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Posted by Mama Max - - 6 comments

Who am I kidding? My parenting style is rather more 'dragging' than 'bringing' up children! I have muddled my way through the last 7 years with more luck than judgement and yet along the way I have gained a few insights into what makes kids tick. I'm sure there are plenty of parenting experts out there who will tell you that you shouldn't reward children for doing the things you've asked of them; that praise and a sense of altruism should be enough for your kiddo, but sometimes that just doesn't cut it in my household. Confession time... I am not above a bit of bribery if it gets the desired outcome. There. I said it.

Not that I make it easy on my kids. They have to work for their rewards and in that sense I see it as a life lesson. And for this purpose I am a big fan of charts!  It must be the scientist in me... because I am a complete sucker for a nice, colourful and clear to follow chart! Sometimes it's for chores, and I've blogged about this before with my pocket money tracker. Other times it's to modify unwanted behaviour or to encourage new things. However, the principal is the same... you set a target, your child earns a reward after completing the required steps to get to that target.

Ideas for targets (we call them 'challenges' in our household):
  • Try new foods
  • Use the potty
  • Brush teeth without complaining
  • Don't backchat
  • Make my bed in the morning
  • Stop biting fingernails/picking nose & etc...
  • Share nicely with my siblings/friends
  • Do-as-I-am-asked-the-first-time-not-the-tenth!


  1. Make your targets S-M-A-R-T (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic & timely)! - A good target is easy to measure and is easier to explain to a younger child, however, with my older one I have used a simple challenge of "I will behave better this week" with my judgement being the deciding factor!  The number of steps that need to be completed before the reward will vary with the child's age.  A 2-year old will get easily bored and frustrated if they have to use the potty 20 times before getting their hands on the prize, whereas an older child can understand the process better and can manage a greater challenge.
  2. Two Directions - I've found a useful technique is to allow progress on the chart to be 2-way!  So you can progress towards the prize for good efforts (demonstrating the task/behaviour required), but you can also step back for doing the opposite (refusing to cooperate or an act of bad behaviour)!
  3. Rewards only need to appeal to your child - In terms of reward it doesn't need to break the bank and it may not be something you personally would consider worthwhile... as long as it's something your child craves!  While cold, hard cash seems to be the Big One's raison d’être these days, the twins are still easily pleased with things like an extra story at bedtime or a trip to the park at the end of the week.  Even with the Big One, his understanding of the value of money is still not very developed, so I don't need to offer big bucks!  Other ideas include: offering a set amount of screen time the reward or even the return of items that have been confiscated... desperate times call for desperate measures!!! Lastly, I try not to offer food as a reward as I worry about setting them up for a lifetime of unhealthy food habits.
  4. Chose a chart that 'fits' your child's interests and likes -  This can be a highly motivating factor for a child!  A Thomas train moving along a track towards Knapford Station for a reward might send a train-mad little one off to use the potty quick smart!  Or a Dora the Explorer taking steps up the mountain?  The possibilities are endless!  
  5. Keep up the momentum - place the chart somewhere visible and accessible and make a point of reviewing it at least once a day!

As I've documented on my blog previously, all 3 of my kids are Lego (and Duplo) obsessed, and so the chart below has worked an absolute charm.  The printable charts are available to download for free on the understanding that they are not altered and are used for personal use only (thanks!!).  Simply click on the thumbnails below to open the full-size .pdf files.  Print on standard letter sized paper (8.5'x11"), trim along the dashed line and affix to a wall so the bottom of the chart meets a table top or counter where you can build your Lego tower.

There are two charts to choose from: a Duplo chart for younger children (aged 2 and a half up to about 5) and a Lego chart for older kids (5 and up).  You will need 10 Duplo blocks (the single sized ones with 4 knobs on top) or 20 of the square 2x2 Lego bricks.  Keep them in a pot or sandwich bag next to the chart and get your child to add (or remove) a block as earned.

A 'girly' alternative!  

Lego may not float your child's boat.  And if you let your imagination run wild, it doesn't have to be a paper chart at all!  Think of the popular 'Pandora' charm bracelets and you'll realise how much a new bead on a string might motivate a jewelry-obsessed little girl!  Simply reward her with a bead for each positive step toward a target, and take one away for bad behaviour.  Once the required number of beads have been earned she can wear the bracelet with pride (a built in reward!!!!).  You can buy perfect little sets of beads from Melissa & Doug for this purpose:

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Posted by Mama Max - - 2 comments

We recently spent two glorious weeks in the Spanish Canary Islands staying in an idyllic, family-friendly villa on the edge of Old Town Puerto del Carmen, Lanzarote. Our large 5 bedroom holiday home (Villa del Vista @ www.lushvillas.com) was luxurious inside but also had a beautiful outside area complete with outdoor pool table, barbeque, hot tub & swimming pool... complete bliss! In fact, I can't recommend the villa enough, especially for families... the owners had thought of everything to make a stay with children perfect - they provided 2 travel cots, 2 highchairs, potties, a box of toys, kids' tableware and cups, kids' picnic table/chairs, goggles and pool floats, plus a full TV package including all the children's TV & movie channels. The kitchen was unbelievably well equipped allowing us to cater at 'home' easily... another bonus when travelling with children. All-in-all a fabulous venue made a brilliant backdrop to a wonderful (extended) family holiday!

As you would imagine, the swimming pool was frequently the focus of our activity over the fortnight we stayed there.  Our boys, aged 7, 3 & 3 are never happier than when splashing about in water and I was keen to record some of this for posterity... both photos & video.  However, being the proud owner of my first 'proper' camera - a Canon T3i EOS DSLR - I was reluctant to risk it getting wet!  I investigated getting a waterproof housing for it but was put off by the $1000+ price tags... you'd have to be a serious diver to warrant getting one of those bad boys!  So I looked into getting one for my old compact digital camera (a still serviceable, but not very pretty Canon Ixus 860 IS).  Again, the price tag was prohibitive at $150!  However, it was while investigating this that I stumbled upon the DiCAPac cases.

DiCAPac cases are flexible and made from super transparent vinyl.  They have a polycarbonate lens with UV, water & scratch resistant coating.  A Korean company, DiCAPac have been manufacturing flexible waterproof cases for electronic devices since 2005 and their patented designs have been awarded the highest rating from the rigorous Japanese Industrial Standards awards (JIS IPX8).  They now do cases for cameras from compacts up to DSLRS, smartphones, and even MP3 players (complete with waterproof earphones!).  They also do larger packs useful for storing all your gear (wallet, phone, keys etc...) whilst you participate in watersports!

With recommended retail prices starting from only $35 I was highly sceptical, and so did not take the plunge (excuse the pun) and buy one for my DSLR.  However, I did buy one to use with my old digital camera (scruffy and beaten up with a cracked screen as it is ... I figured that if it didn't work, I wasn't really losing much!).  And boy, was it worth the bet!  The results were FANTASTIC!  We had so much fun using the camera in the pool and in the sea and we were able to take fabulous quality photographs and even video clips!


  • It's a lot of fun to use! 
  • Super cheap - we bought ours for a mere $23 from www.amazon.com it was over $100 cheaper than any other waterproof option.

  • The instructions are clear and easy to follow.  You are taken through how to check the case prior to use and how to use it carefully to prevent moisture getting inside.
  • It really is very waterproof.  Not a spec of moisture (not even steam) in my case despite frequent use. It has a series of ziplock and velcro closures that ensure the maximum level of waterproof-ness (if that's a word even?!!!).  I also used a sachet of silicon in my case, just as an extra precaution, but it possibly wasn't necessary.  This is due to the rigorous underwater testing these cases are put through.

  • I was able to use all the functionality of my camera, including the zoom lens and video features.  I was also able to change between modes/settings while the camera was still in the case!  My camera, despite being a bit beaten up on the outside, still takes great quality pictures and video... so I had all the benefits of this, unlike if I had used a cheap underwater camera.

  • The bag floated when you let go of it in water!
  • It is rated for use in water up to 10 metres (33 feet) deep so we were able to confidently use it to photograph from the bottom of our pool and even when snorkelling/diving in the sea!

  • The website has a very clear fitting guide enabling the selection of the correct case for your specific camera.  I have the WP-ONE (this is the one that fits the majority of small compact cameras including those with external zooms).
  • Did I mention it was a lot of fun?!

  • Finally, one of the nicest things about it was being able to capture very special moments such as Shouty One's first swim without his floaty on... such a precious moment!

  • The biggest disadvantage is that the case isn't form fitting like the underwater housings built for a specific camera... the camera can, and does move about slightly in the case.  This doesn't pose much of a problem, except that occasionally the outer ring of the lens can be seen in photos (albeit, just in the corner)!  However, this was such a small issue that I don't really see it as a problem... it's nothing a bit of cropping can't fix anyway!

  • Also, despite having it work flawlessly for me this time, I'm not sure that I would trust my $800 DSLR to it.  Not because I don't think that it's a fabulous design that is worthy of the JIS IXP8 rating it has earned during all the rigorous testing... it's just you can't rule out user error in these things!  But I guess that would be the same with a $1000+ housing too!  Maybe I'm just being overprotective of my new 'baby'!

Overall, a fabulous purchase that really made our watery adventures that extra bit special!  Well done, DiCAPac for an awesome product! 
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Posted by Mama Max - - 0 comments

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