Tag Archives: playgroup activities

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…

P1030514     P1030515

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 ♥


Book – Green Eggs and Ham


Yesterday (2nd March) was Dr Seuss’ birthday.

He was a genius!

He put into his books what we now know contributes to children’s building blocks for learning how to read – vocabulary (including ‘rare’ words), rhyming, concepts such as near and far etc, and making up silly words and having fun with language.

Research shows that the more we talk, sing, and read with our children, the better their outcomes in all areas of their development (Hart & Risley being the most well known). Studies have shown that children who grow up in a language-rich environment have grown up to have more satisfying lives than those children who don’t. And don’t be afraid to use words that your children don’t know. Exposure to big words and ‘rare’ words increases their vocabulary which is great for developing their reading, speech, and language skills.

This week we read Green Eggs and Ham.

green eggs and ham

Do you like them? Have you tried them?

Here is an interesting fact about the book…

Bennett Cerf, Dr. Seuss’ editor, bet him that he couldn’t write a book using 50 words or less. The Cat in the Hat was pretty simple, after all, and it used 225 words. Not one to back down from a challenge, Mr. Geisel (Dr Seuss) started writing and came up with Green Eggs and Ham —which uses exactly 50 words.

The 50 words, by the way, are: a, am, and, anywhere, are, be, boat, box, car, could, dark, do, eat, eggs, fox, goat, good, green, ham, here, house, I, if, in, let, like, may, me, mouse, not, on, or, rain, Sam, say, see, so, thank, that, the, them, there, they, train, tree, try, will, with, would, you.

Source: http://mentalfloss.com/article/28843/10-stories-behind-dr-seuss-stories

So, Green Eggs and Ham isn’t all that great for extending children’s vocabulary, but it has lots of concepts, it’s really good fun, and it reinforces what parents say to children at the dinner table “how do you know you don’t like it if you haven’t tried it?”.

I mentioned to some of the parents that I love the very short story (more like a poem) titled ‘Too Many Daves’ by Dr Seuss, and they said they hadn’t heard it. So I’ll read it next week. It’s about a Mum who names all 23 of her children ‘Dave’.

Narelle Smith


Song – Tight Rope Walking


This week…

We did some tight rope walking…

Click here for the song – Tight Rope Walking

This song is from a Channel 10 children’s programme. The show is called something like “Wubble Woo” – I can’t look it up at the moment because the Winter Olympics is on the TV instead.


Book – “Slowly, Slowly” said the Sloth



Slowly, Slowly, said the Sloth by Eric Carle

Eric Carle is the fella who wrote “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”.

This book is wonderfully meditative. Just the thing to read before bed or to slow a child down.

The sloth knows who he is and what he can do.  At the end of the book, the sloth says…

“It is true that I am slow, quiet, and boring. I am lackadaisical, I dawdle, and I dillydally. I am also unflappable, languid, stoic, impassive, sluggish, lethargic, placid, calm, mellow, laid-back, and well slothful! I am relaxed and tranquil, and I like to live in peace, But I am not lazy. That’s just how I am. I like to do things slowly, slowly, slowly.”

Wow! Such a lot of amazing language. Books do this, the very good ones, they include words that the children are not expected to know, they are called “rare words”. And the children don’t have to know them, just hearing them is enough to stretch their experience of words and language.

When we read “Slowly, Slowly, said the Sloth” again, I was so impressed with what the children remembered about the story, especially the descriptive words. Have I told you lately how smart kids are? The story generated some lovely discussion about lots of different animals.

Narelle Smith

Book – The big ball of string


the big ball of string

The Big Ball of String” by Ross Mueller, illustrated by Craig Smith (of Wonkey Donkey fame).

This book had some icons of years past in it like the “milk bar” and “post box”. Remember those? I told the children about how you used to be able to get an ice cold milk shake in a big metal cup at the milk bar. There aren’t any post boxes in Kingswood Park.

The boy in the story isn’t allowed to play ball in the house so he finds a big ball of string to kick around instead. Such a measured and joyful story. I especially liked the imagery of the magpies warbling at the park.

When we read The Big Ball of String the following week, the children were able to chime in with “And he kicked it, and he kicked it, and he kick, kick, kicked it”. Before I even started the story the children were keen to tell me what they remembered from the week before.

As promised, I brought in some string, and the children taught us the many ways they can be amused by string. We had wool at playgroup but no string, and string has a different texture. The children made balls of string, and nests, but there was no string art.

P1020785     P1020790     P1020794

Narelle Smith

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 http://play.kindermusik.com/en/tracks/3845-like-a-leaf-or-a-feather/.

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 http://www.artistshelpingchildren.org/paperplatesartscraftstideaskidsprojects.html.

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  http://www.elisakleven.com/recipe.html. 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…  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFI2Nzu5zJU.  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: http://www.abc.net.au/science/features/indigenous/calendar2.htm

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!