Category Archives: Natural Learning

Wooden Toys

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sustainability

Since the beginning of October, I have been slowly adding photos to a Wooden Toys album. Yes, it is still a work in progress. Just to be a bit confusing, the point of this album is not to sell these items. It is just a way for you to see some of the wooden toys that we own & ask questions if you are interested in the product. Fortunately most people that know us are aware that we prefer wooden toys, and many of these have been given to Zaedyn as prezzies. If you have them as well, we would love for you to comment and leave any feedback to support other who may be interested. I know that there are plenty more wooden toys available, but I hope that what you see will be of interest or provide you with links where you can find other sustainable toys.

We believe that nature is the best playground and that there are lots of natural resources and environments that can provide open ended play experiences. However, wooden toys can also provide learning and interactive play experiences. Although I have provided some information and ways that each can promote learning, they are not limited to this. Each child is unique, and many dispositions can be learned depending on each child. The way they use them to learn will also vary through time depending on their current interests and development. Click on the photos below to find more details about each toy.

Why do we love wooden toys vs. plastic?

Most companies that sell wooden toys are green companies that play a part in environmental impact and awareness. If you are looking for toys that are more natural and sustainable, look for wooden toys. Yes, they can be expensive, but they are worth it. Wooden toys are also very durable making them last and not ending up quickly broken in landfill. We also do not have to worry as much about safety from broken parts or toxicity. We are not against all plastic toys, but with the huge rise of cheap, plastic toys, we like to make a conscious effort to support eco-friendly companies. There are some companies using recyclable materials/packaging, one of which we think is pretty awesome. Make sure you follow us to hear about it in a future post.

So, how many toys do you need? I do not believe in buying all of the newest toys that come out, and I can definitely say that we still have more than our fair share of toys. We have some amazing toys that simply do not get used because we are always outside, or there are just too many to choose from. This can seem a bit overwhelming for you and your child as all of the toys are pulled out and not used for any purpose. Recently we have moved some toys and books into Zaedyn’s room as everything was out in the lounge. We have a pretty big lounge so I made a few areas in the room where there were certain types of toys. He is now aware of what is in his room and will walk down the hall and bring out toys or books that he wants to read. This has made it a bit easier for him to find toys and spend time playing, but this will always be a work in progress as we shift toys around to create an exciting environment.

Some people might think that wooden toys are too plain and simple, though I would argue the opposite. Yes, plastic toys can be very colourful and there is a huge variety, but this does not make them more interactive. Zaedyn is always far more interested in the packaging and boxes anyways! Wooden toys provide open ended experiences. Some might think they are boring, but I think that they allow for more creativity. There is also a growing number of companies providing wooden toys, and there is a range of different types and availability.

Natural Learning

The other option is to make your own. We found this awesome abacus idea from Natural Learning. Zaedyn even helped us look for the resources to use. Check out their site for some amazing creative and natural resources you can purchase. These educational resources will definitely support your children to learn about nature and Papatuanuku.

If you are a company that stocks these products, please leave a link to your website or details on how to order.

Many people debate this topic, but in our opinion we prefer wooden toys in our home. What do you want your baby chewing/playing with?

ClatterWork Bench 'N' BoxShape SorterPlaying MantisWollemi Wilderness Cash RegisterTea Set
tree toys

Zaedyn Tai’s Yoga

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Bright orange and rolled up, Zaedyn was keen to roll the yoga mat out last night. He seemed to like the texture and was all over the place rolling around smiling and making up his own moves.

This morning, we rolled the yoga mat back out and put on our Yoga Masters music. From Zaedyn’s bookshelf full of amazing books that he loves to read, we found Little Kiddy Yoga by Jahri Jah Jah.
Jahri Jah JahZaedyn was busy flipping through the book and learning all of his yoga poses.
YogaWith just a bit of help, he was so clever in beginning to learn poses. I do not have photos of everything, and I did not capture him almost perfecting poses as he wasn’t too impressed with me taking photos. Fair enough though!

He started out swinging his arms and centering with prayer.
YogaThen he stood tall like a tree and moved his fingers to his feet….well, almost.
Fingers to FeetCrocodile poses, cobra, mountain poses ~ Zaedyn was trying them all. One leg is bent in the photos below, but he did have both his legs out straight for the splits.
YogaThen, he put his feet together like a butterfly.
Yoga A couple more action shots…
Arohanui

At almost 18 months old, I am very impressed with Zaedyn’s yoga poses. When I was first pregnant with him, I was going to a Pilates class. He continued to wriggle around lots throughout my entire pregnancy. From birth, we have always encouraged stretching movements as he also initiates his own. He is very flexible. With his huge interest in the yoga mat, book, and body movement, I look forward to seeing his continued yoga practice. Over time, I am sure that we will both develop our flexibility, strength, coordination, and meditation. I will continue to model and help incorporate this powerful art for holistic health.

The book finishes by talking about Yogi food for children. I love how natural organic foods are being promoted for health and environmental awareness.

Made in Aotearoa, this local book provides a great basis for children to learn about yoga and basic poses. There are also many more books that can be found on Kiwi Kids Books by Jahri Jah Jah. We also own Little Kiddy Māori, Little Bub! & Kiwi Bub! which promote language and visual development. I have a couple other yoga pregnancy books as well as a Yoga for Surfers DVD that a friend gave me. Yoga really supports surfing on many levels. I look forward to our learning journey together.

Is yoga a part of you or your little one’s lives? Do you recommend any books or have any tips to share?

309 Road: Sustainable Tourism

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Surrounded by bush and hidden away, take the 309 Road through Coromandel to end up at the “quirkiest theme park in NZ”. Over 70% of recycled materials to construct these attractions along with wood from a sustainable forest, water powering attractions which is heated by solar power, wastewater filtered and recycled to be used in the vegetable garden, and the cafe using local suppliers and organic produce is what makes this attraction eco-friendly and sustainable. A theme park with no electricity!

The entrance is lined with flags, welcoming people from around the world. Your eyes will be instantly drawn to the ‘Slim Turner’, the most photographed thing at Waterworks. Made of random items replaced a couple times a year, this wheel has water continually flowing through from the creek across the way.

Waterworks

The start of New Zealand cheeky humour starts outside with this photo:
On this exact spot, at 12 noon on the 5th of April, 1807…

Coromandel

ABSOLUTELY NOTHING OF HISTORICAL NOTE TOOK PLACE

Walking through the cafe and out the doors, you make your way through a beautiful and yummy vegetable garden, onto the start of these “kiwi ingenuity” attractions. I have heaps and heaps of photos, but I don’t want to go through everything and spoil the fun. All I can say is that this should definitely be on your list of things to do. I am sure that you will find yourself laughing at signs as well as yourselves. My cheeky husband even tricked me into pulling a lever which had water squirting down from above me. We made our own fun throughout Waterworks as we tried to squirt each other and became intrigued with the amount of interesting and creative attractions there were. It literally is fun for all ages, and I am pretty sure that David enjoyed acting like a big kid. Check out his attempt at the human hamster wheel trying to go completely around…

Waterworks

My favourite thing had to be the flying fox. Do you know anywhere else where you can just walk up the steps, grab the rope, and off you go? Luckily David tested it out first, however, as I am lighter I went zooming across and flung up quickly toward the tires. Yes, a few tires at the end is what stops you from going any further. We were full of laughs and continued going on the flying fox only to find an even better one in the bush just further along.

Waterworks

Waterworks

Waterworks
Remember how I mentioned that I went flying toward the tires…

Waterworks


Waterworks

Waterworks
Not your typical washing line!

Bamboo Maestro Xylophone ~ Bamboo Maestro

Flying Bikes…

Waterworks

Waterworks

The Waterworks displays over 70 creative attractions, a play park with flying fox, human hamster wheel, garden, cafe, sand, swings, a swimming hole, and so much more! In an effort to protect our environment for everyone to enjoy, The Waterworks is definitely an environmentally friendly business that provides opportunities and fun for everyone which I hope that you are able to experience. Plus, if you continue down the 309 Road, this narrow dirt track will take you through farmland, pine forests, and beautiful native bush with other stops that you won’t want to miss! If you are staying in the Coromandel region, Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach are two other destinations that you also won’t want to miss. If you are following us on Facebook, you may have seen a photo over the weekend of a beautiful beach. I will fill you in on the rest of our weekend adventure tomorrow.

Ka kite apōpo

Waterworks

Coromandel

Check out The Waterworks website for more information, & feel free to ask me any questions as well.

Regrowing Mint: Water or Soil?

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Ever wonder if this actually works? I have never tried to regrow mint as it does seem to grow in abundance on its own, but I wanted to regrow some cuttings for the tamariki at the centre. With summer coming, the teachers are sorting out the garden with intentions of building a sensory area including herbs.

Mint is a hardy plant that can be easily grown by children. It makes a great addition and aromatic aspect to playdough or clay by adding hot water to fresh mint leaves and using as an essence. Add mint to water in ice cube trays and freeze. This adds a twist of a natural sensory aspect to the understanding of the physical properties of water leading to curiosity, contribution, and exploration. I am sure that the tamariki will love picking mint from their garden and knowing that they helped it to grow. This also adds to their sense of responsibility and sustainability as they develop an appreciation for the environment. There are even more learning opportunities through science concepts, collaboration, patience, and observation. The list goes on.

Gardening provides children with a real sense of purpose and a meaningful way to explore nature.

I may have cut the mint a bit longer than I should have, but I was very surprised and excited as I walked past and saw the roots. I did not know if the cuttings would regrow and was uncertain as to whether or not they should be in water or soil, but it looks like this was a success. We will continue to watch the roots grow before planting them.

Anyone else need mint? Would love to hear if anyone else has tried this, or can share successful or unsuccessful experiences regrowing plants from cuttings.

***tamariki means children

Homeopathy for Your Garden?

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arnica

Homeopathy for your garden? Has this left you in confusion or curiosity? I will admit to being a bit uncertain when first reading about homeopathy for plants, but it supposedly works! I am a strong believer in homeopathy and of course I am keen to see if it works. Why wouldn’t it?

We were busy enjoying the sunshine today and sorting out our garden. We were so excited about all of our plants, but most of them have been growing in our kitchen as we could not decide where to plant them. Our backyard is amazing, full of natural elements and a decent size, but the designated garden area has remained a bit of a mess. There are wooden boxes there, but the ivy and weeds from previous neighbours just seemed to be embedded in the soil when we first moved in. Every year, we start to tidy things up, but we only get so far. Last year, I ended up using tires with my parsley in a pot and my strawberries in one of the veggie boxes. Actually, my strawberries have been there for a few years now. I was not very good at pulling weeds out this year, and many of my strawberry plants have disappeared. I think it might be time to move the few left into a new area.

Anyways, the other day when we were out playing in the garden, I thought it would be awesome to incorporate some of the plants alongside what will hopefully become an inviting play area for Zaedyn. The entire backyard is exciting to Zaedyn, but I can see this area further developing, especially with a bean teepee. I did not want to block Zaedyn’s climbing area as he was resourceful in using these logs as a natural climbing frame.
Nature

Logs

Zaedyn needs to be just a little bit taller, but he knows his limits. I observed as he was busy making his own fun and being adventurous. He is willing to give everything a go. I love how the aspect of nature brings out some amazing dispositions that are reflected though his play and cheeky personality.

Garden

Some plants would look beautiful here…

Nature

I will come back to a few more natural play ideas, but let’s get back to the garden. I put my kale outside yesterday and noticed a huge change today already from the wind. I have had great success growing plants in my kitchen only to put them outside not to thrive as they were previously. I remembered receiving a homeopathic newsletter talking about Arnica for transplanting plants. I quickly tracked it down and had a quick read. All you need to do is add a couple pillules or drops of Arnica to the water in your watering can and water your plants. As you would take Arnica for shock, plants benefit as well from the shock of transplanting them. Isn’t that amazing? It makes a lot of sense to me and is so easy as well.

I do not have any background with homeopathy and plants, but would love to read this recommended book Homoeopathy for Farm & Gar­den by Vaikunthanath Das Kaviraj. You can even use homeopathic remedies as natural herbicides. Anyone else interested? Check out Homeoplant.

Now added to Zaedyn’s play area is kale, some nasturtium, and blueberry BlueMagic. I hope that it will manage the shock of being outside and continue to thrive. Our parsley is always in abundance! Having bought miso from the Herbal Dispensary yesterday, I almost have all of the ingredients I need along with fresh parsley from the garden to make Edamame Dip. Thanks for pinning it for me, Mum. I am very curious as to how this will taste. Will definitely share my thoughts once I have made this dip.

I was going to continue the post with Zaedyn’s exploration in the garden with natural resources and the happiness that comes with sunshine, but I have been sidetracked and it is far too late for me to still be awake right now. I will still post about this soon though and will leave you with a photo from today in case you have not seen it already on Facebook. Zaedyn is rehydrating with a fresh young coconut after running around heaps with Kai, our rāpeti/rabbit.

Young Coconut

As you make your way out into the garden, remember that you can use homeopathy for your plants as well as yourself for things such as hayfever or even bee stings (hopefully not something you will come across). Hope everyone continues to enjoy the sunshine.

A Different Kind of Water Wall

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With the excitement of summer coming and a bit of sunshine amidst all of the rain and wind today, a quick look around in the shed ended in this makeshift attempt of a water wall, if you can call it that. Nonetheless, it was a lot of fun. Warm water, funnels, cups, PVC pipes, and the curiosity of infants. I cannot wait to see what resources we can collect and new ways we can put them together to create an inviting and challenging space for tamariki to learn.

Most tamariki love playing with water. There is something magical about the natural element of water through the variety of opportunities, endless resources and open ended play, and the smiles it puts on children’s faces.

“It is not about the blocks or the dough. It is about the activity being the vehicle for the acquisition of the disposition to learn” ~Margaret Carr (2008)

This quote provides great reflection when thinking about the importance of dispositions toward children’s ongoing learning and the activities we set up or resources that we provide. Water helps to develop multiple dispositions such as curiosity, playfulness, resourcefulness, and collaboration. Not all children enjoy water. For some, water play might be about the confidence that develops. Although the water space might remain the same throughout the day, each child’s play will result in learning that is different to those that they are playing alongside. Isn’t that fascinating? As a teacher, it challenges us to be thinking on so many levels and supporting each child’s needs to further develop their individual learning. I am excited for summer and all of the wonderful activities and learning to come.

Check out Let the Children Play for other ideas on creating a water wall and other inspiring play ideas.

Washing the house and cars on a rainy day? Here is a quick look at some of the water play Zaedyn enjoyed over the weekend…

Hose

Mud

“The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.” ~E.E. Cummings

Carr, M. (2008) Presentation to Hui Topu – Professional Development for Early Childhood Education. May 28th, Wellington.

Free to Explore

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Zaedyn was part of the Educational Leadership Project Seminar

“There are many transition moments in a day. Some are the big ones like settling into a new centre. Others involve children moving from play to care moments like lunch or sleep. It is the way teachers invite children into these experiences that says so much about teacher intentions, values, abilities and skills. This seminar looks at wise practice around transitions, from those first steps through the doors, to transition to school and those moments between. Relationships are the key here and we consider how we ensure children are listened to, families are supported and respectful, responsive engagements are embedded in our moment by moment practice.”

This is what I attended this afternoon along with a few other teachers from around the Waikato region. A seminar about transitions from the Educational Leadership Project (ELP), and Zaedyn Tai was projected onto the screen freely playing with gloop and then paint on the next slide. My face lit up with a smile when I saw him up there. Carol Marks, an ELP facilitator, has been joining our centre meetings to support us through in-centre professional development as well. Currently supporting us through social competence, she looked through some of our profile books and gave me positive feedback around the affording environment provided through the fun and delight of paint experiences and thinking about the learning analysis around Zaedyn’s interest, experimenting, and creativity through paint. Of course I was thrilled and happy to send some photos through to her when she asked for permission to use them in her seminars, and I was even more excited to see them being used today.

From both a teacher and mother’s perspective, I can reflect positively on some of the experiences that I have provided for Zaedyn, recognising and noticing opportunities to extend his interests and encourage his sense of curiosity. Through this ongoing professional development with ELP and their Inspiration Day that was held in Hamilton back in June, I feel strongly supported within the professional community toward some of my goals and ideas within my teaching practice and the way I strive to enable tamariki to be curious explorers within their environment. ELP’s big focus has been around improvement and innovation, and I have been told by a few that I have been very strong in demonstrating this.

For those of you who don’t know, I previously worked with Toddlers from 18 months to around 3 1/2 years and returned to work from maternity leave to teach 3 month to 18 month old infants. What a huge transition this has been for me. Although there has been mixed thoughts and a lot of reflections through uncertainty, it is times like these where reassurance about my practice including experimenting new approaches motivates me to continue teaching. There are many different ways of doing things, but at this time I feel confident with the goals that I am working toward achieving. Thank you to all of those who continue to challenge and support me, especially you little ones who make me question, innovate, and allow me to make observations in order to support your ongoing learning. My teaching practice revolves around you :).

Besides making me think and reflect upon my own personal transition and teaching practice, this seminar was very thought provoking in the way we respond to children’s needs and support them daily. I love the idea about their mauri life force and being in a state of balance. As teachers and parents it is important that we develop relationships where we respond to children’s needs and are flexible as they learn who they are and make sense of their world. Let children play and explore.

Gummies, Snow, & Live Volcanoes

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     The first day of Spring and the sun was shining with the mountain still covered in snow. What a beautiful day to take Zaedyn for a play in the snow for his first time. We started our journey by buying Zaedyn his first pair of gumboots, just like Dad’s. He likes to be like his Mum and is often seen barefoot, even through Winter, but the snow gave us a good reason to buy some gummies to keep his little feet dry. Don’t worry, these are vegan unlike the candy gummies made of gelatin.

New Gummies Like Dad’s!

     The snow was icy and cold. Zaedyn did not think too much of it at the start. Actually, he was not very impressed at all. This was not the same texture or temperature as sand, or even the ground for that matter. It was too cold, and I could tell that he did not know what to think. After falling down to feel the cold ice against his hands, he was not that keen to stand on his own and explore, but with a bit of curiosity that luckily changed.

Snowball Fight?

     Snowball fight? Not sure how David managed to escape after getting both Zaedyn & I. Luckily the one at Zaedyn was not too hard, and he actually found it quite amusing. I can’t say that I was overly impressed about getting hit by a snowball later in the day. Next time I will remember not to walk in front of David and stop to turn around! At least I was a bit luckier than the other two on the slopes today. One after the next, the ambulance and 2 helicopters arrived at the scene for two spinal injuries! Hope that they recover as quick as possible. Zaedyn was pretty intrigued by the flying helicopters and spinning blades.

Building a Snowman

What a cheeky boy! That’s one way to get Dad’s sunnies.

If all the snowflakes were vegan candybars & almondshakes
Oh what a snow that would be!
Standing outside with my mouth open wide
Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah…

Zaedyn Snow Angel

     Oh, and did I mention that these are live volcanoes? I was quick to take some photos when I saw steaming Mt Tongariro after having erupted just less than a month ago. Still with ongoing activity there are tracks and off limit areas, however some are beginning to open up after this mountain decided to awaken after 100 years.  Don’t worry though. We were playing in the snow on Mt Ruapehu. I remember the last time Mt Ruapehu erupted in 2007. It was before David and I were married, and I was working at Bruce Jones Surfboards. Although I was worried and relieved to hear that his brother was not on the mountain that day, I have realised that these eruptions are a reality as they are very active. We never know when or how big the next eruption might be. Until then, I am happy to say that we were pretty safe on the mountain today, and it is great that we are still able to experience the snow and everything that nature has to offer. Next time we might need to borrow Uncle Mark’s snowboard!

     Plus, a bit of a detour on the way home as we thought that we might stay in Taupo, yet we decided just to pass through…

Thailand Post

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     Zaedyn and I have been waiting patiently for our parcel to arrive. Different postal services are always bringing packages to work. Knowing that we had a special parcel coming for us, I have been very curious and excited; however, none have been for us. Then when I went into the staff room for morning tea, I saw a slip in my locker telling me that I needed to pick up my package. I get them sent purposely to work so that I do not have to go downtown to get them, but of course they decided to deliver my package out of hours. Oh well. Still excited knowing what had arrived, Zaedyn and I went downtown at lunch to collect our special delivery from Thailand: Rattan Balls.

     Zaedyn was watching intently as I opened the box. He began talking as he does and making lots of funny noises to show that he was curious and excited as well. If only you could hear him. He would pull one out, examine it closely, show me, and throw it off to the side as he had a look at the next one he pulled out. He explored the rattan balls and was very playful as he made his own fun. They are also great for developing gross motor skills as he has already been practicing throwing and kicking them around. I can see the fun we are going to have in our exploration with these.

     So how and where did I find these? I had been searching online to find my Mum a birthday present and somehow ended up seeing these rattan balls on Etsy. I seem to get sidetracked when it comes to Pinterest and Etsy. Anyways, listed for indoor and outdoor decoration as many people would use them for, I instantly thought how cool these would be as a natural resource for Zaedyn to explore and even learn his colours. I have been interested in buying him some rattan balls, but I had never seen bright ones like these before. My one concern was what was used to make them these colours. Although I am not sure exactly, I was assured that they were safe. The products are hand made when ordered, good customer service, and they even made us 25 instead of 20 for only $10.78 NZD. Even with an extra $13.95 for shipping, these are well worth it. I am always looking for natural learning resources that are appealing and provide tamariki with opportunities to learn through nature as they develop an understanding about their world. We even found a special basket to put them in with a koru on the front. To me, this represents the growth that will come with new ideas and opportunities in Zaedyn’s ongoing learning through nature.

     Not sure how we always look for presents with no luck, but Zaedyn almost always seems to end up with something new. Anyways, It was time to go back to work, and Zaedyn decided to bring his sunnies along. What a beautiful sunny day it was again until the few thunderstorms passed in the late afternoon. We must be getting closer to summer!