The Latest and Greatest Baby Monitor Review 2017

I’ve started to build up a bit of a repertoire of writing up BIG reviews – starting with the successful Winter Sleeping Bag review, and then followed by the Nappy Bag Review and The Great Australian Nappy Review. I have thoroughly enjoyed trialling a range of brands to help you find the best for you and your family, and so I’ve continued this trend by completing a Baby Monitor Review – 5 of the latest and greatest brands bringing families technology for the safety and wellbeing of their babies.

I wrote this review for the Baby Hints and Tips website, so click on the links below to check out my reviews and overview (including my pick!):

What baby monitor do you use and why do you love it?

 xx

Infant Massage: A Beginner’s Guide

Tonight on the blog I’m joined by the lovely Alisha, who has a heart-warming story to share about her gorgeous daughter, which led her down the path of Infant Massage. If you’re wondering why you should look into infant massage with your own baby (it isn’t hard to start!), check out Alisha’s amazing story and her quick tips to get you started. Thanks for sharing with us Alisha! xx

Check this post for a beginner's guide to Infant Massage, including health benefits to your baby and simple techniques to get you started.

Aria’s Story

Hi, my name is Alisha Harris and I just wanted to introduce myself and talk about why I love infant massage so much. The photo below is my beautiful daughter Aria. She is one year old now and such a happy girl. She absolutely loves to be massaged, and although it’s relaxing, she sometimes finds it a funny experience.

Check this post for a beginner's guide to Infant Massage, including health benefits to your baby and simple techniques to get you started.

Aria was born with an illness called Pierre Robin Sequence and has had to have many surgeries, but one surgery, in particular, found she had a hole in her heart which caused her to have a stroke. It was such a scary time, as I was told so many things, such as, “she may not be able to walk”, “she may have speech issues” and even, “she may have cerebral palsy”. As with any mother, I was doing a lot of research to find ways to help Aria and was continuously drawn to Infant Massage and all its benefits.

Every night I would massage Aria, focusing on her left side (the stroke was on the right but affected her left). At the very least it was a consistent avenue for us to strengthen our bond through comforting touch, and verbal reassurance.

She really responded positively to these sessions, using her left hand to pick up toys and kicking her legs- both legs!

After one year of working with Aria and massaging her I have been advised by her medical team that the stroke has not affected her at all. I believe that the Massage and positive calming effect it had on her has helped Aria significantly.

Heart-warmed and motivated by the positive experience we’d had, I was passionate to share what we had learned with others, and went on to formally study Infant Massage and Baby Yoga. I am now a qualified instructor, teaching the relaxing techniques and lymphatic exercises that helped us so much, and am excited to help other parents who are in a similar situation, or who perhaps have babies that are suffering colic or reflux, or who might just be looking for a calming, bonding activity.

Check this post for a beginner's guide to Infant Massage, including health benefits to your baby and simple techniques to get you started.

Benefits of Infant Massage

Infant massage can have many benefits such as:
* Enhances coordination
* Improves sleep and regulates sleep patterns
* Improves wind, colic, reflux and constipation
* Reduces the stress hormone in children and their parents
* Reduces crying time
* Relieves sinus and chest congestion
* Enhances emotion and improves mood
* Helps with the bond between parents and baby
* Great for preterm infants

Check this post for a beginner's guide to Infant Massage, including health benefits to your baby and simple techniques to get you started.Check this post for a beginner's guide to Infant Massage, including health benefits to your baby and simple techniques to get you started.

Simple Techniques for Infant Massage

It is important to note that there are significant differences between massage for adults and massage for infants. It is vital to understand the correct strokes, ideal timing and length of massage to avoid over-stimulation.Here are some simple steps to Massaging your baby to get you started

Here are some simple steps to Massaging your baby to get you started1. Find a quiet space each day to preform baby massage

1. Find a quiet space each day to perform baby massage.

2. Before beginning massage, baby should be making eye contact showing you that they are ready to receive a massage.

3. To perform your infant massage, you should use cold pressed oils, free from soap, fragrance or common irritants.

4. Baby Massage should begin with the legs and move to the buttocks, abdomen, chest, arms, face, head and then the back.

5. Massage the abdomen in a clockwise motion from left to right, as this will help with colic, wind and constipation. 

6. Begin chest massage by placing both hands on the chest to see if baby’s arms remain open, signalling that they’re happy to begin. The permission sequence is a very big part of infant massage.

Check this post for a beginner's guide to Infant Massage, including health benefits to your baby and simple techniques to get you started.

To find out more, please visit Alisha’s Facebook page, or contact her directly via email.

Check this post for a beginner's guide to Infant Massage, including health benefits to your baby and simple techniques to get you started.

9 Amazing Nursery Themes That Will Inspire You

Putting together a nursery is an excuse to let your imagination run wild! With other rooms in your house you may have kept it simple but with your baby’s nursery you can really have some fun.

The goal with a nursery is to create a safe and nurturing space for your child that also stimulates their senses. Check out these 9 different nursery theme ideas below if you’re looking for some inspiration.

1. Into the Woods

Bring the great outdoors into your home with a woodland themed nursery. The nature-inspired décor creates a sense of relaxation and woodland creatures make it a magical and child-friendly space.

There are lots of ways to capture the wonder of the woods. Woodland animals vary all over the world so there are lots to choose from. Images of bears, foxes, rabbits, deer, hedgehogs, birds and even racoons would fit right in with the theme. Wallpaper or stick-on decals featuring trees would create the feeling of being in a forest and how about a tree stump side table next to your feeding chair?

2. Monochrome Magic

A monochromatic pallet makes for an incredibly trendy nursery theme. Not only is it stylish, it’s also beneficial as newborn babies love high contrast images. Even as they grow and start to distinguish colours, a monochrome theme is very calming and offers a break from brightly coloured toys.

It’s really simple to achieve the look: Simply opt for black and white furniture and bedding. You can always accessorise with pastel colours or natural wood to bring a bit of warmth into the room. Repeating patterns such as stripes, dots and crosses work really well with this theme. You also can’t forget naturally monochromatic animals such as zebras, pandas and cows.

3. Sweet Treat

This nursery theme is simply delicious! As the name suggests it’s all about the tasty goodies in life. Even though the littlest of bubs won’t be eating any of the things depicted yet, they’ll love looking at them.

It’s a good excuse to use fruity hues, whether they’re bright colours or soft pastels. Watermelons and pineapples are quite popular motifs in the design world and would look great in a nursery themed on sweet treats.

4. Tropical Paradise

On those long days and nights spent settling, feeding and changing a baby you’ll be glad you decorated the nursery with such a serene theme. This is a modern nursery theme but the idea works well.

There’s multiple ways you can achieve a tropical paradise. This can be with beautiful leaves like those from the Monstera plant and palm tree or other greenery like tropical cacti and succulents. Flamingos (or the beautiful pink colour) and toucans create a tropical vibe too. A bold print would work well or if you’re feeling brave a patterned wallpaper.

5. Safari Chic

This wild nursery theme is a classic. Animals from the African Savannah are distinctly recognisable and have been a focal point of many nurseries across the years. The Safari Chic nursery theme takes this idea and couples it with soothing colours to make the overall design a bit mellower.

Lions, zebras, elephants, rhinos and gazelles can all be found in the form of small wooden animals, prints, patterns and textures. There is one thing that seems to stand out as a trend in a safari themed nursery – the giant stuffed giraffe toy!

6. The Mountains are Calling

A mountain themed nursery oozes serenity. The hero piece in this theme would be a mountain mural, which you could use paint or wallpaper to achieve. As well as giving the nursery a gorgeous backdrop it has the ability to make a smaller room look larger by creating the illusion of space.

If a floor to ceiling mural is a bit much for you, try incorporating the theme with mountain shaped cushions and shelves or a framed picture. To add a bit of cuteness to the room, animals such as deer and bears look at home in these surroundings.

7. Beach Baby

This is a nautical nursery with a twist! If you find nothing more relaxing than basking in the warm sun on a beach then this themed nursery may be perfect for your little one. Turquoise blue, golden yellow, crisp white and navy blue come together to create an atmosphere that is relaxing and fresh.

A framed print or printed canvas of the ocean hung on the wall sets the tone. You could incorporate rustic driftwood style furniture and if there’s space you could mount a rowboat oar on the wall!

8. Adventure Anyday 

This theme really captures what most parents want for their children – to adventure and have fun! Transport related imagery like planes, cars, trains and hot air balloons look fantastic in an adventure themed nursery. If you want to instil a love of travelling into your little one put up a map of the world or have a globe on a shelf.

You’re completely free to have fun with this theme. You could use a vintage suitcase as a toy chest, cover an old cupboard with pages from a map book or use prints inspired by exotic locations around the world.

9. Rawr Goes the Dinosaur

Dinosaurs don’t have to be scary! They can make an adorable and unique nursery theme. You can play around with different silhouettes of dinosaurs and use an array of colours such as green, blue, purple and red. When creating your little dino’s cave, don’t forget to think about the habitat and bring in some natural textures and colours that mimic leaves, trees and grass.

Plastic toy dinosaurs that have been spray-painted in bold or pastel colours make cute ornaments or they can be made into wall hooks or cupboard drawer pulls. Terrariums designed to look like miniature prehistoric habitats would be a fantastic addition to a decorative shelf.

No matter how you choose to style your baby’s nursery, it truly is a labour of love. It’s a room where you will smile, laugh, cry and everything else in between!

What are you planning for your baby’s nursery? x

Amy is a blogger at This Mum Likes. As an English born, Australian living, part Caribbean, Dutch surnamed, first time mum, she is sharing her journey of motherhood. She has more amazing Nursery themes based on awesome quotes HERE, or you can visit her Facebook HERE or Instagram HERE.

Why Going Back to ‘Normal’ Is An Impossible Feat After A Baby

I recently came across Tenille’s blog, Next Gen Mum, and loved her honesty and her take on motherhood. She wrote a piece about returning to ‘normal’ after having a baby and why this isn’t necessarily possible (even though a lot of new mums in the early stages of their baby’s lives wish this were possible!). I asked if she could share her thoughts on this with us, and she has kindly agreed to do so. I hope you enjoy her take on this, and let us know in the comments below what you think! x
 
Becoming a mother has to be one of the biggest learning curves in a woman’s life. Even just the thought of being responsible for a helpless human being brings on just about every emotion I can think of.
 
Even if taking on this responsibility is exactly what you are craving, it still comes with its fair share of hard-hitting truths. The reality is, everyone who said your life would change forever was right.
 
Aside from the endless nappies, what seems like never-ending feeding sessions and piles and piles of washing that you just never manage to quite get through, there’s another part that no one seems to talk about as honestly as it deserves.
 
You will be different.
 
I was different.
 
My thoughts changed, my attitude changed, the way I dressed, the way I planned things, the way I looked at my partner/mum/friend/family, it was all different, and my small business, well that was gone too. Some I expected, and some that I did not.
 
So where to from here?
 
Well if you’re into torturing yourself by reading the copious amounts of parenting articles, which seem to be giving out the ‘keys to success; ways to get back to normal after a baby,’ you’re probably feeling just as terrible as I was. Guilty, beating yourself up because you’re not bouncing back to your old self-quick enough.
 
See getting back to “normal” isn’t a fair statement to make in motherhood, much the same as using the term “velcro baby” but that’s for another day. “Why isn’t it fair?” I hear you ask, well your life as a mother has different priorities, different wants, and different needs. Society puts a lot of pressure on new mums to get back to normal as quick as possible, maybe because we see so many celebrities do it. To get back to our careers, our fitness routines, our travelling or creative work, to show that we are happy, still doing what we wanted pre-baby.
 
Truth is, it’s not all that easy. Some may even argue they don’t want to go back to the way they were pre-baby, however, if you feel as though you miss your old life, my one word of advice, just give yourself time.
Be patient. Don’t get caught up in the social media, allow yourself to enjoy the time you can have learning how to be a mother, it’s the hardest, most rewarding challenge in your life.
 
Finding what makes you, you will come eventually, it may be something that you did before you fell pregnant, it may be something completely new and exciting. All I know is, it will come in time, if you don’t force it.
 
To follow more of Tenille’s story, visit her Blog, Next Gen Mum, or follow her on Instagram HERE.
 

5 Sensational Play Activities For Sick Babies

There is nothing worse than having sick babies, especially if you’re trying everything to help them get better (if you’re looking for some ways to relieve your baby’s cold, here are 5 ways I’ve come with to combat your baby’s cold). But what do we do if our baby is sick enough to be kept in isolation at home, but well enough that they still want to play and explore and climb all over you every 5 seconds? I have found this to be one of the most challenging things this last season, as Starfish has been battling colds and the flu. Here are 5 play activities for sick babies when you’re at home, unable to leave the house and wish to maintain your sanity!

No-Mess Painting

A friend from Playground introduced this activity to us that she found on Pinterest, and it was the perfect activity for us the do with Starfish indoors. It involved no mess or clean-up, so I didn’t have to wash him, his hands or his clothes afterwards (so he didn’t have to get cold in the clean-up process). I put some blobs of paint on the piece of paper, and then zipped the paper inside a zip lock bag. Starfish was able to smoosh the paint around without getting it all over his hands, and once he was done (there was lots of picking up and scrunching in his fists), I could take the paper out of the zip lock bag to dry.
play activities for sick babies 6play activities for sick babies 5

Bubble Bath

Always a fun and simple activity, but running a bubble bath for your baby and having a couple of toys inside will keep them warm and entertained at the same time. Have a variety of toys for your little one to play with as well as a non-slip bath mat so they can sit safely in the bath. My favourite bath toys for my boy are the Mini Lolo‘s because they have no hole, reducing the risk of mould (plus he loves them!). 

Books, Nursery Rhymes and Peg Dolls

You can never go wrong with reading picture books or singing songs, but there is something very soothing and relaxing about a calm, adult voice when your baby is sick. Make the most of this time for some extra snuggles, a few choice books and songs. We recently got some gorgeous Little Peggy’s farm animal dolls for Starfish to play with, and he enjoyed playing with these while we read his ‘Noisy Farm’ book. This is also a great way to cement their development such as associating animals with the sounds they make, and recognising that objects can have different shapes and forms (for example, the cow in the ‘Noisy Farm’ book is grey and big, whereas the Peggy doll is thin, with a white and black colour). I’ll be sharing soon some more reasons why we LOVE the Little Peggy’s Dolls, but they’ve been a perfect toy for Starfish while he’s been sick!

play activities for sick babies 4

Sticky Wall

An activity I came across on Pinterest as well (LOVE Pinterest!), which I, unfortunately, didn’t have the resources for to put together photos today. BUT I’m looking forward to trying this with Starfish soon. Grab some contact or clear, plastic adhesive and upt it up on the wall with some blutack or the like. Have a variety of objects such as paper, feathers, pom-poms, etc, for your baby to pick up and stick on the contact. This engages your child’s fine motor skills in picking up different objects and placing them on the wall, as well as promoting creativity.

Sensory Play with Cloud Dough

I came across Cloud Dough when the lovely Casey shared with me a few months back her top 5 Sensory Tubs for Little Learners. I was a bit hesitant to try this when Starfish was so little, but today was the perfect opportunity to make it and let him have a play. I mixed 4 cups of plain flour and 1/2 cup of baby oil to make the dough, and then let Starfish have fun exploring it with some plastic measuring spoons. Any of Casey’s sensory tub ideas are awesome for sick bubs to play and learn at home while they recover.

play activities for sick babies 3play activities for sick babies 2

What is your baby’s favourite activity for when they’re a bit under the weather and stuck at home?

xx

play activities for sick babies

Infant Friendly Things to See and Do

Over the past month, I’ve FINALLY been able to start taking Starfish out and about to some infant-specific places as he’s become more aware of his surroundings and can crawl and engage a bit more. But I’ve found it really hard to find places he can enjoy at such a young age, especially since he isn’t walking yet. So I’ve compiled a list, with the help of my lovely followers, of places I’d like to take Starfish (as much as is possible) – his (temporary) Bucket List, as it were – and I’ll tick them off as we’re able to go and visit the different places! I’ve tried to include information such as the ages the places will suit (as I’m able) and will update the list often when I can. I’ve included links to other bloggers who have tried and tested infant friendly things to see and do, so you can see their reviews of these places as well!

infant friendly things to see and do

Infant Friendly Things to See and Do

Okay, I may have snuck in a couple of things for primary-aged children because they look really cool, so if you have older children or friends with older kids, make sure you share this with them too!

Across Australia in September

New South Wales

Australian Capital Territory

Victoria

Queensland

South Australia

Western Australia

Northern Territory

Tasmania

Do you have more to add to this list for us? Leave a comment below with the name and state of the venue and I’ll add it on! 🙂 

infant friendly things to see and do 2

 

 

 

 

xx

Please Stop Asking About Baby Number 2!

As most women will know, our lives become a barrage of constant questioning about the personal details of our lives. The most common of these questions generally being, “When are you going to get married?” and “When will you have kids?”. Sometimes even random strangers will feel the need to comment on such topics, as though it were perfectly acceptable for them to judge your life on the minimal amount of information they know about you.

I thought I was “in the clear” after we had our son because, heck, I had done the marrying and the babying. I thought I was done and dusted with the questioning. Boy was I wrong!

Shortly BEFORE Starfish turned 1 (not after), we started getting some new questions. “When are you thinking about Baby #2?” I was surprised at how often I was asked it. I’ll admit though – I may have been guilty of asking this question a few times to my mum friends, but I’ve been learning that there are several reasons why I should stop asking this question.

baby number 2 2

Some mums want to wait a while.

I have recently discovered through conversations with family and friends, that like with all things related to motherhood, there are different opinions and ideas of when families want to have a second child. I’ve found some mums want to wait until their first child is much older before they go through the whole newborn baby process again. Whether it be because their first child has been a handful, or they struggled with the demands of a baby, these mums have decided they don’t want to have their children close together – and that is perfectly okay! What these mums don’t need though is constant questioning about when they’ll have a second baby, because they might be uncomfortable with talking about their decision. 

Some mums might be struggling to fall pregnant again.

I’ve had mum friends who talked to me about their difficulty in falling pregnant a second time, and this is a source of pain and sadness for them. The question about when they’re having a second baby – much like asking people when they’ll be having a first, for the same reason – can further compound the pain around this, so it doesn’t need to be asked.

Some mums might already be pregnant.

Just like with any pregnancy, a lot of mums like to keep their news a surprise. Asking them about baby number 2 might put them in an awkward position (or if you’re like me, you can’t keep a straight face!). It is a lot easier if the question is avoided altogether!

Some mums only want one child.

I’ve also spoken to some mum friends who have decided that they only want one child. Again, this can be for a variety of reasons. However, just like some women choose not to have any children, I have found the decision to have only one child provokes differing opinions from people. Some women may be happy to talk through their decisions, while others might not be. Once again, it is just easier to steer clear of the whole conversation!

While some mums are more than happy to talk about their decisions and reasoning, I know many who aren’t. We also shouldn’t have to justify our decisions to anyone not involved in the process (which generally involves two people!). As mothers, we should create a supportive environment for each other free of judgement or criticism. So instead of asking when baby number 2 is coming along (again, guilty!), let’s keep asking our mum friends how they and their first baby are doing!

And you might be wondering which of these categories I fall into – honestly, none of them. We haven’t thought much about Baby number 2 because we are enjoying Baby number 1 too much at the moment! 

xx

P.S. If you are preparing to have Baby number 2 and wondering how to get ready for your new bub, this post has some great tips from real mums!

Plus, if you haven’t had a chance to check it out already, I’d love for you to check out my New Mum Guide full of tips for starting solids, looking after baby’s teeth, developmental activities and self-care advice for mums. Grab yours below!


baby number 2

5 Questions About Breastfeeding Over 12 Months

I still haven’t been able to write down my breastfeeding story with Starfish (mostly because of time!), but I’m still breastfeeding him twice a day and he’s just over 13 months old. I know some people have assumed I’ve stopped breastfeeding now that my son is 1 year old. As mums, we all know how controversial and diverse the opinions are between breastfeeding and bottle feeding. There are also differing opinions about the length of feedings. I wanted to share the story of my lovely friend Lauren, The Peaceful Lactivist, who is breastfeeding her children aged 2 and 5. Tonight on the blog she is sharing with us the 5 questions she’s frequently asked about breastfeeding baby over 12 months. I hope you find it as insightful as I have!

breastfeeding baby over 12 months 3

5 Questions Asked About Breastfeeding Baby Over 12 Months

I never set out to be one of those mums that breastfeeds her kids forever and ever. Before having kids I honestly thought that if you did things right, your kids would stop breastfeeding once they were 12 months old, and that kids who breastfed past that had been parented wrong. I was so naïve!

Remembering my own feelings about term breastfeeding from before I landed on this journey helps me keep my cool when people ask me questions about breastfeeding my older kids, that may feel offensive to other term breastfeeding mums. It’s never nice to feel like someone is challenging what I do with my kids, and perhaps suggesting I’m “doing it wrong”, but since I used to hold similar, uninformed opinions, I try hard to take the opportunity to present a different side instead of getting offended.

Here are five questions that I get asked most frequently about term breastfeeding: Do they have teeth?

1. Do they have teeth?

Yes, I breastfeed my kids even though they have teeth. My son popped his first tooth at 10 weeks, so we have been breastfeeding with teeth for a very long time! But teeth don’t really get involved during breastfeeding. Think about when you suck on a straw that’s in a drink – you don’t need to bite the straw to make it happen.

2. But can they talk? Isn’t that weird?

Yes, my kids can talk. I don’t find it weird when they verbally ask for their milk, any more than I do when they ask me for toast or ice cream. When you think about it, they’ve been asking for it since they were born, just not using words. Even a newborn can let us know they are hungry.

That said, I have always called breastfeeds “milk”. I avoided the use of words like “titty”, and “boobs” because I personally find them a little crass and didn’t really want to hear those words coming out of my kids mouths. Generally speaking, my kids just ask for “milk”.

3. Do they grab your boobs and pull them out in front of people?

No, they don’t. My kids don’t “help themselves”, they ask. How they ask has evolved and changed over time, and has included:

  • Yawning, nuzzling and bobbing their head around for a lucky nipple that might happen to be close
  • Crying if I missed earlier cues
  • Gently placing a hand on the top of my breast, usually while looking at me with adorable, wide-open eyes (asking permission)
  • Putting their face near my breasts and making suckling faces and noises (demonstrating what they want)
  • Lying across my lap in the cradle position (showing me they are ready)
  • Simply saying “Milk” and later “Mama, can I please have some milks?”

It isn’t this way in all families – some kids help themselves and some parents are OK with that – basically, if the person who owns the breasts is OK with it, then it’s their decision and we should respect that.

breastfeeding baby over 12 months 2

4. Why can’t you just give them a sippy cup or a bottle?

Let’s turn this question around. Instead of asking “why not”, tell me first, “why”? Why would I stop doing something that’s working for our family in favour of a solution that feels like more work? Introducing a bottle or sippy cup means I then have to spend money on buying them, spend more money when we lose or break them, and keep them clean and ready to go. I’m not signing up for that kind of workload if I don’t have to.

5. You’re doing it mostly for yourself though, right? I mean your kids don’t really need it.

It feels like this question is suggesting that I get some perverse enjoyment from having my boobs in my kid’s mouths, like I’m getting off on it somehow. I’m not.

Or is it suggesting that I breastfeed simply because I like to be able to brag about it? I’m not.

And how exactly do we define what another person “needs”? Who am I to draw a line in the sand when it comes to physical comfort? My daughter really “needed” 6 kisses before she went to sleep last night. Would it make sense to tell her she could only have 4? That seems unnecessarily arbitrary, especially when it’s not that hard to give a kiss, a cuddle or a breastfeed.

I don’t know exactly what people are implying when they ask this question, but I’ll tell you what – breastfeeding requires a certain amount of cooperation from my kids. I can’t force them to breastfeed when they don’t want to, anymore than I can force them to sleep when they don’t want them to, eat vegetables when they don’t want to, or wear shoes when they don’t want to. Any parent who has experienced a baby who can’t/won’t breastfeed should support me here – it takes two.

People will always have opinions about term breastfeeding, but I would encourage everyone to keep an open mind. One day it might be you who looks at your breastfed child, who is 11 months and 364 days old, and realise that they are still a baby. You may look at them, like I did, and realise that breastfeeding is too important to them still, for it to just be over simply because in one more day they will be a year old. My breastfeeding journeys with both kids have been so rewarding that I’ll always be thankful for my ability to let go of my opinions about age and breastfeeding, and just do what needed to be done.

Lauren is a passionate advocate of breastfeeding, and works with a number of associations to support mothers in their breastfeeding journey. She writes posts for Breastfeeders in Australia, and also has her own Facebook page for The Peaceful Lactivist.

breastfeeding baby over 12 months

Mumma Loves: UOW Early Start Discovery Space

Warning: Get ready for a LOT of happy snaps of the Early Start Discovery Space, because we absolutely LOVE this place!!

Now that Starfish is older, we’ve begun a hunt for places we can take him to engage his senses and promote his development and learning (while of course, having fun!). He’s still only just crawling and pulling himself up at this stage (and toddling around furniture), not independently walking, which narrows down our options for places to visit. While I’ve started compiling a mini bucket list of places to visit with Starfish, there is one place we have started going to and had to buy a year membership IMMEDIATELY because I was absolutely in-love with the place (and so was he!). Introducing, the Early Start Discovery Space at the University of Wollongong.

The UOW Early Start Discovery Space

The Early Start Discovery Space is located within the University of Wollongong Campus. I used to attend this uni, finishing in 2014, and the Discovery Space was a well-developed dream then. It has become a concrete reality since that time, and it sits predominantly at the top end of the University. It has its own car parking spaces if you are a member of the Discovery Space ($90 for 1 adult and 1 child, which equated to the same amount we’d spend on 3 visits. We’ve already been twice in 3 weeks). However be mindful of what time of day you go with car parking (whether you are a member or not: If you’re a member, there are only 40 car spaces so make sure you go at a good time to get a spot. If you aren’t a member, you’ll have to be mindful of university parking and the costs (I can’t remember them off the top of my head).

Inside the Discovery Space, you’ll see a gift shop to your left (which you exit through – goodie!), the information/payment desk and then the entrance to the space. There are two ‘lanes’ to enter through – the right lane is bigger for wider prams (i.e. Us!). We started at the far right of the Discovery Space, and then we worked our way around as it is like a big doughnut back to the entrance. There are upstairs spaces (including some used by the university for teaching and working), but there is also a huge staircase once you enter. We have never been up there as I’ve always had a pram, and well, effort. So there may be more goodies up there that I’m not sure of (if you know, please let me know in the comments!). However, what I absolutely LOVE about the Discovery Space are there are many different themed-areas for children to play in, so I’ve unpacked the main ones we explored for now.

My absolute other favourite thing about the Early Start Discovery Space is that each experience is accompanied with a poster that explains the activities within the area, the educational and developmental benefits of the space, and activities you can do at home to further promote your child’s development in this area. Basically in my zone as a teaching mumma!

Early Start Discovery Space

Open Baby Play Space

Once you walk into the discovery space and head to your right, there is a big open space for babies to play in. It includes a foam pit in the back corner, small and large lego pieces, puzzles, activity cubes, and a magnetic board with cogs to play with. Starfish wasn’t a big fan of the foam bit, but loved the cog magnetic board (there are also magnetic letters for older children to play with).  

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The Dig – “Ancient Times China”

If you have children who love the sandpit, this is such a fun and creative way to get them involved. Next to the open baby play space (I didn’t even see it the first time!), there is a door that leads outside to two sandpits. There are a bunch of spades and mini brushes to uncover ‘fossils’ in the sand. Such a fun, imaginative activity for kids to play in. My boy isn’t at that stage yet, so we avoided the excess sand!

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Light-Up Wall

I must admit, I spent a little time wondering how this actually worked. To the left of the open baby space (you see it as you enter the Discovery Space), there was a wall with light up tubes of various colours. However once you removed a tube from the wall, it was no longer illuminated. I watched as kids of all ages loved taking the tubes out and re-placing them in the wall to watch them light up (some kids chewed on them, thankfully Starfish wasn’t one of them – for once!). Older kids liked to make patterns; younger kids, like Starfish, liked the repetition of taking the tube out and putting it back in. It was a very engaging activity for him, and for me as I wondered how it all worked (spoiler alert, not magic!).

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The Shipyard

Moving on from the light wall is the “Shipyard”, containing a wide open ship for the children to climb and play around. As you enter the Shipyard, to the right is an open book shelf where blue foam is stored – children can come and take as much or as little as they please (if there is any left!). It can be used to stack and build inside the ship, or climb around as my boy tried doing the first time around (he may have had a small tumble, but that was my fault for not making sure he was sitting properly – my bad!). There is a steering wheel children can pretend to steer, and a large globe that can be used as part of their imaginative play.  

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The Cave

Starfish was too scared to go in here when we went both times, but as you can see in the photos, there are some mini flashlights children can grab as they enter into the Cave (which is opposite the Shipyard, fitted nicely under the big staircase). There are lots of tunnels, stalactites and stalacmites to explore, and overall it is very dark. Pretty cool to check out though!

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The Supermarket

A personal favourite of Starfish’s best buddy who came along is the Supermarket. There are a variety of fake fruits, vegetables and persihables that children an put into their (mini) shopping trolleys. Starfish isn’t at the stage of using walkers yet (he hates them!), but he enjoyed demolishing the bottom shelf of cans. The supermarket even has a cash register for pretend play, which will be great for when Starfish is a bit older.

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The Human Body

We stayed well clear of these sections because Starfish just isn’t at that level yet, however if you have older children there are a couple of cool areas where they can explore and learn all about the human body. My friend and I did have lots of chuckles over the blow-up tunnel which goes through the human digestive system though – it makes a rather “pleasant” farting sound as children exit the tunnel!!

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The Book Nook

The Book Nook has comfortable seating, cushions and a variety of books for kids of all ages. There is also a storytelling chair for certain times of the day when a volunteer can come and read to the kids. A lovely, quite, tucked-away area for parents to enjoy with their kids.

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Crawler’s Beach

By far Starfish’s favourite part of the Discovery Space – and definitely the most suitable for his abilities. It includes a submarine tunnel to crawl through, sensory items on the wall, and windows in the floor to look through. This is the perfect area for little babies and breastfeeding mums, as there are comfortable seats for the mums to sit and supervise their bubs, and the space is open for babies to explore their surroundings.

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Craft Area

Obviously Starfish was too young to be involved, but throughout the day the volunteers run craft activities for the children to be involved in. Announcements were made over the loud speakers to indicate the craft activity was starting, and many kids (and adults) were eager to participate in the craft.

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Construction Site

I actually missed this the first-time around (maybe it looked too much like a real construction site??), but inside the Construction Site there is a whole lot of blue foam, and wooden conveyor belts that can be moved to send the ‘bricks from one spot to another. The older children in this space were loving it – Starfish just enjoyed biting the blocks. There was also plastic protractors and cement/tradie tools for the kids to play with to promote the imaginative play. 

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Discovery Gardens

Another space I didn’t find the first time around, but goodness these were a beautiful spot! Surrounding by picnic benches and chairs (and many mums feeding their children), the discovery gardens were full of spots for children to explore and engage with nature. There was a creek bed, logs, concrete and tire paths, and there was even a huge metal xylophone for the children to play with (Starfish was very distracted when this was played – he loves music). Of course, Starfish’s most favourite part – and probably his favourite experience of the whole Early Start Discovery Space – was the water play tables. He couldn’t stop smiling and he concentrated very hard on the toys in the water (he cried when I had to drag him away!).

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Extra Areas

To finish the loop through the Early Start Discovery Space, there are a few extra little experiences the children can engage with. There’s a fish tank, which is always of great interest to Starfish (ironic much?!) as he loves to point to all the fish. There is a puppet theatre equipped with many types of puppets and a “stage”, and there are a couple of nook spaces for reading or extra play. The first time we visited, there were large dominos to play with; this time, there was a huge BFG statue (for Book Week) and a reading station with devices and headphones.

Starfish is also a big fan of the colourful sensory wall towards the exit of the Discovery Space. There are a range of activites on this wall for kids to touch, hear, feel and see (maybe not taste!). This was a great way for Starfish to stay engaged just before we left.

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The Early Start Discovery Space has adequate facilities (male, female and kids bathrooms, as well as a parents room), and there is a cafe just outside the entrance/exit to the Discovery Space. The Gift Shop has a range of engaging and educational toys to purchase (and members get a 10% discount in the store).

While the individual admission may seem expensive (see below), I found the yearly pass well worth the cost. As I mentioned earlier, for me it is the same cost as if I visited the Discovery Space 3 times – and we’ve already been twice in less than a month. The Early Start Discovery Space is perfect for any type of outing, especially if you’re looking for something fun on a rainy day! To find out more about the Centre, click the website below.

The Early Start Discovery Space Details

Visit the Website
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 9am – 4pm (closed Mondays and Public Holidays)
Located: Early Start Discovery Space, Northfields Ave, Wollongong NSW 2522 (Google Maps). Building 21 on the UOW Campus Map
Prices: 
Children under 12 months FREE
Children 12 months and over: $15.00
Adults: $15.00
Concession: $13.00
Off-Peak (2-4pm, Tues-Fri, School Term): Half price, $7.50
Membership Packages:
First Year of Life: $60.00 (Child under 12 months + 1 Adult)
Cloud: $90.00 (Child over 12 months + 1 Adult)
Burst: $150.00 (2 Children + 2 Adults)
Note: There are options to add-on additional adults/children to each of these packages).

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Mumma Loves: Children’s Subscription Boxes

To be honest, I have never thought about purchasing children’s subscription boxes before – maybe it has something to do with my hubby’s aversion to spending money! However now that I have my son, and I’ve seen some of the amazing subscription services around, I have to say that I’m a lot more PRO-Subscription Box! But it is a matter of finding the ‘right’ ones.

The key I’ve found to choosing the right subscription service matches these criteria for me:

  • Has some educational and developmental value to my son.
  • Is a lot of FUN!
  • Is worth its value (i.e. not too expensive!).

While this doesn’t seem to be too much in the way of criteria, for me they mean I scrutinise lots of details in each offer. Currently I have found 3 MUST-HAVE Subscription Boxes for children (even young babies, my son is only 1 year old) that I had to share with you.

Inspire Book Box

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I know I’ve mentioned it numerous times, but I’m a massive nerd when it comes to children’s literature and picture books (utterly obsessed!). So the idea of a children’s book subscription box naturally appeals to me. What I wanted to know before purchasing this book box was, ultimately, would it be good value for money (rather than me going to the shops to buy a few books). When I received the Inspire Book Box, however, I was blown away by some amazing points of difference which convinced me why I SHOULD be getting an Inspire Book Box for my little one.

Firstly, the Inspire Book Box is so much more than “just” books. It is full of learning opportunities and adventures. Opening the box, there were a number of sheets that have been designed by experts (and lovely blogging friends of mine!) to help you create memories and learning experiences for your child. There is a Parent Guide full of questions and activities to help promote your child’s language development (for example, signing and dancing to ‘Row Row Row your boat’ after reading the book with the same title). As a teacher, I think this guide is just awesome to help all parents engage their child’s thinking and learning – this helps build comprehension skills for your child on top of understanding concepts of print (identifying letters of the alphabet, listening to the sounds of language, etc).

Our Little Hands (0-2yo) Inspire Book Box also came with an awesome craft activity and instruction sheet. Although Starfish is a little young for this at the moment, it is something I can keep for later and create with him after we read the associated book, “Muddypaws’ Big Day”. The box even comes with some clever recipe ideas to create a food experience to go along with your child’s reading – how awesome is that?! 

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To top off this gorgeous subscription box, there is a lovely engagement gift inside (we got a little dog soft toy) to help your child further engage with the books and learning experiences. For example, while reading the “Muddypaw’s Big Day Out”, your child could be helping you act out the book with their new soft toy friend.

As you can see, this box is jam-packed full of items and activities your child will love, fantastic memories to create, and important learning opportunities. This alone makes the Inspire Book Box worth every cent. However, I was blown away by the cost of this book box as well.

As a subscription service, you have the opportunity to subscribe to receive this box and pay monthly ($39.95), 3-monthly ($116.85, saving $3.00) or 6-monthly ($227.70, saving $12.00). There is also the option of buying the box as a one-off gift box ($41.95) or as a “Many Hands” box designed for families with 2 or more children (from ($54.95). To help make this book box even better value, they personalise the boxes for 0-2 year olds (the “Little Hands” box) and for 3-6 year olds (the “Bigger Hands” box). I bought the one-off gift box as I wasn’t sure whether I would be wanting to continue with a subscription. However this cost (plus shipping, so around the $50), gave me 4 books, a soft toy, a craft activity plus 3 guides/recipes to use with my child. It left me wondering how the owner of Inspire Book Box would be making money (as the cost of the materials would be getting close to that amount anyway!). I thought this was such an awesome deal, as children’s books are usually upwards of $10 – $15 each AT LEAST (for board books).

If you want to inspire a love of reading with your child, with an awesome craft, toy and recipe thrown in, the Inspire Book Box is a must have in your household. To check out their current subscription this month (there is a new theme each month!), check out their Website HERE, Facebook HERE or Instagram HERE.

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My Kiwi Play Box

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(I received the Balancing Movement Play Box for the purpose of this review and social media promotion. All opinions are my own).

Most mums will know that quality wooden toys are worth their weight in gold. Babies can chew and gnaw on them, and they are less likely to break over time from wear and tear. So when I came across The Kiwi Play Box, which sends subscription boxes with wooden toys amongst other things, I was super excited to check it out. Of course, they are based in New Zealand but they do send their boxes over to Australia for us to love and enjoy!

We received the Balancing Movement Box, which included:

  • A Wooden Peg Bench and Hammer
  • Veggie Crayons
  • A Wooden Stacker Set

The box also comes with an instruction sheet detailing the developmental areas that the toys help develop, an extra game for you to play with your child and the attributes of the toys (for example, my “Balancing My Movement” box had the attributes of developing the pincer grip, challenging balance, and encouraging co-ordination). 

What I love about this subscription box is that it focuses on your baby or child’s development in the toys it selects. The Balancing My Movement box helped me to focus on my son’s Fine Motor Skills by providing toys that required him to hold items (such as the hammer, wooden rings and the veggie crayons) and work on his hand-eye co-ordination (bringing the hammer to the wooden pegs, which he enjoyed doing, or by aiming the wooden rings to fit over the wooden stacker). Starfish also got to practise some Gross Motor skills in his arms, such as swinging his arm with the hammer to hit the pegs, or moving his arm around the paper while holding the veggie crayons (which we are still practising to achieve!).

My Kiwi Play Box offers a range of play boxes for children of all ages, from Newborn right up until school age. There are different types of boxes for each age group that support different developmental areas, so you can select one-off boxes you’d like to purchase for your child. Alternatively you can sign up for a subscription and receive all the boxes for your child’s age over the course of a year (for example, there might be 4 Play boxes for the 6-10 month age bracket, so you would receive one box every 3 months). 

These Play Boxes from My Kiwi Play Box tick off all my criteria – they are super fun for Starfish (and I won’t lie, for me too. I’ve been playing with the pegs and hammer for ages!), they help his development, and they are extremely good value. As I started with, wooden toys are a loved item by many babies and mums, but usually at a high price. The Balancing My Movement box I received is valued at $58.50, including two wooden toys and the veggie crayons. Most stores that sell wooden toys that I have noticed (particularly boutique stores) sell wooden toys for upwards of $30 EACH. This would bring the value of the box to over $60, not including the veggie crayons or added developmental information.

If you’d like to check out the My Kiwi Play Box range, check out their website HERE, Facebook HERE or Instagram HERE.

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Jack The Wombat

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Growing up, I had a Penpal who lived over in France (a lucky opportunity, I know! My dad was Penpals with her mum, ahh long story!). I loved when I would receive a letter from her, which she had translated to English for me, and then sitting with my dad and learnign some French to write a letter back to her. We were Penpals for a couple of years and it was lovely. Having a Penpal made me feel special – someone else out there was thinking of me, carefully putting together a letter for me, and asking me about my life.

In this day and age of technology, we have lost some of the spark of traditional “snail mail”, however I know that all kids still get excited about having a letter in the letterbox with their name on it. That is why I absolutely ADORE this biz, Jack The Wombat, which is bringing back to life the magical friendship of having a Penpal.

Jack The Wombat is a monthly subscription service that encourages your child’s literacy development by sending an assortment of activities right to your doorstep (or mail box). Designed for children aged 4-8, each month your child can receive:

  • An Adventuregram from Jack the Wombat (A Letter from Jack!)
  • A Reply Adventuregram to Jack (write back to your new Penpal!)
  • An Adventuregram to share with a friend – spread the love!
  • A Sheet of High-Quality Stickers
  • A Fun Colouring Sheet
  • A Super Fun Educational Activity Sheet

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With most subscripton services, there are a range of options for you to choose from – you can pay month to month ($9.95), pay for a 6-month block ($8.95/month), or pay for one-off gift options for one month ($12.95) or 6 months ($59.95).

As a passionate advocate for literacy development, the creator of Jack the Wombat Allison makes sure each month’s Adventuregram to your child is packed with lots of fun as well as lots of opportunities for development and learning. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to help your child develop a love of writing and find a new lifelong friend – visit the Jack The Wombat Website HERE, Facebook HERE or Instagram HERE.

Sherbet Creations

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Sherbet Creations is a subscription box that provides children with engaging and educational craft activities each month. The Sherbet Creations boxes are designed for 5-8 year olds by co-founders Teresa and Melanie, who has 8 years of Early Childhood Education experience behind her. Each box has 4 craft activities, accompanied by Youtube videos to provide children with direction on the tasks (or children can be left to their own devices to create masterpieces!). The aim of Sherbet Creations is to provide fun and developmentally appropriate activities for children and parents who are looking for an alternative to screen time or extracurricular activities. These subscription boxes give you a chance to sit down with your child (or for them to sit and relax by themselves) and get creative!

Plus, the Sherbet Creation boxes donate $1 from each box to the Bear Cottage (an initiative of Westmead Children’s Hospital), which makes it even more amazing as it also helps a worthwhile cause!

If you’d like to purchase a Sherbet Creations subscription box, you can head to their website HERE, or visit their Facebook HERE or Instagram HERE for more information.

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What are your favourite subscription boxes/services for your child? Have you ever gotten one before? What has held you back? Tell us in the comments below! x

 

 

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