Learning through play with My Bubba Box

 

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I am constantly looking for new activities and toys which encourage my children to learn and grow (which I usually share on Instagram found here).  Being baby number three, Miller has received many hand me downs and toys are no exception.  The majority of his toys and books, while still played with and loved, are at least four years old.  So when I heard about My Bubba Box, I knew I needed it for Miller.

My Bubba Box offer developmental toy subscription boxes for babies and toddlers.  They have done all the hard work in finding, sourcing then delivering amazing items your little one will love.  Every item in the box has been carefully selected with objects that will encourage development and play.  Boxes are designed to engage and be used for at least three months, hence quarterly subscriptions are offered.  One off boxes can also be purchased as gifts or if you wanted to try it out before committing to the subscription.  With this option, you can choose certain colours or objects, book titles, etc. so you can tailor it to the lucky receiver.

IMG_4475I was so impressed when I opened Miller’s box – everything there was beautifully curated, age appropriate and of amazing quality.  Even though I have been a mother for 6 years and like to think I am on top of the new educational products on the market, there were some items in our box I had never heard of and which Miller took an instant liking to.  He immediately took to the black and white book and stares at each page for at least a few minutes.  Grace loves the using the puppet to talk to Miller, using her monkey voice when playing it and I like the stroller cards, which provide beautiful pictures for Miller to look at and corresponding questions.  We also received a handy teether, teeth wipes a lovely comforter in the box.  Included is also a list of ideas of how to use the items in the box together with your little one, how it will help them develop and why it is good for their targeted age.IMG_4518We can’t wait to see what we receive in our next box!  Oh and did I mention that shipping is free?  So gone are the days of you finding great toys online but being put off by the extreme shipping expense!  My Bubba Box not only saves you time in researching the best developmental toys for your little one, but money as well!

We love My Bubba Box so much that we’ve teamed up with them to give littleblueliving readers a $15 discount code!  These boxes make great gifts too (handy, with Christmas just around the corner!).  Just enter “LITTLEBLUELIVING” to save yourself $15!

 

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Our Montessori inspired shelves – 4 and 6 year olds

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Like most families, we have many play toys we have accumulated over the years.  While many of them are fun to play with, most of the time they are forgotten as they are placed in toy boxes.  I consequently decided to use the Montessori method of having learning activities easy to access and open via a bookshelf.  This has proved successful in our family, ensuring our children play with many of the toys they have (as I try rotate them as often as I can) but also encourages them to occupy themselves and not turn to screens which is always the easy option.

Since my last Montessori inspired activity shelf post (which you can find here) I have been able to update them with more exciting jobs for Xavier as well as Grace, thanks to A Whole Lot of Love.  I initially found it difficult to find exciting activities for school aged children but I have now included a few jobs which Grace thoroughly enjoys.

Here is our shelf as it currently stands…

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And here are the shelves in more detail…

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Block shape pattern activity – you may remember this job from previous posts showcasing our activity shelves (found here and here) but they live on the shelf for a good reason.  Both Grace and Xavier now play with it, sometimes spending up to 20 minutes replicating different pictures from the cards.

Animal block puzzle – This Melissa and Doug puzzle is now only played by Xavier but he loves it, usually completing all 6 animals before going on to something else.

Wooden blocks for free play – I often found my children using the blocks from the shape pattern activity to build towers and other interesting things so I knew I needed to include proper wooden blocks for free play.  I opted for a 50 piece set so it was big enough to build decent buildings, but compact enough for the shelf for easy access.  This beautiful set can be found here

Balance scales – I found this beautiful wooden one here and was immediately drawn by its versatility for play.  It comes with four wooden pegs but Xavier also loves to weigh his different trinkets (which I shared on Instagram here).  I like to use it to teach what is heavier than what and to practice addition and subtraction.

Dominoes with stairs and slide – This is a great domino play set and one my children have often played with on dreary rainy Melbourne days.  I like how it encourages patience (as it’s so easy to knock down!) but also creativity as this set (found here) also comes with stairs, slide and a bell for the dominoes to hit at the very end!

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Four logical thinking game – Grace usually gravitates towards this activity.  You replicate patterns but it has to be done logically, as you can only move a certain number of circles at a time.

Shape halves puzzle – There are three hexagons, squares and circles.  Each shape has a different type of half for it e.g. straight half, zig zag or curved.  It requires concentration as the zig zag is often confused with the curved halves!

Animal memory game – Most of our memory games are flimsy cards and since the children love playing memory, I bit the bullet and got good quality, cardboard ones (found here).  They are beautiful quality, the graphics of the animals are adorable and I know they will withstand a lot of play, unlike the other memory cards we have had!

Spelling puzzle – there are different wooden boards with a picture of an object and spaces for one to spell the word with wooden letters

Sandpaper letters – these are upper case sandpaper letters for Xavier.  He likes to put them in order of the alphabet and I ask him to spell certain words when he’s in the mood!

Replicating patterns with two toned tiles – This is a great activity and Grace’s favourite at the moment (you can see her playing with it here).  The tiles are two toned not only in colour but in pattern as well, making it quite difficult to replicate intricate pictures found on cards.  It’s great the tiles are magnetic so it’s convenient for travel, but also good if you want a break from the job and want to come back to it later.  We got this beautiful set from here.

Also tune in on our Instagram pageour Instagram page for an exciting giveaway so you too can have some fun learning activities for your little ones!

Thank you to A Whole Lot of Love for helping us update our activity shelf!

Products were gifted from A Whole Lot of Love but our opinions of them are our own.

Three healthy lunchbox treats

I feel like I am constantly trying to mix the snacks and lunchboxes up, even though we only have one child at school at the moment.  That being said, we do pack two lunchboxes three times a week and I cannot leave the house without a bag full of snacks up my sleeve.  While I do ensure there is always fruit and vegetables in their diet (dried fruit are always in snack cups in my bag!), I do like to add treats as a special surprise (or for sneaky bribes… come on, we all need to have something up our sleeves!).  So here are three healthy lunchbox treats that I try to have on hand:

  1. Chocolate chip oat cookies (recipe found here)

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Since Miller cannot have dairy (it makes his small intestines bleed so I’m very careful about it!) this is my go to recipe for cookies.  I buy the dairy free chocolate chips from Costco, nuttlex and coconut sugar are used and voila!  A healthy and delicious treat (which is usually gone within a day!).

2) Nut free bliss balls (recipe found here)

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These balls are better straight from the fridge but it is still a healthy treat that my kids and I enjoy to eat.  They are nut free and packed full of the good stuff.

3) The chocolate Yogi chocolates (Oscar the orangutan is a favourite!)

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Chocolate is always an exciting treat to see when you open your lunchbox so we sometimes sneak them in.  Oscar the Orangutan from the Chocolate Yogi is completely dairy free with coconut sugar and raw cacao.  It’s the perfect snack size (15g), you can buy it in bulk (and you can earn a discount coupon by spinning the Chocolate Yogi fun wheel so it could be cheaper) and 5c from every bar sold goes to the Orangutan project.

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A delicious, healthy snack that supports a good cause?  Yep, clearly a winner.

Our after school routine

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I recently read an interesting article about after school routines (found here).  Written by a nanny, she compares the two families she works for and their different views on screen time.  One family sets time limits on the amount of time their children can play on iPads/watch TV while the other, allows unlimited use.  The children of the second family, however, must complete their homework and other set tasks before they allowed to do anything they want.  The author then explains that they don’t always turn to screens, listing outside activities or even board games as ways they choose to pass the time before dinner, whereas children from the first family would sneak in as much screen time as possible, outside their set amounts.

I then remembered a discussion had with a friend who shared her rules on screen time at home.  Similar to the second family described in the article, her son earns screen time after doing tasks she sets, such as writing practice (which has improved because of the extra effort).  This made me think that we too, need to rethink our after school routines.

Our children return home from school and kinder tired on most days so I understand them wanting to take it easy and ‘vege out.’  I also believe that play is important not only for childhood memories but for learning as well.  Hard work was instilled in my siblings and I from a young age and extra work was given to us to help with our learning.  Upon reflection, I can see how it did help us at school, even though at the time, I hated doing more work at home.  This reminded me about ‘Outliers‘, a book by Malcolm Gladwell, which explores why some people are successful (a great read, if you have the time!).  In one chapter, the book too finds that extra homework is of some benefit.

I had a good think about all of this and ‘balance’ kept popping into my mind.  So I decided to incorporate my learnings from both the article and book.  After both children do their readers, all I ask of them is to complete two pages of English and Math books (I just bought Kumon books for $6.99 at Costco) and then they can do whatever they want.  It literally takes them less than 10 minutes to complete this extra task and so far, they have been very happy to do it because they then get free time.  While most days they choose the iPad and laptop, there have been instances where they have asked to go to the park or played with their toys.  And I know that outside play will be chosen more once the weather picks up!

This routine only plays out if we don’t have extracurricular activities after school and piano practice is done before school (since they like to wake up at 6am… fun times).  So for right now, this routine works for us but I am very aware that things can change very quickly and I am very happy to adapt to whatever comes our way.

So yes, these are busy days.  I don’t want to know how hectic things will get as they get older!  But it is a great feeling to have found a routine that works for us and makes our afternoon run a lot more smooth!

Wanting more ‘stars’

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I read ‘You are Special’ by Max Lucado over ten years ago and its story has stayed with me ever since.  For those who are unfamiliar with the children’s book, it follows a wooden puppet living in a puppet village.  Puppets would stick stars on others they thought were pretty, smart, popular or just for having lots of stars on them whereas those who were not liked as much or at all, received dots.  Some puppets had heaps of stars on them and thought they were above the others who only had a few stars or lots of dots.  The main character soon meets a puppet, Lucia, with no dots or stars on her.  The stickers don’t work because she doesn’t care what others think – only what her creator does.

I remember thinking what a terrible world to live in, for the majority to want as many stars as possible and have others see them.  The sad thing is, that’s the world we live in now via social media.  You can track people’s popularity by the number of followers they have, the number of likes they have.  Unfortunately, we also live in a world where almost anything can be bought, including fake followers and likes.

Since the birth of Miller, I have taken a step back from actively blogging and posting on Instagram.  I started to think about the real reason why I’m on a public social media platform and what I wanted to achieve from doing so. I started publicly blogging with the hope to share my motherhood journey, the ups and downs and everything in between.  Even though I didn’t have a clear idea of what my brand would be, I knew that I would be very selective on what I shared about my family, details and even faces.  I had heard stories of people stealing other people’s photos, especially ones of children and I never wanted to put my kids in such a position.

However, since taking a brief pause from social media, I started to fret over my account’s declining ‘engagement.’  In truth, I wondered why I was receiving less ‘stars’.  I read that people don’t like green on their feed (I post lots of photos from our park outings or in our garden), they like consistent pictures (my life is all over the place so why would my Instagram feed be any different?) and similar colours (but I’m not one to add filters to all my posts).

What I’m trying to say is, I’m going to stay more true to myself and focus on what is meaningful to me.  While it is hard to not care what others think (one of my many weaknesses!), I will refuse to let it drive my behaviour.  We all need to be less like the puppets of ‘You are special’ who go around handing out stickers to others they deem popular or not, and more like ‘Lucia’ and not let the stars and spots stick to us and affect us.

Being my true self

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I recently caught up with a group of friends at work and the topic of conversation turned to the various people we all work with.   Since I don’t work in the same business unit as most of them, I was surprised that I knew certain names my friends mentioned.  They looked at me with a confused at why I knew these people as my line of work requires no association with them.  As the conversation progressed, it was me with the confused face as my friends recounted their interactions with the people I knew outside of work, since their work behaviour was the complete opposite to what I was used to seeing from them.

When I expressed my disbelief that we were talking about the same people, I also suggested that maybe work brought out the stressed side of their personalities and thus certain behaviours were expressed on a regular basis.  While they agreed that work does bring on stress, the fact that they were known to act a certain way in meetings meant they were known as certain type of people.  I refused to let their opinion affect my personal opinion of these people, as I was used to seeing their constant kind, generous side.

This conversation, however, really played on my mind as I started to question if I was completely different at work to how I am at home.  While I understand that we adapt our behaviour given the situation, I ultimately want to believe I am the same person at home, work and play.  To think that I act the complete opposite to how my children, family and friends see me to how I act at work really made my stomach turn.

During my last few days at work before maternity leave, I was really lucky to have some people say very nice things about me.  Three people used the same word to describe me – genuine.  That made me realise that was the key.  As long as I was genuine in all I do, then I would act the same wherever I was and whatever situation I was in.  I am perfectly aware that I will sometimes put on a fake smile or politely endure a conversation I don’t want to be a part of, but as long as I am known for the things I want to be known for wherever I am, then I know I am being my true self.  And that is exactly what I want my children to understand and practice.

Preparing for the cooler weather

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The cool weather has finally arrived here in Melbourne.  The jackets are out, jumpers in drawers and lots of citrus fruits are now in our diet as we try combat the sniffles that usually accompany such change.

I have been meaning to try essential oils in our household for a while now, as I have heard of its many benefits.  I heard Lavender helps with sleeping, Peppermint and Eucalyptus assists with cough and colds and Frankincense can positively affect moods.  Since I wanted to try the oils on the children, I researched which method was best for their use.  While carrier oils were often suggested (where you use 10ml of a carrier oil to dilute with a few drops of essential oils), diffusers seemed very popular.

We were excited when Piping Rock offered to let us try their Essential Oils Starter Kit and Mist Vapor Diffuser.  The Starter Kit not only contains Lavender, Frankincense, Peppermint and Eucalyptus, but also Tea Tree and Cedarwood.  The Piping Rock website simply explains how each oil is extracted, the aroma, which part of the plant is used, benefits, history and what other oils it blends with.  I also appreciated the honest reviews each product contained, all from Piping Rock customers, since I was new to the essential oils world!

The Essential Oils Starter Kit contains six 15ml essential oil bottles, each with a dropper top for easy use.  A summary of the each oil’s benefits can be found below:

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We started off using Lavender and Eucalyptus with the children and have not stopped using these oils ever since we received them, especially when runny noses seemed to appear.  The Mist Vapor Diffuser was a hit not only because of its compact size but also because it turned out to be the perfect night light.  The kids take in turns choosing what colour the light is each night (you can even choose an option where the colours slowly change).  One limitation of this diffuser, however, due to its size, is that the steam only lasts 5 hours and not the entire night.  However, the children still love having it on each night.

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The other pleasant surprise with Piping Rock was despite being an American company, their prices are very affordable and shipping to Australia reasonable.  Shipping did take a while but if for the quality of product and price, I’m sure you wouldn’t mind waiting a bit either!

We’ll do anything to get a longer night sleep so it’s always great to find something that does help!

Thank you, Piping Rock for sponsoring this post.  Collaboration supported by Shopping Links