Friday, June 7, 2013

Another Easy Slow Cooker Soup

Another quick and easy soup in the slow cooker - with hardly any chopping!

Corn and Leek Soup

Add to slow cooker;

  • 2 leeks chopped very fine (pale part only)
  • 1 can of corn kernels (or two corn on the cob's worth of corn kernels)
  • Chicken stock (3 cups+)
Cover and cook for 6-8 hours on LOW or 3+ hours on HIGH. 

In the last hour, add 1-2 cans of creamed corn (depending on how thick you like your soup). 
When cooked through, blitz with a stick blender or put batches through a food processor for a smooth finish. This stores well in the freezer - simply heat up in microwave or stove top. 

GF with GF stock and vegetarian/vegan with vegetable stock. 

Nom.nom.nom. Have I mentioned I love my Slow Cooker?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

How I Made 3 litres of Winter Soup for under $5

My Mini Kitchen Garden
Colds. They are annoying.

Home sick today and thought I had better get some cooking done to get ahead in case its one of 'those' winters. I thought I would get my appliances working for me and make some soups for the freezer.

I think this one is my favourite - it was super cheap!

While shopping at Aldi last night I noticed Soup Packs of veggies for just $1.99. The pack contained two carrots, one swede, one parsnip, one potato, and two sticks of celery. bargain.

I chopped all this up and added;
- 1/2 cup of red lentils
- 3 teaspoons of crushed garlic
- A sprinkle of sea salt
- 1.5L of chicken stock (you might need more to cover the veggies)
- Some leftover BBQ chicken I had in the fridge
- A handful of chopped basil and oregano from my mini kitchen garden.

5-6 hours on LOW or 2-3 on HIGH in the slow cooker. Way. too. easy.

Use GF stock and its a GF soup. Vege stock and minus the chicken and you have a vegetarian/vegan option. Everyone wins! The principle for the slow cooker is the same. If you have one and are scared to use it, give this a go. You will not regret it.

Someone who is much much better at cooking than I am, and whose recipes are somewhat more accurate, check out my beautiful friend Jessica's blog home.

Friday, May 3, 2013

My Other Favourite Preschooler Apps List

iPhone Screenshot 4
Where's My Water?
So at the end of the week, I wanted to give you a list of all the great, fun apps that are out there that I just couldn't put down. Some are paid, some are free. I've listed and linked where appropriate.

Disney’s Where’s My Water? by Disney (Free for lite version. Full version 99c) Problem solving involving moving objects out of the way to connect water to Swampy’s bath tub. Great for children to start problem solving techniques on their own. A nice throw back to the Lemmings concept (for those old enough to remember it!).

Puzzle Farm;by Eggroll Games (Lite Version free, Full version $1.99) Farm themed puzzles which change as you complete them. Somewhat confusing but children would quickly get the hang of them. Unlock the extra levels from the main menu when you start as there doesn't seem to be a way to get back to the main menu once you have started the
puzzles. There might be, but I missed it.

Puzzles N’ Coloring Sea Adventures; by Better World (Lite Version Free, Full Version $1.99) Sea-themed drag and drop puzzles and touch-to-colour pictures.
The full version unlocks more of the same. Helpful music kill button..! Good for car trips.

Play School Art Maker by ABC Corporation (Free); Gorgeous app with fantastic content. Make art works that turn into movies. Record your own sound effects (watch out for this as you are likely to record yourself saying "How does this work?" etc the first time you use it). Save creations for later. Suitable for younger children and Play School loving adults. 
iPad Screenshot 1
Play School Art Maker
The Wiggles Big Aussie Road Adventure Presented by Volkswagen by The Wiggles (Free) When you think of the wiggles, you naturally think of Volkswagen. Travel around a map of Australia
solving drag and drop puzzles of the wiggles in various Australian landmarks and watch some wiggles videos on the way. Road safety messages are included in each puzzle and the volkswagens in each cartoon puzzle completely make sense when you remember the app was sponsored. Das Auto!

Awesome Eats; by Whole Kids Foundation (Free) Save carrots, lettuce and eggplants from their fate of ending up in the wrong box. This game gets very fast very quickly and will be frustrating to younger children but older, more experienced children (and adults) will find it challenging and entertaining. I liked the healthy eating message and graphics.

LEGO4+; by the LEGO Group (Free) Build your LEGO transport and move through Mario-style levels collecting LEGO pieces. A great app which is ridiculously popular with children who are into LEGO!

So there you have the results of my 7 hours of painstaking research! I would love to hear of your favourite apps in the comments or any successes and failures you have had with these ones.  Share the love!

* This is not a paid review. I have not received any compensation from the makers of ipad or the apps listed. All graphics are sourced from itunes. All opinions are entirely my own. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Tips for Using Ipads With Preschoolers

Using apps with Preschoolers can be tricky. Here are my (tried and tested) tips for making it easier.

iPhone Screenshot 1
Sandtimer App
Use a Timer
Nothing worse than a tantrum when the ipad has to go away or it is time for another child has a turn. I downloaded the Sandtimer app which you can set for different lengths of time to alert children when their time is up. Our kids simply hand the ipad over when the time is up and reset the timer themselves. Magic!

Make a List
In the classroom setting, an educator will help the children to write a list of the names of children who would like a turn. We usually put a child in charge of the list, explaining to them who is coming next and they can hold the list while people take turns on the ipad. This has to be monitored of course, but we found that a massive queue of children around the ipad for an hour was really eating into their play time. Now they know they will definitely get a turn at some point, they are happy to go and play elsewhere while they are waiting. 

Limit Screen Time
Current Australian Regulations recommend no screen time of any kind for children under 2 years. This is difficult and I know in home settings this is not always the case. Some great ideas for limiting screen time can be found here. For your interest, our centre has a TV that gets used between 5-10 times a year and only for 20 minutes at a time. The ipads are only available in the morning play session and children have 5-10 minute turns depending on the apps they are using. 

Pay for Quality Apps - and Check the Content!
If you are going to use an ipad for your child or in the classroom, make it worthwhile and only download quality apps that are actually going to benefit your child. I deleted some apps that looked cute but were useless once opened.

Turn Off the Wifi
Most free apps are lite versions of a game, meaning that you have to pay for the full version. If your itunes accesses your credit card, this can be a costly exercise as children will click on ads indiscriminately and charge your card ofr full versions and other apps. Turn off the wifi connection in your device's menu before you give it to your child. Most games do not need a connection to provide content, and those that do probably want your money anyway!

Don't Be Pressured
If you don't have a tablet device or smart phone that your child can use, don't fall into the trap that your child is somehow missing out on the techonology that they will grow up with. Most of us grew up without computers in our home as young children and coped just fine when they were introduced later in our lives in educational settings. Your kids will pick up the technology they need along the way without needing hours of screen time. Instead, teach yourself to feel smug that your kids are probably healthier than the 'ipad kids' anyway!

Just Say No
The devices in your life (and your children) shouldn't rule you. Set limits and stick to them. Take the device away and ignore the tantrum that follows. If it happens every time, then put the device away for a while until your child is older and more emotionally ready to handle the boundaries around it. Give your child time to run around after playing and burn off some of that pent up energy from the time spent in concentration.

The technology in our lives is there to help us, not to rule over us. If you feel enslaved by the devices - let the batteries run flat and "loose" the charger for a while. Take a walk together, have a picnic, read an actual book (don't have any? Visit the library together - they still exist, amazingly enough!). Enjoy life for what it is, and never think that an app - no matter how good it is - is a quality substitute for learning new concepts together. At best, it is a helpful addition. Your kids need time with  you too! 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Free Apps for Literacy and Numeracy that are Worth Your Time

Time to get to the free stuff!

These apps were listed free at the time of publishing. Each app focuses on literacy or numeracy concepts and met the criteria I set for myself. If you have other great apps in your collection, why not share them in the comments?

There are lots of these apps, so I did not do an indepth review of each, instead I have given you an overall idea and a link to check out the features of each app on itunes. Where apps require payment for more options I have said so.

Literacy Apps

ABC Alphabet Play by Grasshopper Apps (Free) – can set for phonics lower case. Choose the correct letter from four random options. US vocals and phonics.

Crabby Writer Phonics Read and Write by Mrs. Judd's Games (Free) – seaside themed letter tracing app. Choose 3 or 4 letter words, tracing based on phonetic sounds. US vocals and phonics

Ice Land! ABC Ilearnwithboing; By Tribal Nova (Free). 'Words' is free in light version, you have to buy phonics and letters levels. US vocals and phonics, lower and upper case. Parent tracking option available for tracking children's progress. Part of a series that includes apps for numeracy, shapes, colours, etc. The graphics are a little over-stimulating but children seem to love them.

iPhone Screenshot 1
Sound Touch
Sound touch by Sound Touch (Free). A great app for children learning vocabulary or 2-3 year olds. Click the cartoon animal and
see a photo of a real animal whilst hearing the sound that animal makes. Great for independent play or part of a group time. Categories include domestic and wild animals, birds, musical instruments, household items and transport. A great and easy app for bubs.

Giraffe’s Matching Deluxe by Tomato Interactive (Free). Standard memory match game with varying levels of challenge. Straight
forward and easy to pick up.

Photo touch Farm Animals; by Grasshopper Apps (Free) A basic photo match game. Easy to use and suitable for toddlers through to early preschool.

Also check out; I Like Books - 37 photo books in one. Great for early literacy. This is a paid app but one I thought worthwhile given the amount of content you get and quality of the photos. Mostly US terminology. 

What Does Not Belong by Brain Go LLC (Lite version Free): Pick from 5 photos the item that does not belong in the category and throw it in the trash bin. Some are a little hard to figure out! Lite version is free - if your children like it, you can fork out the $1.99 for the full version.

Numeracy Apps
iPad Screenshot 1
Springbird Maths
Monkey Preschool Lunchbox by THUP Games. (Lite Version Free. Full version 99c). One of a series, this cute and easy app reinforces colour, shape and object identification and has varying levels for children to progress through. Also check out the rest of the range. Worth the upgrade to full version. Some US terminology.

Springbird Maths Becomes very hard very quickly for preschoolers but would be great for those who are already familiar with math concepts and can identify numbers on their own. More suited to early primary. Pay for more levels and packs to unlock further gameplay.

Kids Patterns  by Laura Bangerter. Sequencing and number recognition suitable for 5-6 year olds who can identify numbers on their own. This is a paid app but there is also a lite version available to trial.

Feel Clock by Codsworks (Free): Great for teaching the time in a group setting. Would also be suitable for home use but it is not a game as such, rather a tool for teaching the time. I love that it teaches analouge primarily.

Tangrams; There are 100's of tangram apps for children and adults on the net. Unfortunately they are all call "tangrams" so I naturally can't find the link to the one I tested. But I've linked to a better one at the end of the paragraph anyway. Basic tangrams game. Way too many written instructions for pre-schoolers but click them through to the puzzle page and they will take off. One puzzle on the lite version. Unlock the full version at cost for 110 puzzles. Alternatively spend 99c and get this app instead for a higher quality graphic.

My Top Pick for Free Apps for Numeracy
Play Lab Series. By CJ Educations (Free) Play Lab and Play Lab 1 2 3 are awesome free apps that are fantastic for younger children from as early as 2 years (should you choose to use an ipad for children this young, be sure to limit screen time).

iPad Screenshot 2
Play Lab 
* This is not a paid review. I have not received any compensation from the makers of ipad or the apps listed. All graphics are sourced from itunes. All opinions are entirely my own.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Four Paid Preschool Apps You Cannot Miss

When you purchase an ipad, be prepared to spend a little to get the best content out there for your kids. If you stick to the free stuff, you can certainly find some great apps, but in some cases, the more you pay, the more you get. Here are my picks for paid apps you can't do without.
iPhone Screenshot 1
Bugs and Buttons by Little Bit Studio LLC. (Normally $5.99 - currently on sale for 99c!!) This app is a must have. Beautiful graphics, lovely music that you could actually stand to listen to, and great games for kids to play with no instruction from adults. In fact, they will have to explain it to you. The bugs theme of course makes it something that would especially appeal to young children, but its an addictively good app that I kept coming back to when my head was about to explode from over doing the QCat matching....
iPhone Screenshot 1
Little Bit Studio also produces similar apps called Bugs and Bubbles and Bugs and Numbers which are both very worthwhile. If you pay for anything, these are the ones to pay for. The 99c deal will not last long so get in quick.

iPhone Screenshot 1Also by the makers of Bugs and Buttons is the Dial Safe Pro app. This is a great app for teaching children how to call emergency services. I particularly like that you can customise for the Australian 'Triple Zero' as well as other versions. My only concern is that you would need to teach the children to use the actual phone setting in the emergency situation, not just the app! This is currently being offered for free.

iPhone Screenshot 1Green Eggs and Ham full version by Oceanhouse media ($4.49).  The classic Dr. Seuss read along. You can't go past this one! Yes, you could probably buy the actual book for less than the app, but the read along features are great and this app will help to build on basic sight words using a text many children are familiar with. Great for educators who have lost their voice for the day by 10am... Similar apps of other Dr. Seuss stories are also available.

iPhone Screenshot 1Little Writer Pro by Innovative Mobile Apps ($1.99) This should really get a mention in the literacy and numeracy post, but it is the best letter tracing app I have come across. It is fully customisable with lower and upper case letters as well as numbers and the option to add photos. Australian children are taught reading through phonics, so the phonic sounds were helpful, although the US vocals can lead to accent copying! With support from parents and educators, this is a great app to back up the phonics children are learning in real-life contexts.

There are my top picks for paid apps. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but they each meet my criteria and are worth the money and time spent.

 *This is not a paid review. I have not received any compensation from the makers of ipad or the apps listed. All graphics are sourced from itunes. All opinions are entirely my own.