Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Tuning in with your children

Last Wednesday my sons & I (with DH our chauffeur) had the privilege and opportunity to attend the Disney Junior channel launch at the  Sydney Opera house.

Mickey & Minnie mouse flew in especially to Australia for the first time in 5 yrs. 

The excited delight on their faces was heartwarming.

Disney Junior formerly, Playhouse Disney premiered in Australia on Sunday 29th May. It is especially targeting the 2-7 yr old audience.

I am the first to admit I am a also very permissive parent when it comes to TV or children’s video viewing. Though my sons barely watched TV or DVD’s until after two –two and half. (They wouldn't sit still long enough.) They love TV viewing now.

I still practice moderation and switch OFF often, especially when the noise gets too much . Rainy days or during other weather extremes the boys probably watch a lot more than I would prefer.

For me it is more about quality. As long as they are  G rated or ABC 2(4) related with preschooler appropriate content I am comfortable with them choosing for the most part. I still find a few programs annoying and I do my best to discourage some programs and encourage others.

The latest Disney research shows that parents want learning for their children that focuses on social values and behaviour, not just academic learning. Eg. teamwork, friendship, problem solving and creativity skills.

I  agree with this !.

I am in awe that I had the opportunity to speak briefly with Nancy Kanter, the new Disney Junior Worldwide general manager (to add to her role as Senior Vice President, Original Programming) who also attended the launch.

Just to clarify , I spoke to Nancy as a parent . I am not an early Childhood expert though I spent over 10 years working as a paediatric nurse in a Children’s ward. We just touched on the basics because obviously the topic of child development and television programming is extensive.
Nancy’s commitment to the development of Children’s television is impressive. Read all about Nancy's bio here.

How are children’s programs researched and developed ?

Nancy explained how first Disney writers and production team develop a story that appeals to an appropriate age (in 2-7 target audience). The process involves significant consultation with early childhood experts to make sure their programs are reflecting the way children learn i.e. their understanding of early math skills, pre literacy skills (how to understand a story being told in a logical sequence), social and emotional stages. 

The research and development into programming takes great care to make sure the content is age appropriate as well as entertaining. Ideally the stories have to make sense to a 2-3 year old as well as appeal to a 5-7 yr old. 
Disney then test early episodes with basic story lines by taking them into preschools. There they ask questions ...
Did they like it ? Was anything confusing ? Did they find anything unexpected ?

When they find the unexpected they make changes.

For example in Jake & the Neverland pirates  the children liked the fact that even though Hook had done the wrong thing, Jake & his friends still welcomed Hook to be part of their team. They never anticipated that children liked a 'right' and ‘kind’ ending.

How can television be used as learning tool for young children eg. Social and emotional development ?

N: Children 2-5 especially imitate behaviour – be it good or bad behaviour. Disney’s aims to model good social skills, with characters that children can connect with. The adventures are meaningful and the characters /stories resonate with kids. Good story telling involves conflict and emotional learning. Through story telling Disney aim's to instill good life lessons as early as possible eg. manners, friendship and resolution of conflict. 
What is the advice for parents in deciding what’s appropriate for children to be watching ?

N: Watch the programs with your children. Only individual parents can gauge if they are comfortable with what their children are viewing and that the themes presented fit in their family values. Though much care, research and development is undertaken to make sure TV programming is age appropriate entertaining, educational and safe TV, is a family decision.

How much time should children spend watching television ? (Nancy’s children are all grown up).
N : Nancy first said she was a permissive mum as she was involved in the television industry. 
Nancy’s advice is that it is a family decision. She recommends parents spend time watching programs with their children and interacting with them. Tune in with your kids

Research has shown parents watching TV with their children has a lifelong impact.
Talk to your children about what you see and use it as a learning tool. It is important to also make decisions based on your own family choices and values.

Nancy also emphasised that we should balance television viewing with other outdoor play and other activities. 

The most important message I took away is that children’s television viewing is not just for passive entertainment or even pure learning.

Imaginative storytelling is a part of childhood , this is where magic begins. Disney is not just about entertainment , it is about encouraging an emotional feel for the characters we know and love. Many of the new Disney Junior programs have an integrated social and emotional message as well as learning opportunities. They are bringing in new characters as well some old characters mums & dads remember.

I know my young sons enjoy my husband or I watching their favourite programs. My  husband especially makes time to do this.

Sam, Joel & I previewed two episodes of Jake and the Never Land Pirates.

 A new , animated series based on Peter Pan , specially created for Disney Junior .It is aimed @ 2-5yrs. 
It is music-filled interactive treasure hunt. Jake (voiced by Colin Ford –“Smallville”), his pals, Izzy (a Girl, Madison Pettis) and Cubby, and their lookout parrot, Scully are on a treasure hunt sailing in their good ship Bucky, and having fun in and about their hideout on Pirate island. 

The friends model teamwork, problem solving and adventurous activity (swinging on vines, sliding down waterfalls), earning gold doubloons along the way (early maths) for various tasks. 

The friends are always keeping watch ; Scully especially on the lookout   for Captain Hook, his mate Mr Smee  who are usually up to no good. 

It’s bright , quick and good fun. I enjoyed watching Jake with my children. The episodes are short (11 mins each) and have happy ending to the conflict. It finishes with a live song by real pirates people - not animated.
The Disney Junior channel will feature the new series Jake and the Never Land Pirates, a series of Disney Poetry Shorts in which children's poems are set against Disney animation; and Mickey Mousekersize and Special Agent Oso: Three Healthy Steps which both encourage healthy lifestyles for pre-schoolers.

So do you tune in with your children ?

Disclaimer : We don’t have Foxtel/Austar pay TV but my mother/other family do - so the boys are familiar with a few of the Disney programs and of course Mickey mouse. That isn’t the only reason they love visiting Nanny.

Note: Matt Shervington,a guest presenter, also mentioned Foxtel TV has a Mini mote option. 
Mini mote is a child friendly remote that controls the content being displayed on the family's home television. Children choose what want to watch while parents have the security of knowing what they see is limited to selected children's channels.

PS : I loved the honesty and insights Kelly @Be a fun mum shares in her post about the role of television in the family here.
I agree for me too, it is more about knowing what they are watching than how much. 
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Friday, 27 May 2011

Grateful ~ A spoonful of sugar

  • I'm very grateful I filled in a form for the lovely Disney lady, at the Aus Blog Conference, because it got me invited to Mary Poppins, The Musical at the Capitol Theatre Sydney.  



Do you think I am excited ?

  • A cup of tea in bed, in the morning . It's our latest cosiest , lazy morning routine ; we do take turns :-) .
  •  The fringe benefits of blogging ...did you see my new boots. My husband is starting to come round to the idea that blogging isn't such a bad thing ... it makes the medicine go down in the most delightful way.
 So, what's making you smile today?
... Please add a link back to Maxibella in your post. Blog hop to visit other bloggers who are spreading a little sunshine.

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ECCO Shoes Giveaway

A month or so ago I noticed a brisk edge to the air about my feet.
I rummaged through the boxes looking for last year's boots. 
I was a bit disappointed in my scruffy boots; that hurt the soles of my feet after less an hour in them.
Hardly a day went past ...when I got a surprise email.

Another review ~ with a difference . 
Of course , I jumped at the chance to review ECCO shoes new Autumn/Winter collection.

This one was purely for me to enjoy (I'm sharing the opportunity for one of you to own a pair too.) 
ECCO are an independently family owned Scandinavian company, launched in 1970's. From one man to 4000 sales locations (over 800 'ECCO' branded) in 90 countries.

Their principle philosophy is FORM  FOLLOWS  FUNCTION.
Their shoes are designed to follow the foot with quality, style and comfort that speaks for itself ...

250 million pairs of
shoes have walked the earth since 1963.

"We do things our own way".
How ? you might ask !

"They manage the entire production process from cow to consumer" 
They don't outsource unlike other manufacturers.

Starting with their own tanneries, ECCO own all stages of production worldwide (with 15,000 employees) ; the factories- right down to even owning their own ECCO branded shoe stores. (They are also sold in world's leading retailers).

I was interested to note though my boots were made in Indonesia, ECCO abides by a code of conduct including respect for defined human rights; religious freedom and UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

It's ECCO's own technology, with ECCO designers who produce the collections , with an unheralded passion to make people happy. 

They have shoes to suit everyone in the family too. Shoes for every occasion , formal, casual/outdoor, kids, men's and of course women's shoes in all styles. 

I've been wearing my boots for over a week and they are seriously the most comfortable boots or shoes I've ever owned.

"We believe in making shoes that are as comfortable to the eye as they are to the foot"

Believe me when I say my boots are 'beautiful'. 
I love my ECCO Boots .
Yes, I wear them everywhere. So far just with my denim jeans.

(my husband chopped my head off)
 They withstood the rigors of the farm.  (I could just see the ECCO logo imprint- stamped in my footprint)
(of course I told my girls they didn't have to worry because ECCO don't manufacture in Australia ;) .

I haven't tried them with a skirt or dress yet -I will when I go shopping.
(PR people if you are looking, I'm open to reviewing a new winter wardrobe)


My boots - Sensata ~  have a slight flare at the calf ; so they could fit under / over jeans or trouser pants (or dare I say over leggings) but I prefer to wear them out because they are so pleasing to the eye. I've had a few comments and admiring looks.

It's hard to explain how the Shoe fairy delivered them to me :)

The leather is soft & lovely, the stitching detail is simple but elegant with a small decorative buckle on the side. The non-leather soles have a slightly raised heel , which is fully enclosed , solid and very sturdy. The boots fit my feet like a glove. They weren't slippery in the rain either like some boot soles. Warm but lightweight too.
(Tip : I waterproofed & leather protected mine immediately)

I have visited an ECCO store and the customer service is outstanding. 
PS : ECCO also have a stunning range of fashion handbags too.

I know you, too, want to experience the mixture of innovative comfort and style that sets ECCO shoes apart from any other. 

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, 
you’re too smart to go down a not-so-good street.

So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact 
and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. 
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. 
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

Today is your day!
Your chance is waiting.
So…get on your way!  
With generous thanks to shoes , 
I have (1)  x $250 voucher to give away to a follower
Could that be you ?
I wish you all good luck !

The guidelines:
1. Please add yourself as a GFC follower if you don't follow MLDB already (or by feedburner).
2. Australia addresses only.
3. Entries close June 12th, 2011 at 8pm
4. Winner selected by random.org
5. Visit ECCO's website and browse the Women's, Men's ,& Kid's collections ~ Come back and comment about what you would buy if you won. (You won't be held to a decision)

I am seriously impressed with what I learned about ECCO too.
Their website is very easy to navigate and you see your choices in full zoom. The store locator even shows you the collections your local store carries.

Disclosure: I received my complimentary pair of ECCO boots via ECCO & Zing. No financial payment was offered nor accepted for this post. All opinions expressed are purely my own .With thanks to ECCO's media kit.

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Thursday, 26 May 2011

Celebrating Food Month ~ Coffee & Chocolate self saucing pudding

May is Food Month and I’m loving the celebrity Mini Cookbook Collection available for $2 with the Daily Telegraph newspaper every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday during May.


“Take 15 cookbooks from the best celebrity cooks. Add a special collector’s case to keep them in. Reduce, then serve. That's what we’ve done to create the new 15 part Mini Cookbook Collection.”

Mmm !!!

“They’re serving up something big”

Jamie Oliver's ~ Jamie Does… was the first book (free) in the collection on May 8th.

Continuing through until  June 2nd , Jamie is followed by a host of Australia’s favourite celebrity cooks , Gary Mehigan, Maggie Beer, Matt Moran, Kylie Kwong, Stephanie Alexander just to name a few.

Each mini cookbook has over 20 recipes, all for just $2 each.

“... by the end of the month you'll have a library of over 350 inspiring recipes from some of our most celebrated cooks. The Mini Cookbook Collection. It's going to be big…”

I was asked to review one recipe from one book.

I’ve been pouring over my mini cookbook collection for a favourite to share with you.

Alas, I have dozens ... tantalised and spoiled by the variety and celebrities.

The smorgasbord of choice is stunning.

Breakfast, lunch, dinner, in between and afters.

Any times.

I need never to cook the same recipe twice in a month again with Food Month’s Mini cookbook collection.

Reading cook books gives me great pleasure. When cooking for my family the reward exceeds the expectation when the plate is left empty.

The Mini cookbook collection is lovely to look at and has gorgeous images to tempt you.

Autumn is my favourite season of the year because as
Donna Hay says ~ There’s a crisp edge to the air ... ~

I chose the coffee and chocolate self saucing pudding to surprise my family with, and warm us up on a chilly night.

It was quick and easy to make with 15 mins preparation time,

25-30 mins cooking time and then gone in 60secs after I snapped this

I had 6 extra family guests for dinner, so I actually made 2 versions one with coffee and in the other I substituted cocoa for the children.

By the way Donna Hay’s “Seasons” is on sale Sunday May 29th.


Check the Food Month website for more information and make sure you browse the sample collection available on the website from all your favourite chefs.

So who is your favourite celebrity chef from the Mini cook book collection?

What is your favourite recipe from the collection?

Sponsored by KidSpot & News Ltd Food Month

Visit these other great Food Month contributions from other bloggers
Berry Crumble 

Merguez Lamb Rissoles with Couscous & Pasta with Roasted Vegetables 

Nachos and White Chocolate Cheesecake

Roast Chicken with Pancetta and Sage and White Chocolate Cheesecake
(edited because love link sharing thanks Megan
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