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Lifestyle

Your guide to easy and healthy school lunches according to a paediatric dietitian and nutritionist

18th January, 2021
Embrace plenty of colour when it comes to the foods in your child’s lunchbox

With back to school time just around the corner, most parents are starting to think about prepping for another year, and one of the key things would have to be school lunches.

Having to pack a school lunch daily can often mean parents are stuck for food ideas or not entirely what to pack in their child’s lunchbox day in and day out. And it can be one of those things that can make the morning rush even more stressful.

To help make it easier I’ve enlisted the help of Sydney-based paediatric dietitian and nutritionist and mum-of-two Karina Savage to share her expertise about all things school lunchboxes. The director of Smart Bite Nutrition is here to help make organising healthy lunches this year a stress-free affair.

What types of foods should a healthy school lunch comprise of? 
  • Slow release (low GI) carbohydrates “[This will] provide a sustained release of energy into the blood stream over the day – this helps to keep blood sugar levels stable which supports good concentration and learning, together with happier mood at pick up! Grainy bread and crackers, fruit, homemade baked goods such as a muesli slice and brownie, which are all good options.”
  • Plant foods “Include plenty of colour and always try to put at least two different coloured vegies into the lunch box.”
  • Quality protein “Shredded chicken, boiled or mashed egg, tuna and legumes such as baked beans or hommus are all good options here. Stay away from processed meats where possible.”
  • Good fats “Usually nuts aren’t allowed [at school], so our go-to here is seeds such as sunflower, pepita or incorporating sunflower (tahini), linseed and chia into baked goods. Avocado is another great option providing a good source of healthy fats.”

What are some great foods to include in lunchboxes to ensure satiety and boost energy?

  • Grainy bread sandwich (can be as simple as Vegemite or raw honey)
  • Grainy crackers with cheese/vegemite.
  • My black bean brownie 
  • Fresh fruit
  • Chopped vegies
  • Grainy crackers and hommus
Do parents need to tweak what they include in lunch boxes according to age?

“Children typically need similar types of food going into the lunch box throughout primary school. As they get older, children may require more food in the lunch box (eg more carbs) if they are really active, however many will struggle to finish their lunch box as they are “too busy” running around with their friends. They will often make up for this at afternoon tea time.

As children move through primary school, they may start to refuse more of the healthier lunch box snacks. As parents, have the confidence to be consistent and stick to your guns – always including plenty of plant foods in the lunch box daily.

With home baked goods, I’ve found with my own children, that I’ve had to add a little more sugar into some recipes to make sure they eat them. In my opinion, this is OK, as I know my children will still be getting much more nutrition compared to giving them a supermarket baked item or packaged product—which are usually much lower in nutrition.”

What are some common mistakes parents make when it comes to packing their kids’ lunches?

“Giving in easily to pester power and including too much of the processed packaged foods such as Shapes, biscuits etc. Kids often love these snacks as they usually taste great, however these products are usually high in salt and very low in fibre. 

Most of us are in the same situation here and it can be exhausting as parents, when the healthy food comes home every day.  We need to have the resilience to keep offering the good food, teaching our children about the balance of foods — the sometimes foods and the everyday healthier foods. Popcorn or dried legumes are much better packaged option compared to many of the packaged crisps/Shapes products.”

Incorporate a variety of different vegetables into lunchboxes

If a child will only eat a limited amount of foods for lunch, what are some ways a parent can help broaden their food repertoire?

“Don’t stress too much if their intake is healthy—if your child isn’t too fussed about the lack of variety from week to week, don’t worry. As long as they have a balance of protein, carbs and plant foods in their lunch box, you are doing well. You can always balance out the day at other meals and snacks such as breakfast and dinner.

Remember it’s a nutritionally balanced week rather than day. 

For some more ideas about healthy lunch box additions, check out my lunch box ideas sheet here.”   

What are your tips for making school lunches more exciting?

“I think it can be really hard sometimes to please kids with school lunch boxes and as busy parents we need to take the pressure of ourselves. School lunches don’t always have to be “instagrammable”, they just have to be as balanced as possible with some good quality contents. 

To improve acceptance of food, a good tip is to bake some options with the kids on the weekends – such as muffins, brownies, bliss balls etc and work out what they like/don’t like. You can then be more confident of putting those preferred baked goods into the lunch box.

Experimenting with various dips can be fun – such as hommus, beetroot, guacamole and cheese dips. These can be included with raw vegies and crackers in the lunch box. Home made pizzas can be another good option that children can be involved in creating the night before.”

Most parents have to deal with the mad school rush in the morning. What are some of your time-saving tricks for creating a healthy school lunch every day? 

  • Make sure lunch boxes are clean and ready to go the night before – you may even wish to include a little secret message/note which will make them smile when they open it the following day.
  • Pack what you can the night before – fresh fruit, popcorn, dried legumes, muffin, homemade brownie or cookies placed in plastic containers. Muffins and cake can also be frozen in individual portions and popped in the lunch box in the morning.
  • Some parents also pre-chop vegies and cheese, which can also be placed in the lunch box and popped in the fridge overnight
  • Use leftovers – you may consider doubling the batch at dinner time and using some for leftovers the next day. These can be sent cold with an ice pack or warm in a thermos.
  • Freeze yoghurt pouches and small containers of dip so that you can pull out of freezer in the morning and they will stay cold until eaten.

For more of Karina’s tips, follow her on Instagram, Facebook or check out her website.

Lifestyle

The biggest issues new mums will face and how to deal with them

29th November, 2020

In the past, psychologist and co-founder of The Bumpy Road, Belinda Williams has shared her tips for new mums and mums-to-be. This time, she’s got more practical and useful advice for those who are currently navigating their way through motherhood for the first time. Most especially when it comes to dealing with the overwhelming feeling that comes with being a mama and dealing with the reality of what it’s really like to care for a baby day in and day out (spoiler alert: it’s not all sunshine and rainbows like a nappy commercial!). If you’re a new mum read on for your survival guide for the first few months…

What should new mums do if they’re feeling overwhelmed?

It is so important to recognise that you are not alone. Not only do all new mums feel this way, there is most often people in your support network that are very willing to help out. Here are some ways to help manage these challenging feelings:

Set realistic expectations. Things seem to take exponentially longer to complete. Don’t pressure yourself to do everything, instead prioritise what is most important and target your energies here.
Make time for yourself/self care. It’s hard to do but oh-so important! It may be a small activity like an extended bath, body scrub or washing your hair, a coffee up the shops solo or a walk around the block with your partner. Micro moments can be magically restorative.
Avoid isolation. Try to connect with other mums and talk to them about their experience. It can help to see that others are having challenges too and often gives you better perspective on your own experience.
Ask for help. Try to open up to the people close to you and let them know you need help. It is not a time to be a hero and the only person you let down when you push through the pain is yourself.

Often the fantasy of becoming a mum is different to the day to day reality of motherhood and some women may feel a little disillusioned by the experience. What are some ways to deal with this? 

Women are often shocked by how consuming and relentless being a parent can be. Each women has a different remedy. This may include:


Look at what it is that you are missing from life before your baby—is it the mental stimulation of work, the relevance beyond the home, the lack of freedom in being able to just walk out the door—maybe all of these? Look for ways that you can reestablish this within your routine as a mother. It may not be in the same form but there is often different opportunities that we have not had to consider before.
Be patient—this adjustment in self concept can take time and is not always pleasant. Try not to make the mistake that challenging feelings mean that things are not going well or that motherhood is not for you. These feelings are common as it is a very stressful and demanding time. If you are worried about how difficult you are finding the transition into motherhood, speak with a professional to navigate these thoughts and feelings.
Make plans—it may be for a holiday, your return to work, a night out with friends. Motherhood is not all or nothing. Eventually you will find a way to weave back in aspects of your life that you enjoyed. Making plans for this can be empowering.
Be selective about what information you are consuming. If you are evaluating your experience of motherhood against Instagram tiles, look elsewhere. This is only a narrow reflection on moments of motherhood and not the gold standard. If it is impacting you negatively then maybe switch off for a while.

Some new mums may miss their old life and the freedom that they had. Is this a normal feeling to have? What are some ways to deal with it? And what should they do if they feel they’re not settling into their new life at all? 

I think that this is pretty common. I remember being pretty bewildered when my first child arrived and asking my mum (probably with a few tears running down my face!), “how does anyone get anything done?!”. It is such a sudden and significant shift in pretty much every domain of your life so even if you are ready for it, you want it and it is where you want to be, it is normal to feel very shaken and destabilised by the seismic adjustment that takes place. Talk to others about how you are feeling.

Caring for a newborn is a steep learning curve and some women may start to feel self-doubt about their abilities as as mum at times. What can be done to address this? 

I think that all new mothers suffer a crisis in confidence. Firstly everything is new and secondly there is so much conflicting information coming at you even within the hospitals. I think it can be helpful to identify a few trusted people and resources and use that as a starting point. But most commonly women experience the greatest distress when they feel disempowered to trust their own instinct. I am a big advocate of trusting your gut and nowhere seems more natural to do this than when caring for a newborn. If in doubt, then of course, seek advice and do this early. It is often just small adjustments that make the world of difference and help us recover and restore our confidence.

Becoming a new mum often means having to deal with a new identity in some ways as you try and blend the old you and the new you. What can women do if they feel a little lost during this process? 

It is exactly that, a process and one that takes time. I think motherhood is a constant time of adjustment and readjustment as our children grow. Very rarely does the learning and changing plateau. This is an experience quite unique to the world of parenthood. There will be parts of your life before children that you no longer connect with and enjoy and there will be parts of life as a mother which you never imagined would bring you joy, but insanely they do. Whilst these changes can be confronting and challenging, it can help to approach it with curiosity rather than judgement. You always have choice even if the options on face value seem more limited to begin with. Try to start out prioritising the things that are most important to you and look at how you can maintain them (perhaps in a different format). Motherhood is a journey not a destination.

Fashion

A paediatric nutritionist shares her tips for how to make prepping healthy kids meals easier

15th November, 2020

Mandy Sacher is a paediatric nutritionist and founder of Wholesome Child and she’s here to making kids and healthy eating work a little more seamlessly together. I sat down with Mandy for a chat about how to prepare nutritious meals when you’re time poor, the pantry staples every parent should have on hand and her quick and easy go-to meals for every meal of the day including snacks. If you’re scratching your head about what to feed your children for dinner tonight then read on because there are plenty of amazing ideas up ahead…

Parents are generally time poor so may not always have the time to prepare healthy meals for their children. What are some of your tips for making the process a little easier?

This is a topic that often comes up in my workshops and with clients in my clinic.  We are all incredibly time poor—so it’s an understandable pain point for families who are keen to improve their nutrition sustainably and achievably.

Batch cooking freezer-friendly meals and snacks to have on hand goes a long way towards saving time, stress and money!  A few hours of prep on a weekend will soon result in a freezer filled with nutritious, homemade ‘convenience’ food like spaghetti bolognaise and beef and veggie meatballs. I also suggest making a little extra each time you cook – for instance, when roasting vegetables or steaming cauliflower, save portions for the next night’s dinner or for use in other recipes.

Planning ahead is also crucial to success and ensuring that you have the right ingredients on hand. My book contains a range of different meal planners which is designed as a practical guide for busy parents. Getting the family and kids involved in the planning, shopping and cooking process is another top tip.  Not only will it be a great way to spend quality time together, the family will feel included and more engaged with meals and fussy little eaters will be more likely to sample something that they have helped prepare (which is always a winner!)

What’s your idea of a healthy meal for kids? What should be on their plate?

Typically, I encourage meals to be varied, whole foods based and most definitely looked at as more than something to simply fill little tummies – rather it’s an opportunity to support healthy growth and development, improve their ability to concentrate and boost energy levels for physical activities.

Meals should contain a serve of quality protein, one to two serves of a slow-release carbohydrate, two to three vegetables (aim for a variation of colours for maximum phytonutrient benefit), a single serve of a healthy fat and a calcium-rich food. Include little ones in menu planning and involve them in the shopping and preparation – these are great ways to encourage enthusiasm and give them an element of limited choice. I generally recommend that fruit be included as a morning or afternoon snack, to keep blood sugar levels in check.

I’m quick to advise parents that fruit shouldn’t be used as a substitute for veggies – a topic that my book goes into detail around.  Vegetables are nature’s insurance policy against disease and so it’s worth persisting with encouraging vegetable intake (as challenging as it may be!).  Setting children up with a genuine appreciate of whole foods and vegetables is so important.

What are your top 5 healthy go-to…

Breakfasts:Pumpkin Spice Porridge , Scrambled Eggs with Leftover Veggies, Strawberry Beetroot Smoothie, Pumpkin, Banana and Cinnamon French Toast and nutritious Homemade Granola (I feature a few different recipes in my book)

Lunches: I’m a big fan of using leftovers for lunches – or dishes that have been bulk cooked and repurposed.  Recipes like my Beef and Veggie Meatballs, Mini Salmon Quiches and Chickpea and Pumpkin Patties are ideal for this. Other great additions include: Broccoli Tots and Zucchini Crackers alongside some homemade tzatziki or some versatile veggie dipping sauce.

Dinners:Healthy Mac ‘n Cheese, Easy Fish Curry, Cheesy Cauliflower Pizza, Chicken Drumstick Casserole and Coconut Lamb Meatloaf.

Snacks:Trail Mix 4 Ways, Veggie sticks and crackers with Beetroot Hummus or Butternut Hummus, Tahini Carrot & Date Bliss Balls, Cheesy Polenta Chips and Apricot Coconut Muesli Bars.

What are some big issues that arise if a child isn’t on a healthy diet?

Little ones have very precise nutritional needs given their intense phases of physical and cognitive development.  Deficiencies in core nutrients like protein can lead to poor muscle tone and development as well as fatigue. A low intake of iron rich foods can lead to anaemia, the most commong nutritional deficiency in childhood. Low levels of healthy fats in the diet can impact brain development and hormone levels.

A high fibre diet rich in whole grains and a diverse range of vegetables helps to ensure healthy immune function, gut health along with the alleviation of other unpleasant elements like constipation.  It’s no secret that diets high in processed refined sugars and salts are detrimental – for both children and adults.  Numerous scientific studies and research have linked obesity, disease and concentration issues to these unhealthy and imbalanced diets. Educating little taste buds early on to appreciate whole food in its natural state, free from additives, flavourings and preservatives go a long way towards training children to enjoy healthy food.

What’s one easy standby meal parents can turn to if they have to get dinner on the table in a short amount of time but haven’t really had time to prep?

Cheesy Cauliflower French Toast with Mushrooms is a great option and a fun way to get the kids involved.  It’s packed with nutrition, quick and easy.  Its versatility means that the mushrooms could be substituted for other vegetables like asparagus, pumpkin, or sweet potato.

What are some food staples all parents should always have on hand?

Fruit and vegetables: Aim for a good mix of colours to maximise the phytonutrient benefits and go for organic wherever possible (especially for produce you plan to eat with the skin on). Ready chopped veggie sticks and fruit stored in containers in the fridge make the perfect snack and lunch box addition. Going with what’s in season is often a good choice and don’t forget to include fresh herbs and spices like mint, basil and ginger. They are packed with essential oils and nutrition.

Dips, sauces and spreads: A selection of on-hand sauces like Homemade tomato sauce and dips like Tzatziki and vegan Beetroot Hummus are a versatile option to enjoy in sandwiches or with flatbread chips or veggie sticks. Betta than Nutella Chocolate Spread is a healthy alternative to commercial chocolate spreads and homemade almond and cashew nut butters are also a great option.

Dairy and non-dairy: Great options include almond milk, coconut milk and cream, organic A2 milk, unsalted butter, unsweetened natural yoghurt (cow, goat, sheep), homemade coconut yoghurt., good quality cheeses (organic where possible) – cheddar, parmesan, mozzarella, gouda and ricotta.

Protein: Protein tends to be a common nutrient missing from little ones’ diets so try to pack your fridge with as many different sources as possible. With meat, go for grass-fed and organic wherever possible. My book and website feature a range of recipe inspirations.  Fish is among the best natural source of omega-3s, so try Atlantic mackerel, cod, flathead, trout or snapper. Wild or organic salmon fillets are perfect for San Choy Bow, rissoles and mini quiches. Organic eggs are a nutritious and versatile option to always have on hand, as are a wide selection of nuts and seeds like almonds, brazil nuts, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, macadamia, pine nuts, chia, flax, sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Ideal for adding to salads or using in trail mix for an instant boost of protein and healthy fats.

Snacks/biscuits/bread: Pack the pantry with delicious and nutritious alternatives to sugar-laden biscuits such as my Apricot & Coconut Muesli Bars, Gluten Free Honey and Coconut Biscuits and High Protein Peanut Butter Biscuits.  On the topic of bread, I believe that making the switch to a high quality whole grain option is one of the most important changes you can make to your family’s diet.

How can parents teach their children to establish healthy eating habits?

Positive role modeling is one of the most important and powerful influencers in a child’s healthy eating habits.  Little ones are sponges for information and are incredibly impressionable.  Seeing their other family members enjoying healthy wholefoods, celebrating their health, their bodies and discussing how important wellbeing is, are all crucial. In addition to this, being involved in food preparation processes and knowing to expect nutritious foods at snack and mealtimes will guide them on a lifelong path of health and wellbeing. It’s definitely more of a marathon than a race!

To learn more about Mandy Sacher please visit the Wholesome Child website. Her book “Wholesome Child: A Complete Nutrition Guide and Cookbook” is available to purchase online and through iTunes, and you can connect with Mandy on Instagram and Facebook.

Lifestyle

How to get your kids to eat more vegetables

20th September, 2020

Finding ways to get kids to eat vegetables is a constant challenge for most parents. I know it’s something that we have to deal with in our household on a daily basis, and finding new and creative ways to make vegetables appealing can become an impossible task at times.

This is why I’ve enlisted the help of paediatric nutritionist and founder of Wholesome Child Mandy Sacher, who has previously shared her great insights on kids nutrition on the blog. Here she shares her tips on how to deal with a child who isn’t really big on vegetables, and how to make it a process that’s less stressful and more fun.

Create a “rainbow” plate

“Many children I see are repetitive vegetable eaters—meaning that they eat the same limited range each and every week. Whilst all vegetables are beneficial, the ultimate goal is to eat a diverse range of colours and groups to get the maximum benefit. We all eat with our eyes first, so it makes sense to engage your child visually when encouraging them to eat more variety. Encourage your little one to create their own rainbow plate, it’ll engage their imagination and will lead to a nibble or two!”

Include one new veggie a week—and lead by example

“There’s often a strong connection between children who eat the same vegetables each week and parents who do the same. Through parents expanding their own repertoire, children will have an opportunity to see and taste a variety—and watch their parents enjoying the broader range, too!  Try salad veggies, cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and brussels sprouts, and starchy vegetables like pumpkin or sweet potato.”

Don’t forget beans and legumes

“Beans and legumes are our most nutritious plant foods. Rich in proteins, B-vitamins, iron, potassium, fibre, minerals and phytochemicals. Hummus, lentil soup, bean stews and chickpea falafels are a fantastic way to introduce legumes to your child. Try kidney beans, navy beans, black beans, adzuki beans, chickpeas and lentils. For canned varieties, look for BPA-free cans wherever possible and rinse well beforehand to reduce sodium levels.”

Include sea vegetables

“Due to its high calcium content, seaweed strengthens bones and teeth. It’s also high in iron, has antimicrobial properties and is a good source of essential vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre which helps prevent constipation.

Nori, rich in vitamins A, B1, B2 and C as well as iodine also contains protein. Use it for sushi, shred it over salad or create veggie-filled seaweed wraps filled with julienned carrots, cucumber, shredded chicken (or protein of choice) and avocado. If your child likes the seaweed snack packs that are commonly found in supermarkets, seek out varieties that are free from additives such as MSG or added sugar.”

Remember to use fresh herbs and spices 

“Basil is packed with essential oils which are known to have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Use in tomato-based pasta sauces, sprinkle on pizza and mix into rissoles. 

Mint soothes upset tummies and improves digestion. Chill mint tea with a dash of raw honey or add fresh mint leaves and orange slices to water and serve in place of juice. 

Oregano is often used to treat respiratory tract disorders, gastrointestinal disorders and urinary tract disorders.  Add to chicken, lamb or beef dishes. 

Parsley is rich in many vital vitamins and keeps the immune system strong, tones the bones and heals the nervous system.  It also helps to flush excess fluid from the body and support kidney function.  Add to smoothies, chicken soup and pasta sauces.

Spices – as well as adding flavour, spices such as turmeric, ginger and cinnamon are packed with nutrients too. Add turmeric and ginger to chicken soup, sprinkle turmeric on cauliflower and add cinnamon to pumpkin and butternut squash.”

Create a veggie patch

“Children love planting seeds, watching them grow, and eventually harvesting what they have planted. It’s the best way to help them make the association between earth to plate, and to engage their curiosity about different varieties of vegetables. If outdoor space is limited, start off with herbs such as basil or oregano, or better yet get involved with a community garden.”

Shop for and cook vegetables together

Encourage your children to touch, smell and engage with their food.  Let them help with grocery shopping and encourage them to pick up new vegetables from the shelves and place them in the trolley themselves – this begins the engagement with the new food.

Little ones tend to be more willing to eat what they’ve helped to prepare and it’s important for them to be exposed to vegetables in their raw state and to understand how the texture and look of a vegetable changes when it’s cooked. Get them involved by asking them to peel carrots and potatoes (using kid-friendly graters), cutting lettuce with a plastic knife or adding grated vegetables to muffin batter.

It’s important for parents to be patient and to recognise that change is often slow with children.  Don’t be disappointed if they don’t eat the new vegetable or food the first time it’s offered – stay positive and freeze what’s not eaten and offer it again – persistent repetition is key here.”

What are some creative ways you’ve used to encourage your kids to eat more vegetables?

Fashion

Style staples when I’m in mum mode

30th August, 2020

As most mums can probably attest pulling together an outfit is low on the priority list when you’ve got a busy day ahead of you. The aim is just to get out the door fast! I know for myself that when I’m in mum mode with Sophia and Grace I need to be comfortable first and foremost and my outfit needs to be able to withstand whatever the girls may throw my way. This is why I’ve managed to refine my mum style staples down to a few key pieces so I can just go into auto pilot mode on any given day. Here’s what I can’t live without…

A roomy tote

For me a big bag is essential and I always like to carry a tote as it gives me plenty of room to carry my essentials and the girls’ too. I have lots of different types – from super casual to slightly more dressy – depending on where I’m going.

Athleisure wear

I love workout gear when I’m with the girls. If I’m going to a class with one of the girls or doing the school run then I can’t go past my Nike sneakers and Lululemon leggings. I live in both! It’s really easy to pull together and you can’t beat it for comfort level.

Sturdy sunglasses

I always carry a pair of sunglasses with me but I make sure that I leave any delicate, flimsy pairs at home. My sunnies are guaranteed to be thrown around in my bag or the girls will want to play with them so I prefer to wear the style that’s made of a thicker acetate so they’re not easily breakable.

Simple basics

If I’m running around then I’ll always opt for sportswear otherwise you’ll usually find me in lots of t-shirts and singlets paired with a good pair of jeans. They’re both definite mum style staples. I highly recommend splurging on a pair of jeans that can withstand lots of wear and tear because if you’re like me you’ll wear them to death. I also have lots of great knits throughout winter and will wear a big anorak/parka style jacket which I can easily throw on and can be popped into the boot of my car without too much fuss.

Comfortable flats

Heels are strictly reserved for nights out or for work events. I wear flats whenever I’m with the girls. I’ll usually wear white sneakers, which have become a core part of my mum shoe wardrobe or if I need to be a little more dressed up then I’ll wear my slides or loafers which are comfy yet still look polished.

What are your style staples as a mum?
Fashion

How to create a stylish and functional nursery

24th August, 2020
Get the basics right and enhance the room with decorative flourishes

As the founder of premium baby and children’s furniture brand Incy Interiors, if there’s one thing Kristy Withers is well versed in, it’s how to create a stylish and functional nursery. In the early days, there’s so much time spent in the nursery changing, feeding and putting baby to sleep that it has to be a place you love being in. And with endless inspiration for nurseries available, it’s important to know the difference between a simply Insta-worthy space and one that’s actually practical and useable in real life. Enter Kristy, who is sharing her go-to tips for not only creating a gorgeous nursery, but one that’s designed to make day-to-day life with your newborn easier.

What are the most important things to consider before styling a nursery?

“The first thing I look at when designing a room is to understand what space you have to work with. What is the floor space, how high are the walls, where are the windows and doors located. This is really important to understand upfront to save a costly purchase down the track.”

What are some of the key essentials in a nursery?

“The absolute essentials for any nursery are a cot, change table and nursing chair. You spend most of those early months either feeding, changing or getting them to sleep (and staying asleep) so choosing these pieces wisely is so important.”

What are your tips for creating a great space on a budget?

“Great design doesn’t need to be expensive. Rather than painting walls you can create an amazing space with inexpensive removable wall decals, which is also a great option for renters. Buying prints rather than originals is a great way to create interest on the walls without spending a fortune. Another one of my favourite tips is to buy beautiful wooden toys that can double as decoration as well as a plaything, saving money and the environment.”

Kristy says choosing quality furniture is important

What are some things that perhaps aren’t entirely necessary in a nursery to start with?

“A bassinet is not a must-have but it was so helpful for me. It meant the baby was right next to me for middle of the night feeds and I could move it around with me throughout the day. I also deliberately left both of my children’s nurseries bare and then I purchased accessories such as toys, books and decorations as their little personalities started to show. This meant that their rooms were more of a reflection of them rather than me.”

What are some nursery design trends you’re seeing right now?

“I have been doing this for 10 years now and it has been so interesting seeing how nursery design has changed over that time. When we first started, nurseries were navy and red or yellow and grey. As general tastes have changed so have the nursery design trends. Mid-century is becoming much more popular.”

What are some of your best tips for maximising storage?

“Storage is something you can never have too much of. Always look for a change table with inbuilt storage as well as one that converts once you are done with it as a change table. All of our Incy change tables either convert to a dresser or a bookcase so that they can be used for years to come. Other great storage options are ottomans, toy boxes and storage baskets.”

Minty Magazine CoLab Styled by Madeline McFarlane Photography by Francoise Baudet

What are some of your fave design flourishes for nurseries?

“I feel so lucky to do what I do as children’s nurseries/bedrooms are the one space in the home where you can really experiment with things and have a bit of fun. I’m a huge fan of textures so I love mixing various fabrics and finishes. Leather, velvets and metallics are my absolute favourites right now. Mixing the three can create a feeling of warmth and luxury at the same time.”

What are the splurge and save items in a nursery? What should people invest in and what are some things they can afford to scrimp on?

“I always feel biased saying this but I am a big believer in spending as much as you can afford on good quality furniture, it can them be passed down through multiple children and my ultimate goal is for the furniture we are producing right now to be handed down to our children’s children. The items I tend to save on are the accessories. There are so many amazing Australian brands right now producing beautiful linen, artwork, toys and accessories. If you save on the accessories you can then swap them out for the next baby or when transitioning to a toddler/big bed.”

Lifestyle & Social

Where I’m clicking for educational screen time

29th April, 2020

Being at home with both Sophia and Grace over the last few weeks has made us have to be re-think screen time. With Luke and I still trying to work, it means that at times we have to rely on screens to keep the girls occupied. And while sometimes all they want to do is watch Frozen or another Disney princess movie, we have been trying to balance that with being able to watch and engage with shows or games that are educational too.

One of the most helpful things over the last few weeks has been the list of recommendations I’ve gathered from friends and family and Grace’s pre-school for great educational programs, games and shows for kids. With the focus of most of these online resources being on literacy and maths, it has been great for building on the things the girls have been learning at school and at pre-school. There have also been some really fun activities such as visiting some of the world’s best museums virtually or story time online that has entertained the girls and allowed them to learn at the same time.

I know there are countless parents out there in the same boat right now so I thought I’d collate the most popular sites that parents can check out, based on the recommendations I’ve been using during isolation. There’s a great mixture of learning tools, shows and games so hopefully it makes navigating screen time a little easier.

Online resources

There’s a mixed bag on this list, with the majority focusing on reading and writing and maths. There are different levels with most of the programs so they’re suitable for different ages. Some require sign up whereas others you can just launch straight into the program or games. Hopefully there’s something here that you and your kids will approve of.

Starfall

ABCYa

Funbrain

Splashlearn

Story Online

PBS Kids

Highlights Kids

Coolmath4Kids

MathGameTime

Unite for Literacy

Literactive

Science Kids

Switch Zoo

Seussville

Turtle Diary

E-learning for kids

BrainPop

Curiosity Stream

Tynker

Outschool

Khan Academy

Creative Bug

Scholastic learning magazine

Museum virtual tours

YouTube Channels

YouTube: more than just cat videos! There are some really good educational channels to check out on this platform. While you can find virtually anything on YouTube, I’ve found most of the kids’ channels are great for science and geography content as you can check out everything from sharks and dinosaurs to doing experiments and profiling different countries around the world. I’ve listed a few below but a quick search based on subject matter will unearth plenty of options.

Crash Course Kids

Science Channel

SciShow Kids

National Geographic Kids

Free School

Geography Focus

SciShow

Kids Learning Tube

Geek Gurl Diaries

Mike Likes Science

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fgm4Uvwz_FQ

Science Max

Lifestyle, Lifestyle & Social

How I’m keeping my kids entertained during self-isolation

22nd April, 2020

Spending a serious amount of time at home over the last few weeks has meant that we’ve really had to step up our entertaining game at home when it comes to Sophia and Grace. Sophia is being home schooled but she’s currently on school holidays which means that we’ve had to come up with a a lengthy list of activities to keep both the girls occupied. We have a few favourites in our home, which I’m sharing below.

LEGO

The girls love building things with LEGO, and there are so many different play sets available now that you’re guaranteed to find one to suit any child’s interests. The one above is a house, which the girls absolutely love playing with and keeps them entertained for ages.

Books

Reading books is always a go-to activity in our house. The girls really enjoy being read to and have a collection of favourites that they love. They’re also fine to just flip through a book themselves as well so it’s a great activity they can also do on their own.

Colouring in

We’ve always got a healthy supply of colouring books on hand and have found that it’s one activity that the girls really enjoy as they’re able to do it together and unleash their creative side. Also colouring books are generally pretty inexpensive so it’s something we can always replenish.

Puzzles

Working on a puzzle is a great activity to do as a family. Now that the girls are a bit older we’re able to work on bigger puzzles together and it’s something that will keep them (and us) occupied for a long time. However they still enjoy completing puzzles on their own and as an added benefit it’s a great mental workout, no matter your age.

Toys

Independent play is particularly important right now as Luke and I are trying to get work done at the same time, so we’ve made sure that the girls are readily able to access all their favourite toys any time. They’ve got plenty to keep them occupied but I’ve read that it’s also a good idea to switch out toys and put some away, so whenever they see their old toys again they feel brand new.

Board games

Good ol’ fashioned board games are a favourite in our house. And depending on what kind of board game it is, it’s something that the kids can do regularly and not get bored of. This is another activity that’s perfect to do as a family.

Baking

Are you even in isolation if you haven’t baked? We have been tackling a lot of different cooking projects of late, and it’s something that that girls really enjoy. It’s also a good way to sneak a little maths into an activity as the girls are tasked with working with different measurements.

Play dough

Sophia and Grace are really into play dough and I’ve found that just popping a few pots in different colours in front of them will keep them occupied for awhile as they go about creating different things. There are lots of different play dough sets available too, from cooking to unicorns and fire trucks which steps up the play dough game even further. Plus if you want a project to tackle for the day you can always make your own.

Lifestyle, Lifestyle & Social

How to maintain your sanity as a parent during self-isolation

9th April, 2020
Coping with self-isolation as a parent isn’t easy but there are ways to support yourself through it

As we keep hearing these are unprecedented times and I’m sure most parents can attest that parenting in self-isolation and being with your children 24/7 during a pandemic is not something any of us were prepared to do. While there are definitely some beautiful upsides to being able to spend quality time with our kids, much more than we ever though we’d be able to do, it is undoubtedly a tough, exhausting and draining road ahead. Recently I reached out to a friend of mine, who is a registered psychologist and co-founder of The Bumpy Road, a practice that specifically works with mothers on issues such as motherhood, relationships, parenting and career for some tips on how to navigate this time. I’m sharing what she told me below.

How can parents maintain balance when at home with their kids for what seems to be for the next few weeks/months?

We need to pace ourselves and importantly lower our expectations. We have been thrown the worlds biggest curve ball and need to recognise that this is a big adjustment ‘so we may need some time to find our groove. At this stage most of us are still trying to figure out what ‘balance’ looks like with some days working out better than others. It is likely impossible to merge all responsibilities of our pre-COVID and post-COVID worlds so I would start with:

1.  Prioritising what is important right now—that may be work, getting the kids established in routine educationally or trying to palm off as many responsibilities as possible to help soothe the angst within the household as we all know that it is difficult to do anything from a distressed state of mind.

2. Work out how those priorities can be met—acknowledge and build acceptance of what has to be let go of and timetable your day and allocate your resources to top line priorities

3. Work on the foundation of home, household and family that are going to get you there. For example non-negotiable exercise in the morning, food shop and prepared meal purchases/planning, (virtual) connection with those outside the house. 

How can parents ease the pressure to be productive and fill their kids’ days with endless activities?

Ah, this is a work in progress in my house. We need to recognise that this is a HUGE shift for the kids too and they have not been in a situation with so much unstructured time with no book ends. We need to gradually condition them to having less parental availability and engagement (perhaps compared to the pre-COVID world).

For preschool and older kids, establishing a routine and involving them in what that routine looks like for the day, what (directed AND self directed) activities they would like to do. Choose things that they are familiar with and can accomplish on their own e.g. lego/play-doh/colouring in may be appropriate to the younger ages and then also agree to time where you will actively participate with them. Unfortunately you are likely going to have to relax your standards on screen time if the demands of kid and works keep colliding and you need to steal those longer stretches to give to your work or home tasks that are non-negotiable. It’s a constant of ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ at the moment.

What are some ways to ease the guilt for parents who are trying to juggle working and caring for their kids at home and feeling like they’re not doing both very well?

It’s important to realise that the way we think about a situation i.e. the mindset, plays a significant role in defining our perception of a situation. So whilst COVID is providing us all with significant hurdles, guilt is a feeling which is often magnified by unhelpful thinking. For example if we fail to adjust our expectations of what can/should be achieved at work, we are likely going to experience anguish about work output or our parenting capacity.

It is very important to acknowledge this change in circumstance and be conscious about our expectations at both work and home. The fact that we are turning up to both in a 50 per cent capacity is not an inditement of you. These are significant responsibilities, or if we can call them ‘jobs’ and all of a sudden for circumstances beyond us, we are required to do them in tandem. The difficulty is not because you are failing – make sure you do not fall into the pitfall of interpreting this mammoth challenge as a personal failure. Simply pick up the phone and call a friend and you will see that we are all in this together, in this world and the best we can do is the best we can.

Belinda Williams is a registered psychologist and founder of The Bumpy Road

What are some coping strategies when parents may be feeling overwhelmed and just a little over it?

Wherever possible connect with you support group and prioritise self care. You are an important cornerstone and it is important to put your needs first so that you can meet the demands around you.

This may look like a quick FaceTime from the car or an online exercise program for 15 minutes in the morning. The micro top ups is where you are going to find the resources which help re-energise and give you the boost to get your momentum for your next challenge. 

What are some of your tips to help getting through each day of isolation with kids a little easier?

Make sure you are prioritising connection with your kids. The more connected you are the safer the kids will feel and the more cohesion you are likely to feel. This is an investment that pays dividends in so many ways and will help improve your navigation through each day.

Involve your kids in setting a plan for the day – the more involved they feel the more engaged they will be and the less arguments you are likely to face

Be realistic about what is achievable – whether that’s balancing work and kids, play and household or kid vs adult time. It’s a balancing act

Make sure you are active – this may be alone or combined with the kids. This is a non-negotiable

Make sure your kids are connecting with others too via the phone, video conference, letter writing or even emoji sending. This way they may feel less reliant on you to fill their cup.

What should parents do when faced with endless questions or complaints from their kids as to why they can’t do the things they usually do?

It’s important to keep finding age appropriate ways to communicate the circumstances of COVID. Make sure you continue to ask them if they have any questions. Point out differences that they may be able to observe e.g. less traffic, shops closed, playgrounds closed etc. It is important not to stoke anxiety but ensure that they build an understanding of this first in a lifetime and abstract event.

How can parents help their children through such a big upheaval in their routine? 

With compassion and patience. Given the COVID virus is not visible, it takes quite a lot of cognitive gymnastics for children to really embed an understanding of what is happening in the world. Whilst our ‘normal’ routines have been changed abruptly, it is important to create new routines for example rituals at the dining table, a board game before bedtime, having a dance together at morning tea time – whatever is age appropriate. This will help give them some new anchors and is an opportunity to use this time as time to connect with your kids even though you may be more time poor than ever.

What should every parent aim to have in their emotional/mental survival kit to help getting through this time easier?

Given we are so physically restrained, many of these tools relate to the way in which we look at our circumstance. Here are some examples of important ways to optimise your wellbeing through the way you think.

  • A motto of ‘good enough is good enough’… more then ever we need to embrace this now
  • Find ways to catch and reframe negative thinking e.g. This is a disaster – changed to – This is my opportunity to show that I can work flexibly- share these with your friends as it will help both you and them!
  • Exercise every day even if it’s just for 10 minutes
  • Take one day at a time and recognise the small wins within each day.

For mums in particular who may find themselves left with the lion’s share of the domestic/child-rearing responsibilities during this time, how can they avoid feeling overwhelmed?

It is an important time to renegotiate these domestic responsibilities. Now more than ever, the significant load of parenting and household responsibilities will visible. I would recommend scheduling time to negotiate the priorities and division of these responsibilities. Be careful not to fall into the trap of doing more of what you were doing because of prior circumstance. The goal posts have moved and this is your opportunity to move with them.

You can find more information about Belinda and The Bumpy Road here. Follow her on Instagram at @the_bumpy_road.

Lifestyle, Shop

Great Easter gifts that aren’t chocolate

3rd April, 2020

Given Easter is going to be distinctly different this year on many fronts, I’m sure I’m not alone in looking for alternatives to sugary treats given confined spaces, copious amounts of chocolate and restless kids with cabin fever do not a harmonious match make. While kids enjoying a good ol’ Easter egg hunt is a mainstay of this time of year, if you’re looking to incorporate a few things that aren’t of the chocolate variety then there are plenty of great gift options that are still in keeping with the Easter spirit, just minus the sugar!

To help you get started I’ve rounded up a few gift options — all online — that are great for Easter. And if you’re going to be away from family and friends for Easter, as many of us will be, then a gift delivered to a loved one’s door is a fun way to still celebrate, albeit from a distance. Happy Easter present hunting!