Five Activity Ideas for School Hols

October 9, 2017

Depending where you sit on the age and with/ without kids scale, school holidays will mean different things to you.

If you’re driving in Auckland as a commuter to work you’ll probably LOVE them, because there’s less cars on the road. If you’re a parent trying to juggle paid work with childcare, then that’s an exercise in trying to sort school holiday programs, grandparents filling gaps, play dates with mates and maybe the odd bit of leave. If you’re an at home parent, you’ll have company. And as I recall if you’ve got babies or preschoolers in the house, there goes any routine of sleeping with big kids roaring around the place and/or getting picked up or dropped off. Mind you I do remember crawling small people being very excited about forts made in the living room out of sheets and chairs (often set up for a few days), complete with ‘rooms’ to read a book in, and others to ‘sleep’ in (yeah right) –  which was altogether far more exciting than when the big kids were at school all day.

If your kids are late secondary school age these school holis area the calm before the storm with external exams breathing down their necks. They are in fact ‘study’ time not holiday time, as the sharp end of education comes into focus.

If they’re at Uni, it just means you might have a kid sister or brother round the house to torment you as you get to grips with the semester two assignments that are all piling up and the exam prep that is omnipresent. Ah, yes that sounds like our household currently.

Whatever it means for you if you’re the parent in a school holidays household, I reckon having some sort of structure is useful, particularly when you have young children. When my kids were little we drew up a planner to sort the time available into a mix of days at home, days going out, days with mates over, days visiting others, etc. Now you can download one, so that’s even easier. It was flexible of course, but that way the nagging to do this or that dissipated as together we could figure out what we wanted to do and it became a collective thing we agreed to/ could amend, etc. It also motivated me to liaise with other parents if there were things on to get booked in so one party didn’t miss out on something when their mates were going. It was also a good way to see the mix of paid and free activities… and stay sane!

Speaking free/ not much money – here’s some suggestions I reckon have done the test of time and are worth a crack.

  • Museums and art galleries often have a school holiday focus, and are great places to explore. You don’t have to feel guilty about not seeing it all – make it fun, not a lecture, and just go with the bits they’re interested in.


  • Baking sorts morning tea, promotes maths with all the measuring needed, makes a child feel they’ve accomplished something concrete and provides some fun with icing/ decoration.


  • Get crafty on it. Find one of those books you can make things from – be it little dresses, paper planes or whatever and make it your mission to do the projects with them (often they are aimed at kids but impossible without adult help).


  • Party in the park. Take a picnic (weather permitting!) and sit for a while at the park till the kids have had their fill. Swings, flying foxes, slides, are seesaws are good with a mate or three – and that way the adults might have some companionship too over a decent coffee.


  • Movie night at home. In a world where you can see anything, anytime on any screen, it’s perhaps the collective experience that makes the difference. Get the seating sorted, close the curtains, pop the popcorn, make the hot choccies. Have the kids provide some preshow entertainment- charades, a song, whatever. We had a preschooler spend ages one holiday making tickets for the intended audience and showing them to their seats. In fact, I’ve just found a cool wee idea to make your phone into a projector which could take up a day and an evening and impress your guests – go have a look here:


Whatever the time away from formal education brings to your household, if nothing else, enjoy the change in routine perhaps before term 4 kicks in, and the end of year countdown begins

Toni on keeping it simple

September 28, 2017

When I first caught up with Toni, she was coping with a two year old and pregnant with number two. We had a great chat about her expectations for parenting a newborn with the wisdom on board of already having been there, done that.

I remember being in a similar position when I was hosting daily show 5.30 with Jude with a preschooler and pregnant with my son, wondering how I would manage to keep all the balls in the air with home life and work, but being determined to just let it all wash over me and go with the flow. The little people were the priority and everything else would just sort itself out…and sleep, well that was for another year!

Life has moved on and Toni is a veteran of the preschool years, and has some sage answers to my questions as she looks back, and looks forward…


Looking back, how did the advice you gave to yourself pan out about a second newborn? Is there anything extra on reflection that got you through that you think parents really should know about this stage?

I cannot stress enough the importance of showering your child with love, whether it’s reading them a book, talking to them or just holding them for a long cuddle. The Wright Family Foundation has just launched an initiative called “Love Grows Brains” and it’s so true. I think sometimes as parents we can get caught up in all the advice out there, but the simple truth is the absolute number one best thing you can give your child is love above everything else. Some days you feel like you haven’t achieved anything, you might have a pile of washing, dinner hasn’t been cooked ahead of time, but if you’ve snuggled and talked adoringly to your baby, that is enough.

Now you’re through that stage, what do you miss about it, and (go on, be honest) NOT miss about it?

I miss the feeling of my baby being totally dependent on me, now Juliette and Mackenzie are a bit bigger they can happily go to Kindy and Crèche and wave me goodbye at the gate! I miss the sweet smell of a newborn. I definitely don’t miss the constant changing of nappies (Mackenzie has recently stopped), or the waking up in the night!

What’s family life like these days? What parenting stage are you at now? Got any tips for that stage, for parents keen to look ahead?

I’m finding the 4 going on 5 stage with Juliette really enjoyable, she’s really inquisitive and I can understand her and have really cute discussions. I love helping her learn about the world.

Mackenzie is two and a half and is really starting to let her views be heard, she’s quite stubborn. My philosophy is not to give in when they push the boundaries the first couple of times otherwise you’re making a rod for your own back… be strong when they are demanding that extra lolly, or when they don’t get their own way, it will make life far easier in the long run if you’re firm upfront!

With some more parenting track miles under your belt all round, do you think you’ve developed any particular parenting ethos, philosophy, or default setting for situations perhaps that might describe you?

I think I’m a far more relaxed parent now that I’m nearly five years down the track. I started out quite particular, wanting everything to be perfect, and would really wind myself up when it wasn’t. Children are unpredictable and I’ve learned the best approach for me is to roll with the punches and to not sweat the small stuff.

Jonno Roberts on communication with his children

September 11, 2017

When I first met US based acting couple Jonno Roberts and Georgia Hatzis they’d recently arrived after a long flight from LA, with their toddler twins to visit family back in NZ.  Amazingly they looked relaxed and sane after such a long flight! Mind you, the glorious Kiwi beach was looking its best on an Auckland summer’s day which makes everyone feel good the moment you set foot on it, and their little people were super keen to examine this exciting new environment.

However, beach mindset aside, they seemed a chilled, insightful pair on the parenting front having survived a truly busy first 18 months of parenthood, with some ups and downs in there. They also had a great sense of humour in tow – something I personally think is useful to have on board in life. I caught up with them to shoot them my ‘how’s life for you now’ questions. Jonno penned the note back, as Georgia had her hands full and was exhausted at the time (hey, that’s twins for you!) and you’ll see that insightful thinking with a touch of candid humour still exists.

Jonno, Georgia… those twins are going to learn a lot about navigating life and communicating well from you two. Lucky them!



Looking back, how did the ‘toddler’ stage pan out?

The Communication thing has been absolutely vital. We have made every effort never to lie to the kids, but instead to be truthful and reflective and respectful as they grow up.

I had a great dad-skills moment once in a playground, when Lenny and another kid ran face-first into each other. As I picked a bawling Lenny up, I simply reflected what I saw: “You ran into that kid really hard! You hit your face – I saw it. It looks like it really hurt. Was it more painful, or scarier because it was a surprise?” He sobbed out an “It was scary” and needed a big cuddle for about 15 seconds, then suddenly went “I’m okay!”, jumped up, and ran off.

Several minutes later, the mother of the other kid was still telling her crying child “You’re okay! Stop crying! You’re okay! It wasn’t that bad!”. In effect, what she was doing was telling the kid was that she wasn’t listening to him, that his emotions were inconvenient, that he was wrong about his experience. Of COURSE he was still screaming to be heard!

That kind of reflection and communication has been amazing for us, and our kids now do the same thing for us, and each other. If I am about to blow my top at one of them, the other will run in and tell me “Take a deep breath, Dad!”. Oh – it pisses me off in the moment, but after I take that deep breath (or 3), everything is much better. I’m normally laughing again, halfway through breath 2. And if we can build this emotional communication habit NOW… jeez I hope it helps us deal with the teen years, which are not too far away, it seems!


What do you miss about toddler hood, and NOT miss?

Twins. Double the nappies, double the poo. SO glad we’re over with that nastiness. As for missing it – I hardly remember it! I look back at videos and photos and they’re so bloody cute it kills me… I miss that. But they’re still cute. And they talk in full sentences, and we can actually have discussions. I like that a lot.


Where are you at now? Got some strategies that are working for you?

They’re 4 and a half now. Starting their last year of playschool. Things are getting smoother in places, rougher in others, as their personalities grow and they start asserting themselves more. As for tips… respect and communication is vital. If you can talk honestly to your kids, and they get used to it, and expect it, things are so much easier. Not easy – it’s never easy – but easier.

If I need something from them, I can usually tell them why, and they listen and respect that. Consistency is key. We try to be super consistent on bed times, on rising times, on rules, on expectations. Hold the line firm on little things (i.e. – when they finish eating, they clear the table) and you’ll be able to hold the line on bigger things. And try to get all the parents, caregivers, etc., on the same page. Consistency!


What’s your parenting ethos?

Listen, be curious, and be respectful. It’s kinda the Golden Rule – do unto others, etc.

I don’t like being lied to, or talked down to, or bullied, or manipulated. Why would I do it to my kids? That’s a big one.

Talking about the nature of Love has been huge for us. It gives us a basis for showing affection, for expressing values, for discussing big things like religion and death. It keeps language in check (insults like ‘you’re stupid’ that they hear at playschool are never repeated, because they diminish the Love in the house. The kids don’t ever use them – I overhear them screaming “I don’t like you right now!” instead, and I think that’s way preferable.) It gives a base understanding of what is important to our family and what we want to build in the world.

Storytelling is big, as well. Family stories, of bravery, of grit, of resilience, of love – these give the kids a sense of identity, values, and belonging to something bigger than themselves. And larger cultural stories: Georgia is Greek, so there’s lots to call on there. And I have told the kids stories of Maui, and Kate Sheppard, and Ritchie McCaw to keep them connected to New Zealand even as they grow up in Los Angeles. And we make these as personal as possible… “No, your Dad isn’t Ritchie McCaw, but that’s the kind of person that comes from New Zealand, and YOU’RE from New Zealand, so…”



Henry: father of two

August 30, 2017


When I first caught up with Henry and Amy, they were new parents to Harper who was five months old and cute as a button. They struck me as a lovely, easy going pair so plainly dedicated to making a good job of it, and I thought what a lucky wee fella he was to have such cool parents!

Well, Harper now has another young man in the family, so the Fa’afili household has two young pre-schoolers running around the house. I caught up with Henry to ask him how things were going these days, and the great writer he is, he’s penned such a great reflection on life as it was, as it is now, and some sage musings on the parenting journey.

If you’re a parent of a crawler or a pre-schooler – I’m sure you’ll identify with Henry’s thoughts here. Thanks Henry!

Jude Dobson

Raising Children producer


PS Henry – print it off and pop it in the bottom drawer for your boys to read one day to see how life used to be.



Looking back, how did the ‘infant’ advice you gave to yourself pan out? Is there anything extra on reflection that got you through, that you think parents really should know about this stage?

We actually laughed when we read my comment about the car, as we have been pulling that one out again recently, with Harper transitioning to not needing a nap-and it still works with him! It’s a bit harder to implement with another little boy in the mix now – his little brother Beau, but some afternoons he needs that sleep and we need to not have to deal with a cranky overtired 3-year-old, that may fall asleep at dinner! So, in the car he goes and it works amazingly-so yes some of the strategies have stayed with us.

Probably the most important thing we have learnt, and you may have been told it already from others is how hard things will pass, at the time whatever your baby is doing that is driving you crazy (wake ups, not napping long enough etc) is so bad and hard you wonder if they will ever get over it. Then suddenly they do. It’s passed and you are like thank god!

But usually then you enter to the next phase and there may be something else that comes up, haha but again that will pass too. It’s about getting through it as stress free as possible for both you as parents and for your baby. Sleep deprivation is hard there’s no doubt about it. I also think that setting a routine works well, even a rough one and you may need to play around with it to get it right for your child, they are all different so you shouldn’t stress if your baby doesn’t do what the book says or your friend’s baby does.


Now you’re through that stage, what do you miss about it, and (go on, be honest) NOT miss about it?

Physically I miss the cute baby chubbiness, blowing raspberries on his chubby little thighs while he cracked up in fits of giggles, there is nothing sweeter than your babies giggle, even now it’s my favourite sound hearing my boys crack up.

I miss watching him do things for the first time and his excitement and wonder at it all, watching him discover new things was really cool. He was definitely easier to please back then as well and no tantrums! An old cardboard carton could provide lots of entertainment.

I don’t miss the fact that you never seemed to have any downtime at that stage (unless they are asleep). They never sit still for long and their concentration span is quite short, so they are always on the go, crawling round grabbing whatever they can reach. They can actually work up some serious speed with that crawling so you have to always be right over them. I’m also glad we are through the teething! Do NOT miss that at all!


What’s family life like these days? What parenting stage are you at now? Got any tips for that stage, for parents keen to look ahead?

Family life these days…. Like I said above we now have two little boys, Beau is 22 months and Harper who is now 3. Being a relatively small age gap (17 months) has meant we’ve been quite busy since Beau’s arrival, but actually things are just starting to get a bit easier in the last few months as Beau is growing up a bit more.

My partner Amy feels like she’s just getting her breath back and is enjoying finding a bit of time to do things for herself like getting to the gym etc. We support each other in that way, as we both think it’s really important that both parents get time to do things for themselves. Sometimes even a small break can rejuvenate you and it makes you a better parent for it. It’s quite different when you have two instead of just one, you have to be a lot more organised and also more flexible too.

I would say we weren’t as strict with Beau’s routine as we were with Harper at the infant stage but we did still set a routine for Beau, we just learnt to be more adaptable with it to suit Harper as well. There was a stage there where we actually wondered if they were in cahoots with their wakeups, as whenever one slept in unusually late the other would randomly wake really early, every single time! Unbelievable. That passed though thankfully as it does.

However, like I mentioned earlier the next thing comes along, so for the past 5 months we’ve been swaying between needing a nap (but then not getting tired until 9/9:30 pm depending on wake up) and not needing a nap (no way could we get him to sleep in his room!) I would say this has been the most difficult of all the transitions for us with Harper. We may be finally getting through it as he is now able to last the day a bit better and doing a few days without a nap, so we seem to be getting there.

I think something you hear throughout early parenting is to make sure you are consistent, this is definitely something we try to do at this stage and it has helped establish rules, because as you know toddlers can be quite challenging (to put it mildly!) while they start to assert their independence.  Again, though just like in the earlier stages you may need to adjust your priorities to keep it as stress free as possible.  For example, some days you may have to leave the house looking like it’s been burgled in order to get somewhere on time, this is especially true on a day when Amy is organising the boys herself, just getting them sorted and in the car on a day-care day is challenging.

All children are different and learn things differently and at different rates, so make sure you support your child but don’t pressure them or compare them to others.  They will learn, but they may learn some things slower than others and some things quicker than others, it’s fine.

We have so much fun with our two boys, sometimes I think of what we’ll do when they are a bit older like going for bike rides all together and things, but I also want to make the most of this toddler time as everyone is so right- time flies, we can’t believe it’s been three years already.


With some more parenting track miles under your belt all round, do you think you’ve developed any particular parenting ethos, philosophy, or default setting for situations perhaps that might describe you?

The lessons our boys have taught both myself and Amy have been invaluable, so many new skills come with becoming parents. My life focus is still the same as I mentioned in my first interview, to make sure Harper has a happy and fulfilled life- just with one extra boy Beau added on. Sacrifices we make for these two don’t feel too bad when you get back all those laughs, cuddles and smiles. I wonder if I’ll be saying that in the teenage years haha.

All children are different and as they develop their unique personalities I think you need to make sure you cater to those differences. Children definitely need and like boundaries, but sometimes a child may not be being naughty just because they want to be ‘naughty,’ but instead the root cause can come from being uneasy or fearful of a certain situation. Once you can get to this root cause of the problem, you can then work better to erase the behaviour by addressing the real cause.  This is one thing I have learnt as we’ve gone along, approaching discipline this way when it’s needed (obviously you need to assess whether it is one of these situations or whether in fact they are just being naughty which can happen too) seems to be getting great results from our boys.

I also think it’s really important to celebrate your child’s strengths and help them to overcome their weaknesses. We all have strengths and weaknesses and children are no different, don’t focus on what they can’t do, with your support they will learn that in their own time. Focus on what they can do and try to enjoy each stage your child is at, they will only ever be at it once!


A few changes for Raising Children

June 28, 2017

Yep, it’s me, Jude. I’m the ‘mother’ of the Raising Children baby, kicking off our blog strand on the site, with an update on what’s new round here.

I guess in many ways, like a good Victorian era child, the Raising Children resource has been seen and not heard. But, hey we all know that’s not how we raise children these days, (and their default setting is verbal!) so in line with the parenting ethos of today, my baby is mindfully having some attention from mum, part of which is to be heard more.

Read more…