Posts tagged adventures
Kids craft DIY: nature-walk dreamcatcher

As babies, my kids were hopeless sleepers. Annika is just two and maybe not officially a baby (when ARE you officially not a baby?!) but she still is a hopeless sleeper. As in wakes-up-every-hour kinda hopeless. And only-sleeps-while-being-breastfed-to-sleep kinda hopeless. It's exhausting. When they reach three-ish and finally get how bedtime and sleep works, I do anything in my power to keep it that way. So when the bad dreams start or the night-waking becomes a regular occurrence, we jump on it - with cuddles, bribes to go back to bed... and dreamcatchers. New ones every now and then seem to do the trick - it must be a mental thing?! The kids like to help make them, so we have made a few different ones with various bits and pieces such as fluoro string, beads, buttons, shells, crystals etc. Zak asked for one the other day after having a bad dream, so I told him we'd try and make it just from things we find on a nature walk. So we grabbed a long vine-like length from a plant down the road for the hoop, chose a few feathers from the waterfront and a shell with a natural hole in it for the centrepiece. The only thing we didn't find was the twine (though I did find it in the cupboard; let's go with that!). The actual weave part is pretty easy once you work it out: a few years ago I photographed the steps (below) and there is a little more instruction on how to do it here

There are a gazillion and one ways you can make dreamcatchers, I'm sure, but I think my favourite is this one with found natural materials. I love that it's not perfect, which highlights the organic and handmade nature of it. It's now hanging above Zak's bed (dreamcatchers, dinosaurs and Darth Vader go well together apparently!) and Layla has put in an order for a new one after the shell and feathers fell off hers. I told her it was because it's worked so well filtering out the good dreams to send to her in Dreamland and storing the bad, that it burst at the seams. But really it's because Annika thought it looked like it would hold her weight and decided to swing on it! Shhhh!
Surprise Thursdays

Just before the last school holidays, we spontaneously started a new weekly tradition: Surprise Thursdays. Basically, it is exactly what it says - a surprise that occurs on a Thursday afternoon after school (during term; any time of day in the holidays). It can be anything from a milkshake in a cafe or being let loose in a lolly shop with $5 each to exploring a place we've never been before or paying a visit to family or friends

. It's become something I wasn't sure would last, but the kids LOVE it and have not forgotten at all - they don't even allow their friends over or invite themselves to their friend's house on Thursdays because they know they'll miss out! The downside is now being tied to coming up with something different every week! Luckily, there is the fall back of a great park or McDonald's McFlurry if I get really desperate!

It all started one Thursday when I was driving past a train station. Immy noticed the stairs on the overpass and wondered what was at the top and what could you see. I told her maybe one day we could find out, so when we picked the bigger kids up from school that afternoon, I just drove straight there without telling them anything. They were pretty chuffed (to walk up and down stairs at a train station - my kids are obviously easily amused!) about the surprise and we looked out over the water, counted the steps up and down, found some recognisable landmarks and then headed over to the park we spotted from the top. Around the corner from the park was a little reserve and the kids just had so much fun climbing in the trees, helping Zak out of the mud, messing up a very neat pile of autumn leaves someone had obviously raked up and just running around in the cool afternoon air having fun and being children. So, together with my desire to see more of my own area, I figured we'd continue it every week.

Some of the other things we've done is ...

- Explored the local mangroves and found a tyre swing

- A 

treasure hunt and gather 

at Pearl Beach

- Due to everyone being sick and then the death of my Nana, the kids missed out on their cousin catch-up during the holidays so one Thursday I drove past the school and took them down to Sydney to my sister's house where they got to meet their new baby cousin Harry for the first time and hang out with their Oma (my mum), aunties and cousins. I don't usually let them take days off for no reason, but this was thoroughly enjoyed by all - especially my mum who needed the cheering up and cuddles.

- A party afternoon tea at home complete with balloons, party poppers and cake. I'd planned for all their friends to also come, but I wasn't feeling very well so postponed them for another day. The good thing about cancelling a playdate that the kids didn't know about is NO WHINING! Hopefully we'll get to do that complete with party games in the next few weeks.

And today, we visited a really old cemetery at Point Frederick (below). Called Pioneer Park, it's the resting place of 497 people buried between 1840 and 1953 - and what a resting place! Surrounded by the beautiful Brisbane Water. We didn't stay long because of the rain, but we admired the beautiful craftsmanship of the tombstones, looked for the oldest stone (1843 was the earliest we saw) and felt sad at the grave of a little girl Zak's age. We looked for flowers to pick and place on the stones, but the rain forced us back to the car before we could really explore or check out the paths that led

Time Team


down to the water. I imagine it'd be an eerily beautiful place in Spring and apparently is a popular picnic spot (?). But I guess that's nothing compared to what Layla suggested we do when she found out we were checking out a place filled with passed people: "Can we dig them up?" My kids watch too much 

I love the council's commitment to preserving this site. Many of the tombstones are no longer readable, so little plaques have been placed in front of them with the details for when the stones' inscriptions are no more...

So that is our new tradition! At the risk of running out of ideas, I'm going to get the kids to come up with a bunch of suggestions themselves and I'll put them into a hat and draw one out whenever I get stuck. That way, it's still a surprise of sorts. Or maybe I'll surprise them with NO surprise! But then I'd never hear the end of it! As tricky as it may turn out to be, I'm going to keep at it - they really look forward to their Surprise Thursdays - Layla even spoke about it at her public speaking competition. So if you ever want a bribe for your kids, try it yourself! Or if you have any great suggestions for a surprise, please let me know. x

Hunting and gathering

Another lot of school holidays is over. Bummer! I really enjoyed my sleep-ins and not having routines or the school run. Oh the school run, how I hate it so. The day I get out the door without going back in for something, without yelling, or without being late will... well, it'll probably never come. My kids are incapable of getting ready without constant harassment from me. So our pyjamas-till-midday and lazy brunches and late movie nights are gone for another 10 or so weeks. And I'll have to come up with a whole new bunch of ways to amuse the kiddos. These holidays we had lots of fun exploring nearby spaces - Norah Head Lighthouse, Pearl Beach, nearby parks and reserves as well as hanging out at home baking, painting and toasting marshmallows in our homemade fire pit. 

One of the surprise favourite activities was our hunt and gather last Thursday at Pearl Beach. This beach was perfect as there was a nice little bushy area nearby for extra adventures. I made a few two-sided lists for the kids - one side was "Things to spot" and the other was "Things to collect". I added some obvious ones (spiderweb; Australian animal; autumn leaf; shell) and some not-so-obvious ones (spiderweb with a fly in it; seaglass; pinecone). I kind of thought the kids would enjoy it for a while and then just give it up and build a sandcastle. But nope. They did it for ages and explored the beach and bush together looking for all the items on the list. We met some friends down there and they teamed up, bags in one hand for the things to collect; pen and list in the other for the big tick-off. 

Just before they set off, the ultimate "water creature" appeared in the distance that they were able to tick off - a whale jumping out to wave hello! Of course as soon as my camera came out he vanished (why do they do that? How rude. Don't they know if there is no photographic proof it didn't happen!?!?!). It was a beautiful day and most of both lists were found - several times as Zak and his friend Emma teamed up and Emma's sister Jordan helped Layla and Immy find their things. The walked almost the entire length of the beach to find a red flower (it may have been stolen from someone's front yard in the end) and on the way back, I found a piece of seaglass. I put seaglass on the list because we were at the beach and that's where you'd find seaglass, right? But I certainly wasn't expecting anyone to find any because of all the times I've ever been at the beach, I've never found a piece of seaglass (that I know of; maybe I did as a kid, but it's not etched in my memory.)

Anyway, they had a ball and are keen to do another one another time. Good clean free fun! You can do this literally anywhere - even in your own backyard, just choose relevant "finds" for them to, well, find. 

Here is the full list if you're keen to try it yourself and are just not in the mood to think too hard! 

Things to spot
Birds nest
Spiderweb with a fly in it
Tree that looks like something
Fallen branch/log
Tree stump
Black and white bird
Australian animal
Gum tree
Signs of a fire
Tyre tracks
Human footprints
Animal footprints
Ants nest
Animal house
Sea/water creature
Rock with oysters

Things to collect
Yellow flower
Pink flower
Purple flower
Blue flower
Red flower
Orange flower
White flower
Stick shaped like a "Y"
Flat stone/pebble
Perfect green leaf
Autumn leaf
Cicada shell
Piece of driftwood
"A find" 
(A find to us is something you find that is kinda random but kinda cool. Zak has a whole jar of them he's collected since we moved into this house, mainly consisting of things he's found in our yard when Steve was working in it - a really old coin, unique bottle top, rusty bolt, springs, dog tag or piece of jewellery. Layla found a golf ball on this hunt, so that was her "find"!)

So it was quite a big list! The only things they didn't find were a tree stump, puddle (darn no rain!), rock with oysters and a cicada shell. Not too bad! And if we'd ventured closer to the beach pool we'd most likely have found a rock with oysters on it. But the wind was whippy and the waves were scary - we weren't getting too close to the water. In fact, we were really sad to hear the very next day a little boy was swept out to sea from that very same beach by a huge wave. I'm glad I trusted my instincts  and kept our distance - those waves made me nervous. And obviously with good reason. That poor family... 

Ugh, I hate ending things on a sad note... So, is this something you'd do? Have you done before? What's something else they could find next time? Or a good place to do a hunt? x
"Can't say no" day

I find myself saying “no” a lot to the kids. Or “wait a minute”. Or “not right now”. They seem to pick the worst times ever to ask for things! But I read somewhere recently that children’s refusal to do as you ask of them could come down to our refusal to do things they ask of us. I’m trying to be mindful of this advice when they ask me things now. So instead of saying “I’ll just put the noodles on first” when they ask me to come outside and look at their painting, I’ll just go and look at it. Noodles can wait that half a minute and I’ll just have to suck up the fact I just turned the tap on as they asked. I’ve tried it a few times and they seem quite surprised I stopped what I was doing and just did what they asked. I have seen that favour returned a few times, but it’s early days still!
Taking it one fun step further, I decided the kids could have a “can’t say no day” last Friday. Steve was in New Zealand for his brother’s bucks weekend and it was just us for a few days. I just ignored everything else that day and let them decide where we went, what we ate and what we did. The rules were it had to be nearby (we were going to Sydney the next day so I refused to go anywhere far) and as long as they were reasonable requests, I would grant them.
Kids are so predictable – there would be requests for entering the Lego competition at the nearby shops, donuts, McDonald’s, a play in the park, a milkshake, a movie… I was also prepared for demands to look at the toys at the shops and buy cars or Pet Shops but that didn’t happen – I was happy to do so, but they never asked. Not even when we walked PAST the toy section while buying Zak some shoes. Go figure! I wonder if they’re just too young yet to take advantage!! They also asked for – and were granted – lollipops, lemonade with dinner and a ride on the carousel. I nearly tried to talk them out of going to the park – they asked at 5.30pm to go for a scooter ride and play in the park. I was just about to get dinner ready! Instead, we popped our shoes back on and off we went. By the time we got there it was almost dark, but they happily played in the empty playground until I couldn’t see them anymore! We got home around 7pm, had dinner and then they watched a movie until they fell asleep. It was so chilled and relaxed and fun, I might even do it again one day…
Pics via Instagram (@belindagraham) left to right, top to bottom: The kids trashed Zak’s room in the morning while playing anything and everything they wanted; Layla gets to push Immy in the pram; Walking hand-in-hand; Layla and I made a Rapunzel tower; Zak made a “super car” and Immy just kept running away and chewing on the pieces; Happy meals, milkshakes and a play at McDonald’s; donuts on a stick

6 Responses to “can’t say no day”

  1. Georgy says:
    I love this idea of a can’t say no day, I think I might try this Friday as the last day of school holidays. I know what you mean about often saying in a minute because..and on occasions when I have just focussed on the kids for a number of hours we have all had a great time and I have felt a lot more relaxed, rather then feeling continually interrupted. G
  2. Katrina says:
    I love this idea! Might need to try it.
  3. FAB Belinda!
    Love this story…love the *Can’t say no day*!
    Glad you were surprised to by how wonderful your kids were NOT asking for everything!
    Melissa x
  4. heather says:
    I totally love this idea. I’m definitely going to take a leaf out of your book there and try it with my boy too. x
  5. Belinda says:
    thanks guys, I just love that they felt SO special and so happy that pretty much everything was a “yes”! There were some conditions (you can only have a donut king donut if coles don’t have any – they didn’t so they got a donut kind one! and they could only ride the carousel if I got the right change from lunch, which happened.) but they totally got it. definitely one to do as a reward for good behaviour i think! xx
  6. This is something of a tradition in my family — we call it “King For A Day” (or queen if it’s a girl). We generally do it on birthdays instead of a huge party, but I’ll do one to celebrate big accomplishments or to break up the monotony of everyday life. I love getting the insight into what the kiddo truly loves and it does do so much for their behavior. Obviously we can’t live like that all the time, but they sure are great on occasion. I’ve found that giving the kids some power (or the illusion of power) makes them shine. My son has embraced his chances to take on responsibility in ways that continually surprise me. I’m so happy to read that you enjoyed the day too. The idea of doing whatever the kids want to do for a day sounds terrifying in theory, but is usually do much fun!