Sunday, July 13, 2014

July Smile Makers {My Kids and 10 Fun Holiday Activities}

Making my kids smile is making me smile. (This is not my kid. Cute though, huh?)
Image Licensed Under Creative Commons

There's a lovely little blog link up happening at Bear Loves Dove.  It's all about what's making us smile right now, which is such a sweet idea that I wanted to be involved.  And when it came to thinking about things that were making me smile in July it was pretty simple.  My kids.  And spending great quality time with them.

It's school holidays right now.  They are drawing to a close.  And I gotta say they've been heaps fun.  I'm kinda pleased with myself (maybe a little smug even?) that we've managed to create a really fun, happy, good times holiday this time.  

Because sometimes holidays can be a little scratchy, you know?  Sometimes we can start to get on each others nerves.  Sometimes I don't plan enough stuff to do, and the kids get bored.  Other times I've planned too many things and we've all gotten really tired and ratty. This time though?  I nailed it.  We hit a perfect balance of fun outings, great activities, beautiful get-togethers with good friends and just the right amount of relaxed home time.

I don't mean to blow my own trumpet.  And in fact I don't think all these good times are due solely to my (admittedly excellent) planning.  My kids are at a sweet spot right now.

At six and four they are absolutely each others best mate.  And with the elder being at school for the first time this year the younger is missing her like crazy.  So spending time together for them right now is so much fun.  

I'm soaking it up, revelling in it, for I know it won't always be this way.  I know eventually they will have different friends and interests and may not even like each other that much.  It makes me sad to think of it compared to how sweet they are together right now, so I'm just making the most of this beautiful time.

They are also in a really good behaviour pattern at the moment too.  I think all parents know that these phases come and go, you'll go through a hell period where the whole house feels like a war zone - battles occurring on various fronts with exhausting regularity.  Then comes the calm, the cease fire, we all emerge shell-shocked and battle weary, brush ourselves off and resume normal life.  

We just happen to be in a place right now where family life is happy, content and calm.  It's lovely.  And I know, potentially short-lived so I'm not taking one moment of it for granted.

All of this is making me smile the good kind of smile, the smile that comes from the heart, the soft, slow, warm smile.  It's not euphoric, it's not epic, it's not fireworks, it's better than that because it's placid and deep and long lasting.  And calm.

So my kids are really making me smile, and here's ten things we did these holidays that made them smile too.

Home Days

This is not my house. Kinda wish it was though.
Image Licensed Under Creative Commons

My kids love home days.  Love them.  So I made sure this holidays that we had plenty of home days timed well and slotted in between busier days.  There used to be a time I was a little scared of home days.  When the kids were littler and I had to keep them occupied all day the hours would stretch out in front of me endlessly.  I needed outings possibly more than they did, but now they love playing together so much and they have so many great, engaging toys a home day is now something we can all look forward to.

Craft Activities

Paper Lanterns Glitter Jewellery and Thank-you Cards Made By Us.
Image One Small Life
The secret to successful home days is to have a good stock of fun things to do.  My kids do play really well together, but they also need some guided activities if we're going to be home together all day long without calamity.  This holidays we made some glitter jewellery, some flower lanterns, some water colour thank-you cards and a cubby beneath a town (as inspired by Be A Fun Mum).

This is actually my sons 4th birthday cake. We made it. Not bad, eh?
Image One Small Life
It's winter, so home days are sometimes not so much a choice.  Sometimes it's just too miserable to get outside.  I'm all for getting outside in cold weather, even for a bit of puddle jumping in the rain.  But sometimes when it's windy and wet and wild?  The best thing is to bake a cake.  These are a couple of recipes we've been trying out lately. Thanks to Be A Fun Mum for the scroll recipes below).  They are all super easy (I'm no master chef) and the kids love both making and eating them.  Win.
Egg and Dairy Free Chocolate Cake::Greek Yoghurt Dough Scrolls Savoury::Greek Yoghurt Dough Scrolls Sweet

Scooters at the Park
I don't recommend scootering with bare feet. Ouch.
Image Licensed Under Creative Commons
It's such a simple thing but don't the kids just love it?  Taking scooters to a park with a super bike path and letting them scoot to their hearts content.  And my two just got scooters for their birthdays (spoilt!), so they were extra keen to get in some practice.  They're rocking it.

Dance & Yoga Winter Workshop
Little Snowflakes (not my actual kids)
Image Licensed Under Creative Commons
I don't work, so I'm not in a position where I need to rely on holiday programs and the like to keep my kids occupied while I get my work done.  I'm sure I wouldn't be quite so chipper at this point if that was the case.  I imagine that adds a level of stress to holidays that I feel very lucky I get to avoid.  It also means holiday programs aren't on my radar at all.  But when I came across a Winter Workshop that included dance, yoga and craft I thought it sounded really great. (I wasn't thinking of the 2.5 child free hours at all. Really. (Not really)).  The kids loved it, they got to mix with a bunch of kids they didn't know (my son made a new friend - cute).  They did some movement including an interpretive snow ball fight (!) and made a snow man that they got to take home.  Fun.

NVG (National Gallery Victoria)
NGV Exhibits Awesome and Free until August 31
Images One Small Life

The NGV (National Gallery Victoria) has some great kid friendly exhibits on at the moment.  The first, you can't avoid as you enter the Gallery.  And why would you want to?  Life sized Polar Bears covered in neon-bright feathers.  Who'd want to miss that?!  They are great fun.  The next is tucked away in the Kids Gallery, but it's worth seeking out.  Three rooms of interactive crayon play.  And if you thought the only thing you could do with crayons was draw then you're mad.  You mean you've never put them on your head or strapped them to your feet? You haven't lived I tell you!  What? You've never rolled a giant crayon ball around on the ground, or strung it up in a rope and swung it from the wall?  Where have you been?  This is a really fun exhibit.  These in addition to my kids ever-green favourites the Water Wall, the Great Hall and the Sculpture Garden which they love.  It's a staple trip in our family the Gallery and they always love it. And? It's free!  Paola Pivi's Polar Bears and the Pastello exhibit are both on until August 31.

Collingwood Children's Farm
Urban Farmers
Image One Small Life

You know, I had never been to the Collingwood Children's Farm before?  I know!  But we finally made it there last week and it was great.  It was freezing cold and a little drizzly at the end, but for me that just added to the farm vibe.  The kids loved being able to get up close and personal with all the animals, it was a really fun time.  Plus the cafe is totally gorgeous.  I'm still regretting not getting the scones and jam.  Now at least I have the perfect reason to return.

The Melbourne Zoo
Melbourne Zoo 1940 Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Not much has changed on the outside, but inside the Zoo is thoroughly modern

A classic day out when you've got kids.  We picked a cold but dry day to head to the zoo and were hopeful the crowds wouldn't be too thick.  But with the Zoo offering kids entry for free in the school holidays there was little hope of that!  The crowds were there, but the Zoo is so well designed that apart from the ever-popular Monkey trail it is not too hard to get away from the crowd and make your own way, even on a really busy day.  During the holidays they had this super cool interactive activity where the kids got to collect clues at different exhibits to solve a mystery.  This was perfect for my kids because they are right into spies and clues and stuff at the moment.  And the fact that you had to scan the barcode and then add your thumb print for authorisation before you could get a clue?  Well.  They were beside themselves.  Sorry, but the undercover fun was only for the holidays.  The Zoo is always great though!

Menzies Creek
Menzies Creek Station Photo Courtesy of Puffing Billy

We are lucky enough to have some gorgeous friends who have moved to Menzies Creek.  What a splendid part of the world.  If you are not familiar with it it's about 45 minutes from Melbourne, a small regional town falling between the Dandenong Ranges and the historic township of Emerald.  But the real kicker for us is that it is on the Puffing Billy Steam Train Line.  And although we haven't actually been on Puffing Billy yet the kids love going to Menzies Creek to visit their friends, run amok in the mud, feed the Shetland Pony next door and wander to the Station to watch Puffing Billy come and go.  It's really super fun.

Chadstone Shopping Centre Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia
Not my favourite place.

Okay, this is in no way high brow, educational or creative.  But we don't spend a lot of time in shopping centres.  In fact I avoid them if I can.  They are not my favourite places.  But the kids have lately been enjoying doing chores for a bit of pocket money, making their beds, setting and wiping the tables, that sort of stuff.  And they'd saved a bit.  And so we had some fun taking their coin filled purses to the toy shop to buy something.  It is surprisingly difficult to find something to buy for $5.00 these days.  It doesn't buy what it used to, that's for sure.  Maybe I should start giving my kids more than 40cents per chore? But I tell you what they loved the adventure, the autonomy and the baby-cinos I let them have at the cafe afterwards.  Like I said, it wasn't high brow, but boy it was fun.

The holidays are only 14 days long.  So this list make me feel like we really packed in a heap of really good fun stuff to do.  We certainly all had a good time doing it.  And there were certainly a lot of smiles all round.  And as we all know, there is nothing surer to make a grown up smile, than putting a smile on the face of a child.

As I mentioned this post is part of a linky over at Bear Loves Dove.  Why not check out the other blogs that are posting there, or add your own!  Go on.  You know you want to.  Also this is not a sponsored post and I have no commercial affiliation with any of the activities or venues listed above. x

What have you been up to these holidays? And what has been making you smile?


  1. Looks like you've had a great holiday! I must admit mine was exactly as you've described - scratchy - as I wasn't really organised. Will save some of these ideas for the next ones :)

    1. Thanks for the comment Catherine - yes scratchy holidays. We've all been there! At least they are back to school tomorrow, routine always helps I reckon. Hope the coming term is more smiles less scratch. x

  2. What a fabulous smiley holiday you've had! Some ripper ideas there for kiddie activities and I just love the kind of smile you talked about... the ones that come from the heart are my favourites! Thanks so much for joining in the linkalong, I really needed the smiles this morning x

    1. It's really been fun bearlovesdove - I'm a little sad it's over! Hoping you get all the smiles you need today. And thanks for the linky opportunity! x

  3. You are obviously a great mum Kate - inventive and interactive and you've given me some ideas on how to entertain my nieces when we next have them.

    1. Oh Ing! What a lovely thing to say. Sometimes I am a great Mum, it's true. But then there are days when I am a really, really awful one too. I'm just thrilled we were all able have to have such a lovely time these holidays. Makes me feel really good about sending my little girl off to school tomorrow.

      I hope you have a lot of fun with your nieces! x

  4. Great holiday activities and lovely photos too...very smiley read! x

    1. Thanks Katie - it's nice to focus on the smiles sometimes, hey? x

  5. Great post, Kate. Sounds you nailed the perfect holiday balance - we did virtually nothing but I planned it that way given how wrung out we were by the end of term two! Loving your activity suggestions too - might need to pencil some of them in for next hols! xx

    1. I did actually nail it. And I'm totally going to gloat about it, cause I know what a rarity it is! I think the idea of a do nothing holiday after a hectic term sounds wonderful - sounds like you nailed it too! x

  6. The holidays go way too fast as far as I'm concerned. Sounds like you've found the perfect balance Kate. You're very lucky to be surrounded by so many great options for holiday activities. Lots to smile about. Enjoy the back to school fun tomorrow! xx

    1. I'm so not prepared for back to school tomorrow Deb! It might be me having a meltdown in morning at this rate! The kids seem ready to get back into it. I feel very blessed to have been able to have such a gorgeous holiday time with the kids. x

  7. Whoa! Busy, busy! You got up to a lot! I absolutely love that house at the top and I was like (IS THAT YOUR HOUSE?!) haha. Thanks for the mentions. Kelly x

    1. Haha. I know! I wish that was my house.

      Thank-you Kelly for being involved!

      We did have a busy holiday in a way, but it didn't feel busy, which was great - we went back to school feeling like we did a bunch of fun stuff, but were still rested. And we spent some really lovely, relaxed time together, which is always the goal! x