Category Archives: Mondays at Playgroup

Farewell Orana Playgroup


Today was the last session of Orana Playgroup.

Closing a playgroup is kind of like killing a sacred cow, but what can you do when families in the area just won’t come along?

It’s been fun. A lot of fun.

When I started in July 2008, I had just one family coming to playgroup. Slowly it built up. Over the years the numbers have fluctuated. At its peak we had fifty people coming. The onsite preschool used to thank me for having such a structured playgroup where children did art and craft, sat to hear a story, and did songs and movement. They said the playgroup children had already formed lovely friendships and were in a better position to take advantage of the learning activities at preschool. Playgroup is important in the lives of children.

I have so many memories of kids being kids – creative, funny, clever, and completely awesome. This blog has recorded just a few of those magic moments.

One family gave me a card today. Three of their four children have grown up with Orana Playgroup. The mum said that they had a “remember when” session for playgroup at home.

They put some of their memories on the card…

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Today we remembered certain children and parents who have come to playgroup over the years and we sang songs for them.

The last few weeks Shona (3) has wanted us to sing the train song, and so we did. Today she lined up the chairs and wanted us all to sit on the train, and so we did. She even wore the train hat and found a disc that she could use as a steering wheel.


We also sang The Wheels on the Bus.

The last few weeks Ruby (2) has wanted us to sing a funny monster song. But we don’t know any funny monster songs. This week I wondered whether we could adapt a song we already know, and thought Dingle Dangle Scarecrow might do. But one of the mums, Liz, suggested we adapt Down in the Jungle.

It was GREAT! Liz and I had such fun with it. Ruby looked at us like we were a bit crazy, but she did her funny monster dance after the song, and all was well.

I like the monster version much better, and couldn’t help thinking of the book “Where the Wild Things Are” as we were singing.

Here it is with just me singing it. The words are below.

Click here to play: Funny Monster song for Ruby

Down in the valley where nobody goes
There’s a big funny monster washing his clothes
With a scrubba-dubba here and a scruuba-dubba there
That’s the way he washes his clothes
With an i-tie growl growl growl
With an i-tie growl growl growl
With an i-tie growl growl growl
That’s the way he washes his clothes
Down in the jungle where nobody sees
There’s a huge hairy monster scratching his fleas
With a scratch scratch here and a scratch scratch there
That’s the way he scratches his fleas.
Down in the jungle where nobody hears
There’s a young funny monster cleaning her ears
With a flippety flap here and a flippety flap there
That’s the way she cleans her ears
Down in the jungle when nobody’s there
There’s a big funny monster combing his hair
With a comb comb here and a comb comb there
That’s the way he’s combing his hair
Down in the jungle it made me turn pale
I saw a slinky funny monster wiggling his tail
With a wiggle wiggle here and a wiggle wiggle there
That’s the way he was wiggling his tail
Down in the jungle when the stars are bright
I saw the funny monsters dancing all night
With a boogie woogie here and a boogie woogie there
That’s the way they’re dancing all night.


So much fun on our last day of playgroup.

Young fellas Aston (1) and Jason (17 months) have got used to singing the songs, and participating in group time. Jason is always on the go, but it has only taken him a few months to get used to circle time and participate. It took a while for him to get used to music in the raw, just human voices, with no accompaniment, rather than recorded music, but every week he has increased his focus and participated more. Sometimes it takes a while for little kids to get used to Circle Time. We just let them regulate how much they want to participate and eventually they get it and they love it. I remember one little girl who took about 18 months to fully get involved in Circle Time. It’s all OK!

Liam, Jason’s dad, discovered that the instrument we have been calling a ‘handbag‘ is actually called an ‘agogo’. So we sang “I am a fine musician” with the correct name, and the instrument felt much better about itself.

musical instrument

One song that I wanted to sing at the end of playgroup was I Have Made a Pretty Nest but I completely forgot. The children have loved this song, so here it is one last time…

Click here to play: I have made a pretty nest

Goodbye Orana Playgroup.

This now ends five-and-three-quarter years of my involvement in Kingswood Park, and I have truly loved every minute of it.

Until we meet again.


Narelle Smith ♥


2013 – Term 3


This term, we are having a Stephen Michael King festival.

No, not Stephen King, the writer of scary books and movies!

Stephen Michael King is an Australian writer and illustrator of children’s books.

Image source:

His books are reflective and vulnerable, and always have a sweet and caring message. And his illustrations are incredibly detailed.

Stephen’s books are perfect for talking with kids about feelings and being imperfectly human.

The books we have read in Circle Time this term are:

– Mutt Dog

– Amelia Ellicott’s garden

– Henry and Amy

– The man who loved boxes

– Patricia

– Emily loves to bounce

And I’m saving the best for last – it’s a book called Leaf. But it has no words. Anyone who has come to playgroup knows how I like to hand over the controls to the kids (especially anything that involves creativity) so I’m looking forward to hearing how the children tell this story!

Narelle Smith

2013 – Term 1



Welcome back to Orana Playgroup!

It was good to be back amongst the families and children in Kingswood Park. Napier will be working in big school this year, so Kerry (Napier’s wife) will be assisting with playgroup this year. We also have Anj, a student placement for the first two terms of the year. And Angela from the Community Centre up the road will drop in most mornings.

The kids were so excited to have themselves measured on our height chart, to see if they had grown during the school holidays. Some children had grown 1 centimetre.

The kids haven’t lost any of their creativity during the long break…

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Lucy made a spaceship. It had stars on the top, and steps to get to the top.


And this is Ruby’s (1 year old) drawing.




Artist unknown


Lara (20 months)



Our baby Ruby turned 1 year old, and her Mum made a magnificent cake to share with the adults, and cupcakes for the children. So yum!

Ruby is so close to walking. I told her that she’s not allowed to take her first steps at playgroup, because she should take her first steps at home with both of her parents watching!


Welcome to David and his family. David’s aunty went to Kindergarten this year, and used to come to playgroup sometimes.

This is David’s artwork …


This is Boo’s dad. Boo used pipe cleaners to make dad’s curly hair, and cotton balls for his eyes.







We were inundated with new families with 1 year-olds this term.

This is good! Because if they all keep coming to playgroup, we get to see them grow up! I’m now seeing another generation of kids coming to playgroup – one young mum used to bring her younger brothers and sisters to playgroup and now she is bringing her own child. So good to see you all.

Please remember to slip on your hat and slop on some suncreen before you come to playgroup. Or is that slap on your hat and slip on your sunscreen? NO – we don’t want to slip on sunscreen. Anyway, if you forget, we have some sunscreen at playgroup, and some spare hats. But if you are fussy about wearing the latest trend in hat fashion then bring your own.


Tayla loves to do the washing up. Thanks Tayla!



During Circle Time we sang a song about spoons, and we had a go at making noise with plastic spoons. Some kids came up with different ways to do this. Here’s the words to the song…

Spoons like to have some fun.
They spend their lives just shovelling custard
Down into someone’s gob
That’s what they do all day.
But in the night
They just forget about those guzzling guts
And jump out the kitchen drawer 
and off they go and play.
But night time’s a magic time
When spoons get all their wishes
They go to foodless parties
And run away with dishes
Cause, spoons like to have some fun
Forget about those guzzling guts
And jump out the kitchen drawer
And off they go to play.


At the end of Circle Time, Lucy led us into a special Ring a Rosie dance that she had choreographed. Lucy loves to dance.

I ran into Monisha’s mum at the shops. Monisha is very happy to be going to kindergarten now, she fits right in, as we knew she would. She does miss playgroup though! We miss Monisha and all of our kids who went off to Kindergarten and preschool this year.

I’ve only got two kids now who remind me what’s the next thing to do at playgroup and how to do it, and they’ll be heading off to school next year. We’d better train those one-year olds quick as a wink! Or is it slowly, slowly?

Another new family came along. Keira is one year old and came along with her grandparents. She was very calm and confident, and she looked like she’s been coming to playgroup all her life. Welcome Keira.


Artist unknown, I suspect it is Ruby.


I could look at art like this all day. Don’t you just love these first drawings of people?

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This is the house that Boo made. Complete with lattice windows.


Keira’s first painting at playgroup. Not her last I’m sure.


Artist unknown


Artist unknown


I was away for two weeks doing Circle of Security training. Many thanks to Anj and Cathy for running playgroup whilst I was away.


Shona, 2 years old, doing the washing up.


The kids love this bike.


Another new family to playgroup. This is Roya’s artwork.


Shona showing off her artwork.



Lilly’s grandma dropped in to give us some beautiful toys, some bead frames, a wooden xylophone, and some puzzles. Lilly is in Year One. Thank you Lilly’s grandma!



Ruby’s mum made a little book and Ruby decorated the front cover.


And Ruby’s mum showed Ruby how to draw a bunny, and added pink felt ears.


One of the mum’s enjoyed doing some Aboriginal designs.

Lots of Easter bags were made…


Classically understated, very elegant.


One with bling.


Reminiscent of Van Gogh’s “Starry Starry Night”.



Shona proudly showing us her “scribble”.



Tayla concentrating very hard on her artwork.


Keira and Tayla


Keira looking to Tayla for inspiration.


Keira is only 1 and she loves to paint.

Some dads and grandads visiting us at playgroup lately. It’s funny, we had Napier with us all year last year, and not a single dad or grandad visited. Napier has moved on to “big school” this year as the Aboriginal Education Officer.

Our preschoolers are forming strong friendships with each other. They enjoy giving each other hugs and showing us what caring friends they are. I asked Anj (our student placement for two terms) “how shiny are these kids?” and she agreed that they are dazzling.

At Circle Time, we enjoyed revisiting some old songs that we haven’t sung for a while, and exploring new ones. One of our old favourites is “I have made a pretty nest” where the children pretend to be little birdies…

I have made a pretty nest
Look inside, look inside
Hungry birdies with their beaks
Open wide, open wide.
See my little birdies grow
Day by day, day by day
Until  they spread their little wings
And then they fly away.

Shona asked “again please?” and so we did.

Lucy wanted to do musical statues at the end of Circle Time. As we don’t have any taped music at our playgroup (I believe in the power of our own voices!) Lucy sang Twinkle Star for us in the sweetest voice. And then Lara (nearly 2) played some music for us on the xylophone that Lilly’s grandma gave us.


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Anj (our student placement for two terms) had fun on the bikes.


The easels are always popular.


At Circle Time we read the Wonky Donkey again. Just because we love it so. Even though all of the children have the Wonkey Donkey book at home, and the CD, and some of them have the plush toy, and one Mum said she got a Wonky Donkey book for each of her children, it’s so much fun when we share it at playgroup. Yee Haw!

We now break for three weeks due to the school holidays. We’ll return on Monday the 6th of May. Have a great school holiday break!


2012 – Term 4


If anyone asked the kids who come to playgroup “who runs your playgroup?”, they might say “Narelle” (or a version of it because it’s a tricky name for kids to pronounce). But I reckon it’s the kids who run playgroup. They tell me what they want to do, which songs they want to sing, and when the buns are ready. And they love to do the washing up. One little fella helps me brings the bikes inside. Now, that’s what I call ownership.

One girl told me that she’ll be four in March. I told her she can’t possibly be four in March because I knew her when she was only tiny, not yet walking, and it doesn’t seem that long ago. You’ve gotta watch these kids carefully, they grow up in a flash. She told me that “boys are made up of princes and girls are made up of princesses”, and I said that I’d heard that boys are made of slugs and snails and puppy dogs tails, and girls are made of sugar and spice and all things nice. We all agreed that was old-fashioned and terrible gender stereotyping.

We have a height chart in the Orana Room. I measured some of the kids today. One girl (22 months) has grown five centimetres in the past five months. Another girl, 4 years, has grown four centimetres. Have your Mums been putting manure in your shoes?

Kyra made a scooter, with cardboard rolls, straws, and the bottom of plastic cups. She was very proud of it.

The internet is going slow, and this image would not go the right way up.

Same with this image, it just would not flip – flip your head to the right instead.

Ah, the diversity!

As there are a few kids who like to wear sparkles to playgroup we sang…

Come along now let’s go walking
Tap your feet, and keep on walking
Come along now
With your sparkly shoes on.

So, apart from sparkly shoes, we had sparkly jeans, flower shirt, pink clips, fancy shoes, purple clips, spotty dress, and gold necklace. Have I missed any?

Tayla did the Gangnam Style dance for us at the start of Circle Time. It’s a bit hard to follow up with Humpty Dumpty after such an impressive performance.

Kyra asked to sing “Where is Thumbkin?” at Circle Time. We’ve never sung that song before.

Monisha has spent many an art and craft session doing layer upon layer of textures. One day she went minimalist. She said it was a dark cloud. And there were dark clouds when playgroup finished, it had turned really cold.


And I always have help with the washing up.

Lucy declared “I’m making a dinosaur” and so she did…

There was a wide range of child-led art and craft. One Mum said to me “You’re right you know, when the kids do their own thing they value it more”.

I think I’m going to have to change the template for this blog because the photos won’t flip, and they don’t load properly, and it’s getting annoying. It’s a shame because I really like the look of this template.

In Circle Time, one cheeky monkey asked to sing “one finger one thumb keep moving”. I think she likes to see me get muddled up. So we had a shake of our head, one eyeball (nominated by the same cheeky monkey who requested the song), one leg, and one chicken wing.

I suggested we sing “where is thumbkin?” again. One of the Mums thought I said “where is pumpkin?” and that started an avalanche of vegetable suggestions – green bean, zucchini, cucumber, artichoke, carrot, broccoli. This playgroup is too funny.

We sang “lets go walking” for our movement song. Lucy always asks for us to do “let’s go waddling” and cheeky monkey mentioned above said we should do “let’s go bralking”. What is “bralking” you ask? I’m not even sure I’ve spelt it correctly. Bralking is pretending to be a chook. So, we had a very interesting array of chook behaviour and sounds. Never a dull moment at playgroup!

This time of year is Kindy orientation, and we will have about five children from playgroup heading off to Kindergarten next year. Some of these kids I have known since they were teeny, and I will be sad to see them go.

Tayla brought her grandad in with her today, and she took great delight in showing him what she does at playgroup. She excitedly delved into the recycled materials boxes to show Grandad what she can do from her imagination. Grandad even joined us for Circle Time and Ring a Rosie – that was awesome!

Lucy made a bat. It had beetles and a love heart on its back.

This is Tayla’s Mum and Dad.

This drawing by Kyra was wonderfully detailed but most of it was in flouro yellow so I couldn’t photograph it that well. It’s upside down by the way, so you can either view it by doing a headstand or if you are on a laptop you can turn it around. The scissors are holding the edges of the paper down because Kyra rolled it up to take it home.

Boo’s grandma had a hip operation, we hope she recovers well.

This is a bun in the shape of a snowman.

Speedy was wearing a Speedway t-shirt, but he would not stay still for a photo.

There was a little bit of art and craft resembling sea creatures. Boo made a puffer fish out of clay and straws – all his idea, and he gifted it to Lucy, who in turn drew him a picture. Such lovely friendships are formed at playgroup.

Kyra’s mum drew a dolphin, Kyra’s favourite, and she coloured it in.

There was also a star fish.

And a drawing of a koala.

And lots of other creativity.

Speedy is enjoying drawing now, and he also decorated the table. No problem, it was easy to clean off and it was good to see him expanding into other areas of interest. He is such a scientist and super curious.

And we don’t see Em very often as her Mum usually works on Mondays, but she eases right in as if she comes along every week.

The doll’s house was a hit, with the girls playing beautifully together.

We said farewell to Nishika and her Mum. Off to preschool next year. Nishika was just a tiny little girl, under 1 year old, when she first came to playgroup with her older sister. She calls playgroup “Open, Shut” as we always sing “Open, Shut Them” during Circle Time. Mum reports that Nishika asks “are we going to Open, Shut today?” on Monday mornings. Make sure you wave at playgroup during recess when you are at preschool Nishika.

We did Christmas craft. Made with popsticks and sequins, something to hang on the tree. You could make a six pointed star by glueing together two triangles made from the pop sticks.


But I was in competition with Napier, and most of the kids chose his activity. He is so crafty.


Talking about competition – Boo bagsed the washing up, carefully supervised by Napier. Napier is such a lovely role model for young fellas.


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One Mum reminded me that we used to sing “We wonder what your name is” at Circle Time. I’d forgotten all about it. So we sang it today. It goes…

“We wonder what your name is,
We would like to know.
Your name is…
(we go around the circle and each child says his or her name)
Hello, hello, hello, hello, hello, hello, hello”.

One little Miss, just 2 years old, who has never sung the song at playgroup, shouted out “God!” for her name. The wonder of little kids.

We read the story “The Australian Twelve Days of Christmas”.

12 days of Christmas

…and a kookaburra up a gum tree.

On the last playgroup day of the year…

Napier made White Christmas at playgroup and all of the children went home with the treat wrapped in cellophane. It was a lovely gesture by Napier.

Angela made up the bags of reindeer food for the children to take home and sprinkle on the lawn on Christmas Eve.

And Lucy’s Mum made teeny weeny cupcakes that looked like christmas trees complete with baubles and a star on top. Beautiful!

The Orana Room was busy with families dropping in and out as they needed to as the school had their Presentation Assembly at the same time as playgroup. There were a few extras who visited for the first time. It’s interesting how the Orana Room is a place of refuge for frazzled parents and kids when the school has an event. “Orana” is “welcome” in an Aboriginal language (I’m not sure which one). In Maori “Orana” means “place of refuge”.

It was so busy I didn’t have time to take photos. Lots of kids made Christmas cards for grandparents and other family.

But I did have a chance to take a photo of our baby crawling. She now skips her nap to join us for Circle Time, and has the biggest smile. She is great at “Robots, Towers, Jellyfish”. Her face lights up as soon as she hears “robots”. I swear I heard her say “no” today when I asked her if she was going to have a nap. She is also sitting independently, and really enjoys sitting in the middle of the craft table.


Every year, on the last playgroup for the year, I read a book called “The Christmas Star”. It has a button that plays “Silent Night”. The kids love it.

the christmas star

We have five children moving on to Kindergarten next year. They all received a Superstar Certificate for their “marvellous attendance at playgroup, plus their fabulous artwork, and singing at Circle Time”.

Well, that’s all for the year. We are back on Monday 4th February 2013.

Wishing you a joyful and safe holiday season.

Narelle xox

2012 – Term 3


We made a lighter version of Sun Bread. Lighter on the budget and lighter in ingredients. The parents and children agreed that I got it “just right”. We have a Junior Masterchef at playgroup and she thought these were the best buns ever. Mum says Junior Masterchef makes the best parsley and mud pies.

Here is the recipe for Orana Sun Bread…

10 cups plain flour
2 eggs
500 ml warm milk
4 sachets of dried yeast
3 big spoons of golden syrup
100g butter
some extra milk to make it the right consistency

Did you know that “Orana” is “welcome” in an Aboriginal language (I’m not sure which one). In Maori “Orana” means “place of refuge”.

We sang Incy Wincy Spider because Lucy made a spider at craft time. It has wicked dreadlocks.

This the picture that Monisha drew.

We included the song Alice The Camel in Circle Time.

We have been talking a lot about camels at my place lately. My eldest son watched a documentary about camels a few weeks ago, and he is enjoying telling us about what he learnt. Camels are fascinating creatures. Their hump is fat and it doesn’t store water, their blood cells are an elongated shape so they can carry more water. Camels are so great, we think there should be camel races in the Olympics!

We had a few special requests at Circle Time, one of them being Five Grey Elephants. I wanted to sing the Hokey Pokey but I was outvoted. We sung the Hokey Pokey in fast forward and slow motion the week before and I thought it was fun.

While we were having Circle Time a wattle bird flew in and out of the Orana Room several times. We think it was coming for the sun bread, because near the end of the story “Sun Bread” by Elisa Kleven, the creatures all came to gobble it up.


This is Tayla’s artwork.

I’m sorry, I can’t remember who did this artwork, but it’s fabulous!.

One of my work colleagues, Ann-Marie gave me some emu feathers for our craft. Ann-Marie showed me which feathers go to the girls and which ones go to the boys (sorry fellas you get the scratchy ones).

Napier showed us how creative he is by adding beads to the feathers. Napier said that his parents were creative and his Mum used to make jewellery. I’ll keep the feathers at playgroup so you can make a necklace with them at any time. According to Aboriginal culture, the boys have to have the scratchy feathers and the girls have the downy ones – sorry fellas.

I brought in a book called Press Here by Herve Tullet. This was a loan from the teacher-librarian at my children’s school. She said that I must read it to the children at playgroup. Such a clever book. We all enjoyed it.

Not all kids can stay in Circle Time the whole time. Some need to go off and play and come back when they are ready, and that’s all normal and OK. If the parent stays in the circle it’s easier for the kids to come back in.

Shiny and glittery was a strong theme in the artwork.


One of our young ones thought that it might be nice to have a rest in the home corner oven. Her mum was wondering where her baby was and we said she was hiding. We could tell where she was because she took her shoes off first and left them outside the door. It would be nice to be that flexible.


Monisha put many layers on her artwork. She was careful with the placement. She was so focused she couldn’t speak with me.

Tayla has been drawing houses for the past month.

Lucy has been exploring a spider theme too. Note the sparkly eyes.

This is why I advocate for free-range art and craft. Children can work on themes of their own choosing and explore the materials according to their own timeframe. When Napier asked me what we were doing today, I said whatever the children want to do. Kids are smart – they know what they want and need to do, and they know how to do it. They value their own processes.


At circle time, Kyra asked us to sing the Open, Shut Them song in fast forward. She also really enjoyed Alice The Camel. Emmerson brought her book of nursery rhymes and made me read Peter Piper.

I asked one little fella what he gave his Dad for Fathers Day, and I thought he said a “puffle”. Napier thought he said a “puzzle”. We confirmed it with Mum, and she said a pair of cufflinks.

Just in case you are wondering what a puffle is, heres a picture…

They are characters on a computer game called Club Penguin.

Sometimes the children go berserk for art and craft and sometimes they don’t go near it, preferring to play outside.


One Mum did something very special with the emu feathers…


We sung the nursery rhyme Mary Mary Quite Contrary. One website claims that this nursery rhyme has a very gruesome tale behind it relating to Mary Tudor, King Henry VIII’s daughter. There is an interesting site on Youtube which provides history of some of the nursery rhymes It’s definitely not one for the kiddies.

I got a lesson from a Mum about how to form the buns to make them smooth and fluffy. I suspect she’s a bit of a whizz at baking. What a difference a little bit of knowledge and technique makes. The buns are such an integral part of our playgroup. One little fella told his Mum “I like Mondays the best because we make buns”. So grateful for the facilities in the Orana Room.

I missed taking a photo of the mum who wore high heels to playgroup. She said she didn’t have any clean clothes to suit her joggers and had to come to playgroup looking a wee bit fancy. A first for our playgroup!

We had a visit from a young woman aged 18 years who came to playgroup in the Orana Room 14 years ago. Here is Rachel with her niece Maddison, who now comes to playgroup…

We sang Miss Polly Had a Dolly because Lucy’s baby sister stayed at home to look after her Ma who was feeling funny in the tummy. Lucy said that she can look  after people because she has a doctor’s kit, and Mum said that she gives a thorough check-up.

One cheeky monkey asked to sing “one finger one thumb keep moving”. We added a nod of the head, one jump, and one turn-around. There was one more move we added, do you remember what it was?

Have a great school holidays – no early morning rushing around for 2 weeks. We’ll be back on the 8th of October for more playgroup fun.

We have had a special request for the next story “It’s The Bear” by Jez Alborough. So, after the school holidays, we’ll start reading it.

See you then.

Narelle xox

2012 – Term 2



“Warami” is a welcome greeting in the Dharug language. Nice isn’t it?

Our baby is now 12 weeks old and sleeping through the night. She’s looking more like her sister every day. She has started joining in with Circle Time and was full of smiles. So cute, with rosy cheeks. Her mop of black hair now has brown highlights. It won’t be long and she’ll be competing with our 18 month-old boy (whom we have nicknamed Speedy) for space.

Speedy is as speedy as ever, and experimenting with everything. “Speedy” is his first name and “Curious” is his middle name. If he isn’t a scientist, engineer, or a mechanic when he grows up his talents will be wasted. He had a good go at painting our windows today – yes, he climbs too.

Our 18-month-old girl is very sociable and explores in a much more measured fashion. Our nearly four-year-olds are getting very confident. Last playgroup session one of them brought something for “show and tell” at circle time. We’ve never done that before and it was lovely.

We read the story “Wacky Wednesday” by Dr Seuss which is on the shelf of our trust library (families take books home to read and bring them back). This book is a firm favourite at playgroup. One of our 4 year-olds giggled all the way through. The other kids got excited about noticing all of the things that were wacky in the illustrations.

During Circle Time we talked about Autumn and what is happening to the leaves on the trees. It might have been ten degrees (celsius) and grey outside, but it was toasty warm in the Orana Room.

I had a nice time collecting leaves with my children, just walking and talking and collecting leaves for the  Playgroup craft. And so at Playgroup we had a lovely morning with our Autumnal theme. Lots of Autumn leaf collage, and leaf rubbings.

And then the children progressed to doing Autumn paintings at the easels, and discovered that they can mix colours to get other colours.

Quotes of the Day

– from a very confident 4 year-old, who has been coming to Orana Playgroup for about 3 years: “Narelle, I can smell the buns from outside. They smell yum! I lift my nose up to sniff them.”

– from a 3 year-old, who was proudly showing off his leaf collage: “It’s cool, yeah!”

I just love our seasonal song this Circle Time “Did you see the wind today”. One Mum sang another song for us…

Like a leaf or a feather
In the windy, windy weather
We whirl around
And twirl around
And all fall down together

The tune to this song can be found at this link

We had a discussion about the shortest day of the year.  There are lots of good videos explaining the Winter solstice on YouTube. Kids are interested in that sort of stuff.

I normally expect a small number of people after Mothers Day as it can be a big day for some folks and they take a breather on Monday. But the sun was shining.


Nishika made some lovely gift bags for her Mum for Mothers Day, and she was so proud of them she brought them in to show everyone at playgroup.

The children always rise to the challenge of free-range craft. Paper plates are a favourite as a base for craft. Very few children went outside to play despite the Autumn sunshine, they were too interested in what they were doing at the craft table. Boys, girls, very young children, preschoolers, talking with and being with their parents, helping each other, and taking pride in what they are doing. It doesn’t get any better than this.

A good website for paper plate craft is at

The early bird caught the worm!

At morning tea we had a discussion about unusual sandwiches. One girl at playgroup has ham, cheese, and vegemite sandwiches for her lunch – altogether that is. There were tales of ham, jam, and cucumber sandwiches, cold potato and sultana sandwiches, and cold potato and vegemite sandwiches. What’s the quirkiest sandwich you’ve ever heard of?

At Circle Time, none of the children or parents had heard of the song Three Little Fishes. They thought it was a figment of my imagination. Well, I didn’t know that the Andrews Sisters sang it, so enjoy…

The children sat so quietly at storytime for the story Mr Pusskins. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a quiet story time.

The children have been having a great time making up moves for the song “one finger one thumb keep moving”. One day we also had to do one ear, two eyes, one nod of the head, and a butterfly flap.

We made Sun Bread for morning tea. It was a little more effort to make the Sun Bread dough but everyone agreed that it was worth it. Yellow fluffy buns that smelt scrumptious and tasted just as good.

The original recipe is at I had a bit of trouble with the recipe, so I made an Australian version of Sun Bread. The original recipe calls for 3 eggs per 2 cups of flour. As I put 10 cups of flour into the dough for playgroup, that would have been 15 eggs which would have been much too much. I use jumbo sized free-range eggs. The American recipe also said to use 2 packages of active dry yeast per 2 cups of flour, which would have been 10 sachets of yeast and once again too much.

Here are the ingredients for 10 cups of flour…

10 cups plain flour
300g unsalted butter
9 jumbo sized free range eggs
half a cup of milk
5 sachets of dried yeast (7g per sachet)
about half a cup of raw sugar – I never measure it

The yeast didn’t rise as well in the milk. I usually use water. I was really worried about it not getting so foamy, but I needn’t have, it was fine. After kneading it for 10 minutes the dough was soft and buttery, or as the book says “glossy, springy, smooth to hold”.

I won’t be able to make sun bread dough every week for playgroup. The cost of eggs and butter will blow the budget, but it was a nice activity to tie in with the story Sun Bread by Elisa Kleven. The children enjoyed hearing the story again, and they did some sun crafts. Elisa Kleven also wrote the story The Puddle Pail which we had so much fun with last term.

We had slinky apples for morning tea too. Napier is only too happy to use the slinky machine. One of our families has a slinky machine at home and they have a slinky song which they got from the Ace Ventura movie…  What would we do without YouTube? It was a jolly time.

We also had a vigorous discussion about footy. What type? In these parts there is only one type – rugby league football. And not everyone goes for the local team either (Panthers).

So, we have come to the end of Term 2.  Have a happy and healthy school holidays. Maybe you could try cooking up some Sun Bread? It will make the sun come out.

Playgroup will return on the 23rd July.

Yanu (goodbye)

2012 – Term 1


A new year and what a time we’re having!

Our one-year-olds are walking and getting into stuff, as they should. Some tentatively and some in a whirlwind. Our speediest 1 year-old was babbling to the dials on the oven yesterday, and trying to sneak a quick play in the bin before I redirected him to other more hygienic tasks. And we officially have the sunniest, smiliest, and most placid 8 month old on the planet, making those first moves into the world of walking (and don’t you just love how he giggles during circle time).

Everyone is going through transitions. For some of the children it will be their (and their parent’s) last year at playgroup. I am already feeling a tinge of sadness about this, and it has been a privilege to see them grow and develop into the unique little characters they are.

One of our mums who now has her youngest child in Kindergarten has come back to playgroup to, as she said, “spend time with good people”. She is so very welcome. It’s a huge change for parents. I well remember feeling the grief and loss of my youngest child going to Kindergarten and not having him as my constant companion when I was home.

Years ago, we had a mum come to playgroup who had a baby and a toddler, and had gone through some difficult times. Other mums who did not have young children came to playgroup to support this mum and enjoy the company of playgroup. The parents at Kingswood Park school can be very good at providing the support and care that people need.

We did watercolour painting, which tied in nicely with our new story The Puddle Pail. The children thought the characters in the story were dinosaurs because we are all crazy about dinosaurs at the moment. Ernst and Sol are actually crocodiles, but we can pretend.

I put out some paper bags for craft thinking that the children may make puppets. There were all sorts of creations but not a single puppet. That’s so great!

At playgroup we have what we call “free range craft”. The children are encouraged to make anything from their imagination. We used to have craft with instructions and templates – a product. What I found was that the parents sat around the craft table making the craft whilst the children went off to play. The children didn’t take the craft home. What I noticed when I put a range of materials out and said “make whatever you like” the children stayed at the table making all sorts of things that didn’t have any particular theme but had meaning for them. Parents and children sat together and the language and interaction between them was lovely to observe. And the children took their craft home. The children enjoyed the process and valued what they created.

We also made houses out of cereal boxes so we could use them for the acting out of our story Millie and Clancy and the Very Fine House.

This is the house that Boo made. I nicknamed this little boy Boo because he always hides in the Orana Room when he arrives with his Mum and sister and I have to go find him. Of course, I get a big scare when he shouts “Boo”. Boo’s house is a “very fine house indeed” (a line from the story) as it has a staircase down the side and red curtains. It also has 10 windows on the other side, and his Mum commented that she hopes that side doesn’t face west.

This is Tayla’s house. Actually Tayla was mainly interested in playing rather than craft. Mum started it off and Tayla came along and instructed Mum on the design elements – pink curtains and a garden out front.

This is Monisha’s house. Red tiled roof, with a chimney and picture window no less.

Monisha has been hoping recently that her Mum would buy her a pig for a pet as they saw a sign along the roadside “Pigs for Sale” but Mum thinks that dogs, cats, and chooks, as well as two children is more than enough to keep them busy.

Can you see my snazzy new scissor caddy at the back of the picture?

And last but not least. This is Nishika’s house. Very upmarket with pond in front and luscious lawn.

Some children didn’t make box houses. One young fella didn’t want me to photograph his house although it too was a very fine house, and the first time he has sat down for craft at playgroup.

When we read the story, we piled the house boxes on top of each other, and huffed and puffed to blow them down. We had to be very careful not to damage them.

We have noticed that a lot of the stories we have read in the past six months have very interesting clouds in them. The Millie and Clancy story had clouds in the shape of pigs. Pigs? We thought it was an omen, but Monisha’s Mum insists “no pigs for a pet!”. Mums are so sensible sometimes.

When my boys were little I bought them a big fancy plastic house to play with. It had furniture and a family and a dog. And it had a doorbell! I thought it was the bees knees. My boys didn’t play with it. One day they asked if they could make a house from a Weet-Bix box they retrieved from the recycling bin. We made a lovely house, just like the children at playgroup – windows, doors, garden, curtains. I had some dolly pegs, wool, and pipe cleaners, so we made a family and dogs. My boys played with that cardboard house until it disintegrated. We still have the dolly peg people. I learnt a valuable lesson – children enjoy making stuff with their folks and they value what they make. They want fun not fancy – kids don’t need stuff, they need you.

During Circle Time at the moment we are singing the song “Six Little Ducks”. I mentioned that one of my neighbours has a pet duck and this duck doesn’t actually “quack” but sounds like a low groan. One of our little bright sparks said “that duck should come to playgroup so we can teach it how to quack”. How gorgeous is that?

One little girl insists we sing “little girl who lives down the lane” during Baa Baa Black Sheep, instead of “little boy”. Girl power!

When we sang the “Wheels on the Bus” song, I asked the children what lyrics they could come up with. One of our newer children asked us to sing “The driver on the bus says “Stand clear, Doors closing”” . Very clever.  This same little boy came very well dressed to playgroup wearing a Monopoly tie, odd socks and croc shoes. One of the parents said she felt underdressed.

We acted out our story “Where’s the Dragon”. That was our first acting gig, and the children appeared to enjoy it.  The children had made dragon masks during craft time. I wish I’d taken a photo of all of those lovely masks, the children were so proud of them. One of our new children played the main part of George and she did a great job, and was especially good at snoring. The children nominated me to play the part of the befuddled old Grandfather. And there were various dogs, frogs, and of course, dragons. Some children came in and out of the story as they needed to. The story was embellished with stories from home and of dinosaurs (which are surely a distant cousin of dragons) and it was all wonderful.

I brought in some lilli pilli’s for the children to taste. I have a massive old lilli pilli tree in my backyard which is fruiting at the moment. The D’harawal people (Camden area) have six seasons in their calendar and when the lilli pilli fruits it means it is a new season – Bana’Murra’Yung  goes from March to May.

Weather cycles from the Bodkin/Andrews clan of the D'harawal People

Image source:

The fruit is not so great from my poor old lilli pilli tree but I got enough for the children to taste. My kids love this tree because it is a great climbing tree, and kids come from around the neighbourhood in Autumn to try the “bush tucker”. My dogs eat the fruit that falls on the ground.

No-one in the group had eaten lilli pilli’s before. I thought that Napier might have as he is Aboriginal but he said that he had grown up in the city. Then we discovered that myself, Napier, and Angela (community worker from North Penrith Community Centre) all grew up in suburbs right next to each other. Small world.

We had an interesting discussion on rats, mice, ferrets, and guinea pigs for pets. One of our families likes interesting pets and sometimes brings in their stick insects to show us. Pets are a current theme at playgroup at the moment.

Some children made Easter hats and baskets. All free-range craft of course, no stencils or pre-made stuff for our crafty bunch of kids.


We had slinky apples for morning tea with our buns. I bought a peeling machine for playgroup. These are great for school canteens too. Kids eat apples when they are slinky.

And it was Children’s Choice for the songs during Circle Time. We sang some old favourites like Humpty Dumpty, Twinkle Little Star, Dr Knicker Bocker, The Wheels on the  Bus, and a new request for Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat. One little girl mentioned that she liked playing in mud, but I couldn’t remember the words to a song about mud. I said I would post it here…

I like mud
I like it on my clothes
I like it on my fingers
I like it on my toes
Dirt’s pretty ordinary
Dust is a dud
For a really good mess-up
I like mud!
Written by Zoe McHenry

We also read one of the best stories ever written, Green Eggs and Ham, by the marvellous Dr Seuss.

One little girl who comes along to playgroup asks her Mum every Monday if they can go to “Open, Shut” which is what she calls playgroup because we always sing “Open, Shut Them”. Napier also got a lesson from this little girl on how to make a bun in the shape of an ‘8’.

Have a lovely Easter and school holiday break. Playgroup starts back on Monday 30th April.

See you then!