Parents, this is how you win at the internet – MindLabKids.com

Summer school holidays are almost upon us here in New Zealand and, as far as I can tell, there are two distinct methodologies parents use to tackle the school holidays;

  1. The Organized Planner: Days, playdates, excursions,  picnics are all planned with military precision – only to be completely at the mercy of the sometimes/usually unpredictable January weather (especially if you live in Auckland!)
  2. The She’ll be Right Parent:  No planning necessary – it’s the holidays after all!

Whether you identify as a #1 or a #2 or a happy mix of both, it’s inevitable that weather, exhaustion or, real-life necessity such as parents having to adult and go to work, will result in days spent at home.  If you find this heralds the ‘I’m bored’ chorus we all dread, well, I’m all for letting kids ride out their boredom (if you can stand it!).  Giving kids the space and independence to be bored allows them the creative freedom to ‘un-bore’ themselves in ways adults may never have imagined.

If that doesn’t work, or has run its course, some intentional time online may be just the ticket.  Screentime for the kids; they’re happy, combined with educational, productive activities; Mum and Dad are happy.

Everyone wins!  (So bookmark this website now before you forget >> www.mindlabkids.com

What is MindLabKids.com?

The Mind Lab by Unitec is an award-winning, specialist learning lab dedicated to increasing knowledge and understanding of modern technology via workshops, school visits, holiday programmes and teacher professional development.  Emerging from this cutting-edge combo of education and fresh ways to deliver it, comes MindLabKids.com.

The website itself is an engaging, exciting online destination where kids can discover science and technology at their own pace, through hands-on experiments, challenges, and safe collabs with other kids.  Three new challenges are released each week around kid-magnet topics such as; robotics, 3D design, animation, and stop-motion, movie making and more.

How we use MindLabKids.com

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First points to note, rego is free, quick and easy.  Ethan was instructed NOT to use his own name as the username, plus, the only contact information requested was a parents email address – which I had to verify before the account was activated.

That was it!  Ethan was off, with Nix observing at elbow height, of course, intrigued by the fact that his big brother was stoked to be using the computer with Mum’s encouragement.

The home feed is a collation of challenges, fun facts, members responses to challenges, surveys, and cute memes – essentially everything kids want or more importantly NEED from an educational site that is kinda a cross-over with an age-appropriate social network.  You can respond to user-created content in a positive way via likes and even ‘favorite’ accounts that are uploading videos you love.

But obviously, the very BEST part, which the boys are loving, is getting their curious neurons firing and getting stuck into the online challenges.

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Nix and E both have a Mind Lab Kids Starter Pack (which got them so pumped to get cracking I gotta say!)  These are definitely not necessary to participate in the challenge responses, but Ethan found after looking at the kit inclusions such as a propeller, 3V motor, battery pack, pager motor, hovercraft plate (stuff we generally don’t have lying about the house), his mind was a little more open to the creative, problem solving process, knowing that he had some extra tools on hand.

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On that note,  seriously great Christmas gift right?!  Create your child’s login, write their username and password on a gift tag, wrap up the Mind Lab Kids Starter Pack and you’ve got the perfect parental gift trifecta; it’s educational, not a toy they don’t need and can be reused over and over again in different ways.

Boom.

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The first challenge the boys tried their hand at was Professor D’s Hovercraft Challenge – obvs Ethan and I helped Nix a lot with his, he was just down to go crazy with the glue gun to be honest, but that’s every 4 year old’s prerogative lol.

Check out our Hovercraft Challenge Response Video here on the MindLabKids.com website.

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Win a MindLabKids.com Starter Kit!

Get your kids excited about science and technology and they could win their own MindLabKids.com starter kit!

To enter;

  1. Join Mind Lab Kids, if your kids are already a member then they are good to go!
  2. Film and upload a challenge-response video to www.mindlabkids.com before 10am 10 December 2017.
  3. That’s it!

Full terms and conditions can be found here, otherwise, the main point to note is that you must be a NZ resident.

This post was made possible by www.MindLabKids.com.

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Raising Kiwi boys – the good, the bad and the muddy

Karicare Toddler is about as Kiwi as the kids that are we are raising here in New Zealand. As a Mum to a couple of Kiwi boys, Karicare Toddler asked me to have a think about what it means to me to be a Kiwi mum.  Made right here in New Zealand, Karicare Toddler have been committed to using the goodness of New Zealand cows’ milk from Kiwi cows on Kiwi farms. How awesome is it that our kids can enjoy the benefits of amazing NZ dairy from their earliest years?!

13 years ago when I thought kids were (maybe?) a distant possibility in my future, I could only imagine parenting boys. The thought of raising a mini-Melissa terrified me – and rightly so if you ask my mother!

So imagine my ‘surprise’ when Dave and I fell pregnant whilst in the very early stages of planning our wedding. “Boys it is!” I assured Dave, only to be told at every single scan that we were expecting a girl.

The pink presents began rolling in. Despite living in Southern California at the time, baby girl had more pink blankets then she would ever be able to use and Mum had Pumpkin Patch on speed dial ready to snap up every cute girls outfit released that season.

Luckily most shops these days have a fantastic return policy.  Baby girl was indeed, an Ethan. And then 8.5 years later, another bouncing, 10.4lb bundle of joy – Nixon – arrived.

Those are my qualifications for writing about Kiwi boys. I know nothing I can assure you, and what I and other mothers of boys do know is learned (or earned) through the school of hard knocks, lost socks and empty pantries.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family yarns Kiwi KidsTwo children deep, hindsight has proven what an absolute angel our first child was. It’s almost unfair that we didn’t realise how easy those first 8.5 years of parenting actually were. Because the bomb sure dropped when Nixon arrived.

The large age gap seemed like a dream initially. Ethan was completely smitten with his little brother, he’d waited for him a long time after being present at the sonographers appointment where we found out I’d miscarried during my previous pregnancy.  He was/is a proud and protective (exasperated, tormented) big brother.

Nixon is ::: dramatic pause:::, the exception to every rule I thought I knew about parenting.  He is, without doubt, the loudest person in the universe, the most full-on, stubborn, energizer bunny, tackle everything in his path then poke his finger in your eye just for kicks kid I have ever encountered.  He is also, unerringly cuddly, affectionate, verbose and crazy smart.  

We completely redecorated the house in 2011/12 and post-toddler-Nixon we will have to completely redecorate again.  Rimu windowsills, painstakingly stripped and refinished are now scarred, scratched, chipped and dented.  Walls, all re-plastered and painted have met the same fate.  Cushions vs marker pens, couch vs ballpoint, carpet vs play dough/dirt/dinner, brand new kitchen flooring vs laundry basket zoomed across it at top speed.  If you scoff and say “well, that’s just life with kids”, well perhaps.  Toddler destruction totally caught me by surprise as Ethan in his 13 years on this earth, has never, ever damaged our home or furnishings.

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Nix must have known I needed a great shot of him for the blog today so he obliged by mixing dirt for his vege planters………in his bedroom!

So, despite looking very, very similar our boys are as different as chalk and cheese and are also probably as different as night and day to the other million or so little boys that are growing up around New Zealand at the same time.  That’s really the beauty of our little country in these modern times, differences are (for the most part) tolerated and celebrated.  We are all raising our children in different family configurations, different housing arrangements, with different cultural influences and religious beliefs, more diets than you can shake a stick at but we are at peace amongst an alarming and ever-increasing rate of intolerance in the world around us.

The joy of both being a Kiwi kid and having the immense privilege to raise one – or 2 or 10 or however many you want – is an awesome journey to be on.  Of course, it’s made infinitely easier when there are fab products such as Karicare Toddler that are made in New Zealand and help us give our kids a great start in life.

This post is brought to you by Karicare Toddler.

Win with The Best Nest!

I’ve got three $50 Gift Cards to the Warehouse to give away.  To enter, just comment below with one thing you love about raising kiwi kids or one thing you love about living in New Zealand!  

Competition closes Dec 10 2018. NZ residents only.

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New Beauty – The Herb Farm Facial Serums + Skincare Minis

The Herb Farm NEW Enhanced Formula Facial Serums

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Herb Farm Serum ReviewIf you love beautifully natural, New Zealand made skin care, you absolutely MUST visit The Herb Farm’s website if you’re not already familiar with their skincare and healing and therapeutic ranges.  All products are produced on the farm, a family business that believes that ‘living a natural life shouldn’t cost a fortune or the earth’.

It’s easy for individuals and companies alike to rest on their laurels when they’ve got a good thing New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Herb Farm Serum Reviewgoing.  In contrast, The Herb Farm’s founder and herbalist Lynn Kirkland seems committed to pushing forward with new product development and improving existing formulas, which has resulted in the relaunch of their two serums.  

Radiance Boost Facial Serum RRP $39.90 which targets; uneven skin tone, pigmented skin, redness, dull, tired and stressed skin, has been enhanced with Elderberry Extract resulting in a more easily absorbed formula

Renewal Advance Facial Serum RRP $46.90 gets to work on ageing concerns; fine lines and wrinkles, skin elasticity, environmental stressors and free radicals.  The new formulation includes Gotu Kola Extract, further targeting the visible signs of ageing.

I use a serum every day under my moisturiser, I absolutely love them.  The two little beauties from The Herb Farm will become firm faves in my routine.  They are lightweight, silky smooth, absorb quickly and leave my skin feeling and looking fabulous.  Really impressed with the 2 year BB date also as a little goes a long way with serum.

The Herb Farm Skincare Minis

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Herb Farm minis ReviewI love skincare minis for two reasons;  they are the perfect way to fine-tune your skincare routine, discover what works for you and experiment with a new brand or product before spending a lot of money on a full-size product.  Secondly, I love them for travelling.  I have way too much kid gear to lug around to be adding weight to my toiletry bag with large bottles and glass jars.

Just in time for Christmas gifting and summer roadies, The Herb Farm has released four Skincare Mini packs across each of their skin concern ranges; Signs of Aging Skincare Minis, Oily and Combination, Dry, and Normal/Sensitive.

Each system contains a cleanser, exfoliating powder, toner and face cream and is perfectly sized to slip into your hand-luggage.  We are heading to Japan in the New Year so I’m super happy to have a complete skincare system – in mini! – to take with me.

RRP $ 34.90 – $39.90 

 

Health – 5 Easy Ways to Improve your Sleep

This post was made possible by the world’s number #1 selling mattress protector, Protect-A-Bed, who know a thing or two about helping us get a good night’s sleep!


How many times have you caught yourself complaining about how tired you are, how you could sleep for days, how you need to go to bed earlier………only to repeat your unhealthy nocturnal habits over and over again?  Every.  Single.  Day.   Right?

Of all the health-related science that is becoming increasingly more available to consumers, info around the importance and wide-ranging benefits of adequate sleep is one field of research that provides equal benefit to all of us.  A good nights sleep is crucial to both our mental and physical well-being, often identified as the third pillar of health along with exercise and nutrition. 

If you’re wondering how much sleep is enough;  adults need 7-9 hours of sleep, school-age kids require 9-11 and pre-schoolers need 10-13 hours.  Nix heads to bed at 7 pm and wakes up at 6 am so he’s tracking well, Ethan (13) heads off at between 8.30 and 9 pm to wake at 6 am so he’s falling a bit short, but, it’s Dave and I who really need to hit the hay earlier.  We wake up at 6 am every day so our late night Netflix bingeing has got to stop!  In bed with the lights off by 10 pm at the latest should be what we are aiming for each evening.

Re-training our body clocks and resetting our natural circadian rhythms will no doubt take some time, but there are some tried and true tips for enhancing and encouraging sleep.  I’m working on introducing the 5 ideas below into our night-time wind-down.

Sleep, COME AT ME!

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5 Easy Ways to Improve your Sleep

  1. Routine – The human body LOVES routine.  Giving ourselves the same cues every day that it’s time to wind down and head to bed will set the scene for a great nights sleep.  Here’s my new sleep-prep plan; drink 500mls of water, take my vitamins – including magnesium, wash-up, relax on my Shakti mat and read for 20 minutes, then lights out – by 10pm!  Sounds so virtuous!
  2. Turn off the Tech – Just.  Do.  It.  Ethan is turning 13 next week and Dave and I had been allowing him to use his iPhone as an alarm clock.  Before we made a rod for our own backs later on when we are deep in the teenage years, we purchased him an actual clock and implemented a no-screen policy in his room – much to his disgust.  It’s well documented that the short wavelength blue light emitted by our digital devices disrupts sleep-inducing melatonin production.  Dave and I will be walking the walk and removing our chargers from the bedroom, this should also help with late night Candy Crush zone outs when we should be snoozing!
  3. Invest in your nest – Create a cozy, bedtime space that you crave at the end of a long day.  Think linens you love, a clutter-free environment that promotes a sense of calm as well as the New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family yarns Kiwi Kids Mattress Protector Reviewopportunity for healthful sleep and don’t forget to start at the bottom with your mattress protector.  Look for one that is compatible with your needs; for eczema or allergy sufferers or those with sensitive skin, do your research.  The entire range of Protect-A-Bed® products have been approved by the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation of New Zealand’s Sensitive Choice Program plus, the TENCEL® range gets the tick with approval from the Eczema Association.  I’m switching all of our beds over to  Protect-A-Bed mattress protectors as the fitted sheet style is an absolute game-changer.  I can’t believe I’ve been struggling to make the beds with those super-annoying, corner-loop style protectors for so many years, it makes me shudder just thinking about them to be honest!
  4. Watch your temperature – I’m one of those annoying people who is cold all the time, so I LOVE being warm and snuggly in bed.  But, our body naturally cools down as bedtime approaches, helping us both to fall and stay asleep.  Evidence also suggests that allowing the body’s temp to drop naturally whilst sleeping has a beneficial effect on metabolism. So, if you haven’t ditched the heavy, winter weight duvet yet this spring, here’s your reminder!
  5. Cut the consumption – Whether it’s nicotine, alcohol, caffeine or eating a large meal before bedtime, what you put in your mouth affects your quality of sleep.  Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants, no surprises there and though alcohol may have the perceived effect of helping you drop off to sleep, hours later, after alcohol levels drop, you may find yourself awake, restless and struggling to nod off again.

I popped the Protect-A-Bed® king-size Traditional Cotton mattress protector on our bed last weekend and we have slept like babes this week.  No more crinkly, crunchy, plasticky feel which is awesome, but somehow the genius fabric is still waterproof and breathable – perfect for those nights (4/7 I’d say) when Nix sneaks into our bed.

Shop the full Protect-A-Bed® range here, or find a New Zealand retailer here.

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Win yourself a Stay New Cotton Terry Mattress Protector!

Leave me a comment below with your preferred size and I’ll pick a winner to receive 1 x Protect-a-Bed Stay New Cotton Terry Mattress Protector!

Competition closes 24th Nov 2017.

 

Parenting – Bright Ideas for Young Minds

A couple of weeks ago I attended an event that was a little bit different from those I normally go to each week.  It wasn’t a cosmetic/foodie/makeup event, it wasn’t a glamorous, heels and frock, dress-to-the-nines occasion (thank god!).  It was a book launch.  A beautiful thought-provoking, inspiring book launch that gave me all the feels and left me with an innate desire to be a better mother.

Cripes that’s pretty heavy!

Bright Ideas for Young Minds is a book that screams for your attention as soon as you lay eyes on it.  It’s big, robust and beautifully designed, printed and bound, with fun and exciting content to match.  But what is it?  It’s an activity book brought to life by New Zealand’s largest early learning provider, BestStart and written by kiwi educators with contributions from Plunket, Heart Foundation NZ and Jumping Beans.

In short, it’s amazing.

As well as providing parents and caregivers with a resource chocka-block full of 70 step-by-step activities that cost little or nothing, what Bright Ideas for Young Minds does so well (for me at least!) is remind me how easy it is to bring great joy to my kids.  Showing love through mindful, yet incredibly simple play is the very best education every child deserves.  The great part is, creating positive interactions such as those included in the book, are play options accessible to every New Zealand caregiver.  Sometimes all you need is a little inspiration, a gentle reminder that the currency most cherished by children is our time.

Bright Ideas for Young Minds (Mary Egan Publishers $39.95) is an amazing resource for anyone caring for kiwi kids age 0-6 years and is available now from all leading bookstores.

Win a copy of Bright Ideas for Young Minds!

Tell me how you’d benefit from this beautiful book, or, who you’d gift it to in the comments below.  I’ll draw the winner drawn 11/12/17, NZ residents only.

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Cook, Eat – Homemade Burger Patty Recipe

Nothing beats homemade hamburgers and with BBQ season quickly approaching, getting a go-to burger patty recipe locked, loaded and ready to go is a kiwi summer essential.

I tried this recipe last night for the first time and it’s a winner.  These burgers made an easy, delicious Friday night dinner that ticked all the boxes for the whole family.

Burger Patty Recipe

Recipe provided courtesy of New MacKenzie Burger Buns, available in selected New World and Pak ‘n’ Save stores in White Rye and Sprouted Grain varieties.

Ingredients:

Patties (makes 6)

750g premium beef mince

1 cup breadcrumbs

1 large onion, grated

1 egg lightly whisked

1/4 cup chopped parsley

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

2tsp Tabasco sauce

Salt & pepper to taste

Olive oil

To serve:

6 MacKenzie White Rye Burger Buns

150g cheese of your choice

Mustard

Lettuce

Sliced tomatoes

Tomato relish

Method:

Mix the beef mince, breadcrumbs, egg, onion, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, parsley salt & pepper and Tabasco sauce in a large bowl.  Divide into equal portions.

Cook in olive oil in the pan over medium-low heat or on the BBQ.

Melt cheese on top of patties when you flip them.

Lightly toast MacKenzie White Rye Burger Buns in the oven or on the BBQ.

Build burgers to taste and serve!

MacKenzie Chef Tips;

  • Avoid patty shrinkage by pressing a shallow ‘dimple’ in the middle of the patty before you cook.
  • Do not salt beef until patties are formed to avoid them drying out.