When Lego Becomes Art: The Art of the Brick Exhibit

our trip to the art of the brick exhibit in Johannesburg We celebrated Freedom Day today with my parents at “The Art of the Brick” exhibit at the Zone, Rosebank. This is the kind of thing where the adults enjoy the art work and the child enjoys playing with the actual lego at the end. This is why it is an excellent trip for families of all age groups.

Lego is a staple toy in every home. One of Nicky’s favourite toys is a lego tractor which hooks up to a trailer. (He loves things that hook together). It has a clown, giraffe and a fork.

I have to tell you it had been forgotten for a while but the other day we found the clown. There was much excitement and the whole thing was assembled again. Then the clown got lost. Nicky was very upset. “Man!” he cried. We looked everywhere for this blessed man.

lego-tractor Eventually last week when my maid did not pitch (again!) and I had to do some basic cleaning in preparation for our visitors, I found the clown behind the curtain in our front “pool” room (it has a pool table). I told Nicky he was busy looking out the window! In any case he was very happy to put the whole lot together again.

In any case, getting back to the exhibit.

2015-04-27 11.40.04 As you enter, there is this cute photo booth where you can place your head in the middle of a poster of the sculpture of a yellow torso spewing lego bricks. This was the first of many photo opportunities.
nathan We were then shown a short movie clip about the artist, Nathan Sawaya. He used to be a lawyer until he decided to do what he loved: creating lego art. Around the exhibition are his thoughts on the creations, as well as some quotes. He also details how long it took him to make the sculptures – some took weeks and others, like the two dimensional paintings, took a few days.

IMG_0642 He replicates a lot of famous art works e.g. Mona Lisa, The Scream. One of the neat things he does is create a sculpture out of a painting: in other words, create three dimensions from two.

the scream painting created into a lego sculpture

lego scupture turns kiss painting into a sculpture


lego sculpture with ball Nicky liked the man holding a ball. We took a picture of that one. There was also a cool one of a pencil.

toddler with pencil lego sculpture

lego sculpture for the grandparents 2015-04-27 12.14.22 A special sculpture, considering the grandparents were with us, was this red creation of an older couple. The caption was “Everlasting” and it talked about how love can last. This is something I admire in my parents and aspire to myself.

lego sculptures depicting grief, nightmares

The section I found most interesting was the one entitled “human condition”. This is where the artist displays emotions. He shows grief with a parent holding a child. He shows his ultimate nightmare: the loss of his hands: in a sculpture. One item has the head removed (to remove clutter he says).

breaking through barriers I liked “Gray” which shows a person breaking through a barrier. He says: “Taking a leap is hard. I used to be a lawyer. There was nothing wrong with being a lawyer, but I always knew there was another me, an Artist Me, lurking inside. Then one day I decided to let the Artist in me out, and I never looked back.”



I think this is a great inspirational quote for encouraging you to follow your dreams. “Taking a leap is hard,” yes, but at the end of the day it’s worth it.

uplifting art Another fabulous creation for following your dreams is this red one suspended from the ceiling. “What will lift you up?” is a really good question.


The largest sculpture was a dinosaur. How awesome was that?

2015-04-27 12.37.09

IMG_0688 After all the lego exhibits came Nicky’s reward. A place to sit and play with lego. He immediately went for the cars and linked them all up like he does with his one at home. He had a lot of fun. DH then helped him build a garage for his cars.


dad helping Nicky build lego


By now we were really hungry and headed off for lunch. We took some fabulous pics with the grandparents.


Thanks for a great day out, Grandpa and Granny!

This post is not sponsored and is my own opinion. The Art of the Brick Exhibit (http://www.theartofthebrickexpo.co.za/) runs until 2 August 2015.



Raising A Reader

raising-a-reader Now that Nicky’s little bed has been put away and he is consistently using his big bed, a new space has been created in his room. All the books next to his bed were in disarray and falling over so I moved a bookshelf from another room in the house to take up pride of place next to the window. Creating a bookshelf is one of the methods I am using to raise my little reader.

I thought this would be a great opportunity for him to choose his own books, now that he could reach them, but he is still grabbing any old book. Although he really likes the book on trucks that he can open and shut. We also have a few faves I know he likes that I save for last (we read 3 books each night) like Dinosaur Versus Bedtime, Good Night Little Bear, Molly and the Night Monster, Seymour and Henry (about two ducks).

This week we finally did something I have been wanting to do for ages: we went to the library.  I recently read this post on A Fine Parent (http://afineparent.com/simplify-life/how-to-be-a-good-parent.html) about how if you want your kid to read, you had better start reading yourself. (The article was about being a lazy parent and they made the point that if you sit and read for 15-30 mins per day they will get the hint that reading is important).

The challenge I’m finding with library books and following your toddler around is that you have to really be careful. Our trampoline collects water in pockets and I just put the book down to jump with my son for a bit and next thing I know the book is starting to get wet.

It was a mad dash inside for me and a few minutes of frantic work with a hair dryer. I managed to restore it to its former glory.

Then we have the sand throwing and diving.

However I have managed to find a few nice spots to sit in while he plays. Let’s hope I manage to finish this Susan Howatch trilogy in three weeks! And that the book remains in one piece…

Book lovers will also be interested in this bit of info that popped into my inbox: that there is a Book Fair  (http://www.southafricanbookfair.co.za/) happening in Johannesburg at the historic Turbine Hall in Newtown (managed by The Forum Company) from 31 July to 2 August. The three day Fair is a veritable playground for lovers of reading. Promising to bring the focus back to books and their authors, this year’s Fair has planned an exciting literary programme that will feature book launches and signings, author interviews and discussions, poetry readings, literary workshops and forums, exhibitions and displays, and an exciting children’s zone. Friday is a dedicated schools and library day, with a carefully crafted literary programme for learners and educators.

Another thing I’ve been working on with Nicky is assembling an alphabet. I’ve printed out letters and collected plastic animals for each. I’ve done one three period lesson teaching o, a and d. He managed to get as far as the second period matching the octopus, anteater and dolphin. It was a bit haphazard and I think we’re going to need a lot more practice. But ever since I was a teacher it has been a dream of mine to teach my own kid the alphabet, so I know it will come.

If you’re wondering about how I’m doing this, I’ve created a new freebie on the menu bar and also at this link: http://onestepatatime.co.za/free-stuff/. (I have no idea why my internal link thing is not working grr…)

I’ve always enjoyed reading in the past, but lately it seems to have fallen by the wayside. I’m hoping to get back into it so that I can inspire another generation to be a book lover.



Putting Two Words Together

the development of speech of my toddler - putting two words together Every week there is more development in Nicky’s speech and it is amazing to watch.  He can name a lot of animals. He can say if he is “wet” or “hot”. He can demand “duice!” or “wator” or “eat!”. He can name all the members of his family “Mama, Dada, Co Co and Ilo” (the last two are the dogs Coffee and Milo – we also call Coffee Coff Coff so I guess this is close enough for him). Nicky is a late talker but lately there have been a lot of single words coming. So it has been interesting to see this week  how he has actually been linking two words together more often.

Of course Nicky has done this before, if you remember “Out, Dad!” but this week was the first time he has said it referring to me.

toddler on balance bike next to water The other day I was busy in the kitchen he got on his scooter outside the door and very insistently said “Mama, out!” He wants me to come with him to play outside. He continued like this until I had to explain to him that I needed to cook but he could come and help me. A bit of tears but I got him to “help” and he had fun throwing beans in the pot.

toddler with bat and ball

We did get to play outside. Nicky loves playing cricket. I am so enjoying playing cricket with him. I think it is therapeutic after being useless at sport and having horrible PT teachers to have this bundle of joy enjoying throwing balls at me and the bat. He even picks them up if they are not on his side. Bonus.

Nicky gets a real thrill out of saying “Mama!” and me answering “Yes?” He thinks this is hilarious and will do it again and again.

Another word he has learned early on is “biccy”. Oh my word. If Nicky could live on biscuits he would happily do so. It  is “biccy” when he wakes up, “biccy” at odd times during the day, and “biccy” last thing at night. He will even take “biccy” to the bathroom to sit on the potty and munch at the same time. (Oh by the way we are still continuing with the potty training, with prompting he is doing well, but still pooping in his pants. Sigh.)

In any case, this evening it is bath time, and to soften the blow of the “trauma” of bath time a comfort item has to come too. Often it is a car, but tonight he wants a “biccy”. I explain to him that it will probably get wet, but anyway.

Off we go, he does his pee in the potty (yay!) and then it is bath time. The biscuit is placed on the edge of the bath. We have a great splashing time in the bath. At one point he is out sitting on the side of the bath with all the toys and he notices, to much dismay, that the biscuit is wet.

“Biccy!” Nicky says in tears.

toddler after bath in onsie pajamas

After the bath in his onesie

I explain to him that if you bring a biscuit into the bath, of course it is going to get wet. I start laughing and fortunately he sees the funny side too and soon we are playing a game where he is throwing the biscuit (No! I don’t want your soggy biscuit!).

At another point we have switched sides and he considers the biscuit.

“Wet,” he says, in deep thought.

“Biccy. Wet.” He laughs and laughs and repeats this over and over again.

Well there you have it, folks. The development of language contained in a wet biscuit.


toddler sleeping in the car with IPad Enough about spoken language. I also need to mention that during our long car trips when we are stuck in traffic, Nicky is gaining an education on the IPad. He traces letters, numbers and shapes. He forms animals with shapes. He matches letters. He even selects words. I am so proud of my little man who is learning independently in this way. He is paving the way for reading and writing.

And sometimes, when he hasn’t had his afternoon nap, car trips are a great place to fall asleep…

World Allergy Week: Four Steps to Save A Life

how to save a life with an auto injector 13-19 April is World Allergy Week and I found myself in the luxurious Fine Living in Parkmore to listen to some experts disseminate awareness of this condition. It was highly informative and good to hear some practical advice on how to recognize the signs of when allergies are at their worst (anaphylaxis) and what to do about it in four simple steps to save a life.

Dr Diane Hawarden is the chairman for the Allergy Society of South Africa (ALLSA) and seems to have a lot of practical experience in this field. She said that anyone, anytime anywhere is at risk. However, you are more at risk if you are an infant, adolescent (because of risky behavior – she referred to her own teen leaving her auto injector behind), pregnancy and the elderly. What also may make it worse is if you have aggravating existing conditions such as asthma, strenuous exercise, acute infections and emotional stress.

symptoms The signs of anaphylaxis (which is a life threatening reaction to the allergy which can cause death either through the swelling of airways or a drop in blood pressure) can manifest in several ways – through the skin getting flushed, red and swollen, orally in the throat ( a horse voice means your throat is closing up), the chest, gastrointestinal and shock. You will see the signs within 5-30 minutes.

Most noticeable, says Dr Hawarden, is this sense of impending doom. She talks about a doctor that was doing his rounds and felt dizzy and his throat closing up. He managed to yell to a nurse to inject him with adrenalin as he fainted. But he knew that there was something wrong. After the injection he was able to continue with his work. She says with kids the overriding feeling is of being scared.

The treatment for anaphylaxis is simple: it’s adrenalin. She emphasized that even if you aren’t sure if the problem is brought on by allergy, inject anyway, the sooner the better. The worst that can happen is the side effects of the adrenalin leave you feeling a bit light headed and you have to go to the pharmacy to get another injector. But why take the risk? Be safe.

The auto injector is the best because it has the exact dosage needed when you are in a panic, whereas with syringes and needles it takes time to get set up and release the correct amount.

Dr Hawarden gave a demonstration on how the auto injector worked. It is a container with blue on the one side and orange on the other. She told us the easy way to remember is to think of “blue to the sky, orange to your thigh”. So as long as the blue lid is on, it is closed but once you take it off it is ready to release the injection.

four steps to inject adrenalin

  • Form a fist with one hand and pull of the blue safety release.
  • Push the orange tip on your thigh. Wait for the click and hold it for ten seconds.
  • Remove and massage the area for ten seconds.
  • Call your emergency services/ go to the hospital as quickly as you can, taking your auto injector with you.

If you have a child with allergies it is important to make sure that all the care givers in his/her life are aware of the signs and what to do in the event of an allergy attack. Your child should also always take his auto injector with them wherever they go.

Hayley Katz is the founder of a patient advocacy group called Allergy Alive and also has a six year old son who has multiple allergies. She is doing a lot of work behind the scenes to make sure that labeling of food products is helpful for those with allergies. We were each given a sweet bar from Caring Candies which has “no artificial ingredients, no glycemic carbs, diabetes friendly, sugar free”. On the back under the list of the ingredients was ALLERGENS: May contain traces of tree nuts and soy beans through cross contamination of suppliers equipment.” This is the point that she made: even if there are e.g. nuts in the factory, it could affect the product.


3 speakers for the allergy event

Dr Diane Hawarden, Emma Quilding and Hayley Katz

Hayley is a clinical social worker and studying to be a psychoanalyst, so she naturally has an interest in the psychological effect of allergies. She cites cases of bullying and stress on the family when they have to manage a child with allergies. Often the siblings will act up in order to obtain attention.

I was interested to hear that there is also a children’s book in the works.

The last speaker was Emma Quilding, a fifteen year old teenager who lives in Parkmore, Sandton. What a mature girl with such a positive attitude. She has been standing up for herself since she was five years old and was offered a peanut butter sandwich and had to say no.

She told her story about her one experience with anaphylaxis which was when she ate a peanut butter muffin at school. In retrospect she says she should have injected right away, instead they waited to find the nurse who was busy elsewhere at the time. She said as the nurse drove her to hospital it felt like there was a weight on her chest and her hands were shaking. They were phoning her poor mom the whole time to reassure her that she could breathe. She spent a night at the hospital.

Emma is not letting her allergies hold her back and is off on a trip to Vietnam, which apparently has a lot of nuts! However she will be doing a lot of hiking and cooking her own food. She is also getting prepared with how to say “Does this contain nuts?” in Vietnamese, as well as with flashcards and multiple injectors.

The aim of this allergy week is to create awareness, so please share this information – it may just save a life.

Philips AVENT Turns 30 – A Great Family Brunch Together

philips avent 30th birthday celebrations Our little family was fortunate enough to be invited to the Philips AVENT 30th birthday celebrations. We had a great time and enjoyed ourselves at this event. Hubby took some great pictures for me and Nicky had fun with a balloon animal and hand printing. It was a lovely morning out.

philips-avent-eventjpg The event was held at the Il Giardino Restaurant. We enjoyed muffins, cheese platters and some cooked food too. We had juice and cappuccinos. There was also champagne and DH enjoyed that. There were a lot of bloggers there and it was nice meeting up with Laura, MeeA, Melanie, Tanya, Cassie, Karen, Lebogang and Portia. I was also glad to see Esda who was a winner of a Milton soother a while back, heavily pregnant and ready to have that babe!

hand-craft For the kids they had colouring activities, face painting and balloon making. They also had a neat craft where each family member made a hand print on the same page, as well as a frame that you could display it with. What a beautiful keepsafe.

When we got there Nicky did not want to go to the toilet but after he downed a glass of juice I just had to take him. I was so glad that I bought that potty and he made a pee! Yay! Later on he told me “Pee!” and we went and he did another pee. After that he was very happy to play with his “bunny” balloon and all the confetti on the table.

toddler with Philips Avent big ladies

Nicky photo bombs with new brand ambassador Katlego Danke, Gerry Elsdon and a manager involved with marketing at Philips Avent.

Gerry (Rantseli) Elsdon was the MC for the event and she introduced Marc Duthoit who told us more about the history of Avent and how they wanted to make better bottles with better teats all those years ago. The new brand ambassador, Katlego Danke, spoke as well how she used to be the baby shower queen and how people always seemed to want Avent products given to them.  She is also involved in charity.

Philips Avent baby of the year The baby of the year was announced: Bokamosa Moloi. This babe was whimpering quite a bit during the speeches and when she came up was very interested in the flowers. After that she needed a nap!

Dad pretending to be expecting There was also a photo booth there and we had fun clowning around for the camera. Hubby thought it would be hilarious to put a “Mother to be” bubble on his love handles. As you can see Nicky just rolled his eyes at this idea.

So, thank you Philips AVENT!

First Week of Potty Training and the Dog is Making More of a Mess Than the Child

first week of potty training and the dog is making more mess than the child Potty training is a daunting task for any parent. In preparation for this week I bought two rolls of paper towels. Little did I know that I would be using them more for cleaning up the dog’s messes than my own child. I guess we all have plans of how things should go, and life clearly has other surprises for us.

Up until now, potty training has been fairly casual. I’ve had the potty in the bathroom and we’ve been going before bath, before swimming, and mostly at the start of the day. The problem with gradual potty training is that it is way too gradual and way too casual. I think Nicky could tell I wasn’t really committed to the process. We would try for a bit, he would pee or poop in his pants, and I would just put him back in nappies and give up.

This time I was serious. Daytime nappies had to go. But I needed some kind of plan. In preparation for this task I read a book: Oh Crap Potty Training. This was part of a bundle I picked up a while a go.

I’m glad I read this book because it really helped me obtain some knowledge about potty training.

There is an evolution happening in potty training and it goes like this: Clueless. I Peed. I’m Peeing. I need to Pee. So the key is to understand these stages and be patient and encouraging through each. Nicky is definitely aware that he has peed (afterwards) and some rare times even before. So I think we just need to work on building that awareness.

She says that the optimal time for potty training is between 20-30 months. Around 24 months is great because they are eager to please. Kids over 30 months are more skilled at manipulation.  Even now at 33 months I am experiencing a lot of this, I think he would be less likely to be saying “No!” to potty all the time if he was younger. However, there’s not much I can do at this stage but forge ahead, apparently it gets even worse after 3. So it just has to be now.

Saying “push your pants” is better than “pull your pants down.” Learning to push your pants down is part of potty training.

She says with night training do it 2-6 weeks after day training and not to wait longer than three months. Well, I’m hoping that will pan out, we’ll see…

The other point that stood out for me is that kids can tell how serious you are about things and you have to be committed. Major fail in the past but now I’m working on it.

Day 1:

Easter Monday was a lovely sunny day. As per the book suggestion we went bottomless. We spent most of the day outside and he peed outside. We got him to pee in the potty a few times too. He pooped on the floor and I cleaned it up.

Day 2:

Tuesday was much colder. We put pants on and he had no accidents in the morning. We even went on a quick trip to Woolworths.  Nicky peed with Dad. (Dad was on holiday for a few days. Going to the toilet with Dad is much more exciting than with Mom). He had a great day and just before bathtime he peed in his pants. Aw. Good timing though.

Day 3:

In the morning we went for coffee at the mall. We were hypervigilent and took him to the toilet three times. Cresta has a fabulous family toilet with two toilets next to each other. One is small. There is even a small basin. This was perfect for us. He peed twice there.

When we got home we got a bit lazy so he wet his pants quite a few times. I think going to the toilet at the mall is also a lot more exciting than the one at home.

Nicky went to bed early since he did not have an afternoon nap. Since putting the dogs out to pee is part of our routine with Nicky, taking them out too early doesn’t work.

In the early morning when I am helping Nicky I hear Milo the dog complaining but I ignore it.

Day 4:

Yes, we have dog mess all over the floor. Yuck. He even peed on the stroller. Eeu. I dissect the part that was peed on and clean up.

I did a load of laundry of all the clothes he had wet the previous day and the morning went really well. I was so happy when he actually said “Potty!” and we went to the potty and he peed there.

In the afternoon he messed his clothes again though.

I take Milo out twice, at the normal time and late at night.

Day 5:

I hear Milo squeaking in the early morning but I just don’t make it in time. He has peed and pooped all over the floor. Out comes the cleaning stuff and Nicky is eager to help too. We talk about peeing in the right place and how it makes such a mess.

Today was my grocery shopping day. The first time he refused to pee. The second time I just put him on the potty and he peed. Success! We were off.

Nicky made it through the fruit and veg shop, Pick n Pay and Woolworths without peeing! This, even with drinking a drink at Pick n Pay. Yay! I took him to the loos at Pick n Pay but he proclaimed them “beeg!” and refused to use them. I guess I should have brought his potty.

We get home. He flatly refuses to use the potty then pees in his pants. Sigh.

In the afternoon we have people over and he does very well until he pees while using the trampoline. Oh well…

Day 6 (so far)

We went out this morning to a Philips Avent event and this time I took the potty. We went twice to the loo, the second time he said “Pee!” so I think we’re making progress!



Honestly I don’t know who is worse, my toddler or my dog. I seriously hate having that dog poop smell on my hands. Nicky’s poop is okay if I’ve caught it early enough, I can chuck it straight in the toilet. So yes, I think dog poop and pee is worse. Let’s just hope they both improve!

Pea, Butternut Soup Recipes and WIN a Knorr Hamper

Everyone has sensations that remind them of home and one of the most common ones is the smell and taste of a home cooked meal. The temperature is definitely dropping these days so I though I would share some soup recipes. Whatever it is that brings you closer to fond memories, remember that you can create your own traditions in your own family and I’m hoping that these resources can do just that for you.

At the end of this post you can also enter a giveaway for a Knorr hamper – a name I certainly associate with soup, but they make lots of other yummy things too. They have also created a video about  delivering a home cooked meal from her mom to a daughter stuck in the Arctic! I complain about my family being far away in the Eastern Cape, but that is far!


Pea Soup: Recipe from my mother:


1 Onion

2 cubes chicken stock

500g (bag) of dried peas

Chicken spice

Bits of cooked bacon/ham


1. Fill a pot 3/4 with water.

2. Add finely chopped onion.

3. Add 1-2 cubes of chicken stock.

4. Add the bag of peas.

5. Sprinkle on top with chicken spice.

6. Bring slowly to the boil and simmer for an hour or two until it is soft.

7. Optional: add bits of cooked bacon or ham.

8. Serve with a sprig of mint on top.


Butternut Soup: Recipe from my mother in law:


1 large onion

1-2 cubes chicken stock

1 large butternut

Black pepper

Mixed herbs


1. Fry the onion in the pot on a low heat in a teaspoon of olive oil until soft but not brown.

2. Crumble a chicken stock cube over the onion in the pot (2 cubes if it is a large pot).

3. Peel a large butternut. Cut it into blocks and add them to the pot with water. If you are going to freeze the soup rather freeze thick soup, you can thin it later with more water.

4. When the butternut is soft, mash it.

5. Add the black pepper and mixed herbs.

When thick soup is defrosted thin it down with boiled water.



win-knorr-hamper WIN A KNORR Hamper!

The hamper contains:

4 pkts beef stock pot, 4 pkts chicken stock pot, CIB (Cook In Bag) lemon and herb, CIB garlic and rosemary, CIB spicy roast chicken, CIB BBQ flavour, mushroom sauce, creamy ranch dressing, macaroni and cheese pasta and sauce, light yoghurt and herb dressing, beef stroganoff, brown onion soup, spaghetti bolognaise.

This competition is only open to South African residents.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy Easter!

happy- easter Happy Easter everyone! I hope you are having a relaxed weekend with your families.


So I’m sure you’re wondering how the diet’s going… Well, some good, some bad…

This week I made a bit of a mess up with my lunch. I added raw rice instead of cooked rice to my lunch (since it is such a mission to make I am doing one lot for the week) so this week it was sandwiches. This afternoon I precooked this week’s lunch and it is an improvement. Potato and three bean mix. Very healthy. Just very spicy and next time I won’t add so much chili powder.

I was really going to be good this Easter weekend. However I was too tempted when DH came home with a box of those marshmallow eggs and a chocolate  bunny from his work.

He offered me his bunny ears.

I couldn’t say no to the ears.

On Good Friday morning I had a nice sleep and and DH watched Nicky. He woke me up saying I better make breakfast because Nicky is eating one chocolate marshmallow egg after another. Okay, three in total, actually.


“Because it’s Easter.”

I just had to have one too.

I’ve been pretty good the rest of the time, apart from two hot cross buns. Sigh…

Nicky has been ultra cute playing with a new dinosaur toy, by the way. He calls it “Roar!” because he can’t say dinosaur and also because we read a dinosaur book about a dinosaur that roars a lot. He went to bed with a bear and a dinosaur all tucked in next to him.

Happy Easter from us! May you be very blessed! He is risen!



Montessori Practical Life Activities for Toddlers

montessori-practical-life-toddlerspng If you’re looking for some Montessori Practical Life activities for your toddler to do around the house, then I have gathered a few ideas inspired by my training.  There is actually no limit to the tasks you can give your little one around the house. I find that a lot of the elementary movements in my Practical Life file start at age 2.5 so I thought I would try some on my 33 month old child. I also added in a few others that I know he enjoys.

Before I continue, I must mention that there is a lot of procedure in these activities that I am leaving out. You invite the child to work with you. You get them to carry the tray with the work to a table. The work is placed on a mat. I’m a bit too casual – I probably demonstrated one movement and then Nicky carried on. This is home style, not school style.

spooning 1) Spooning

Unpack two bowls from left to right. The left one contains the beans. You demonstrate spooning the beans from left to right and then back again. This unconsciously teaches them about working from left to right, in preparation for reading. When you go from side to side like that it also helps crossing the mid-line of your brain. Holding the spoon helps with pincer grip (in preparation for holding a pencil). This activity can be extended to serving food. Nicky likes to help me dish up. The other day he insisted I get him a “bat” so he could help me.

pouring-beans 2) Pouring

Nicky absolutely loves pouring liquids, although he might make a big mess in the process. An easier method to start with is pouring beans. Pouring involves the concentration of holding the jug with both hands, muscle control and strengthening of the wrist. In this picture you can see he is holding the lighter plastic jug: the real challenge comes with the heavier glass one.

pegging 3) Pegging

Pegs have always been a big attraction. When I hang up the washing Nicky loves to post pegs through a hole in the shed. That’s a fine motor activity all on its own! The pegging activity involves using your index finger and thumb to work on that pincer grip, as well as dexterity and patience. However, since this activity is for kids three years and up, Nicky still needs to use both hands. As he gets older he will use one hand.

toddler-cutting-mushrooms 4) Cutting with a knife

Nicky is very curious when I use a scissors and thus far what I do is let him use both hands and cut something fine, like a thread. He is also a big help in the kitchen and now has his own little knife for cutting vegetables. I find soft vegetables like mushrooms work better for his level of strength. I’m happy to have a helper around, even if I have to re-do things after he has. Another great job for him is to throw things in the pot after I’ve cut them – it makes him feel involved in the process. (Although I have to be careful he does not burn himself).

flour-on-floor 5) Messy play

Which toddler does not enjoy making a mess? And if mess drives you mad then there are smaller sized messes that can be better contained. Instead of sand all over you can use kinetic sand. Playdough is great for all sorts of fine motor co-ordination if you let the kid use the cookie cutters and rolling pin.

Ever now and then there is an unintentional mess that your kid can enjoy. Like that time I spilt flour all over the floor. Nicky had an absolute ball. There’s some gross motor being covered right there!

toddler-mashing 6) Mashing

Mashing food also takes some co-ordination. NUK have this really cute masher. After I shot the video of Nicky mashing bananas I realised the bowl actually has a handle on the one side which you can hold onto when the banana sticks to the masher and the whole thing is stuck together. I’m not sure if Nicky had more fun mashing or just eating the bananas, but the whole activity was fun for him. I think it is a good strength builder for those muscles too.

This post was not sponsored but I was provided with the NUK masher and bowl for review.

Energy Management for Kids

tips and tools to get kids to save energy We are all aware that the resources of this planet are limited and we need to manage what we have as best we can. Everything is energy and these principles can be applied across the board,  but I think the one form of energy that we are all very aware of that needs to be managed is electricity. Load shedding is once again an unfortunate reality in our lives. What can we do about it and how can we teach our kids to conserve energy? In this post I will be sharing some tips on how to manage energy in your home as a family, and tips for kids too.

On Thursday night I was privileged to be invited to the launch of the new Powerwatch Energy Management System. Powerwatch is a company that measures energy with their own devices. One of my part time jobs is to enter Eskom details into a spreadsheet and then compare the figures against the private measuring company of Powerwatch. In any case, their main speaker was Karel Steyn, who is a senior consultant in energy performance verification at Eskom.

He had a lot of interesting things to say about why we should manage energy and take care to measure it, but there was one practical concept that stood out for me. He shared a four step process of energy management.

1) Conservation: In other words: switch off! Switch off everything you are not using. Switch off the fans in the rooms you leave. Turn off lights if you are not in the room. These are basic principles we can also teach our kids.

2) Efficiency: There are always more efficient ways to use electricity. A small example would be to replace your light bulbs with LED ones. (LED stands for “Light Emitting Diode”, a semiconductor device that converts electricity into light. LED lights are super energy efficient, using approximately 85% less energy than halogen or incandescent lighting – meaning significant savings on your power bills.)

3) Substitution: There are other forms of energy you can use. Put solar panels on the roof.

4) Own Generation: Get your own generator.

The important point he made was: you have to follow the order above when you manage energy. It is no good going straight to getting a generator when you are wasting energy in your house.


I have found two resources that you can use for kids and energy management.

1) Books:

This post on Rattle and Mum is about free ebooks you can download to teach your kids energy efficiency. You can download them from Ruby and the Powerpals.

The books are:

– The Night Laaitie called it a Day: About the importance of turning off lights.

-The One Note of TiNiRiMote: About turning the TV off at the set.

-Ruby Gets Into Hot Water: About the importance of conserving water.

-Freddy the Fridge has a Meltdown: About the importance of closing that fridge.

Tanya talks about the effect one of the books had on her son Max:

After reading my son the story “Freddie and the Fridge”, the next day, instead of opening the fridge, standing in front of it and mulling over what he wanted to eat, he simply grabbed a peach and swiftly closed the door, so that “Freddie the Fridge could live for longer”.

I have downloaded the books for Nicky on the IPad and read them to him. Since he likes to stand in front of the open fridge and ask for food he can’t reach, I think I might have to read this story a few times.


lights 2) Load Shedding Lights for Kids:

If you need some alternatives to a night light during load shedding, then these cute lights are a great alternative.

– Pink solar lamp: (R185) This comes in pink or white. Leave it on the window sill for the solar cell to charge. This will power the LED lamp at night. The switch is inside the lid, away from curious little hands.

little-sun -Little Sun solar lights: (R176) This is a great one to take camping or outdoors. It comes with a string that the child can put around their neck. You can have a strong light or softer light. Five hours in the sun will give you ten hours soft light or four hours bright light.

We have one of these and Nicky loves it. Of course he enjoys turning it “Off!” and “On!”

-I love you sun jars: (R246) These are cute decorative lamps with swirls, hearts, lady bugs and “I love You” on them. Comforting messages for your little one.

-Chochin Solar Lights: (R140)These ones are more durable and safer in case they are knocked over.

-LED light bath toys: (R68) You can use these in the bath, in the pool, or even dry next to the bed.

These lights are available from Sustainable, and there are a lot of other interesting things on that site too.