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Age 5, Age 6, Age 7, App Reviews, Free Apps

Free App: Toca Nature

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 8.12.41 pmThis beautiful open ended nature play app is Apple’s Free App of the Week. Designed for kids 6-8 but fun for younger kids as well, this app enables them to design their own little world of nature and animals. They are presented with a plain piece of land to which they can add mountains, water and five types of tree. The trees provide habitats for different animals. They can spin the globe in the corner to look at the land from different angles or tap Continue reading “Free App: Toca Nature”

Age 5, Age 6, Age 7, App Reviews, Creative Thinking, Physics apps, Science Apps

Best Physics Puzzler Apps for ages 10 and under

physics apps

I was inspired to put together the following list by the popularity of the Thinkrolls app with both Mr 5 and Mr 2. There are some awesome Physics Apps out there to help our kids learn about STEM concepts through fun, physics-based puzzles. Most of these apps can be played by kids aged between 3 and 10 years.

Thinkrolls   Thinkrolls

Thinkrolls There’s everything to love about this logic puzzle app which introduces basic physics concepts as the player rolls their super cute Thinkrolls character through a maze. Each chapter introduces a new feature such as crates, jelly and balloons. Each feature has it’s own property to explore, such as cold, heat, gravity, floating or sinking. These concepts need to be understood in order to successfully move items around to enable the Thinkroll progress Continue reading “Best Physics Puzzler Apps for ages 10 and under”

App Reviews, Meditation, Mindfulness

Mindfulness for Kids – Who’s Teaching Who?

MindfulnessWe think we have something to teach our kids about being mindful, but perhaps it’s the other way around. My latest article for Kid magazine asks who is actually the expert when it comes to living in the moment?

Check out pages 42-43 in the magazine below, or click here to go straight to article

App Reviews, Book Apps, Co-playing Apps, Giveaways

What makes a good Book App? Reviews plus Giveaway

IMG_6270With the Easter holidays looming, many of us are planning a little getaway, so now’s a great time to stock up the iPad to help entertain the kids during travel and downtime. Rather than fill up your cases with heaps of the kids favorite books, try out some great book apps to help lighten the luggage load. The iPad lends itself wonderfully to the reading of an ‘eBook’ – a digital interpretation of a traditional book. Indeed book apps are an excellent way to engage less motivated readers and to develop early literacy skills. So you’d think all the enhancements that book apps can bring to a digital story would deepen the engagement of readers and generate enthusiasm for all things bookish, yes? Or do the facts agree? Continue reading “What makes a good Book App? Reviews plus Giveaway”

Age 5, Education, Maths

Starting School: Apps for a smooth transition

starting school apps

L Star starts school next week so the topic of ‘School Readiness’ looms large in my world. It’s a term you start to hear a lot in Australia once your child turns four as by that age preschools have to run a SR program to work on developing literacy and numeracy. If you are looking for apps to support this at home you will find a wonderful selection to choose from and I will detail a few of our favourites. But a huge aspect of starting school is adapting to the change in routine and the emotional literacy to express and cope with this change.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 9.13.18 pmI learn

Not many apps deal with that so I was thrilled to come across the ‘I Learn’ app by Bizzibrains, produced in association with Screen Australia.

It focuses less on numbers or letters and more on Continue reading “Starting School: Apps for a smooth transition”

Age 5, Age 6, Age 7, App Reviews, Augmented Reality, Co-playing Apps, Preschoolers, Science Apps

Stellar Star Gazing apps for Curious Little Cosmonauts

The questions are coming thick and fast these days, ‘Mummy how is air made?’, ‘How do we think?’, ‘What are shadows made of?’ and most recently, ‘Mummy when can we go to Mars?’ I thought I had a few more years of being able to confidently answer all his questions, but apparently not! He’s not even five and I’ve been stumped on more than one occasion. But I know there’s always a fun way for us to discover these answers together and I love searching out the best apps to feed curious little minds. Thanks to a recent birthday present of a toy wooden rocket, moon buggy and satellite set, many of his questions are now about our night sky, stars and especially satellites. We found two apps which have (thankfully) provided us with a wealth of fascinating information about our night sky, so I can keep those answers coming! These really are beautifully made apps, a joy to use and 100% engaging for all ages. I’m loving using them as much as the kids are.

Sky Guide appSky Guide

We started off using the fantastic Sky Guide app which allows you to hold the iPad up to the sky and identify the stars above your head, or below your feet if you point it downwards. It’s a spectacular app which even shows satellites moving across the sky much to the deep delight of L Star (aka Mr 4 and three quarters). It’s aimed more at Continue reading “Stellar Star Gazing apps for Curious Little Cosmonauts”

Craft, Creative Projects, Creative Thinking, Preschoolers, Rainy Day Ideas

Easy Catapults: Physics Fun For Preschoolers

FlyingStartKidsCatapult Rain. Non stop. For WEEKS. If you were a fly on the wall in any number of rain drenched Sydney households over the past few weeks you would swiftly have become familiar with the noise of rampant tearing out of hair as exasperated parents were constrained to entertaining small children AT HOME. Facebook mums groups erupted with calls of ‘HELP!! ANYONE know where we can go…?’ Libraries overflowed with prams and tempestuous toddlers. Living rooms all over the city were demolished and redesigned by an army of tiny expert hands. The certain taste of parental desperation permeated the soggy Sydney air. In less sun burnt countries this much rain would warrant barely the raising of an eyebrow I’m sure, but here in Aus we’re pretty much set up for doing everything outdoors and the sound of gentle pitter patter on the roof strikes dread into the heart of many a fraught home bound parent. With all the indoor based creating, cooking, dancing and meltdown management (of both kids and self) I have been doing these past waterlogged weeks surely I Continue reading “Easy Catapults: Physics Fun For Preschoolers”

Free Apps, Music Apps, Toddler Apps

Sanity Savers! Apps and Ideas for Entertaining Toddlers on a Plane

Entertaining toddlers on a plane.jpg
Entertaining little people on a plane!

I’ve been asked by a few slightly, shall we say… apprehensive parents which apps I would recommend for their 1 or 2 year old to entertain them on a plane journey. I mean really, what are they worried about…? Cue droll laugh. In my mind any flight over about 6 hours with small kids is akin to one of those mad endurance challenges that people put themselves through where they have to crawl through mud for 20 kilometers carrying three tyres on their head or swim under arctic pack ice with no wetsuit. No that is not melodrama, that is… traveling with kids. If you are thinking the in flight entertainment will sort them out, well sorry, they don’t sit and pay attention to that until around age 3 I reckon, when the fact Continue reading “Sanity Savers! Apps and Ideas for Entertaining Toddlers on a Plane”

App Reviews, Mindfulness, Videos

Meditation: tools to manage kids meltdowns!

Being a yoga teacher of adults and kids, you might think my own kids are super zen emotionally harmonious little folk. Sorry, just let me compose myself and recover from the ridiculousness of even writing that sentence. If you believed such fallacy… well I’m guessing you probably don’t have kids, bless your unwitting soul. Emotional control takes literally a life time to learn and even as adults, many of us regularly don’t manage it. As a yoga teacher and mother I am highly in favour of empowering kids with skills to master their emotions. Accordingly, life has provided me with the ideal candidate and ultimate challenge, my oldest son L Star, possibly the most high energy child you will meet this side of having ADHD. I doubt you could meet a child less inclined to sit still and pause for even 5 seconds. He is sweet, intelligent, often thoughtful and kind and also in the midst of learning how to deal with emotional meltdowns and impulsive behaviour, which he and we, find hard to regulate.

It has been a long and often seemingly futile road to try and get him interested in meditation but deep in my heart I am dedicated to helping him get there because this is a skill which will be of huge benefit to him his whole life. My husband and I also sometimes struggle to manage stress well and this is one thing I do not want him to inherit, but I know the solution. And it’s the same solution I prescribe for myself to feel more in control of my emotions: meditate. Or from a child’s point of view, understanding how to calm down from the inside.

Eliminate-Violence

So now you’re thinking I have the perfect calm meditating child and well, nope! But I do have one who asks me if we can go and meditate now, which is AMAZING!!! Here’s a brief rundown of the methods that helped us make some good progress, hopefully they can help you too.

Ultimately for us it boiled down to this: practice what you preach.

When I started meditation practice with L Star I bought a wonderful book by Relax Kids called Aladdin’s Magic Carpet. It’s a book of visualisations based on popular children stories. I thought it was brilliant and started reading them after bedtime stories, but L Star was not very impressed and in hindsight it was too intangible for his first experience of meditation. There I was reading to him and there he was listening and watching me, but he didn’t want to close his eyes and fidgeting/climbing far outweighed peaceful listening and we both ended up feeling frustrated. I realise now he probably wasn’t sure how this was different from a story or what exactly he was supposed to be doing when I said ‘Imagine you are…’. Even imagining a specific thing takes mental discipline and 4 year olds aren’t really known for that, or for being able to lie still. They have their own wild imaginations but they are just that, wild. Jumping around pretending to BE a monkey yes, lying down with closed eyes and imagining being a monkey… not so much.

So I decided it would help if he could imitate me, so we started to meditate together. We found these videos by Cosmic Kids on You Tube and started with this one, Candle of Concentration.

He loved it. It was tangible, a bit funny and clearly explained what we were supposed to be doing. Plus it was on You Tube so had a bit of cool factor. He loved having this time with me where we both sat in our special meditating pose together, cross legged on the floor and willingly listened and closed his eyes when he saw me listening and closing my eyes too. After watching the video we tried with a real candle, again something tangible for him to focus on. As we looked at it I talked quietly about noticing the different colours in the candle flame, how it moved sometimes. Then I challenged him to look at it without blinking for as long as possible whilst I did the same. He did it, he focused. We closed our eyes and I asked him to see the candle with his eyes closed. He told me he could see it in the desert, then in the jungle! I asked him to make it bigger and smaller which at first he found hard but has gotten better at with practice.

Now I’ve made a routine that in the middle of the day when his little brother is asleep, we have our meditating time. I look forward to it just as much as he does, some peaceful time together. We watch a Cosmic Kids Zen Den video, then practice our candle meditation or watch our Calm Jars  – pictured below, shake them and watch the glitter settle as you let your mind settle, always a hit in my kids yoga classes. (See the Meditation Resources page for how to make one)

IMG_4965

To finish we chant an OM before he gets to blow the candle out. It’s short, it’s sweet and it’s doable.

We’ve been practicing using the breath to become calm for a while, especially using the Breathe, Think, Do method via the fantastic Sesame Street app,  but we hadn’t had great success with that method, until we started with the videos and candle meditation. Somehow that has linked it all together for him. Now I feel we have a few options in our tool box that are starting to make sense for him. The road is long and his resistance to implementing these skills when in the throws of a meltdown remains, but I feel we’re definitely making progress.

If you’re interested in further resources we have used check out the Kids Meditation Resources page.

OM!