Creating a Whimsical Woodland Party, by Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson shows us how to put together a “Whimsical Woodland Party”, something she did recently for her five year old daughter. Great, creative ideas shared by an energetic Mum!

10 Simple Ways to Build an Unbreakable Bond With Your Child, by Angela Pruess


Our connection to our children means everything.

It means the difference between a confident child and an insecure one. It means the difference between a cooperative child and a defiant one. Our early attachments and ongoing connection to our children fostered through love, nurturance, and guidance is a strong predictor of our child’s success in many areas of life.

We’ve heard a lot about attachment, so the concept and importance of bonding with our baby seems obvious. Just because your little one has grown to become a lot bigger, smellier, and sassier doesn’t mean your bond and connection with them is any less vital to their development. In fact, it continues to be of the utmost importance throughout childhood.

Life with kids is busy. It’s not uncommon at the end of the day to find yourself wondering whether you even sat face to face with your child. Here’s the good news: You’re likely already engaging with your child in activities that promote a strong parent-child relationship.


We all know reading with children is a simple way to improve their language and reading skills. But research also shows that reading with children actually stimulates patterns of brain development responsible for connection and bonding.

This makes sense when we consider that story time usually involves cuddling, eye contact, and shared emotion. If you make reading together a priority in your home, you are without a doubt connecting with your child.


Engaging in art or craft activities with children is an awesome way to provide not only a fun and enjoyable experience, but a therapeutic one as well. No matter their age, you’ll be hard pressed to find a child who can’t find an art medium that interests him.

When engaged in a creative process with children, we provide an outlet for them to express their thoughts and feelings. This is especially true with younger children, who aren’t yet able to verbalize their complex emotions. When your child has access to acreative outlet, odds are that interactions between the two of you will be more positive.


Whether listening to them play an instrument or dancing to the “Trolls” soundtrack together, music offers lots of benefits for both parent and child, including bringing our awareness into our bodies and into the current moment. Your kids will be practicing mindfulness without even knowing it!

It’s pretty difficult to focus on a mistake at school yesterday or the test coming up tomorrow when we’re busy processing auditory input as well as coordinating our motor skills.


Feeling stressed? Stress is often a huge barrier to parents engaging with their children. Spending time with your child out in nature will go a long way to increase emotional health and physical well-being for both parties.

Research tells us that exposure to nature reduces our blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, as well as the production of stress hormones. Nature is no joke. Even if you don’t have time to go for a hike, simply water a plant together. These studies show similar effects can be derived from even small amounts of nature.


Play is the language of children, so it only makes sense that we should try to connect with them though something that comes so naturally. When parents enter their child’s world and follow their lead in play, they open up the possibility for many positive outcomes, including taking on a different relationship role and seeing our children from a new perspective.

(To read more of this post, please follow the link below…)

20 Adorable And Easy DIY Valentine’s Day Projects For Kids, by Vanessa Beaty


Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. If you have kids – or grandkids – and are looking for projects to keep them busy and help spread the love, I’ve found a great collection of adorable crafts that you can make together. All of these are so easy that even toddlers can help with them, and they are all so cute your kids will love them.

I love Valentine’s Day. From the candy and flowers to the wide array of crafts, there’s just so many ways that you can show someone how much they mean to you. I also love DIY, which is why this collection of Valentine’s Day projects is perfect. Whether you want to make cards for teachers or grandparents or you and your little ones love baking together, I promise there’s something in this collection that will thrill you and your kids.

From marshmallow pops to homemade heart ornaments that you can display all year long, these projects are as lovely as they are simple to complete. Looking to dress up your little one for the holiday? There’s a great homemade heart barrette, or you could do her nails with these gorgeous Valentine’s nail art designs.

Whatever you and your littles are planning for the day, you don’t want to miss these projects. Let your little one make a Valentine box to hold her special treasures or help them create butterflies from doilies. There is something in here for kids of all ages, and several that we parents will love, too.

1. Bee My Valentine Mailbox

Remember making those great Valentine’s boxes when you were in school? This project is very in keeping with that tradition, and is really easy for kids of all ages. Kids will love putting their Valentines in their own little “Bee My Valentine” mailbox, and you can customize the cards that they pass out at school to match this great little box. I love the bee theme, and you only need a small handful of supplies to make it.Tutorial: momendeavors

2. Valentine’s Day Countdown


I simply love this idea! It’s 14 small hearts that you use to countdown to Valentine’s Day. Just create the hearts with little messages of love on the backs and they look great displayed in a vase or mason jar atop lollipop sticks or straws. This gives kids a way to spread the love for two entire weeks before the big day, and they will adore decorating their hearts and choosing their messages

Tutorial: makeandtakes

To read more of this post, please follow the link below…

Also, check out this Valentine’s Day Post, which also has ways to teach kids about the history behind Valentine’s Day…

“What do you See?”: Unlocking kids’ imaginations through art, by Sharon Reynolds, Redemptive Artist



I was asked to write to you about how art in particular has been useful for my whanau, so let me start by saying that art has been an enormous part of our journey as a family and I’m not sure that all of that can easily be conveyed in just one article but I will try to share with you in this short article the synopsis of my thoughts and experiences thus far.

One of the greatest gifts I believe my mother installed into me was the gift of imagination.  I hear you already cringe and think hmmmm…. how is that a gift, isn’t it just something we have?

It is at this point that I share my opinion that it may have been at one time something we just produced naturally however over time I have seen imagination become so repressed that children are no longer able to tap into their ability to create, as they simply just don’t know how.

I was raised with imagination at the forefront of my childhood and I have taught my own children and grandchildren to imagine which has in turn developed their creative side and abilities to problem solve.  Many a morning my neighbourhood got to see my toddlers, laden with backpacks full of tasty treats and teddy bears, launch into a huddled pack as they peeped from behind trees on the sidewalk venturing forth on dangerous adventures and explorations and a bear hunt or two!

Sadly following procedure and doing things a certain way is often more of what is taught and makes for very rigid thinking and they get locked into a prescriptive way of doing almost everything.   What happens when things don’t go according to plan? Meltdown after meltdown!

The prescribed step by step process is not always what’s needed and often it is said that the journey is far better than the destination.  The process of art making rather than the focus on the final product often brings greater satisfaction and many more benefits that can be seen externally.


Allow me to give a brief demonstration of exercising/releasing creative imagination.


Figure 1: “What can you See?”

I picked a limited number of colours as seen in Figure 1: Red, Blue, Green, Yellow, Black. I then choose the word CONNECTIONS and invited a group of children to use fingers, brush, fabric wipes in whatever way they wished, with any movement they choose to freely express  themselves in response to this word.

Most of the class drew pictures of animals, people, houses, landscapes.  It was all very orderly. They basically drew what they knew and saw every day.  I then began to do squiggles, lines, flicked the brush, wiped the colours across the page, moved myself and the paper in different ways and angles.


As this took place the children began to ask if they could have another piece of paper and I watched as they then took what had been modelled in front of them and with great glee let the freedom of their imagination and creativity flow!

At the end of our time together I held up my artwork (Figure 1.) and asked – “What do you see?”  Some of their answers are below…

  • A galaxy
  • Spiders
  • Under the sea, like a coral reef place
  • Explosions
  • Ribbons
  • Birds flying through a storm

These were just a few of the ideas that came from the children as they engaged with the artwork.  Then I turned it and many new creations began to emerge from what they could see.


Once we begin to value the gift of imagination I believe we will see the creative ability emerge more and more.  This is just one example of a very quick work with a group of children who were struggling with a number of complex issues in their lives who were able to dive in deeply to the seabed of imagination and surface with a tangible feeling of achievement in making something fantastic!  They all felt their day had brightened and that for me is what being a Redemptive Artist is all about, taking something not so good and seeing it transform into something great.


That’s what I see.

These words embody the very essence of what it is that I want to communicate to children when I teach them about the power of their imagination and work alongside them to discover their ability to create.

(Please feel free to explore for yourself and replicate the session I’ve described here.  I’d love to know, “What do you See?”)


sharon2Sharon Reynolds and her family live in Christchurch, New Zealand.   She is a mother, grandmother and an artist.  Sharon works in community within a variety of roles as a Redemptive Artist and delivers her gift of creativity to bring hope and healing to those places that need it most.  This has taken her around New Zealand to Papua New Guinea and USA to date sharing her experiences and helping others bring their stories to life in their own unique ways.

Autumnal Crafts to do with Kids, by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

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There are numerous positive effects which come from encouraging our kids to be aware of nature and the seasons.  Recently in our house we have done some Autumn related crafts, which I will share with you below.  Some of these were my own ideas, while others came from a book we borrowed from the library: Art for All Seasons, 40 Creative Mixed Media Adventures for Children inspired by Nature and Contemporary Artists, by Susan Schwake.  (For more information about this book, please follow the link here…

Some of these Autumn crafts require coloured Autumn leaves, so they are also a great excuse to go for a walk in nature.  Teach your kids words such as “deciduous”  and “evergreen” and draw their attention to the different shapes, colors and textures of the leaves from various kinds of trees.  You may also like to create a box or tray of “Autumn things” at home, such as nuts, berries, various leaves and fruits.  (NOTE: make sure that none of the things included in this are poisonous and always supervise kids when they are examining these things).

Art Book FY

  1. Autumn Poems

Find some Autumn poems, preferably ones which are not too long and which appeal to children.    Read the poems aloud for your kids or have older ones read them out to younger ones.  You could also do an “Autumn Brainstorm” of words they associate with Autumn.  After this, the kids can write out the poems and decorate them with Autumn leaf pictures or actual leaves.  One of my sons found what he called a “skeleton leaf”, a leaf which was nearly completely  decomposed, and was quite fascinated by the appearance of it.  I was lucky, two of our children came home from school with poems.  Another fun activity would be creating your own Autumn poems.  If you have more than one child they could make up a line each of a poem, so it would be a “family Autumn poem”.

Poems our kids brought home from school and wrote out and decorated

Poems our kids brought home from school and wrote out and decorated

2. Photos of Autumn Leaves and Trees

While you’re out on your walk, have your kids take photos of Autumn leaves and trees.  You can follow this up by making an “Autumn Gallery” or Collage of their pictures and these can inspire drawings and other works of art too.

Autumn Collage FY

3.  A Seasons Chart or Poster

Drawing a poster or chart showing the four seasons and characteristics of each one is another good activity.  This can be incorporated into learning about any one of the four seasons.  You can also link it to learning about space, if you’re wanting to explain why different countries have different seasons at different times.  We live in Aotearoa/ New Zealand, so we have put the months of our Southern Hemisphere seasons on our poster.  For those operating in two or more languages, this offers an opportunity to use season and nature vocabulary in each of the targeted languages.  We have written our seasons’ names in English and Te Reo Māori… this could be extended to months and words associated with each season (hot, cold, colourful etc).

Our family's "Seasons Poster". The kids drew a season each. There are lots of variations on how you could do this, Looking up photos on things from each season ore cutting them out of old magazines would work too.

Our family’s “Seasons Poster”. The kids drew a season each. There are lots of variations on how you could do this.   Looking up photos on things from each season or cutting them out of old magazines would work too.

4. Autumn Trees At Night

These pictures of Autumn trees at night look really effective, but are easy and cheap to create.  Get some black paper and white crayons, as well as some colourful leaves picked up on your “Autumn walk”.  The kids then draw a tree trunk and branches in white and stick the leaves to it.  You can make individual trees or a whole “Autumn Trees at Night” forest.

Tree 2 1st Aprl FY

“Autumn Tree at Night”

Aprl 1st Leaves FY

5.Leaf Rubbings

An “oldie but goodie”: doing leaf rubbings with crayons always looks interesting and effective.  Variations can include turning the leaf shapes into leaves on “trees” or using them to make shapes of other things (animals, houses, sailing ships… let your imagination take a walk).

Leaf rubbng

6.  Autumn Leaf Mobiles

Using “Autumnal” coloured paper, have kids cut out leaf shapes.  Fold the “leaves” down the middle, then fold them in a pattern so the folds look like the veins in a real leaf.  Thread the “leaves” onto cotton (older children can do this themselves, you use a needle) and hang on an old coat hanger.

Leaves FY

Folding paper leaves for an “Autumn Leaf Mobile”

Mobile FY

Autumn Leaf Mobile

7. Autumn Models

Make models of “Autumn stuff” out of clay or fimo.  “Autumn stuff” could include leaves, acorns, animals, worms… anything you can think of.  This idea came from Art for All Seasons, the book mentioned above.  Another idea is that your “Autumn stuff” can later be hung on a “tree” made of twigs.  To allow for this, paper clips can be put into the figure while the clay is still we, or a hole can be made and cotton put through for hanging later.  When your items are dry, you can paint them and, once the paint is dry, hang them or use them as Autumn ornaments.

"Autumn stuff" drying on a plate.

“Autumn stuff” drying on a plate.

We’d love to hear from you if you have any other great Autumn craft ideas to do with children.  There are probably lots more good ideas out there.  Have fun with these ones and enjoy Autumn!

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Creative Crafts to do with Kids this Easter By Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

C Crafts FY

As Easter draws near, I thought I’d share some of the crafts we’ve been doing at our house– ideas shared are fun multiplied and great for all our children everywhere!

  1. Easter Boxes

These are made from egg cartons with the labels peeled off.   “Easter Bunny” can put each child’s Easter Eggs in their own special container on Easter Sunday… an especially good idea if you have more than one child and want to avoid arguments about whose eggs (or bunnies or chickens or whatever) are whose.  Remember to get each child to write his or own name on their box.  Use your imagination: they could be painted, decorated with cellophane,wrapping paper or glitter.  So long as you keep an “Easter theme”.  Here are some our children made:

FY Easter 1

FY Easter 2

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FY Easter 6

            2. Big Easter Egg Poster

Draw a large egg-shaped outline on some paper.  With your kids, create a “collage” of shiny Easter Egg paper, Easter stickers, chickens, Easter bunnies, crosses, lambs or anything else you like that relates to Easter.  Make sure every gap is filled so no paper shows (that can be the challenge for the kids).  After it’s finished you can laminate it and then you’ll have a poster to use ever Easter.  (You could do shapes other than eggs too, like crosses or chickens).

FY Easter 7

FY Easter 8

FY Easter 9   3. Crosses

These crosses can be cut out of cardboard then covered with tin foil.  The tags here are the ones you get on bread bags… a good use for them, we thought.  My 8 year old made this one at school.



4. An Easter Mural

FY Easter 10Our kids seem to always enjoy making murals where they can let their imaginations run wild.  This one was no egg-ception (sorry, couldn’t resist an egg joke).  We bought blue and green paper and I cut the shape of hills out of the green and stuck them onto the blue “sky”.  The kids did all the rest using Easter stickers and felt pens.  We got our Easter stickers from the $2 shop, $2 for a big sheet.  (None of the crafts here were particularly expensive to create).

Creating an "Easter Mural"

Creating an “Easter Mural”


5. An Easter Tree

FY Easter 12

Every year the kids and I create an “Easter  Tree”.  Usually we start by going for a walk in the bush somewhere to collect dry twigs and branches.  Then we come home and put our “collection” in a bucket (anchored with bluetak so the whole thing doesn’t fall over).  We decorate it with anything related to Easter.  This year we put toy chickens and rabbits, eggs and crosses made out of pipe cleaners on it.  There are some beautiful ribbons with Easter patterns on them which can be used as “streamers”.  We bought some years ago and bring then out each Easter.  (Japanese friends came to stay one Easter, so the “tree” had their Easter decorations on it too).

FY Easter 11


6.   Learning about Faberge Eggs

FY Easter 13

Last Easter the kids and I learned about “Faberge Eggs” and created this poster (we Google searched these images).  We also looked at why Faberge created them for the Russian Royal Family and what materials they were made out of.


7. Free Drawing

Just doing drawings of anything related to Easter can be fun too.  Our six year old created this picture.

FY Easter 15

We here at “The Forever Years” hope you have a Happy Easter with your children.  We hope you have found these ideas helpful and would LOVE to hear of anymore you might have.

Creativity with Cans! By Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

Cans title

Recently I discovered a simple, but very effective way to organise a lot of our kids’ clutter.  It’s also great because it recycles tin cans and it costs next to nothing.  One of our goals here at “The Forever Years” is to support parents and carers as they raise their children.  This idea has reduced a lot of headaches in our house (and also fighting over items like scissors), so I thought I’d share it.

Here’s what I did:

Can 1

  1. Took a used tin can and washed it out thoroughly.  Different sized tins are good for different items, for example, I used a tall, thin can for paint brushes, another tall thin one for long rulers and a shorter, wider, fatter one for crayons.  Any can Is OK, although I personally decided not to use our cat or dog’s meat tins, as, even after washing, they still seem to have a yucky, residue jelly meat smell.  Also it’s important to remember that people will be putting their hands into the cans regularly, so make sure there are no jagged edges to the tin.  Try to create a “smooth cut” when you use your can opener or, if there are jagged edges, hammer them down or cover them with strong tape.
  2. I didn’t bother removing the labels fromCan 2 the cans, as I found most of them were glued on quite solidly.  Instead, I covered the outside of the cans with white paper, which I glued over the labels.  I made sure they went right round the cans and were glued on well.
  3. Can 3I created labels for various items using “Picmonkey” and “Ribbet”.  If you’re not keen on using aps like these, the can labels could be created using scrap booking stickers or by hand… make them your own.  We don’t have a printer at home, so I saved my labels onto a memory stick and had them printed off at our local “Warehouse Stationery” shop.  Four labels were able to fit on one A3 piece of paper, so cost me $3 to print 4 labels.  This was the only cost associated with creating these– unless you also count the glue used to stick the labels onto the cans, which wasn’t very much.

Can 5

In a busy household with six people frequently wanting things like scissors, crayons, felt pens and so on,  I have found our new “storage cans” have taken away a lot of stress and chaos.  We mainly use them for stationery items, but I also made some for our kids to put pocket money in (see the header at the top of this post).  These were fun, because I was able to really personalize them.  Our daughter, for example, likes cats, so we put cats on her can.  One of my sons has dogs on his and another trains, and so on.

The limits are only your imagination…  kids could become involved and create their own containers for pens or other items for their rooms with their own drawings and names on them.   As mentioned above, the cans are cheap to create, but as well as that they are a great way to recycle.  Please leave a comment and let us know how your creative efforts with cans went, especially if you come up with any other great uses for them which we haven’t mentioned here. (One other idea I thought of was that you could glue the cans together, to make a kind of “stationery storage unit”  The individual cans could also store things such as hair ties or clips, jewellery, first aid or bathroom items or small pieces of Lego).  Have fun and enjoy!

Can 4

Have now placed these labels on our “Free Charts & Other Printables” page 🙂

Helping Siblings to get along…. using photos and/ or videos! By Jim and Lynne Jackson


Ever feel like the moments where your kids actually like each other are few and far between? Or like deep down they love each other, but they forget as their connection gets lost in the shuffle of sibling conflict and craziness?

Lynne was worried about that very thing when parenting her three intense kiddos who fought all the time — so she decided to change the narrative and help her kids remember that they like each other, all with the use of photos! Watch the video to hear why and how she did it:

Quick Notes:

  •  Capture (via photos or video) moments when kids are loving, enjoying and caring for each other.

(To read more, follow the link below…)


Some Crafty Winter Stuff to do with Our Kids

Lantern FY

By Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

Winter can get us down.  Many people suffer from seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and colds and flu bugs seem to abound at this time of the year.  Our electricity bills soar and, very often, those of us who discover we have a lot of “indoor” time with cabin-fever infected young children can start to feel frazzled. For me, having a bit of a plan helps immeasurably and I find crafts a positive way to “beat the winter blues” with our children.   I’m sure there are lots and lots of really fun winter ideas out there, but I thought I’d share a few that have worked in our family and in our local community.

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A home made “jar lantern”

1. Lanterns

Tulip Lanterns FY

Some lanterns created at a workshop

The advantage of the “early nights” is that kids can be up after dark and do “cool darkness fun stuff” (as my kids say) which they wouldn’t normally get to do.  Making lanterns is a great way to infuse some “magic” and colour into those dark winter nights.  There are lots of different designs to be found online.  The simplest one we discovered was just using a glass jar with a candle inside it and wrapping the jar in coloured celophane: even different coloured supermarket bags work for this.  A string is tied around the jar (and secured with a STRONG tape) and connected to a stick at the top for holding.  They look great, especially if you line a whole lot up in a row.  (Just watch that the kids don’t drop the glass jar).

Some cities (like ours) have Mid-Winter Carnivals and run “lantern workshops” for constructing your own lantern.  It’s wise for kids to have plenty of adult support while building these lanterns, but they are fun to create and look amazing when completed… and lit.

2. Candle Making


Source: Google images

We just used tea light candles inside our lanterns, but candle making is another fun activity and candles, like lanterns, add colour, light and a sense of warmth on gloomy winter days.  Our family lights a candle at tea time on Sundays, so we always have use for any candles made (we also have pudding on Sunday only, so the kids won’t nag us for it all the other days of the week).  I don’t have any pictures of candles we have made (we haven’t done it this year… maybe in the approaching school holidays…). But there are some wonderful online, step by step guides to making simple, safe, but beautiful looking candles with kids.  Old wax crayons can be melted to add colours and effects.  (Adult supervision is always needed, especially when dealing with hot, dripping wax).  I’ll put some links below, there are some great Youtube clips too.   (Step by step candle making for kids)  (Mess Free Candle Making)

3. Snowflake Cut Outs

Winter Hotoke FY

“Snow flake cut outs” are cool because, like real snowflakes viewed under a microscope, no two are ever exactly the same.  If you havent done snowflake cut outs before, they are very straight forward… just get a square piece of paper, fold it (into four or even eight) and then make lots of tiny cuts.  When you open it out daa daa… a beautiful snowflake!  The kids and I made the poster to the left by sticking small snowflake shapes we’d made onto black paper.  Some words of caution:  a) younger kids sometimes struggle with the scizzors and need help cutting b) stress to the kids that they need to cut shapes out of the paper: if they just cut it you won’t see anything when you open the snowflake c) the paper has to start of square or you won’t get a “symmetrical effect”.  Other wintery things can be cut out too, like the snowman my son made here.

Snowy shapes FYAs well as putting the “snowflakes” on black paper, they can be hung in windows, made into mobiles, hung with colourful cellophane behind them (an idea from my 6 year old son) or just hung from the ceiling to give an effect of it “snowing indoors” (if it doesn’t get to you psychologically by making you feel cold!).  To the right are some larger cut out shapes we made (these ones are just lying on our bench top).  My daughter wanted me to make some “ballerina snow faeries” and cutting out things like this can be a great exercise for kids in spatial awareness… the shapes or figures have to remain joined at several points or they all fall to bits.  To get the “leaf” and “round” effects, the corners need to be cut off before opening out the snowflakes.  The kids also experimented with folding different ways– diagonally or across as well as just into quarters or eighths.  Another idea, when the snowflakes are cut out and opened up, is to paint over them completely (spray paint would be good), then peel off for a different kind of snowflake effect.  Thicker paper or cardboard would probably be better for this, especially if you want to use each shape more than once: they would be “snowflake stencils” then.  You need a big brush and pan or vacuum cleaner for all the little bits at the end.  Actually, as my four year old pointed out, the little bits and the “snowflakes” themselves would make great decorations for a “Frozen Party” or snow themed birthday or even for a Winter Wedding.

4.  The “Science” Behind Winter

Seasons Poster

Our six year old son made this poster for a school project.  Unfortunately, it got a bit squashed in his bag, but you get the general idea.  Kids love to learn the “science” behind why we have seasons and why there are extremes of hot and cold weather.  An exercise like this (making a poster of where our part of the earth is in relation to the sun during different seasons) can be a good activity to do at anytime, but in winter when we are stuck indoors more often than usual, it is especially good.  Again, there are online activities and youtube clips to clarify this “seasonal chart”. Our kids are always fascinated, too, by the fact that our New Zealand winter (June, July, August) is Summer in the Northern Hemisphere, so be sure to point that out.  My four children like the idea of people having Christmas in the snow– we often spend it in the garden or at the pool or beach.

We always hang any new posters the kids do in our lounge for a while, so the whole family can see them.  This serves the double purpose of helping the child who made it take pride in their work and letting us all become familiar with the concept we are learning.  As well as this, it makes our environment bright and colourful, especially during cold, winter days.

5. Matariki Crafts and Activities

For those of us in Aotearoa/ New Zealand, winter also co-incides with Matariki, the Māori New Year, when the cluster of seven stars known as the Pleiades elsewhere in the world, but as Matariki in Māori culture, first become visible above the horizon.  This is in mid-June (I always associate it with my grandmother’s birth and, 83 years later, death day: June 15th, but I think it’s generally around the 18th).  Anyway, there are various stories among different iwi (extended family groups) and in different areas of New Zealand about these seven stars.  As well as entertaining our children with these stories, they lend themselves to some great opportunities for artistic expression.  Local schools, kohanga reo and kindergartens also come up with some gorgeous arty constructions.  Here are some I came across in our little stamping ground, which could easily be done at home too.

Starry Collage FY

“Starry Skies” made by a class of 7-8 year olds

"Matariki Tree" at kindergarten (ages 2-5).  The children all wrote (with help) messages for people they love and affirmed things they were good at doing

“Matariki Tree” at kindergarten (ages 2-5). The children all wrote (with help) messages for people they love and affirmed things they were good at doing

Cloudy starry sky

“Cloudy, Starry Sky” made by the “big kids” (nearly 5 year olds) at kindergarten. This looks magnificent hanging from the ceiling.

"Glittery Stars in the Sky"

“Glittery Stars in the Sky”

Window display of stars: stars made from paper, painted and paper-clipped onto a string.  Glow in the dark paint would look great on this display at night!

Window display of stars: stars made from paper, painted and paper-clipped onto a string. Glow in the dark paint would look great on this display at night!

Matariki is also a time for sharing stories of those who have passed on.  Our children never knew their paternal grandfather, who passed away before any of them were born.  We can help them to “know” him, as well as other relatives such as great grandparents, through photos and stories… kids can create posters and booklets about people in their families.  I’ve found our children respond to these stories with more interest if there is a funny thing the person used to do or say or if they had an interest similar to theirs or looked like one of them… these things create connection across generations and time.  Some people create “Matariki Trees” (Rakau Matariki) with stars with pictures of deceased members of their families hanging from them.

6. Astronomy and Space

Our 8 year old son's picture of the Milky Way Galaxy, showing where "we" are and where the Matariki/ Pleiades constellation is.

Our 8 year old son’s picture of the Milky Way Galaxy, showing where “we” are and where the Matariki/ Pleiades constellation is.

Kids love learning about space and winter is a great time to look at the stars (with a telescope is great if you have one or live near an observatory, but without works too).  If you are stuck in winter school holidays, or if you home school, making “Space” a topic with your kids is a great idea.  As well as looking at stars, “Space” can encompass building a “rocket” out of lounge room furniture, making a paper mache “solar system”, watching documentaries or other children’s media about space, reading about space… the list goes on.  I won’t go into detail about “Space crafts”, as that’s kind of a separate topic from winter, but you get the idea.  “Space” is good to learn about in winter, because the nights are longer and there’s more opportunity for kids to see the night sky.  Also, space, like winter, is COLD!

These ideas are all meant to be fun and not pressured or stressful activities.  I hope you will find inspiration from some of them and, through doing them, beat the “winter blues” and connect with your kids.  Have a fun winter and keep warm!