Moon Festival: This year’s reading list!

It seems like just yesterday we were rummaging through the boxes in the garage looking for lanterns and preparing moon cakes. Here we are again, the morning of the Moon Festival; a very special tradition in many Asian cultures. In both Chinese and Vietnamese it is a celebration of reunion. In Chinese that reunion is between Yin and Yang; a reunion between lovers. In my husband’s Vietnamese culture it is one of family; where parents return after a long harvest to be reunited with their children. The celebration is all about focusing on the children; a day to restrengthen the bond between parent and child that was missed for the duration of harvest. (For more info, see our 2015 celebration post )

Later today we’ll be stringing up lanterns and polishing up our favourite tea set to be served with our moon cakes. However, there are things that I like to do leading up to this special day such as finding literature or other stories to better share with them their Vietnamese heritage. It’s also a great time of reflection of the great sacrifice their grandparents (Ong and Ba) gave to ensure a safe and bright future for the family. My husband was eight years old when he and his Dad escaped Vietnam, journeying down a river on a small boat, followed by yet another one that would take them all the way out to sea with another thirty frightened and brave people. His mum and siblings would escape another year or so later. Just last weekend my father-in-law was re-accounting the journey for me. I have heard it many times, but with each telling there is always a little bit of something new that he reveals. I can see the images  of him and my husband like a motion picture playing running through my mind. I imagine the boat as it fills with water and my father-in-law desperately trying to through it out with a bucket. I see my husband, a child, the same age as our eldest weak, fading in and out of consciousness from starvation and dehydration. All I keep thinking about as he tells me the incredible store is how thankful I am for him. If it wasn’t for his hopes and dreams for his family and his bravery, I would not have the live that I am living today with my wonderful husband and our three beautiful children.

I think this is a big part why I embrace my husband’s culture so much. I don’t want it to be all left behind before they boarded that boat. I want to make sure it continues on in my children’s lives and for generations to come. Much was sacrificed for this life we are able to live today and it’s important we keep the culture alive. Being American, I certainly had and still do have, a lot to learn  about Vietnamese culture and  history. It has been really rewarding researching customs and folklore. My husband says that I know more than him now! I have to say I rather enjoy and opportunity to teach him a thing or two.  :)

So here I share with your our 2017 Moon festival booklist for education and fun reading with your children. I highly recommend Anh Do’s biography for light-hearted reading. His family’s journey has so many similarities to my husband’s (and many other ‘boat people’). It is full of inspiration and hope. Here also so great reads for your children:

I wish you all a wonderful evening under the harvest moon sipping tea and indulging on moon cakes. We’ll post pictures of our celebrations via or social media.

With gratitude,

Megan xx

Mindfulness Activities in Spring for Your Child


Spring has arrived in Sydney and we are soaking in the warmer days as much as we can. Who doesn’t love Spring? (Besides the allergens, of course!) Oliver has been asking when Spring will come since the middle of winter because he missed the flowers so much. Each morning he ran into our bedroom asking, “Is it Spring today?” When September 1 finally arrived he was so excited!

Spring is often referred to as the season of rebirth or change. It’s a time of rejuvenation. For me it’s like the New Year–a time of reflection as I contemplate what changes I might need to make to improve my life and personal well being. The practice of Mindfulness is very important so with the long days it means it’s easier for me to get out of bed earlier to make it a priority.

How are you doing taking care of yourself as a parent? Do you use these seasons to stop in the midst of your busy day to really think about if your needs are being met? We all have been told that we can’t take care of others unless we take care of ourselves first. For some this is hard. I certainly struggled with this my entire life until I went to a therapist to learn how to do it! Slowly I am getting better at it and feeling less guilty when I have to say ‘no’ to a request or commitment. It’s hard when you are an innate people pleaser; but I realise now that if it will stretch me to far I have to be firm. My health and personal welfare is now a top priority so it’s easy to rationalise my decision.

I also want to model this behaviour of self-kindness to my children. I believe the act of being still and present in the moment is a huge component to this. When we learn to be comfortable in the stillness with ourselves we find it easier to find gratitude and self-forgiveness.  As they admire and appreciate the multitudes of rebirths in Spring I want them to also find peace and joy in their hearts.


So how do we incorporate mindful moments in our day during this season? The easiest way is to look at my children’s interests. They all have a deep connection to nature so I really use that to our advantage and encourage them to slow down, stop and take the wonders in. Here are some of the moments we use in our day to practice…

  • Admiring flowers; feeling the texture of their leaves, petals. Breathing in the scent, enjoying the vibrant colours.
  • Observing insects. Slowing down and following snails, watching bees gather pollen and butterflies flutter or hover flies hover. Watch spider webs glisten in the sun.
  • Pondering at a pond, creek or lake. Sitting and observing fish, ducks, turtles or frogs.
  • Back to basics: laying on the grass and watching branches sway in the breeze or cloud formations in the sky.
  • Visit the beach: take time to sit and watch the waves or feel the sand under your feet and fall through your fingers.
  • Be a fox! Go outside barefoot in a wide open space and ask your child to close his eyes. Move away from him and ask him to use his senses to find him as you softly call his name.
  • Hatch silkworms. This is a favourite for us. Watching them slowly munch on leaves and spin their cocoons is so cathartic.
  • Take an easel out door and focus on a single object to paint or draw.


Do these activities with your child. You’ll both get in that “me time” that you need and deserve. I have a feeling that it will become a very special time for each of you. What a wondferful message it sends to your child that you are taking the time out of your day to be still with them and to focus on the moment together.

These are certainly activities that I treasure doing with my children and I see the benefits it gives to all of us as a family and to each individually. I would love hear from you about what works for your family!

With gratitude,

Megan xx

Essentials for Minimal Mess Painting


Winter holidays are all about sleeping in, lounging around in our pjs and letting our creative juices flow. Painting is always a favourite for my two youngest. We have a small travel easel that they enjoy taking all over the yard to set up a work area for the day. With the sun kissing their faces they live in the moment and paint the desires of their heart. For Noelle it always involves nature and animals. For Oliver his eyes are always set beyond the sky and out of this world–space!


Many parents often groan when their children ask to do painting. I’m a mum. I get it. It’s messy, sticky, wet and often stains! However, I don’t let this detract me from allowing the opportunity for our children. My husband paints and sketches as a hobby so it’s only natural that our children want to do the same and should be offered the same opportunities. Plus, the fine motor skills that come from working with a brush are wonderful.


Here are some simple tips to keep paint mess to a minimum.



  1. Invest in some deep paint palettes. You can find these in dollar shops and they are wonderful for just squirting out a bit of paint at a time so there is no wastage. They also provide a place for easy and contained mixing of colours.
  2. Paint brush rests or washer. These are your table and floors best friend! Those brushes are always getting knocked off tables and of paint pots. Use a rest to keep them in place. Chop stick holders also work fine!
  3. Lay a mat on table or floor to catch drips. Personally, I use plastic sturdy mats  such as ‘crafty mats’ for my children to paint over as they are super easy to clean and transport to sink.
  4. Child-size brushes are easier to manouever and shorter handles are less prone to getting bumped on floor.
  5. Washable paints. Crayola makes a nice range. We really like the fluro/neon ones! However, we don’t limit ourselves to washable as we love experimenting with acrylic, oil and water colour.
  6. Water dispenser and Have this in the room where your child is working so he can get fresh water as it gets cloudy from paint.
  7.  Keeping a  bucket to discard the yucky stuff is great as it lessens travel distance to house sinks.
  8. If you’re painting indoors, keep your water cups and sponges on a tray to collect any spills and for easy transport. We dig IKEA’S range of fun designs.
  9.  Aprons, smocks or old shirts are a must to protect clothes.
  10. Keep two sponges on hand. One for wiping any spills and another for your child to wipe the paint brush on between each rinse.

Montessori Juicing Essentials


It’s winter here in Sydney which means it’s mandarin season! As a family we love to journey out to the orchards and freshly pick our own bounty of these delicious fruits. Imperials are our favourite variety for their sweetness. Mandarin peeling and juicing are  excellent first practical like skill experiences. The peels easily pull away from the flesh and the softness of the fruit makes for an easy squeeze for small hands. The fine motor skill and strength this activity builds is fantastic which make it a must activity in any Montessori kitchen!

Of course, the citruses are also known for their Vitamin C. I suppose it is only fitting that cold and flu season synchronizes with Mandarin season! And as i type this blog, I am experiencing both! So while I am here with the sniffles and a fresh glass of mandarin juice in my hand, the least I can do with my time is share a little round-up of some of our favourite kitchen essentials for juicing.


Our Juicing Picks:

  1. Sprudla Children’s Apron

2. Spritta Citrus Squeezer

3. Benzer Krysler Hand Juicer

4. Glass Jug(250ml)

5. Reko Glasses (6pk)

6. Trogen Step Stool

You’ll see by clicking on the links that the majority of the items are sourced from trusty IKEA. Thrift shops are also my first go for anything. All of the glass jugs that I use at home and in my programs all come from second hand shops. You’ll find many treasures if you spend some time looking around.


Hope this motivates you to get that juicer out for your child so they can get squeezing! They really enjoy and the juice is not just great for drinking but also for baking. We certainly love some flourless orange-almond cake in this house!

With gratitude,

Megan xx


A Montessori Harmony Day


It is yet another rainy Thursday afternoon in Sydney and I am sitting in my classroom waiting for my own children to finish up school for the day. I am sitting in stillness listening to the wind chime out side my class door and the rustle of our zebra finch as they build a nest inside their enclosure. I am reflecting over the last two weeks as this is the first time I have actually been able to just sit and soak in the noises around me. Oh, how I do love a rainy day that makes me draw inward.

I have been meaning to share some photos of the children’s Harmony Day at school. It is very special in a Montessori school as we are such a tight knit community and those who are available pitch in to create a lovely display of multicultural tables to represent our countries of origin. To be honest, Harmony day sprung up on me this year and I wasn’t planning on doing a table at all; however with very little coaxing required gave in and spent a weekend driving around Sydney gather Vietnamese items from our families homes and any odds and ends from thrift shops that I might find to make our display look complete. After all, I wanted to make my in-laws proud that I represented their Motherland well.

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We have a rule in our house that on Sunday everyone has to sit down together as a family and do something as a family (it has to be technology free). Normally it is a puzzle or origami. I used this time to get all of us involved in making our display board for Harmony Day. It was a great team effort and Lachlan even took it upon himself to draw a map of Vietnam which his dad projected on the way. Oliver, drew and colored the original flag and Noelle helped me research interesting topics about the country.


I was so blessed that the day before Harmony Day another mum from the school approached me saying that she was Vietnamese and would love to help. I was overjoyed because all that was left to organise was cooking a Vietnamese dish and I wasn’t sure how this American was going to cope with that. Thankfully the beautiful mum brought yummy Vietnamese Spring Rolls on the day that were devoured so quickly!


Here are some photos of a few of the other displays to see what Harmony day was all about at our Montessori School. You’ll also notice that the children were asked to wear their cultural clothes or dress in orange for the day.

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Our Picks for Toddler Toileting!

Hey all!

It’s a rainy Saturday here in Sydney. I finished up my first toileting workshop for 2017 with a great group of parents. I always share my favourite items that assisted us during the toileting process. Design is important, especially for the potty and step stool. They need to be just the right size. For example; potties should have a bucket with good depth so when the child walks it to the toilet it doesn’t slosh around and we want stools that are strong and sturdy but also light enough that the child can move around.

So for your convenience, I came home (left my children to their devices) and whipped up some of my favourite picks to help you get through the process.


  1. Toti Potti 4 in 1 by Infasecure
  2. Ikea Lockig children’s potty
  3. Potette Plus- portable potty
  4. Ikea Molger 2 step stool
  5. Ikea Trogen Foot/Dressing Stool
  6. Ikea Bolmen step stool
  7. toileting-picks-2Conni Kids Tackers
  8. Ikea Ragrund toilet roll stand
  9. Children’s Cotton Head Mop from A2Z Montessori
  10. Conni Kids Bedpad with Tuckins
  11. Baby Beehinds Wetbag

Helpful Hints when shopping for the above items…

Aldi in Australia often sells the Conni bedpads for a fraction of the price listed on Conni’s website so keep a look out for them. Also, regarding the training pants: many of the ones in our stack are from K-mart’s in-house brand. I could not locate them on their website but look in-store in the area of their baby toileting items. They are about $3.00 a pair!

If you need more toileting guidance click on the Toileting link on the left to visit the archives to view previous posts. Best of luck!

With gratitude,

Megan xx



Exploring Wildlife in Our Own Backyard


We are really fortunate that we back up the bush (that is Aussie talk for the forest or woods). We get incredible spottings daily of various wildlife including frogs, lizards, snakes, birds, foxes and unique insects. It is a real treat for our nature loving family and the reason why we bought our current home.


It is Spring time here in Australia and we don’t have to look very far to find wildlife in our backyard. Normally a creature will catch us off guard like a Southern-leaf gecko camouflaged on the brick of the house, a tree frog hiding under the dog bowl or a lizard trapped inside an empty pot. Of course the many spiders and millipedes found inside the house goes without saying. One thing this large continent does well is spiders (and snakes).

For those that know my history, know that I originally started out pursuing studies and a job in Wildlife Biology and Veterinary Medicine. Studying nature, especially the behaviour of animals has always fascinated me. I suppose that is why it was easy for me to make the switch to studying human development; put me in a room with any creature, big or small, civilized or not and I will observe for hours. I was that kid sitting on on a rock watching turtles dive and surface in a pond until sunset. I think this honestly where my patience was built!


I certainly have tried to nurture this love or at least respect for wildlife in my children. I delight in seeing the twinkle in their eye when they spot a beetle or skink in the yard. My daughter, Noelle certainly has the patience of a research biologist. Like me, she can sit for an hour waiting for a butterfly to land on her arm. She seems to just quietly call them to her by her sweet nature. We always have called her a little ‘Snow White’. Those who know her would confirm it is the truth.


I come across many children who do not have exposure to the living world around them. They could be exposed so easily but life often seems like a rush and they are often toted off my their parents to something else; perhaps an activity or just merely inside. The opportunity seems to pass by too quickly.

I speak a lot of technology and how it is changing childhood. I am not anti-technology; it has its place in our evolving world. I am however ‘anti-technology first’. I do believe that children should learn by first-hand, meaningful experiences. Using all the senses to explore is important and innate. Seeing the ancient Sequoia or Redwood tree in a photograph or documentary is interesting and fascinating, but seeing one in person is majestic, amazing and magical! I remember being moved to tears the first time I stood under one. I felt so small, yet so connected to the Earth and God. What a privilege to experience a creation so grand!

I have no idea when my children will see their first Sequoia, but I do know that it is the everyday things in their world that makes life meaningful. My job is to slow their world down a little bit; let them follow snail trails, investigate hollow logs and probe with sticks in ponds and mud puddles. What I love most about the warmer weather is that we are rarely inside. No one asks what time it is in anticipation of their favourite TV show, the only signal to come in is dinner or mozzie bites forming on their legs.


So let your children run wild and free. Slow down and let them explore. Get a butterfly net for catch and release fun, let them take their shoes and socks off and feel the Earth beneath their feet. Breathe it all in with them. Respect for nature is born here in these moments.

With gratitude,

Megan xx

Green Goodness- Smoothies my kids love!


Smoothies are what got me through finals week in college. Depending on your fruit and veg of choice, they can be packed with loads of vitamins, antioxidants, fiber and energy! They certainly give me a boost as I get through my day with my three lovely children.

The best thing about smoothies for me is that my children just LOVE them! It is the simplest way for me to make sure they are get their daily intake of vegetables–especially greens. Like many kids, mine aren’t always too keen for greens; however if I whip it up in a smoothie with some almond milk and a banana or pear they are as happy as can be.

Now, I know some of you are thinking that something so green could never taste like anything more than grass, but I assure you it is not the case. Even if you have had bad luck making a palatable green smoothie in the past, please don’t give up! It just takes the right combination of fruits, veg and liquid such as almond milk, coconut water, etc to find your taste. Luckily, our own Australian, Sally Obermeder has done all the trial and error for us. I picked up her smoothie book at my local K-mart, quite frankly thinking it might be another one of those books just to add to my collection on the shelf, but I have been so happy with the purchase! My children and I use this book everyday and we have not yet made a smoothie that we have not ALL liked. That’s right, we all have been sipping them, including the kiddos.

I love that my children get to see that “green” is good and that it can taste delicious! Nothing beats that vibrant, fresh colour in a cold mason jar. The best thing for us is that most of the greens,;like spinach, celery and cucumber, we collect from our garden. The kids pick, wash and throw them in the blender themselves. The involvement in the food prep gets them more excited about trying and testing out flavours.

Sally also gives great tips about prepping and freezing fresh vegetables in ziplock bags so they are all ready to go. Just pour in the blender, add liquid and voila! This has been a true time saver for me. Also having the fruit and veg ice cold gives the smoothies the best, smooth texture without having to add ice, which just dilutes it.


The amazing thing is the amount of greens that EACH of us will slurp up in a serving–wait for it….2 cups! The majority of  it for us is our prefernce of kale or spinach and I am delighted that my children consuming it all in one sitting! My children will both drink one whole mason jar, but if you have the half masons as we also have that is 1 cup of just greens, not to mention the other fruit and veg you might add. Amazing to any parent who has ever had to hide greens in their child’s food.

If you have a really picky taste tester hear are a few of my tips:

  • Start with more fruit and gradually increase the greens or vegetables as you go.
  • Start with less bitter vegetables like peas, celery, cucumber and baby spinach then work your way up towards other types of greens. My kids hail kale! from the get go :)
  • Start with smaller servings of green smoothies for children who are just starting out to eat greens. My Ollie loves them and I can tell you that when he first started without portion control it was a real bowel cleanse!

So give it a go, I say. Go green! You and your children just might be surprised

Baking with Toddlers and Preschoolers


One of the main focuses in the Toddler Program I run at Northside Montessori is food preparation. A good rule of thumb for any toddler program is that there should be at least eight food prep areas in which children can practice and master various skills. Why is this so important? Well, food prep is more than making a meal, it is about using those fine motor skills to master refined movement. Kitchen work also opens up opportunities to learn more language, entice the senses, explore mathematics via weight and measurement and also develop problem-solving skills. There is of course the sharing of a meal which foster social development.


So it isn’t any wonder that when you walk into my classroom the first thing that the child will see is practical life work which half of that involves the kitchen area. My room is purposefully set up as development in this area is so important as they are precursors to other things in the environment (especially reading and writing as the child moves on to the 3-6 Cycle). A well trained Montessori Directress can in fact tell you what child hasn’t had exposure to such tasks in their early years. It becomes very apparent while observing a child’s awkward movements in the following years. So your children in he kitchen cooking and table washing. The benefits are great!

Today I am sharing with you a favourite not only in my toddler program but also at home….baking! So many children love to bake and it isn’t always about the end result, it is about the process. Many will of course be eager to taste their reward but others are happy to just do it and leave the munching to someone else. This NEVER happens in my house. I will be lucky if mommy gets a piece  😉


We love to use over ripe bananas to make simple muffins. In our program at school I have everything pre-measured for a child to walk over when he likes and begin baking. At home, the only guidance I give is with measuring for my youngest (my 5 and 7 year old have now mastered it). I then step aside and just observe. We have baked so many times that my children know the steps by heart and even the ingredients. Somewhere in today’s baking Oliver said, “You forgot sugar!” Indeed, I did!

Some worry about small children in the kitchen when it comes to baking. There should always be a watchful eye and equipment that the child can use successfully. It is helpful to have child-sized utensils and that are child-friendly. We use special knifes for example and also have a small toaster oven for them to use independently. A double oven glove (ours is from Target Australia) is perfect for covering the child’s entire hands and arms while taking things out of the toaster oven. A mini twelve-hole muffin tray is perfect for toaster oven. Ours is Willow brand from Big W Australia.


If the photos featured don’t look like a confident, independent three- year old then I don’t know what does? What do you think? They are so capable if trusted and given the opportunities.


With gratitude,

Megan xx

A “Tiny” Nature Hunt Game


We have been trying to make it up to the mountains for a month now but each weekend has posed a challenge. First there was a major accident going up the mountain which caused us to turn back and change our plans, then Mother’s Day weekend some genius decided it would be a great time for hazard reduction burning which left all of Sydney and beyond covered in a haze of smoke so we were home bound. On top of a couple of kids unwell on various weekends, it seemed like me might not make it up in time to see the autumn colours. However, if you know me, nothing will get me down. I am one determined momma so last Sunday rain or shine we headed up to lovely Mt. Tomah Botanic Gardens.


Despite a little wind, it was a gorgeous sunny day. We packed a picnic and Noelle even organised a fun little treasure hunt game for us. It is the sweetest little version of treasure hunt and your children will love it. Plus, it is simple to make. All you need is some tiny little match boxes or similar. Noelle  spent the day before decorating them all and the once we got to the mountain, explained the rules. Very simple: everyone gets a box and has 15 minutes to find small “treasures” that will fit inside. Whoever has the most, wins.

It provided a great opportunity to slow down and look closely for things in our surroundings that would fit in the small match box. We discovered tiny seeds and even insects that we otherwise might have missed. At the end of the game we all gathered back on our picnic rug and shared out bounty, trying to identify each item. The children were all so interested in each others findings that no one bothered to count to see who won. I am going to risk sounding a bit smug here and confess that I do love that my children are not competitive in this way!

And when fished they invented a new game called “Roll the Rug” which involves throwing the picnic rug down the hill and chasing it with squealing laughter!

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So a quick blog but a fun and easy game for your children to get them out and exploring nature. Plus, there is something about teeny tiny things that children just love and certainly do treasure.


With gratitude,

Megan xx