Shopping for Kids Toys – With Kids

Shopping for kids toys has got to be one of more fun jobs that comes with raising children, albeit an expensive one.

Shopping for kids toys has got to be one of more fun jobs that comes with raising children, albeit an expensive one.

The Down Under family has just returned from an after daycare / after work, impromptu  shopping trip. The occasion? The Annual Big W toy sale. You can read about previous shopping trips with kids here – Shopping with Kids.

note this isn’t an ad, just a rundown of our afternoon.

As we discovered this time last year when our toddler was about to turn 1, Big W has an annual toy sale during which not only are a lot of their toys on special (duh), but they offer extended lay-by services until Christmas. Unfortunately last year we had already bought his presents for his birthday, but were able to get our Christmas shopping started.

This year we knew it was coming, in fact it started at midnight last night. While we were planning on leaving it until the weekend, reports from friends told us “all the good toys are selling out”, so this afternoon we ventured out.

As I mentioned before this was an after daycare trip, which meant our toddler was already tired, was that a risk we were willing to take? absolutely! Did he play up while we were there? it could have been worse.

shopping with kids

Above photo was taken during a pit-stop, here I am trying to get a laugh out by sitting in the tiny car next to him, as you can see he is not impressed.

The thing about these toy sales is you generally know what you want to buy before you go in – we had a catalogue circled ready to go. If you have been following for awhile you already know my thoughts on Kids Toys. The other thing about these toy sales is the toys aren’t just confined to the toy section of the shop, they are everywhere. What does this mean?

Firstly is it takes a lot longer then you would expect to find what you are looking for. You want cars? better check the book section, looking for Lego? check the home-wares, Dinosaurs? clothing. I could go on but you get the idea.

Secondly is that you have no idea if something has sold out, or if you just haven’t found it yet. Sure you could ask someone, but then they have to go check. Got a few things you can’t find? you are going to be asking a lot. If someone from Big W happens to be reading this, next year make a map. Seriously it wouldn’t be hard, and would make shoppers lives a lot easier, in fact give me early access to get exactly what I want without the crowds and I’ll even make one for you.

Now I won’t go into detail around how many times we walked around the store, or how long we waited in line for lay-by. But if you happened to be there, our child was the one riding around on the trike getting in everyone’s way.

I’m also not going to spoil the surprise of what we bought. If you keep following his 2nd birthday is only weeks away so you will see then what he gets, Christmas is also closer then you think so you will see those too.

If your after a clue, checkout my post – Vocabulary of an Almost 2 year old, it lists a few of his favorite words which match some of his favorite things.

After a couple of hours shopping, an early dinner out as well. Sometimes its the simple things that put a smile on your child’s face.

kids ride

 

Parenting Vs Leadership or Dads and Leaders

Leadership in the workplace is a lot like parenting.

Leadership in the workplace is a lot like parenting. In the workplace you have a certain level of accountability and its your responsibility to utilise your team to get the job done. At home your children are your accountability and its your responsibility to raise them from the day they are born until they mature into adults.

When you examine both roles with more detail you can see they both require a similar skill set. To succeed in both parenting and being a leader in the workplace, you need; to have good knowledge in the field in question, the ability to admit when you have made a mistake, be able to show initiative and act without someone guiding you, have the compassion to be everyone’s go to person, and be a universal motivator no matter the situation.

Still stuck as to how they are similar?

followership

Knowledge

To be a strong leader in the workplace you need to have a strong knowledge of the work being completed. While an excellent leader could successfully lead in any field, they would still need good working knowledge of that area. Knowledge can be learned and information can be taught, but leadership  doesn’t come that easy.

Same as parenting. While you aren’t expected to know everything as a parent. A working knowledge of the basics is always a bonus before baby comes along. One third of your knowledge will come from experience (whether your own or someone else), another third will come from what you can learn yourself whether from a book or video etc. The final third which if we are honest is what most of us can relate to will come from doing the wrong thing. Not intentionally, but there are some things you only do once before realising maybe they aren’t a good idea.

Admit mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. Its a fact of life. I could find a statistic to put in here but i don’t think its necessary. As a leader you are going to make mistakes. A good leader will openly admit they made the mistake. A great leader will learn from them. Its important not to dwell on the mistake but to keep moving forward and fix the fallout (if any) from that mistake.

Parents often make mistakes. They may not be obvious. Something simple like keeping the kids up too late and they get overtired, or forgetting to pack everything a toddler needs for an outing. Its OK to make mistakes, in fact in the early stages of parenthood when you aren’t getting much sleep, it’s almost a guarantee. What you need to do is not beat yourself up about it but move on from it.

Initiative

For a leader this one is obvious, how can you expect to lead a team if you constantly are looking to someone else for guidance. You need to be able to show initiative and think outside the box, go beyond what is expected. What makes you an even better leader is if you can get your team to do the same, the more they can act without your supervision the better. Leadership is what happens when your not there.

Showing initiative as a parent is similar. You won’t always have someone to hold your hand and show you the way. You need to be able to think on your own and make your own decisions. When life throws you a curve ball and something happens that you don’t expect, you need to be able to react to that situation accordingly.

 

leadership

Go to person

As a leader in the workplace people will look to you when they are unsure. If they are confused about their role or simply don’t know what to do next, they will come to you. Its important as a leader you are not only comfortable with this, but can then support the person in question and give them the answer they need.

As a parent your kids are going to constantly be at you with questions. Why are we going out? Why can’t we go out now? Why do I have to get dressed? Why Why Why? – sound familiar? The trick is to be able to answer these questions in a way that will either (A) not lead to anymore questions on the topic, or (B) lead to some questions to already have a series of answers for. Don’t get stuck in a never ending loop of Why!

Universal Motivator

This isn’t just about being able to motivate everyone, its also about staying motivated through tough times.

As a leader in the workplace, a key part of your role is keeping your team motivated and on task. Every office goes through difficult times where budgets are tight and team morale drops. A good leader will stop these disruptions from having an impact on production, or at least reduce that impact.

As a parent this skill is used a little differently. It becomes more about staying positive through tough times. Like days on end without little to no sleep because your toddler is refusing to sleep. If you can stay positive as a leader in the workplace, try using that skill to stay positive as a parent.

parenting

So why the comparison?

Being a working parent isn’t easy. Yes you may get a break from one by leaving to go to the other, but there is also a certain level of guilt you will feel by being away from your family, even if it means you are supporting your family. A leadership role in the workplace can put extra stress on you, as can parenting.

So how do you manage to do both? That question has already been answered above. You have the ability, you just need to stay positive and believe you can do it, its all in your mindset.

Vocabulary of a almost 2 Year Old

Learning to speak another language isn’t easy, it requires time, patience, and commitment.One thing is for sure, it takes a lot longer to learn your first language.

Learning to speak another language isn’t easy, it requires time, patience, and commitment. Everyone has a different opinion on how long it takes based on how fluent you wish to become in the language and your environment. One thing is for sure, it takes a lot longer to learn your first language.

For those who haven’t been following along, I currently have 1 child who turns 2 in just under 2 months. Every day it seems his vocabulary is expanding. So far he hasn’t learnt to say any words he shouldn’t, So far. He at the stage where the words he picks up are random and he may have only heard them once or twice.

 

Words he has Mastered

Mum – An easy one, and often a first word for many children. It has also expanded to many other derivatives such as, Mummy, Mumma, Mom.

Dad – Another easy one, often comes hand in hand with the last one. Also expanded to include Daddy and Dada

Car – If you have a favorite object then there is a good chance you are going to learn how to say it so your family knows what you want. Our son is obsessed with cars, or anything with wheels

Nanna – multiple syllable words that repeat the same sounds are easy for a toddler to learn. They also enjoy saying them with varying levels of tone. NANA when he sees her. Nana? if she is on the phone. Nana Car! when she pulls up out the front.

Pop – for a simple word this one did take awhile to learn. It was his first word with a P in it though.

Tea – Not the meal, but the warm beverage. Also, coffee is seen as tea to him. Both commonly found in our household.

Ball – If you are playing outside, it doesn’t matter where you are a Ball can turn it into a game. Along with this we have started learning to kick a ball around too.

Move – When something or someone is in your way, you either move it yourself, or ask them to move. We must use this term a lot in our home as he as picked it up pretty clearly.

Stuck – What happens when something doesn’t move or you can’t move it yourself? Its Stuck! We used to use this word in conversations with our toddler about his playing. “is the ball stuck?” Now he uses it to announce to the family when he is having difficulty moving something.

Shoes – We all wear shoes, we all have different kinds of shoes. If our son wants his shoes on then he will find them and bring them to us. If we say the word ‘shoe’ in conversation, he will proceed to bring us various pairs of shoes until we put one on.

Uggboot – Everyone has their favorite pair of shoes, including Uggboots. Not being allowed to wear the Uggboots outside though has been the cause of multiple tantrums.

vocabulary of an almost 2 year old

 

Words he is struggling with

Eddie – EeeEee. Our beloved dog’s name, this was always going to be a word he learnt early on as he often hears us say it.

Truck – Tuck. When you love cars so much, the next evolution of this is always going to be bigger cars or Trucks! He loves watching them, the weekly garbage truck is like a celebrity to him. Just need to master the R.

Bowl – Booowwl. 9 times out of 10, a bowl means breakfast. If we are in the kitchen, then he feels the need to point out the bowls, just with a bit of emphasis on the oooowl.

Bottle – Bot Bot. Not sure if this is his nickname for a bottle or just can’t grasp it. Either way if its time and you mention that word, you better have one on the way.

Lunch Box – Ln Box. When we go to daycare we need to make sure we pack our lunch. Once its packed we better make sure we don’t leave it behind.

Pool – Apool. You can read all about our adventures with swimming lessons here. Where else do you go for swimming lessons but the pool of course. Not sure if he can’t pronounce it or he just gets too excited to speak clearly..

Moana – Ana. Everyone has a favorite movie to watch. Our Son is obsessed with Disney’s ‘Moana’, more specifically the songs. Whether its for some quiet time on the lounge or to get up and dance to, this movie never fails to entertain.

Shower – Hower. Fun fact, our house doesn’t have a bath, which means our son has gotten used to showering everyday rather then baths. He really enjoys this daily routine, so much he can almost pronounce it clearly, or at least enough so we know what he means.

Grandma – nndma. I know someone who is eagerly awaiting him mastering this word. Its not that he doesn’t know who she is, but can’t quite get the word out.

Banana – naaana. One of his favorite fruits. 3 syllable words aren’t part of his skill set yet.

What comes next

Sentences of course!

While he often starts up very interesting conversations with either himself or other family members, he can’t quite string clear words together yet. However if he is trying to talk to you, you better respond as if you know exactly what he means otherwise he won’t be too impressed.

20180411_135558877837109.jpg

Newcastle’s ‘Blackbutt Reserve’ Review – A Family Outing

What better way to enjoy the beautiful day and spend time as a family then to go wandering through the bush and exploring the different wildlife that live in our country.

A Beautiful Day

Today was an unseasonably warm day with perfect weather, the perfect opportunity for an outdoors adventure. Following my own advice from Go To Tricks For Entertaining Kids, we decided to head outdoors, beyond the limits of our backyard. Living in the city generally means we need to travel a little bit further to enjoy nature, this is the one exception.

What better way to enjoy the beautiful day and spend time as a family then to go wandering through the bush and exploring the different wildlife that live in our country. To make the day even better some of my wider family joined us as well!

Today’s destination – Blackbutt Reserve!

Disclaimer, while this might read like a paid review, that couldn’t be further from the truth. My family enjoyed a great day out here and I am simply letting you as the reader know what an amazing place we found it to be.

Black What Reserve?

So what is Blackbutt Reserve? if your a local reader then feel free to skip onto the next section (unless you feel like possibly learning something). For the wider audience I’ll elaborate.

blackbutt reserve

Blackbutt Reserve is a nature reservation a short 15-minute drive from the centre of Newcastle. It is situated on over 182 hectares of bushland, including a dedicated area with wildlife exhibits. They are setup in such a way that allow visitors (free of charge) to watch the animals in their native habitat and learn more about them. What better way to learn more about the animals then attending one of the scheduled animal feeding sessions on throughout the day.

Of the 93 things listed on TripAdvisor to do in Newcastle, it is ranked 4th, with an average rating of 4.5 out of 5.

Aside from the wildlife, Blackbutt is also a great location for other outdoor recreational activities. The reserve boasts 10 kilometers of tracks that will suit a range of fitness levels.

Or for those looking for something a bit quieter, there is ample BBQ and picnic facilities with a sizable kids playground as well

Combine all this together and you have the making of a wonderful family outing. Which is exactly what we did today.

Our Adventure

We started our visit by heading straight to one of the many picnic tables. We brought our lunch with us (see my advice section later on) as it was already the afternoon and none of us had eaten yet (rookie error). While sitting down eating we took turns enjoying the open area to kick a ball around with the little guy.

ball kicking

Once lunch was finished it was time to check out the wildlife. The reserve has a set walking path through the various enclosures allowing you to see (almost!) all the animals in one go.

Blackbutt koalas

On our way we got to see a couple of Wombats snacking away, and various species of birds. One of the more popular enclosures would have been the Koalas. You could get pretty close to them, even if the majority of them were passed out.

Blackbutt Lizards

As we moved further through the reserve we were led through a couple of darkened enclosures highlighting the various nocturnal animals native to the area. Hot Tip! if you are taking younger kids through here, it can be hard to point out the smaller animals in the exhibits, try and bring them before they get too tired and their patience wears out.

After completing our adventure through the first section, we wondered why we had purchased ’emu food’ ($2) when we hadn’t seen any. We then realised that on the other side of the clearing was another large enclosure, highlighting the larger animals. This is where our little guy really became interested.

Emus

He was fascinated. That is until Grandma almost lost a finger feeding the Emus, then he wanted to move on pretty quickly. Whether it was the Emus or Grandmas reaction that spooked him is still up for debate.

By this stage our man was getting very tired, to the point where he refused to walk by himself and didn’t want anyone holding him except mum. That is until he saw the wallabies.

blackbutt wallaby

Honestly I think he would have stayed their all afternoon if we were with him. He wasn’t just staring at them, he was waving and saying hello!

By the time we got back to our cars the entire family was a bit worn out. The little guy because he didn’t have his usual nap before we went. The rest of us because I think we underestimated how much walking would be involved (see advice later on for shoes).

Suffice to say it was definitely worth heading out for

tired child

 

Advice for Families

As parents you may think you can prepare for every situation, but can you ensure you make the most of every adventure. Here’s a quick list if you plan on visiting Blackbutt, or any similar location

  • Choose your Time of Day Carefully – Some will say go earlier in the day to try and beat the crowds. With the reserve being open all day, you can miss the crowds by going later on too. I would also work this around your kids. If they are still young, work it around nap time etc.
  • Pack Well – The car park is only a short walk from the main recreational area so don’t be afraid to over pack. Bringing your own lunch is a good idea with onsite food options very limited. BBQ’s are an option but this place does get busy. Don’t forget to pack your esky with drinks for the family too.
  • Dress Appropriately – Sure some parts are in the sun, others are well shaded, so if its a cooler day don’t underestimate the temperature dropping. Also I wouldn’t attend without wearing good footwear. If you want to experience the wildlife you will need to do some walking, and its not flat.
  • Respect the environment – this should be a given. It is rare to find such a large reserve of bushland so close to the city. The only way it will last is if its looked after. Don’t litter, look after the facilities, and follow the advice listed for feeding the wildlife.

blackbutt reserve

 

As I said earlier, the Down Under Family had a great afternoon at Blackbutt. I would highly recommend it to any families, as well as those who have never experienced the wildlife of our country. I know we are already planning our next visit.

Links

Blackbutt Reserve Website

http://www.newcastle.nsw.gov.au/Blackbutt-Reserve/Home

Blackbutt Reserve on TripAdvisor

https://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Attraction_Review-g255325-d953695-Reviews-Blackbutt_Reserve-Newcastle_Greater_Newcastle_New_South_Wales.html

Visit Newcastle – Blackbutt Reserve

https://www.visitnewcastle.com.au/blackbutt-reserve

Go To Tricks For Entertaining Kids

A big part of parenting is trial and error, sometimes you have to try multiple options before you find one that works, and even then it won’t work forever.

Kids will use up all of your energy as a parent, not just physically but mentally as well. No matter how much attention you give them it is never enough. At least until they are teenagers, then they don’t want any (or so I’m told, tell you what, if this blog is still going in another 10 years or so I’ll let you know).

You can spend all day with your child playing game after game, but as soon as you try to put your feet up, they will come running.

The exception to this is nap time (for toddlers anyway). I won’t go into too much detail here as it’s a well known urban legend amoung parents that if you say the word nap too many times your child will refuse to sleep that day. Try it out if you dare.

down under dad

So how can you keep your day entertaining for you and your children? Try out the following

Common Ways to

keep your Children Entertained

  • Play some games – Simple peekaboo games, like hiding around the corner from each other will always get a laugh from a toddler, as they grow up you can change this to a hide and seek style game.
  • Play with their toys – If you are trying to get them to play with their own toys, why not play with them, show them how fun they can be. Chances are you have spent some decent money of the toys so you may as well make the most of them. Try rolling cars along with them, or building their wooden train set. They are more likely to go back to the toys later if they have enjoyed the time spent playing with them.
  • Go Outside – If your kids are anything like mine then they love being outside, sure they don’t understand that in winter they need to wear extra clothes, or in summer they need sunscreen, but they love being outdoors. Have a backyard? Great! maintain it and acquire some outdoor play equipment. Don’t have that luxury? find a nearby park.
  • Get Active with them – Not only will this clear your head but it helps to build healthy habits. Sure this is easier as they get older, but if your child is young enough to be in a pram, then take them for a walk/run. Go kick a ball around a park. Go for a bike ride. The good thing about them being active is that it will tire them out, and all parents know a tired child sleeps better then one full of energy.

kids entertained

So what happens when normal just doesn’t cut it anymore. Parents are often guilty as believing they know best. More specifically, parents whose kids are older always think they know better then those with younger kids, they call it experience.

In my almost 2 years of experience being a parent I have learnt a few tricks. Now I know this parenting gig ain’t always easy, so I’m more then happy to share them. Some might be surprising, others more obvious.

So here it is. . .

Down Under Dad’s

Trick-book for entertaining Toddlers

Disclaimer, these tricks were current at the time of writing. It doesn’t take a genius to tell you they won’t last forever. By the time you read this they might already be outdated. I also can’t be held liable if they don’t work for you. Every child is different.

  • The Wiggles – This one might be a bit outdated, but for the first 12 months of so of our child’s life he was obsessed. Whether it was books, movies, songs, or even merchandise, he would always have a smile on his face. You can imagine the look on his face when he saw them live in concert.
  • Watermelon – Yes I know its a food. If he is playing up or not eating much, Watermelon is the key! He loves it, and by just saying the name, he will instantly stop what he is doing and go to the kitchen.
  • Outside – Our son would spend all day outside if we let him. While not necessarily a bad thing, it can be tough when the weather doesn’t cooperate. However 9 times out of 10 if he is getting stir crazy inside, taking him outside will solve the problem (at least temporarily).
  • Disney Movies – At the moment its 2 in particular. ‘Moana’ and ‘Cars 3’ – both available on Netflix (thank god). The first one is played at least once daily in our house, and yes I can recite the words to most of the songs. The second was an obvious one for us. Our child is obsessed with Cars as objects, so it didn’t take much to put 2 and 2 together and show him the movies.
  • Trucks! – so this last one is related to the previous (cars and trucks both have wheels?). Its also one of those ones that almost makes you feel a little guilty as a parent. You can see the road from the front room of our house, which the occasional truck drives along. Our son loves watching these trucks, doesn’t matter what he is in the middle of, if he thinks he has heard a truck out the front then he will go to try and watch it.

 

As a reader you are probably having 1 of 2 different reactions to the above

  1. There is no way that would work with my kids – I say “fair enough”, I’ve made this list based upon my 2 year old so if your kids are of a different age they might not be effective. I also say “Have you tried?”, if you are currently raising toddlers then I encourage you to try something off my list, any change in routine can be for the better.
  2. Wow you couldn’t be anymore true – I say “thanks, but i’m only showing you what works”. A big part of parenting is trial and error, sometimes you have to try multiple options before you find one that works, and even then it won’t work forever.

 

Ultimately its up to you as a parent to find the best way to keep your kids entertained, but if you can do it successfully, the eventual outcome will look something like the below

tired child

 

What works for you? How do you keep your children entertained? Got a hot tip to add to my list? I’d love to hear it. If I get enough Ill publish a reader submitted edition.