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Step 1 – Decide on your venue. Make it at home or close to home so all your guests can walk, scooter, bike or come by bus! The local park is a great choice! We decided to throw our Earth Day party this year at Josie’s preschool.

Step 2 – Send out your invitations! We illustrated our invitations with Earth mosaics; first grab old magazines, pick pages with lots of green and blue on them, tear them into tiny pieces then glue them onto your globe. We then scanned our art and emailed our invites out!

Earth Day party invite.

Invitation to an Earth Day party

Step 3 – Choose presents! When I asked my two what makes a good party they both said straight away–presents! So we asked everyone to bring a present–to pick a toy out of your own collection that you are bored with and don’t play with anymore. You can either swap gifts amongst the children like we did at preschool, or even better, donate the toys to a charity that helps struggling families.

Step 4 – Wrap your presents! Old paintings and art work make great gift wrap! Or else, you can recycle old newspapers and tie with a bright piece of wool – that looks great too!

Splatter painting.

The backs of used flip-charts from work are perfect for splatter painting...

Presents.

... and the resulting paintings make awesome gift wrap!

Step 5 – Decorate! Newspaper also comes in really handy to make paper chains for decorations, and the wonderful Earth mosaics that we made in step 1 look great on the wall.

Step 6 – Make the party feast! Source local food, organic fruits and veges for party food and make your own baked treats rather than buying lots of sugar-fuelled convenience food. In fact getting everyone to help prepare the food can be part of the party fun – make pizza dough and put out a choice of toppings! Instead of disposable plates and cups, put all your food on big platters for sharing.

Gingerbread kiwi biscuits.

Gingerbread kiwis - homemade and hand-decorated with icing and jelly crystals

Step 7 – Games and fun at an Earth Day party is about doing something nice for the Earth! If you are at the park why not do rubbish scavengers hunt?  If at home make a poster about Earth Day out of recycled materials to put up at school. At our preschool party we plan to take our wrapping paper, make paper porridge and turn it into completely new paper!

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A great way to get your children excited about reading is to make them the star of their own story. It’s also a great way to record all the many adventures you have together!  These days anyone who has access to a digital camera can make a book; either online or at your local photo shop or chemist that has one of those photo printing booths.  You can either rewrite the familiar classics with your own unique twist as I have done here , or choose to tell your own unique story.

We’re going on a tramping trip
(with William and Josie)
Concept stolen from ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’ by Michael Rosen


Josie and the red door.

Josie and the red door (2010)

We’re going on a tramping trip
It’s going to be a long one
We’re looking for a taniwha
I’m not scared

William @ Craigieburn Forest Park.

William @ Craigieburn Forest Park (2008)

I’ve got my tramping boots on
I’ve got my back pack on
I’ve got my sun hat on
What a beautiful day

Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve.

William @ Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve (2011)

Oh no!

We’ve reached the green and shady forest
We can’t go under it, we can’t go over it,
we can’t go around it,
we’ll have walk through it

Trip trot trip trot trip trot hop

Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve.

Josie @ Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve 2011.

Were going on a tramping trip
It’s going to be a long one
We’re looking for a taniwha
I’m not scared

Ngatuhoa Stream.

William and Dad crossing Ngatuhoa Stream (2007)

I’ve got my tramping boots on
I’ve got my back pack on
I’ve got my sun hat on
What a beautiful day

Temple valley.

William and Mum @ Temple valley (2007).

Oh no!

Here’s a rushing braided river
We can’t go under it, we can’t go over it,
we can’t go around it, we’ll have wade through it

Link arms and wade wade wade wade

St James CA.

William and Josie St James CA (2011)

Were going on a tramping trip
It’s going to be a long one
We’re looking for a taniwha
I’m not scared

Hanmer Forest Park.

Hanmer Forest Park (2011).

I’ve got my tramping boots on
I’ve got my back pack on
I’ve got my sun hat on
What a beautiful day

St James.

St James CA 2011).

Oh no!

We have reached the wavy tussock grasslands
We can’t go under it, we can’t go over it,
we can’t go around it, we’ll have to go through it

Swish, swish, swish, swish

Ben Ohau.

Ben Ohau (2007).

Were going on a tramping trip
It’s going to be a long one
We’re looking for a taniwha
I’m not scared

Ben Ohau (2007).

I’ve got my tramping boots on
I’ve got my back pack on
I’ve got my sun hat on
What a beautiful day

Otukaikino.

William @ Otukaikino with friends (2012).

Oh no!

Here’s an oozy, peaty wetland
We can’t go under it, we can’t go over it,
we can’t go through it, we’ll have to go around it

Squelch squelch squelch squelch

Swing bridge

Swing bridge Aoraki/MT Cook (2009)

Were going on a tramping trip
It’s going to be a long one
We’re looking for a taniwha
I’m not scared

Family at Aoraki/Mt Cook.

Family at Aoraki/Mt Cook (2009).

I’ve got my tramping boots on
I’ve got my back pack on
I’ve got my sun hat on
What a beautiful day

Aoraki/Mt Cook.

Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park (2009)

Oh no!

Here’s a big snowy mountain
We can’t go under it, we can’t go around it,
we can’t go through it, we’ll have to climb over it

Climb climb climb climb

Arthur's Pass (2011).

Were going on a tramping trip
It’s going to be a long one
We’re looking for a taniwha
I’m not scared

Kura Tawhiti.

Josie & Ben Kura Tawhiti (2012).

I’ve got my tramping boots on
I’ve got my back pack on
I’ve got my sun hat on
What a beautiful day

Kura Tawhiti.

William @ Kura Tawhiti 2012

Oh oh

We’ve found a scary limestone cave
We can’t go under it, we can’t go over it, we can’t go around it, we’ll have to go through it

Tip toe tip toe tip toe

Cave Stream.

William and Dad @ Cave Stream (2008).

What’s that sound?

Roar!

It’s the taniwha!

Taniwha at Te Puna Quarry.

William, Josie and cousin Taylor on the Taniwha at Te Puna Quarry (2010).

Quick, run home

Over the big snowy mountain—climb climb climb
Around the oozy peaty wetland—squelch squelch squelch
Through the wavy tussock grasslands—swish swish swish
Through the rushing river—wade wade wade
Through the drippy rainforest—trip trot trip trot hop
Back home, in our front door, up the stairs and into bed.

Phew.

Josie reading her book.

Josie reading "going on a tramping trip" (2012)

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Josie and I were in the garden and she turns to me, touching a tree and says “this is a forever tree mum; its leaves stay green forever”. I was immediately charmed with the phrase and my clever daughter. And even more so a few nights later when giving her a goodnight cuddle she started practicing saying a very difficult word – jew sid jewus. Jewsidjewus. “Did you learn that word at preschool?” I asked. “Yes” she said, “Rebecca told it to us. It means trees that lose their leaves”.

Well she couldn’t say the word but she knew what it meant. And at three that’s something. Talking to her teacher Rebecca I passed on that Josie was sharing her knowledge at home.  Rebecca informed me that the children were asking why some leaves were changing colour and some weren’t and that triggered the subject. I was even more impressed now – child-centred inquiry-based learning. Letting the children ask a question, and then help them find the answer.  I am so grateful for the quality care that Josie is receiving while I am working!

But learning doesn’t have to stay at preschool, as Josie was also gently reminding me. So we took a trip into the botanical gardens. It was a gorgeous day, just perfect for wandering amongst the many different trees.

William and Josie in Christchurch Botanic gardens

William and Josie in Christchurch Botanic Gardens

Josie was very quick to point out all the leaves that were changing colour, oranges and browns, yellows even.  She found a marvellous leaf – large enough for peek-a-boo. It was learning by osmosis – by exploring the world around us and taking it all in.

Josie

Josie plays peek-a-boo

And back at home, we decided to make our own “forever trees”. There are so many wonderful art projects you can do with autumn leaves.

There’s leaf rubbing – put a leaf under paper and rub over the top with wax crayon until the shape appears.

William doing leaf rubbings.

William doing leaf rubbings using autumnal colours

Spatter-prints are effective – arrange leaves on the paper, dip an old toothbrush into paint. Use a stick to rub the bristles so fine spatters of paint go onto the paper around the leaves. Lift the leaves to reveal their shadows.

Or even more achievable for pre-schoolers, focus on the colours. Collect papers of different kinds of greens, browns, yellows, oranges – old magazines or wrapping papers can be recycled for this!

Josie creates her evergreen forever tree.

Josie creates her evergreen forever tree

Cut them into leaf shapes (we used zig-zag scissors) and glue them onto your wonderful forever tree.

Forever trees.

Josie's forever trees, evergreen on left, deciduous on right

For a wonderful book about New Zealand’s native trees – most of which are forever green as Josie says – Andrew Crowe’s Life-size guide to native trees is the best.

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Our lives are so busy these days. As working parents in a commercially-driven world where success is the measure of worth, we are constantly rushing from one appointment to the next. Get up, go the gym, take the kids to school, go to work, pick up the kids from school, go to swimming lessons, violin lessons, ballet lessons, art, karate, play dates, cook dinner, put the kids to bed, go to the gym, night classes, choir, committee meetings, PTA…

Sometimes we just need to stop, listen, be still and take time to be in the moment.

Daisy's Flat.

Quiet times at Daisy Flat.

Sunday 4 March 2012 was Children’s Day. And I was too busy to publishing this blog on the day! (shame) The theme of children’s day for 2012  was ‘treasure our children’. We shouldn’t need a day to tell us that our children are a gift and that we should spend time with them. But with all this constant drive to improve ourselves and be successful, we sometimes forget to just be together. As a family. All of us. Not Mum and Josie while the boys go to swimming. Not Dad and William while Josie goes to ballet. All of us. Spending some time together marvelling at the world we find ourselves in. It only needs to be ten minutes. Ten minutes of being in the moment.

Here are six simple experiences to just be “in the moment” with your children. These can be done by children of any age, even (especially) infants.

1)     Lie under a tree and look up at the branches together. Watch the leaves blowing in the wind, and the way the sun sparkles as it flicks between the spaces. Close your eyes and listen.

2)     Find a warm rock and lie like lizards. Worship the sun by feeling how it warms the rock – or your driveway if you can’t find a suitable stone. Put your cheek or hands flat against the stone and feel its warmth.

3)     Go for a walk at the quiet end of the beach – no spades, no boogie boards, just you. Take off your shoes and find a spot where the sand is really wet. Scrunch your toes in the sand. Wiggle side to side and watch your feet. Close your eyes and listen to the waves.

Josie aged 9 months.

Josie at nine months explored the sand using multiple senses!

4)     Find a wild space (they are getting rare) where the grass is growing long. Get down low and look through the grass. Play hide and seek, or crawl pretending to be tigers. Look for butterflies and insects flitting from flower to flower. Lie down and close your eyes.

5)     When it rains sit in the window and watch the raindrops travel down the glass. Follow them with your finger. Pick on each and have a race. When it stops – or even if it doesn’t put on your coats and boots and go stomp in some puddles. Raise your face up towards the rain and you guessed it – close your eyes. Take a deep breath and smell the rain.

Down in the forest. Down in the forest

6)     Read a book together. Snuggle into a beanbag and cuddle. Down in the Forest, retold by Yvonne Morrison and illustrated by Jenny Cooper is great for really small kids as it’s a remake of an old rhyme “Over in the meadow” so it has wonderful rhythm and repetition as well as being familiar. It also features different families with each verse – a kiwi family, weta family, tui family and more, so it’s a wonderful choice to celebrate and read as a family.

in an old kowhai tree
lived a sweet mother tui
and her little tuis three.

“Sing!” said the mother
“We sing!” said the three
so they sang so sweetly
in that old kowhai tree.

P.S. This week is Seaweek, an annual celebration to reconnect with the sea and what it can teach us. It is being officially launched at an event from Auckland Zoo tonight. Stay tuned for sea-themed reads and maybe some other fun stuff to do! The website has lots of competitions and resources too so check it out.

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