or purple plastic. Let’s give the kids a go.

Last word…no plastic toy or even pots and pans will replace playing with the kids but pots ‘n pans are fun!!!

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Penny CookPenny Cook has been an early childhood educator for over 30 years. She loves to travel  – anywhere. Penny is a mother and ‘Nan Pen’, who is continuously fascinated and amazed by her two young grandchildren.  She has always wanted to live in  a tree house by the beach …..it’s never too late!!

Photo source: Great Start website,  Dept of Education and Child Development, SA

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Sibling Rivalry: It’s what happened when we stopped sending kids down the coal mines!

by Penny Cook

matrix of colourful squares with distorted borders in the centre

At what point did sibling rivalry become 2 separate words? Anyone with 2 or more children knows it’s actually one word….because as soon as you have a sibling, there is rivalry. All our good intentions in planning the ‘best possible’ age gap between children goes to play dough as soon as there is a second child and is there to stay for subsequent additions to the clan.

Sibling rivalry is one of those primitive dispositions in children’s lives that we don’t like to deal with, let alone acknowledge as a normal and healthy part of socialisation. I’m not saying physical abuse is ok but when children ‘rival’ with each other for the same amount of dosh for pocket money or who’s done the dishes more times or had more turns on the computer, they’re actually exploring ‘fairness’, which is a concept we would like them to know about. Our struggle as parents and grandparents is how to teach them understanding and negotiation for equitable outcomes, compromise, empathy and generosity in sibling rivalry, cos God knows, often it’s easier to send them all to their rooms!!

Sibylesque Sibling Rivalry Awkward family photos

When we stop and talk children through what they’re experiencing and how it might work for them and others we are doing the whole of society a big favour. Now, this isn’t going to be possible with every squabble but acknowledging and naming feelings and being a fair arbitrator not only builds trust but let’s children know that situations can be solved and builds their skills in doing so. They will learn far more about equity from watching and experiencing the actions of the trusted adults in their lives than any social learning program. So grown ups, when you feel disempowered by the ‘rivalry’, remember, there’s a learning opportunity and a purpose in all of it.

Of course, at times, the darlings may just be being little so and so’s. That’s what bedrooms are for. If they won’t go there, you can!!

Penny CookPenny Cook has been an early childhood educator for over 30 years. She loves to travel  – anywhere. Penny is a mother and ‘Nan Pen’, who is continuously fascinated and amazed by her two young grandchildren.  She has always wanted to live in  a tree house by the beach …..it’s never too late!!…….

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Photo source: Awkward Family Photos

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Hey Grand Kids: Maths isn’t numeracy. It’s fun!

by Penny Cook

Sibylesque Penny Cook Quote

I’m an early childhood educator and I love maths. (Not good at it necessarily). I love literacy too. What I hate is that we so easily deny our young  children their mathematical and literacy potential because we decide to educate them. Yes…I think education has a lot to answer for.

I’ve spent over 30 years with children before they begin their formal education and what I see is mathematical thinking and literacy at its finest … and strangely enough not separate. The problem with numeracy and literacy, as I see it, is we have abandoned the thinking aspect. We have failed to connect it with what children bring into this world…curiosity. Children are born curious..they have to be to get beyond day one. Actually, they have to be curious to get out of the womb I think!!!

Sibylesque   Little Girls smile

I look at my grandson and reflect. One day he and I were at my mum’s place. He was 2 years old maybe and we had a ritual of he and I spending the night at mum’s. Osczar had full reign of the agenda and after a few of these sleep overs, a pattern emerged.He would go into Mum’s office and explore the shelves. At some point he would always bring out 3 shot glasses and 3 dice (have resisted the urge to ask questions of my mother!).We would each have a shot glass and die and ‘jolly hockey sticks’ like throw them onto the tiled floor and I would (teacher like) count the spots on each. There was great excitement…from all of us. At some point I stopped counting and started naming the value of each throw. What I noticed was, that very soon, Osczar was naming the value of each throw…accurately. With my limited mathematical understanding I believe he was subatising. Now, in the course of these interactions I also noticed he could count on.

For some reason, we as early childhood educators value those skills, but I’m not sure we know why…in the world of mathematical thinking. What I do know is that we have spent hours of enjoyment playing a ton of games and Osczar never thought he couldn’t do it. He was always a joint participant in the games. We never expected he couldn’t play. We are serious gamers.

I worry that we have so formalised mathematical thinking into something called numeracy that it is measured only in school and not in real life, that we are doing our children a disservice in the name of education.

Isn’t it our job as educators to have enough ‘mathematical’ knowledge and expertise about play to firstly recognise the mathematics and then build on it … through play?

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Penny CookPenny Cook has been an early childhood educator for over 30 years. She loves to travel  – anywhere. Penny is a mother and ‘Nan Pen’, who is continuously fascinated and amazed by her two young grandchildren.  She has always wanted to live in  a tree house by the beach …..it’s never too late!!…….

Photo source: geneology.lovetoknow archive

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What do you give grandchildren who have, well, everything?

by Penny Cook

Antoine deSaint Exupery Quote

And so it’s Christmas time …again. This is my 55th. I’m struggling with what I can give my grandchildren when they have everything. It’s not how it used to be. And this is not about being nostalgic…it’s about living in a material world, as Madonna sang in not so recent times!! Years ago, material things were sought after and reserved for special occasions like birthdays and Christmas…they weren’t accessible every day.

Sibylesque Tea Party

When I look at my almost one year old grand daughter, I see her delighting in happening upon a toilet roll and tearing into it, leaving a trail of her perfect work along the hallway. I watch her upend the dog’s water bowl and place it in a planter box. I marvel at how engaged she is with a box of tea bags and how she empties it and carries some of the bags to the third step on the staircase and stores them there with other household items. Presents she has given herself. I listen to her 5 year old brother who has chosen a heart shaped rose quartz stone for her because ‘she loves rocks and now she will know that I will always love her’. How can I compete? What can I give her?

There is nothing….but me. I am her Nan. I will be there when she endures growing up…when tearing up toilet rolls doesn’t fix hurtful words or gathering rocks can’t explain others’ actions.

Sure, I will find a present for Christmas.. but Grandparents…we are a gift for life.

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Penny CookPenny Cook has been an early childhood educator for over 30 years. She loves to travel  – anywhere. Penny is a mother and ‘Nan Pen’, who is continuously fascinated and amazed by her two young grandchildren.  She has always wanted to live in  a tree house by the beach …..it’s never too late!!…….

Photo source: 1930s Tea Party Queensland Library Archives

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Listen Up Grandkids … Google Can’t Give You a Hug!

by Penny Cook

Sibylesque Enthusiasm quote

When we, as grandparents, are bombarded by the current angst about social media, technology, politics and childhood … what can we hold onto to for our grandchildren? What can we offer beyond all that?

If we’re not on a screen and can’t be swiped, what can we do?

Let’s never forget that children learn through relationships.

sibylesque-kid-chewing-iphone 2

All children will be able to swipe and navigate the internet to get information … which children will have access to real life face-to-face conversations? Which children will get hugs and listening? Which children will have access to time and ‘old people?’ Where will they get their stories and the feelings? If enthusiasm is contagious where will it come from?

Enthusiasm is an emotion resulting from a story which comes from a real life interaction. If there is no real life interaction where will the enthusiasm come from? You can google the word enthusiasm, but can you google up enthusiasm without a real life interaction? Grandparentship is so important for our alpha kids. You can’t swipe grandparentship.You don’t get a hug from Google. You don’t get wisdom embed in your life. Google doesn’t listen. So who can?

Grandies can. They still need us.

Penny CookPenny Cook has been an early childhood educator for over 30 years. She loves to travel  – anywhere. Penny is a mother and ‘Nan Pen’, who is continuously fascinated and amazed by her two young grandchildren.  She has always wanted to live in  a tree house by the beach …..it’s never too late!!…….

Photo source: reddit

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How a charm bracelet can tell the story of a life in memories

by Maureen Wheeler

Sibuylesque Quote Margaret Atwood

Forty-four years ago, on a park bench in Regent’s Park London, I met the man who was to become my husband exactly one year later. To quote Bob Dylan “I was so much older then”, we all were. We married young, had children young, took on huge responsibilities, such as, ourselves, and trusted the universe would somehow be kind to us.

We were married quietly. Just the two of us and two witnesses. My mother hadn’t met Tony so she was understandably upset. I had no idea how Hilary, my new mother in law, felt, but then I had no idea how Hilary felt about anything. I’m Irish, she’s English, is how I explained the gulf between us. She wasn’t exactly mean, she wasn’t exactly not mean, just English.

Our first child was a daughter. When she lost her first tooth, Hilary asked if she might have it. I was a bit stunned at what seemed an unusually sentimental thought. A few years later I discovered Hilary had bought a thick gold chain bracelet when Tashi was born, and every year she added a charm. A clock was the first one because Tashi was a dreadful sleeper.

Sibylesque charm bracelet

An aeroplane was next, because we took Tashi travelling with us when she was six months old. Her first tooth became the mould for another gold charm. A gold wok, when she went to Asia. Every year, or major event, Hilary added a gold charm to the bracelet, until she was twenty one years old. A bracelet full of memories. The gold is worth quite a lot now, but the charms and the thought that went into it is priceless.

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The author with her children outside Kathmandu Valley, Nepal in 1983

The author with her children outside Kathmandu Valley, Nepal in 1983

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Maureen Wheeler is a feisty conversationalist and a gifted raconteur, who started the publishing company Lonely Planet with her husband Tony.

Photo Source: vanessafrisbee blog

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What grandparents know that others do not see: all children are beautiful.

by Penny Cook

Sibylesque Richard Louv Quote 2

All children are beautiful and in the words of developmental psychologist Urie Broffenbrenner ‘every child needs someone who is absolutely crazy about them’. Why would he say that? What does that actually mean in a child’s life?

Childhood is when children get a raw impression of who they are..based on how adults, the powerful, knowing ones respond to them. As an early childhood teacher for more years than I like to admit to, I have always believed that every child I am connected with needs to feel that I like them. It’s my first responsibility. I’m not talking about behaviour here. I’m talking about knowing the power I have and being responsible with it. As an adult (not necessarily a teacher), any interaction I have with a child has the potential to contribute to her/his internal construction of his/her worth as a human being and a member of society. And … I haven’t always done that exceptionally well.

Sibylesque Musical building 2

Adults, by definition rule the world. And children are wiser than we know. They are wise to the emotional script that we run with because essentially they are emotional beings. It has been said that children learn the teacher not the content. I’m guessing as you’re reading this you’re reflecting on your own childhoods and how you’ve grown up. Who did you respond to? Who were the adults who affirmed you and which adults did not? Children respond emotionally… that’s what attachment is about … emotional connection. As very young children ‘emotion’ is their first language, before a spoken language.

And that’s where grandparents are so important. We don’t have to make the decisions about the day-to-day routines. We don’t have to get children up in the morning and make sure they get to childcare, school or wherever. We don’t have to do the homework. We don’t have to provide the 5 food groups in the right amount.

 The research is in … We can play well beyond bedtime, read more stories than allocated, spend time listening and responding. We can stop and smell the roses with children.

We can be crazy about our grandchildren because they need us to be!!

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Penny CookPenny Cook has been an early childhood educator for over 30 years. She loves to travel  – anywhere. Penny is a mother and ‘Nan Pen’, who is continuously fascinated and amazed by her two young grandchildren.  She has always wanted to live in  a tree house by the beach …..it’s never too late!! Other wonderfully insightful articles about young children by Penny include Call me on the Banana Phone, Grandma! and Hey Grandma, try this … build your grandchild’s imagination!

Photo source: Unknown.

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Call me on the Banana Phone, Grandma!

by Penny Cook

Sibylesque Imagination Quote

I love technology. Well, I love that I get photos of my grandchildren on my smart phone!! The world has changed. It used to be that the grandmother was retired, or never had to work, so she didn’t need photographic documentation of what her grandchildren were up to because she was there!! Either in a visiting capacity or sometimes as a carer,

But, as a full time working grandparent in 2014, I love the photos. I love that I am included in the stories of their play. Although I’m not there I get to see when the 5-year-old decides to be Tarzan and his 9-month-old sister is cast as Jane. He in his underpants and she in her nappy. I get to see her diving into an upturned basket and emerging with an Octonaut. I get to see Tarzan reading a book and Jane looking lovingly on. I get to be delighted with their play.

I wonder, if we have forgotten the importance of play.

Sibylesque Banana Phone

If children haven’t had lots of opportunities to ‘play’, to pretend a banana is a phone or pencils on the front of their bikes are headlights, then we have a serious problem with literacy. We know we are hard wired for language, but not for reading and writing. When children participate in ‘symbolic play’ (the banana for the phone), they are beginning to understand about symbols. They are learning that you can substitute one thing for another and transfer meaning. Eventually, they will understand those squiggles on a page represent the words we use to communicate. While they’re playing they are also talking and building a bank of words they can use to navigate the world, have their needs met and communicate their thinking. There is a body of research that strongly suggests if children don’t have quality verbal interactions with adults, by the time they are three years old they can be seriously disadvantaged in the literacy journey.

How do children ‘get’ these quality interactions? Well, there are lots of ways. Reading stories together is one. Being available to listen and respond to the wonderful life theories children are constructing is another. Singing is possibly neglected in the literacy world, but so important. Young children are very forgiving. They are not yet music critics so don’t care what you sound like. They just like to sing together.

Sibylesque Iimaginary Train

So are we putting the cart before the horse with our expectations about reading and writing? Do we have an understanding of how young children learn? Are we rushing children in to the ‘academic’ world and are we taking away the very substance of how they learn – play? Have we forgotten the connection between symbolic play and the ‘valued’ literacies of reading and writing?

How can we reclaim play for children? Well Grandparents, rip the sheets from the bed and string them between the couch and the recliner. Get in that cubby with the kids. Drink copious cups of tea. Be the dog, the baby, the mum, the dad, sister, brother or whatever. You are building readers and writers…. And don’t let anyone tell you anything different.

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Penny CookPenny Cook has been an early childhood educator for over 30 years. She loves to travel  – anywhere. Penny is a mother and ‘Nan Pen’, who is continuously fascinated and amazed by her two young grandchildren.  She has always wanted to live in  a tree house by the beach …..it’s never too late!!

Photo source: Smatoday blog, Vic Museum and ipad App store.

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Hey Grandma, try this … build your grandchild’s imagination!

by Penny Cook

Sibylesque bob Newhart quote laughterWho could have ever have predicted that when recycle bins were installed in homes and offices all over Australia, the future creativity of the nation would be under threat! Don’t get me wrong. Recycling is the right thing to do for the planet and, I can tell there has been a huge change in social behavior because early childhood settings all over the country are suffering from a lack of cereal boxes, toilet rolls, milk cartons (remember them), egg cartons, corks and the like!! All of which are ‘gold’ to the imaginations of our youngest innovators.

Sibylesque iPod kidA natural part of how children learn is to make sense of the world they’re experiencing by re presenting their thinking. That’s why they pretend to be someone they’re not (dramatic play), use bananas as telephones and understand that 3 cereal boxes and 2 toilet rolls is really a robot. Without ready access to a range of discarded but potentially fabulous resources, children will miss out on opportunities to be creators and innovators.

What used to go to preschools and schools as ‘junk’ and was transformed into amazing creations, now ends up in recycle centres to be turned into toilet paper, envelopes and tyres. Early years settings are crying out for recycled goods. I have seen teachers guiltily deconstruct a mermaid that didn’t go home with its owner, to recycle the recycling!! Without the ‘junk’ the alternative is pressure to purchase pre packaged expensive bags of coloured sticks, straws, feathers and sequins or alternatively, pre packaged expensive natural materials. Either way children need to and will be creative.

In northern Italy, the city of Reggio Emilia, well known internationally for their early childhood centres, has developed Remida, a centre for organizing and displaying discarded materials to be used as creative resources. Schools can go there and stock up on all kinds of interesting recycled materials, which then get translated into the most amazing creations. There is an endless supply because businesses and industries work in partnership with the city and recognize the importance of the creative process in learning. I’m wondering, is it possible to use face book and social media to influence another change in social behavior –putting in a ‘create and innovate’ step before the recycle depot.

Sibylesque Creative StationOnce at kindy, a child had a plaster cast on his leg. At the same time there was a young boy who didn’t speak. This boy went to the never ending supply of ‘junk’ material, found two milk cartons, cut the bottoms out, opened out the tops and then placed a carton on each leg. That ‘spoke’ to me. It told me this boy wanted to know what it felt like to walk with plaster on his legs. I’d say I was seeing empathy- wanting to understand from another’s point of view. If there wasn’t access to the recycling, I might never have known that about the boy who didn’t speak.

So…tip out the recycling, re badge it as ‘the creative station’, throw in scissors, tape and a glue stick and watch what the kids do!! Or, bundle it up and take it (washed and sorted) to the local early childhood centre or school. The children of Australia will be extremely createful!!

Also check out: how a child’s creativity and imagination helps them deal with anxieties and phobias.

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Penny CookPenny Cook has been an early childhood educator for over 30 years. She loves to travel  – anywhere. Penny is a mother and ‘Nan Pen’, who is continuously fascinated and amazed by her two young grandchildren.  She has always wanted to live in  a tree house by the beach …..it’s never too late!!

Photo source: Popsugar, Familysponge

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