Category: Subscriptions

The magic of Julia Donaldson on ShowMax

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Julia Donaldon on ShowMaxIt was on a day when the kids were finally down for their midday nap. I sat down on the couch for a little break and found myself watching what was showing on the kid’s channel. It was The Gruffalo animation by Julia Donaldson, and it was brilliant. I spent the  time relaxing on the couch and listening to the voice of narrator Helena Bonham Carter as she followed a clever little mouse through the woods. I’m sure you have also found yourself enjoying animated shows even more than your kids, and get so involved you have to find out what happens in the end! Rest assured the little mouse does very well to escape the Gruffalo, and his daughter in the sequel.

Since then I enjoy reading Julia Donaldson’s books and watching the animated shows with the kids on ShowMax. Julia is a talented writer and she collaborated with illustrator Axel Scheffler for the books featured below. Together they have created stories which bring out various emotions and make you engage with the characters. The animations are available online with subscription service ShowMax, and can be viewed from any device and downloaded to watch anywhere. I recommend watching these shows with your children for the first time. The characters in The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child can be a little scary, my kids were very worried for the witch as she was chased through the clouds in Room on the Broom, and sad that Stick Man had lost is family and bitten by the dog. You may feel sad, happy, and even scared, and fall in love with the animation as go on a journey through the woods, over meadows and even out to sea.

The Gruffalo

Julia Donaldon's The Gruffalo on ShowMaxThere is a mouse who takes a walk through the deep dark woods. He meets a fox, an owl and a snake who would rather eat him, than have a nut for their tea. This little mouse outsmarts them with a tale of a Gruffalo, who turns out to be real. After convincing the Gruffalo that he is not little at all, but a Big Bad Mouse, he finally gets to enjoy his nut for his tea. Daddy also enjoys reading this book, but he doesn’t do the voices as well as mommy does. He knows it off by heart and whenever there is talk of a mouse, he recites the lines and how the Gruffalo has purple prickles all over his back! This book is a must read and to watch now on ShowMax.

The Gruffalo’s Child

Julia Donaldon's The Gruffalo's Child on ShowMaxThe sequel to The Gruffalo, this is the tale of the little girl Gruffalo who ventures out of her cave one night looking for adventure, ignoring her father’s warning about the Big Bad Mouse that lives in the woods. The little Gruffalo meets the same characters as she searches for the mouse through the snow. She finally discovers why her father is afraid of the Big Bad Mouse and returns home a little less curious and happier to be safe with him. The Gruffalo’s Child – watch now.

Room on the Broom

Julia Donaldon's Room on the Broom on ShowMax

Possibly my favourite of the four books, Room on the Broom has all the characters you could want. There is a friendly witch, a jealous cat, a keen dog, a green bird, a clean frog and even a dragon. The witch welcomes her new friends on to her broom, and they do something very special for her in return. You must also see the broom at the end! Room on the Broom – watch now.

Stick Man

Julia Donaldon's Stick Man on ShowMax

This is Stick Man. Stick Man loves his family and jogging in the morning, but not everyone recognises him as Stick Man. He ends up on a grand adventure as he tries his best to get home to his stick family in time for Christmas. It’s not an easy journey, and my kids were worried about him so I needed to be there to reassure them that it would all be ok. Santa Clause also makes a guest appearance. The award-winning film is an African success story as it was brought to life by South African animation company Triggerfish. Stick Man – watch now.

Which is your favourite?

Julia Donaldon on ShowMax

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Back to school with educational shows on ShowMax

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With much excitement, Paige and Ethan started their new preschool this week. It has been a long holiday for us, especially with moving and all the festive celebrations. So I was all smiles as the kids happily followed their teachers to their classrooms and playground, safe in the knowledge that they would have a blast whilst I had my mornings back to work. Now that the school term has started, we are getting into learning mode and it’s so interesting to watch how quickly they pick up new words and skills. They are getting too big!

As we are back to school, I have chosen my top picks of the many educational TV shows available on ShowMax. ShowMax is an online subscription service that allows you to watch load of movies, series and kids shows from any device as long as you have an internet connection. You can stream or download them, so you can watch them anytime. This comes in handy if your kids have to wait with you for siblings to finish school or extra mural activities.

My top picks from ShowMax:

Monster Maths Squad on ShowMax

Monster Math Squad

Max, Lily and Goo make up the Monster Math Squad who uses their collective math skills to overcome any obstacle they face. The scream screen always surprises Goo when a monster is in need and asks the squad for their help to solve a problem. Language: English.

Why your teacher will love it:

The monster friends are relatable to children as they don’t pretend to be the biggest, bravest or brainiest. They like to work together as a team to solve the problems, and aren’t afraid to ask for help.

Why your kids will love it:

Monsters (but not the scary kind) teach concepts such as numbers, weight and measurements through fun animation and scenes. They will love the bright monster world and helping Max, Lily and Goo solve the problems with the help of a maths monitor. The catchy theme tune will also have mom singing along.

Pirates: Adventures in Art

Pirates: Adventures in Art

Imagine a world of grey. No colour, no art and everything the same. That’s what Queen Conformia wants unless Princess Cleo, Pirate Leonardo and shipmates Fresco and Skelly can stop it. Join the mates, create something great, and sail along with the pirates. Language: English.

Why your teacher will love it:

Aimed at preschool kids, this show explores art through the ages and how the main characters can use their creativity to solve problems during their adventures.

Why your kids will love it:

Colourful characters, singing and a talking gecko will keep them entertained whilst learning about portraits, collage and cubism. Let’s not forget that they are pirates!

Hopla

Hopla on ShowMax

Hip, Hop, Flip and Flop are four rabbits which play along with their friends, learning about colours, shapes and numbers. Set on a white background, these four animated furry friends hop around and take instruction from the narrator. Language: Afrikaans

 Why your teacher will love it:

Kids are taught basic principles of colours, shapes and numbers through the use of flash cards, dance routines and visual references. The plain background allows for the kids to focus on the central characters without distractions. Episodes are 12 minutes each.

Why your kids will love it:

Younger children will love the hopping bunnies, the friendly narrator and the voices of the children who learn along with Hip, Hop, Flip and Flop.

Super Why

Super Why on ShowMax

These super fairytale friends of Storybrook Village have a book club with a difference. Whenever there is a question or a problem, Whyatt calls together his friends to their secret clubhouse, to use their literacy powers to jump into a book to find the answers. Alpha Pig has “Alphabet Power,” Wonder Red has “Word Power,” Princess Presto has “Spelling Power,” Super Why has the “Power to Read,” and Super You has the “Power to Help!”. Language: English.

Why your teacher will love it:

Each story focuses on a popular children’s book, and the Super Readers need to follow along with the storyline to solve the problems. Literacy concepts such as spelling, pronunciation and sentence structure are taught in a fun and inclusive way.

Why your kids will love it:

The kids will love to shout out the answers to our fairytale heroes as they solve the clues with the help of their super powers. With the “Power to Help”, children are encouraged to participate and feel the satisfaction of solving the many problems along the way.

You can stream or download these educational shows on ShowMax for just R99 per month. Sign up for your free 14 day trial now.

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Poppet Post subscription and once-off boxes

Poppet Post review by The Mommy CityThis is not my first feature of the kids subscription box Poppet Post. There have however been a few changes in the last 2 years which are worth mentioning. Poppet Post now offers two options: a subscription box and a selection of once-off boxes. The subscription box is now sent bi-monthly, filled with items such as above, tailored to your child’s age. Each box has a different theme, and we received a farm yard puzzle, reading book, sticker book, felt animals and mat, paint with stamps and a pig poster to cover with muddy paint spots. Along with the toys, is an explanation of what’s in your box and how to make the best use of the items with your kids. Poppet Post have been sending out boxes for a few years now, which means they are doing something right and have a number of happy customers.

Features:

  • Subscription boxes are tailored with age-appropriate toys and activities for 0-5 years.
  • Subscription boxes are sent every 2 months, with free delivery.
  • Poppet Post Baby Shower Box - The Mommy CityOnce-off boxes are great for sending to family and friends when you are unable to attend a baby shower or party. Poppet Post will select the items and deliver the gift direct, which couldn’t be easier and an affordable option from R249 – R299 a box.
  • Once-off boxes include a baby shower box, gift box, travel box and holiday activities box (perfect for handing to the grandparents when you drop them off for a play date).

Order via their website www.poppetpost.co.za or email Sue at info@poppetpost.co.za for more information. You can take a peek into the latest boxes by browsing the photos on their Facebook page.

Storytime Club

Storytime Club by The Mommy CityWhat is your child’s favourite book at the moment? Ours is The Gruffalo – because “He has knobbly knees, and turned-out toes, And a poisonous wart at the end of his nose.” I have lots of fun reading it aloud for Paige and Ethan, who pretend to get scared and hid away from The Gruffalo. Julia Donaldson is very talented. So, we were especially pleased when we received her other book ‘What the Ladybird Heard’, from Storytime Club, along with other age-appropriate reads for the kids.

What is Storytime? It’s a monthly subscription book club for kids, where they receive 3 story and activity books to enjoy and build up their own library. The books are delivered each month by courier, and the kids have the excitement of opening up their parcel, to see what surprises they have. Look at little Ethan below, chilling out on their reading cushion with his leg resting on his knee! Want to know more? Check out their website www.storytimeclub.co.za and Facebook page for more info.

Storytime Club by The Mommy City

Mysmartkid launches the Smartstart Pregnancy Pack

MSK Smartstart Pregnancy PackFor the past year and a half, Mysmartkid has become a leader in Early Childhood Development and promotes school readiness with an integrated offering that focuses on a child’s development through the use of age-appropriate toys, tools and activities. Along with their subscription programme, their panel of experts in the fields of child psychology, occupational therapy, art psychotherapy and speech therapy, share their professional insights and expertise. I have shared a number of their expert articles on my blog including establishing a family routine, regulating emotions, lefthandedness and reviewed their Smartbox.

Mysmartkid recently announced that they have expanded their offering to include a Smartstart Pregnancy Pack aimed at expectant mothers and focuses on in-utero stimulation, which has been shown to develop and strengthen neural pathways, priming babies for learning and interaction from birth. Focusing on three main areas of stimulation – touch and relaxation, voice and sound, and nesting and preparing for baby – this pack is particularly beneficial to mothers in the last two trimesters of their pregnancy, when their baby’s cognitive capabilities are developing.

Catherine Barry, a Mysmartkid expert with a keen interest in Foetal and Early Childhood Development says, “There is so much information available to parents today and we want to help direct the focus on what is truly important for both mom’s wellbeing and baby’s development. While the most important reason for in-utero stimulation is to start your baby’s development, this process also helps parents to focus on their child’s needs and to establish the positive, loving relationship that will last a lifetime.”

The Smartstart Pregnancy Pack is endorsed by Baby Sense and includes Natural Olive Tummy Wax from Oh-Lief, a Baby Sense Muslin Receiver, the Majors for Minors Baroque CD,  the best-selling book by Meg Faure and Ann Richardson entitled Baby Sense, as well as a Mysmartkid sign for your car.

The Smartstart Pregnancy Pack is available online at www.mysmartkid.com at a cost of R325 excluding delivery and is the first available pack in the subscription programme. Once your child is born, you will receive a Smartbox every two months (the first one will contain two free welcome gifts).

Keep the holidays a happy time by establishing a family routine

Keep the holidays a happy time by establishing a family routine - The Mommy City One of the best things about being on holiday is to not have to adhere so strictly to your normal routine. If you’re lucky, your little one might sleep a little later and let you lie in past dawn. Rigid schedules of getting dressed and setting off for work or school may be replaced by lazy family breakfasts or heading out early for a day of fun-filled activities. Inevitably this might also lead to a more relaxed approach to eating habits and even more flexible bed times. But what happens when the holidays are over? How do you ease your little one (and your whole family for that matter) into a smooth-running routine with the least amount of fuss?

The importance of a routine

Experts agree that structure is vital for young children to feel safe and secure. Without a clear understanding of what comes next, your little one might feel like they are forced to simply do whatever is expected of them without any regard for their own plans. This could cause a great deal of stress or anxiety in your child and some unavoidable tantrums in your day. You also wouldn’t be happy if someone simply walked into your home and demanded that you drop everything and accompany them to an undisclosed location for an unknown reason. A predictable routine helps your child understand what comes next in their day and what is expected of them during that time. When following a routine, your sweetheart also develops self-control because they understand that they have to wait until a specific time for a certain activity.

Tick tock

Your little one most likely doesn’t understand the concept of time yet. They don’t structure their days around hours or minutes, but rather by the events they expect to take place. When these events take place in the same order every day, they can predict their routine and gain a better understanding of their world. When they know they won’t be confronted with unfamiliar tasks when they are unprepared, they become more relaxed, cooperative, responsible, independent and confident.

 When are routines important?

Routines help children to practice making simple predictions and understand concepts like ‘before’ and ‘after’. A schedule is especially helpful during difficult times of the day like while getting dressed in the morning or when preparing for bedtime. Keeping a set routine might sound impossible when you have to balance different schedules for respective family members. However, when everyone knows exactly what is expected of them, it reduces arguments and stress for the entire family.

Remember, when you don’t have a calm, established routine in the morning, you could be setting yourself and your child up for a chaotic start to the day. Likewise, if you don’t have a predictable schedule for evenings, you deny yourself the personal time you need to unwind after a tiresome day.

Tips for setting up a routine

Start with the basics: The most basic routine can simply be built around the times family members wake up, go to bed and eat. Remember to be realistic about your routine goals and the amount of time your little ones need for each activity – especially if they aren’t used to a schedule.

Family time: The best way to establish a routine with your little one is to set apart a time every day which is completely reserved for spending quality time together as a family. It can be a quick breakfast during which you share your plans for the day or a relaxed supper when you all discuss what’s happening in your world. The important thing is that this time should be free from distractions like television or telephones. Try to have this family time at the same time and in the same place every day and get your little ones started on a valuable routine that can last them a lifetime. Of course this also lays the foundation for your children to discuss important life issues with you as they get older.

Bedtime: A good bedtime routine can go a long way to starting the next day in a calm way. When you and your sweetie pie are well-rested, the chances of a meltdown the next morning (for you or your child) are significantly less. Help your little one slowly calm down at the end of a day and repeat specific activities they can associate with getting sleepy. What calms your sweetheart – a bath, a story or soft music? Try to do these activities at the same time and in the same order every evening and talk to your kiddie about their bedtime ritual by asking questions like: “What do we do after we put on our pajamas?” Make use of this quiet time with your precious sweetie to talk about their day. This helps develop their memory, time orientation and language skills and also strengthens the bond between you and your child.

Allow for preparation time: Help your child prepare themselves for certain activities by giving them some transition time. You can say: “We have ten minutes before we have to start putting away toys. When the big hand on the clock gets to 12, it will be time to take a bath.”

Use helpful props: Depending on your child’s age, routine or reward charts or even simple pictures on a colourful piece of paper can help your child identify the steps in their routine and encourage them to start performing these independently.

Tailor your routine: As your children get older, your family routine might have to allow for chore time, homework time and activity time. Remember to also plan for one-on-one time if you have more than one child. Whatever your routine entails, make sure it suits the whole family and mom and dad can take turns to perform tasks when circumstances require it.

Rules are made to be broken – sometimes

It’s never too late to start or change your routine. Remember that a schedule should by no means be oppressive or stifle your child’s creativity. It should make all your lives easier and give your kids the security and self-confidence to structure their own lives. Of course there are times when routines should be flexible enough to accommodate spontaneity. Staying up past their normal bedtime to celebrate a special occasion or swopping the dinner table for a spontaneous picnic in the garden every now and then teaches your child to be flexible and deal with minor changes to their schedule. When your little one finds it difficult to do deal with interruptions to their routine, explain the reason for the break with their schedule and assure them that you will return to the way they are used to the next day (or as soon as possible).

What about baby?

Should infants be kept to a strict routine? Of course not! Babies tell us what they need, when they need it. We feed them when they are hungry, we change them when they’re wet and eventually (after what might feel like a very long time) they develop their first routine by sleeping at night and mostly being awake during the day. However, for the first few months of their lives, it might be best to find a way for the family to adjust their routine to fit around your baby’s natural eating and sleeping schedule. But take heart, this (somewhat exhausting time) is over in the blink of an eye.

MysmartkidThe content was compiled by Mysmartkid and shared with their permission. Mysmartkid has partnered with Old Mutual and if you sign up to their play-based educational subscription programme before 31 March 2016, you stand a chance to win a R50 000 kick start to your child’s education fund. As parents we always want the best start for our children and having an education fund with R50 000 is a wonderful opportunity to achieve that dream. Visit www.mysmartkid.com or www.myslimkind.com, or call 0861 555 224 for more information. All images are my own.

Make your own play and learn activity folder for the kids

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Make your own play and learn activity folder for the kids - The Mommy CityWe are home-schooling again since Paige’s playschool closed, and even though it’s very busy with a 3 and 1 year old, Ethan and I enjoy having her home again in the mornings. To ensure we all get along and have fun, I’ve put together a set routine just like any school would, with activity, snack and free play times. I have been meaning to put together an activity folder for a while, as I have been collecting learning materials, Mysmartkid resources and articles, and now have one file to store them in. To make the file I used a ring folder, coloured paper and one of my favourite pieces of Paige’s artwork for the cover, file dividers and plastic sleeves.

What’s in our folder?

  • When you sign up to the Mysmartkid subscription programme you receive a free gift of an Early Childhood Development handbook and parent guides in every Smartbox. Mysmartkid is an early childhood development programme based on expert advice to help kids reach milestones, and now I can keep all their guides and resources together for easy reference and later use.
  • Once I’ve finished reading a parenting magazine, I tear out the recipes for my recipes folder and also the games and activities, which I now keep in my activity folder. Some of the games are not yet age appropriate for my kids, but one day I’ll be glad I have them. Newspapers, cereal boxes and online resources like the Mysmartkid blog are also good places to find free activities to cut out or print for your folder. Get the family involved and ask grandparents, aunts and uncles to kindly keep any resources they find too. They could also help by collecting useful recycling items for art projects and games like laundry scoops, bubble wrap, scraps of coloured paper and plastic jars with lids.
  • My weekly planners setting out developmental areas and what activities and toys are required to help my kids’ reach their target milestones. If you are looking for quality educational toys and books, browse the Mysmartkid online store [insert link] and subscription members receive exclusive discounts on all products.
  • In the plastic sleeves I store activity and exercise books, coloured paper and extra items that I think will be useful. The idea for the folder is to store as much as I can in one place, to help make life easier and more organised.

To go with the folder, I bought artwork cases from my local Plic plastic shop to store all the kids’ creations. Paige is so proud of her artwork and loves to go through it before packing it away again for safe keeping. I won’t be able to keep it all forever and when the pile becomes too big, I want to make a photo book of all their artwork, keeping aside a few of my favourites. If you would like to find out more about the Mysmartkid programme available in both English and Afrikaans, please visit their website, call 0861 555 224 or email newapps@mysmartkid.com.Make your own play and learn activity folder for the kids - The Mommy City