Monday, February 25, 2008


Hi There,

This is the old home of PlanningQueen. Please come and see her at her new abode:

You can find all the previous posts in the Archives and can now subscribe to keep up to date with PlanningQueen's latest posts.
Thanks for dropping by and look forward to seeing you at PlanningWithKids.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Moving to

Thanks for visiting my blog! I have moved it across to my own domain and it can be found at:
You can click straight throught to Planning with Kids here. Once there you will find all my previous posts and some new ones.
You can also subscribe to my free newsletter, which will keep you updated with my latest posts.
Look forward to seeing you over there!
Cheers, PlanningQueen

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Planning the Term 1 Week

I have just started to put together a picture of what of the average Term 1 week is going to look like. I often spend time wondering about what is the right number of after school activities for the kids. Education Consultant Kathy Walker suggests one or two for children aged between 4 - 8 years.

This issue is not quite as simple as a number for one child, because the extra activities impact on all the other children in the family. We are a one car family and dad is usually not home in time to do the escorting to and from activities, so the younger children have to literally come along for the ride. This means in reality Babaganouski attends about 7 non school/preschool related activities. Two of these are specifically for him, as we attend a playgroup and Leaping Lizards session weekly.

When planning the week for the kids, I need to take this into account. Is there ways that I can share the drop off/pick up arrangements? Is this activity one where I can drop them safely and return later to pick them up? Can more that one of my children participate in the activity at the same time? All of these considerations help to juggle the scheduling and reduce the run around for the family as a whole.

Once the after school activites have been sscheduled, I then try to have an over arching approach as to how I plan the school hours for the non school children. I have found it incredibly valuable to have at least one day a week during these hours, which we have as a stay home quiet day. I find it valuable for a number of reasons:
  • The little ones can have a more restful day.
  • It gives me time to catch up on things around the house.
  • I can focus some time on what the children would like to do in an unstructured environnment.
  • The little ones can enjoy, not being put in and out of the car, and run to a freer time frame.

It looks like our stay home day will be Monday for Term 1. I will avoid in most instances from booking any appointments, play dates, shopping expeditions on this day. Knowing our home day is "Monday" in advance, helps me to prevent the overscheduling that can sometime arise when I accept invitations, plan activities etc, and then all of sudden realise that we have multiple weeks with no free days.

Do you plan a day at home?

Friday, February 1, 2008

When is a tantrum, not a tantrum?

I went back to a favourite parenting guide book this week Children are People too by Louise Porter. I wanted some reminders on how to deal with tantrums. My nearly two year old has been quite vocal lately in the tears and screaming department, and I wanted some age appropriate strategies to deal with this behaviour.

I looked up the relevant section and found the following:

"Having just described the protesting tantrum, it is worth emphasising that it is different from pre-verbal children's attempt to communicate that they are disappointed. That is not a tantrum: it is legitimate communication. A tantrum is where children who can usually say what they need, instead get so worked up that they cannot use words."
It is amazing that simply how we choose to view a problem can determine our success in managing it. I had been looking at Babaganouski's outbursts as tantrums, when as he only has a repotoire of about 10 words, the outbursts are his (very loud) way of communicating with me.

If I had thought about it more from this stance point at breakfast time this morning, I am sure his outburst would have been only short. Instead it continued on and off for about 15 minutes. During which time we tried to distract him, removed him from the situation and held him to try and calm him down.

It started when he sat himself on a different chair at the table. I moved him to his chair (it is covered with a towel to cope with mess). The squealing and crying began at this point, I automatically connected the two and assumed it was about the chair and held my ground on the issue. He had to sit in his own chair.

It was in fact nothing to do with the chair, and all to do with the type of bowl that was in front of the chair. He still has a small bowl, whilst the rest of the kids have a normal size bowl. After the aforementioned 15 minutes of pain for everyone, my eldest suggested that he wanted the white bowl. I tried this and Babaganouski gave me a very appreciative babble and set about choosing his cereal.

Through his only way of communicating he was trying to make his need known to me. Taking more consideration of this has already made some improvements in how I can successfully manage his behaviour. For example when it came to bed time and after I read Babaganouski his story, I went to sing his song and he started crying and wanting to hop down. I put him on the ground and asked him to show me what was the matter. He tottered off to his brothers room and came back with his favourite little car, placed it on his shelf and came back over to me. I finished the song and he went quietly into his cot and off to sleep.

Not all situations will be that easy to solve, because I am sure there will be a moment this week, when he will "tell" me that he wants to sit in the normal seat of the car and not his child safety seat and there can be no negotiation on that. By planning to go into these outbursts with a view that he is trying to tell me something, hopefully I can manage more of the negotiable outbursts with greater success. Then my head won't be pulsating quite so much, when he has the outburst about the non negotiatble car seat!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Children's Jobs and our Family Meetings

Last week I noted in the Letting children do it for themselves post, that I was going to work at banishing the "clean up fairy" in my house. I am pleased to say that I have made significant progress towards this goal.

At our Family Meeting (FM) last week, I raised the issue of children's jobs we allocated new tasks to all kids. We all had input on this issue and came up with a list of jobs for each child. They have been carrying out their new responsibilities ever since (albeit only a few days!). To give you a better idea of how we did this, I will give you some background on what our whole FM process is about.

  • To provide a communication strategy to deal with contentious issues.
  • To create a forum where all voices are equal.
  • A place to jointly plan activities and areas of home life.
  • To role mode and offer opportunities for the kids to practice decision making, negotiation and problem solving skills.
  • To create a sense of ownership of family decisions.

long tail keyword
Time: It has a regular time and day. We choose late Sunday afternoons, as this is a time when we are all most likely to be at home.

Place: For a while we used to have the meetings on the floor in the sitting room, however we have moved to having them at the dinner table. This location has worked much better as the children are sitting up straight and there are less distractions around them.

Attendees: All family members are expected to attend. If someone cannot come due to another activity, then the meeting can still go ahead and they can give their input prior to the meeting. There are times when a child may state that they do not want to come to the FM. I simply remind them that it is their decision as to whether they participate or not, but they will still have to abide by the outcomes of the FM. They usually change their mind then and decide to come.

Rotating Convenor: Everyone has the opportunity to convene the meeting as it is rotated amongst all family members. At this stage Babaganouski does not actively participate in the FM, so he does not have a go. Our 4 year old Possum has a turn and is assisted by mum or dad.

Minutes: Minutes are taken at each meeting and are always reviewed as first agenda item in FM. The minutes are very helpful if we have to clarify decisions and it also puts accountability back on mum and dad. If we agreed to certain things, then the children can hold us to account on it. For example when we decided on what we wanted to do over the school holidays (see Planned Holiday Activities for the Children), we reviewed those items a number of times to ensure that I had coordinated or organised the agreed upon events.

Time Frame: Due to the age of the children participating, we aim to have the meeting go for no more than 20 minutes. Their attention and enthusiasm wanes dramatically if we go past this point.

Raised Hand: Everyone must raise their hand and be acknowledged by the convenor before they can speak.

Consensus Decision Making: In brief this means that we must keep working on a resolution until we have one that all family members can agree to. This is critical to the success of our FM. No one should leave the FM feeling that they have not been listened to or their needs have not been taken into consideration. This does not mean kids get exactly what they want, it actually teaches them about compromise and that sometimes to get agreement they have to make some concessions. It also teaches them to work out what are the key points they must have and teaches them to use persuasive arguments.

Agenda Items: Although we use a formal structure for the FM, they are generally light hearted and fun. They are not allowed to degenerate to a complaining session. When raising an item, the family member is expected to state the problem (if there is one) and then put forward a solution proposal for discussion.
Quite often the meeting is just more of a sharing time, where kids or adults provide updates to the family on areas of their life or items of interest (eg Collingwood's great win on the weekend, dad will be in Sydney for two day next week etc.)However, when there are items that will require some negotiation and discussion, I will give the children advance notice that I will be bringing it up at the next FM.

The last point leads me back to moving to get rid of the "cleaning fairy" by allocating new jobs to the children. After writing the post on Friday, I informed all family members that I would be raising this issue at the upcoming FM. I suggested that they give some thought to the jobs that they are capable of doing and might like to do. I did this, because as I was going to be coming to the meeting with a defined proposal, they also needed time to mull over the idea.

The amazing thing was that at the FM, with the exception of one or two small things, the kids suggestions (we went through theirs first), matched up with my own! There was then some minor negotiation on a couple of jobs, but consensus was achieved quite quickly.

Below I have listed their existing jobs, along with their new ones which are in bold.

Thinker (aged 9)
Morning: Make bed, tidy bedroom, clear own breakfast dishes, stack every ones breakfast dishes into dishwasher, pack own school bag.
Afternoon: Lunchbox and notices out of bag, empty compost bucket (as required)
Dinner: Make drinks, clear own plate
After bath: dirty clothes in laundry basket, towel hung up in bathroom, share in the general tidy session before he can move to allocated TV/PC time.
Extra Weekend Job: Sort dirty washing and put on one load.

Little Rascal (aged 6)
Morning: Make bed, tidy bedroom, clear own breakfast dishes, return juice and milk to the fridge, pack own school bag.
Afternoon: Lunchbox and notices out of bag, empty kitchen bin and clean up dog poo (as required)
Dinner: Set place mats, clear own plate
After bath: dirty clothes in laundry basket, towel hung up in bathroom, share in the general tidy session before he can move to allocated TV/PC time.
Extra Weekend Job: Sort clean washing into piles (at least one load).
Possum (aged 4)
Morning: Make bed, tidy bedroom, clear own own breakfast dishes, return cereal boxes to the cupboard, pack own kinder bag
Afternoon: Lunchbox and drink bottle out of bag,
Dinner: Set cutlery, clear own plate
After bath: dirty clothes in laundry basket, towel back to bathroom, share in the general tidy session before she can move to allocated TV/PC time.
Extra Weekend Job: Assist mum with folding the washing (at least one load).

Babaganouski (21 months)
These tasks are directed and sometimes assisted, but he generally likes to help out like everyone else.
Dinner: put sauces and other condiments on the table (as required)
After bath: dirty washing in laundry basket, take towel back to the bathroom,

How have you gone? Made any changes to the way things are run in your house?

PS. Little Rascal actually volunteered for the job of picking up the dog poo!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

10 things to make Back to School mornings easier.

These are 10 things that I do that make my life easier in the morning when I want everyone organised. Doing these things helps at any time, but even more so when we are in "back to school" mode and adjusting to new routines.

(1). Set bedtime.
Having an age appropriate bed time for the kids, means they get the sleep they need to actually wake up of their on accord and are refreshed for school. They wake up happier and are easier to manage.

(2). Table set for breakfast.
We have the table set for breakfast, including the cereal boxes on the table before we go to bed at night. Dad is usually the first to have breakfast and will put the juice and milk on the table. As the children wake at different times, this enables them to easily serve themselves.

(3). Lunch box preparation.
I have the lunch boxes set out on the bench and will put in any items that are non perishable in the night before. For example, I will put crackers in resealable plastic bags in to the boxes, but fruit like watermelon that I cut up and salad sandwiches I will do in the morning.

(4). Clothes preparation.
I don't lay the clothes out for the children, but do ensure that they are in the right spots for the children to access them themselves.

(5). Key time markers.
We have key times across the morning at which certain activities need to occur. At (or before) 7.30am children need to brush their teeth, put on sunscreen and then get themselves dressed. We leave the house at 8.05am, so everyone has to be completely ready by then.
As only the eldest two can read the time, I will let the preschooler know what the time is and she can work out what she needs to do. I find that this prevents me from having to nag. They are all aware of what is required for us to leave the house on time, and the responsibility also sits with them to ensure we achieve this.

(6). Children take away their breakfast dishes from table.
Each child is responsible (except for the toddler just yet) for taking their dishes from the table tot he kitchen bench. The remaining items are then cleared dishwasher stacked by the older two children.
This is then one less thing that I have to do and therefore I am not as rushed. It also helps them understand that we all have to work together to keep the house tidy. This task and the next two require the children doing things for themselves. I find it is much easier for them to concentrate on these, if their are no distractions like TV or computer to deal with.

(7). Children make beds and tidy their room.
As per above. Also since we have been doing this, I have found that the room stays tidier in the first place, as they don't enjoy spending large amounts of time doing this task.

(8). Children pack their bags.
This goes for the oldest three. It is their responsibility to ensure they have their lunchbox, hat etc, all the things that they need for their day at school. I find this helpful in training them to keep their possessions organised. If they have left their hat at home because they left it in the bedroom, instead of putting it back in their bag, they will have to accept the consequences of this. (At our school, no hat means that they cannot play out in the sun during terms 1 and 4.)

(9). Walk to school.
This is not possible for everyone, but I find that this is less stressful than packing all the children in the car, finding a park, getting them out etc. It also provides a lovely opportunity to chat and play games as we walk along.

(10). Keep Calm.
This is probably the hardest one of these to do sometimes, but even when they are infuriating me, I find if I try to calmly deal with the situation, (as opposed to ranting and raving at them!) that it has much less chance of escalating or snowballing into more issues.

Any tips on what you do to make school mornings pleasant and a great start to your day?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - Inspiration from other Menu Planners

This week I am trying a couple of new recipes that I found from checking out other folk's meal plans at I'm an Organizing Junkie. Each week Laura hosts Menu Plan Monday and people put a link to their meal plan on her website.

Last week 242 people shared their meal plans. Lots of the contributors are mums, so the recipes are very family friendly and looking at what others are cooking up provides great inspiration for what I might like to cook.

I have included a recipe of my own below, that I actually made last week - Mexibake. I had a number of people asked about this one.

Monday: Spinach and Pumpkin Dahl served with rice and poppadoms.
This is from Bonnie who is another Aussie menu planner.

Tuesday: Spaghetti Bolognaise
Easy Banana Cake (Recipe at the end)

Wednesday: Beef Stir Fry with Singapore Noodles

Thursday: Fried Rice (requested as always by Little Rascal)

Friday: Healthy Macaroni Cheese
This is from another queen - Organising Queen in South Africa.

Saturday: It is our 11th wedding anniversary, so the adults of the house will be going out for dinner and the children will have what ever their beautiful aunt cooks for them.

Sunday: Sausage sand Steamed Vegetables


500 grams beef mince (ground beef)
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 red capsicum, finely chopped
1 green capsicum, finely chopped
2 carrots grated
olive oil
410 grams tinned tomatoes - chopped thoroughly
1 packet Taco Seasoning Mix
500 mls pasta sauce
600 mls sour cream
2 cups grated cheese
Approx 1.5 cups rice
1 -2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

(1). Preheat oven to a moderate heat (approx 180)
(2). I say approx 1.5 cups of rice, because I use a rice cooker, of which i use 4 of their measuring cups of rice for this recipe. Once I have added the water to the rice, I add the cayenne pepper and mix gently, so the rice is slightly spiced.
(3). Heat oil in large frying pan. Once at a medium heat fry onion for a few minutes until soft.
(4). Add meat to the pan and brown meat, ensuring that it is completely broken up.
(5). Once meat is cooked, stir in capsicums and carrot. Cook for few minutes until temperature has reached medium again.
(6). Add tomatoes and stir well.
(7). Add pasta sauce and stir well.
(8). Add taco seasoning and mix well.
(9). Let simmer for about 15 minutes.
(10). In a lasagna dish, spread rice on the bottom of the dish, until is a just under halfway. Don't press the rice firmly in, as it will then stick to the bottom.
(11). Spread the meat mixture on top of the rice.
(12). Spread sour cream on top of meat mixture. I have found it easier to spread the sour cream, if I place it in a bowl and stir it up with a fork.
(13). Sprinkle cheese over sour cream.
(14). Cover with aluminium foil and bake int he oven for 45 minutes.
(15). About 5- 10 minutes before cooking time ends, take foil off and allow the cheese to go golden on top.

Easy Banana Cake
I love this recipe because it is one of those that you just throw all the ingredients into a bowl and mix. It also makes a very large cake, which still stays moist a number of days after its cooked.

250ml vegetable oil
1.5 cups caster sugar
4 eggs
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons self raising flour, sifted with 1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda (baking powder)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
5 medium bananas peeled and mashed

(1). Preheat oven to a moderate temp. (about 170 or so)
(2). throw all the ingredients into a bowl and mix with electric beater for 4- 5 minutes. Ensure the mixture is well combined.
(3). Bake it the oven for 1 - 1.25 hours or until a skewer comes out clean.
(4) Let the cake sit in the tin for 5- 10 minutes before cooling on a rack.

Have a great week and for those of you with children heading back to school, I hope you have a smooth transition into the school year.