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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First Communion, First Confession: Bless Me Father for I have a Fake Tan

By Donna Jones & Kerry Cue

Sibylesque Toni Morrison Quote 1a

Tiaras, white princess dresses, salon hair, make up and fake tans. I am not describing a wedding party or a debut set. Today, in Australia, some 7 year old girls go through the full ‘bridal makeover package’ to make their First Holy Communion.

Do parents realise they are sexualising their daughters for a religious ceremony? Or, is the sexualisation of young girls in our culture so endemic, parents do not think about it at all?

So girls learn at 7 years of age that:

– their real skin is not good enough (They have beautiful skin)

– their real cheeks are too rosy (They must be made to look like an adult)

– their real hair is too ordinary (They must have supermodel hair)

Sibylesque First Communion

This is not just a BODY IMAGE issue. This story reflects a shift in values and connection to community. In his Theory of Cognitive Development Piaget used the term ‘decentering’, to define a child’s ability to think outside him or herself, to think of others. This stage stretches from 7 – 12 years of age. So at the very point where children start to think how others might feel in a situation, we turn the spotlight on them. We create little narcissists.

Sad, isn’t it.

As for the tiara, that’s fine. Every young girl is a princess.

Photo Source: Pinterest.

Toni Morrison Quote: link

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I love my mother but I don’t want to have children!

by Kerry Cue

Sibylesque parent worry quoteWhy would a  daughter who loves her mother not want to have children? Be careful what you wish. We feminist mothers wished that our daughters would be free to make their own decisions in life. Nevertheless, we are the first generation of mothers, who cannot assume that grandchildren will appear. I understand why young women, who had difficult mothers may not want children. But young vibrant women who love their mothers … that is a different group. Why wouldn’t they want children?

I had the opportunity to ask a young successful professional woman, this question. She adored, and was also grieving for, her mother who had recently died at the age of 71. The young woman had postponed child bearing until her forties when, fortunately, she gave birth two much loved children when she was 42 and then 45 years of age.

Sibylesque girls with pram 2 vintag.es

So why don’t feminist daughters of feminist mothers want children? Or, some of them, at least. The young woman first cited failed relationships. Some young women stumble through their twenties and then their thirties from one failed relationship to another. I would add job security as another factor. Some young women worry that they cannot afford children.

Nevertheless, this young feminist felt that feminist mothers are so adamant that their daughters establish independent careers, any talk of motherhood gets lost in the conversation.

So you’ve been warned. Maybe all feminist mothers should talk up motherhood a little more. Afterall, when we mothers get together at any age, guess who we talk about?

Photo source: vintag.es

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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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Do modern parenting styles create phobias in kids?

by Kerry Cue

Sibylesque Imagination Quote 2

Yes and No. Parents with Social Phobia, for instance, may pass their fears on to their children. However, we, the Sibyls, know that children have vastly different personalities, coping styles and anxiety levels. And they grow up with many influences including dominating siblings, unstable family structures, economic pressures, school, the culture and the media.

Nevertheless, studies show that parents can help reduce anxiety levels in young children by encouraging:

  1. Creative Play: In The Serious Need for Play (Scientific American Mind, 28 JAN 2009) Melinda Wenner cites studies that show ‘Free, imaginative play is crucial for normal social, emotional and cognitive development. It makes us better adjusted, smarter and less stressed.’
  1. Sibylesque Po Kung Fu PandaRisk Taking: Children need to encounter risks and overcome fears on the playground,” said Ellen Sandseter, a professor of psychology at Queen Maud University in Norway. “I think monkey bars and tall slides are great. As playgrounds become more and more boring, these are some of the few features that still can give children thrilling experiences with heights and high speed.” (See: Can playgrounds be to safe? John Tierney, New York Times, 18 JUL 2011)

Research by Professor Sandseter supports the argument that children are born to take risks and this is how they learn to deal with such things as fear of heights. If a child does not tackle a fear of heights, say, then they can develop a phobia. Sometimes parents too need to be encouraged to take risks with their parenting. And these studies help start the conversation.

Does Helicopter Parenting harm children? You might want to read: Help My Bubble Wrap Kid Just Turned 40!

Photo Source: Reblogger blog.

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How did childhood become a prison sentence?

by Kerry Cue

Sibylesque Nature Play Quote

We are the generations, who roamed free. We rode our bikes unsupervised. Explored the neighbourhood. Played in the street. Our grandchildren live indoors. (See The Last Child in the Woods book review) This is cause for great concern. Sibyl Helen Elliott writes about the joys of taking grandchildren into nature. There is another side to this story. Childhood is diminished if children do not experience nature. Now the research confirms our fears.

Results from the Australian State of Play Report, 2012, comprising 8 – 12 year old children, their parents and grandparents published in Primary Focus, the SAPPA (South Australia Primary Principals) Magazine include:

*Indoors: 9 out of 10 kids spend more time playing inside than out.

Sibylesque outdoor play app

*A lack of inspiration: 37% of kids run out of ideas for play.

*A lack of time: Afterschool activities limit the time children have to play outdoors.

*A lack of opportunity: 37% of kids report they don’t have anyone to play with outside as almost half the kids they might play with are indoors plugged into technology.

A growing body of research shows us that outdoor play leads to better physical and mental health, has positive effects on cognitive function and learning, and reduces the incidence of behavioural problems.” Maria Zotti, Nature Play, SA.

Peter Dunstan, Principal Kilkenny PS, SA, writes in Primary Focus that outdoor play fosters “wonderment, independence and freedom” as well as “social skills, imagination, creativity and problem solving”.

So concerned are the South Australian Primary School Principals they have combined with Nature Play, SA (A NFP organisation) to promote outdoor play. Nature Play, SA has produced this poster: 51 Things to Do before you’re 12. Pass it on!!!!!!!

51things_NPSA

Photo: Unsourced

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Frogs, Thornbills, Crimson Leaves and Cycla-Men: The Many Enchantments of the Natural World

By Helen Elliott

 Sibylesque Richare Louv Quote

Easter was sublime here in the country. It was cold at night and the days remained crisp. The family were staying for a few days and because there were babies and toddlers the house needed to be kept warm, mostly by the open fire that astonished the children. They all live in centrally heated houses.

Outside the garden was modestly, quietly preparing itself for winter. The golden ash no longer dazzled along the drive but it’s leaves made a russet eiderdown for the bright shoots of bulbs beneath. The huge maple by the creek still flies banners of crimson and orange and the children gasp at the size of the leaves. And the shapes. They hold them out against the palms of their hands and make us look. They have seen leaves in books but not like this, scattered across the grass, tumbling in the water.

Two of the children are old enough for an Easter egg hunt, and on Easter Sunday with the mist still blooming above the tallest gums, bundled into their coats, their crazy pink gumboots and cherry- red hats they waited by the kitchen door holding their new buckets. Their parents each hold a swaddled, rosy-checked baby and everyone is wondering where a rabbit might leave eggs. Had I glimpsed him that very morning? Fat? Silver fur? Tall brown ears and a great puff of a tail? I had a few suggestions about where he might have been.

Sibylesque Autumn EnchantmentsI was right. Over by the fence where the climbing rose is finishing the season with a few tawny buds amongst the crowd of rosehips two perfect golden eggs are lying. The little girl’s joyful screams pierce the morning air startling two birds out of hedge. They flap vertically into the sky. Where else would that rabbit go, the children wonder? Under the Irish strawberry? Or maybe if they bent down and lifted the tips of the branches of the Chinese elm where it sweeps the earth and crept into that glade they’d find something? Again their screams of delight, again their sparkling faces.

Olivia rushed to the first of the jelly bushes, certain that the rabbit would have been there. She was enraptured by the jelly bushes because when you shook them, or polished them they wobbled like jelly! To us they are common English box bushes but they’re shaped like small urns and are just the right height for a three year old to shake. Alas, not one golden egg wobbled from the deep green urns.

And nothing was found in the old fountain except an upturned pot. Nothing? Well, there was a tiny striped frog. Half lime and half olive. The girls wondered if he had a name. And shouldn’t he live in the pond? Continue reading article here: Frogs, Thornbills, Crimson Leaves and Cycla-Men- The Many Enchantments of the Natural World

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Helen Elliot 2Helen Elliott is a thoughtful and analytical reader, informed and soulful writer and unyielding literary critic for many Australian newspapers. She is also a dedicated gardener. After down downsizing the family home and moving into an apartment Helen longed for her garden. You will find her insightful thoughts on this experience here.

Photo Source: Stairs marksinthemargin blog.

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