We decided for Ethan’s 7th birthday to have a short family getaway, rather than a party.  He had been curious about theme parks so we figured now was a perfect time to introduce him to the awesome fun of the sunny Gold Coast.  Both my husband and I have wonderful childhood memories of Queensland holidays and couldn’t wait to experience it with our kids.  Ethan’s birthday happens to fall in the off season so we saved some money, but still enjoyed Queensland’s beautiful weather.   Here are my top family travel tips and some photographs of our time away (what would a post of mine be without photos?!).  There are also some bonus tips from Ethan (age 7). Definitely some I did not think of!

 THE FLIGHT

Allow plenty of time to get to the airport.  In your flight  survival  kit my suggestions would be a few little toys, drawing supplies, snacks because kids always seem to be hungry when you have nothing to offer, lollies for little popping ears, bandaids, light spare clothing, fully charged iPads (they CAN be your friend) and wipes.  Even if your toddler is toilet trained, you may wish to consider putting them in a pull up.  Ava simply refuses to use the toilet on the airplane. Says it’s too scary. On this occassion she held on, but better to be safe than sorry. On the flight home if it is night time, dress kids in PJ’s so they can be transferred straight to bed.

flight

WHEN YOU ARRIVE

Go to the supermarket and stock up on snacks and fruit.  We also  purchased some adult beverages. This really saved us some money. Talk to your kids about the importance of not touching the minibar when you get to the room!

 

ACCOMMODATION

Choose a kid friendly place to stay.  Seaworld was a great choice for us.  It was close to the places we wanted to visit, had easy access entry into Seaworld, the kid’s swimming pool was really cool and they had fun activities and familiar characters there too.  The kids especially liked the night time Spongebob water light show.

accommodationTHEME PARKS

There are lots of deals around for discount packages to the parks.  We had ours included with our accommodation package.  So don’t pay full price if you are visiting more than one of them. We hired a car which made it easier to get to places and gave us more flexibility.

Decide on a meeting point if the group breaks up.  I also find it helpful to dress little ones in bright coloured clothing.  It makes them much easier to spot if they decide to do a bit of a runner on you! Both our kids know their full name and parent’s names. Ethan knows his address and Ava (age 3) knows her home suburb.

Think about which shows you would like to see and find out the times in advance.

Just because you are an adult, don’t let that stop you from getting on those thrill rides.  So much fun!!

Themeparks1

Wave and smile enthusiastically at your toddler when they go past you on their billionth lap on those little car rides.  Even though you will probably be bored out of your mind, the smile on their face is priceless.

Themeparks2

VISIT PLACES THAT HAVE ANIMALS

Kids love animals (our kids do anyway).  Provides lots to talk about and learn.

animals

TAKE SOME PHOTOGRAPHS OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS

Not every image needs to have a person or animal in it.  Sometimes it is nice to look back on and remember the scenery and other details.

details

ALLOW FOR SOME UNPLANNED TIME

We drove into town where we wandered around, finding out where our legs would take us. It was very relaxing. We ended up at a kid friendly cafe and then had a play on the beach.  It can be a good idea to carry a little city guide with you. Most places have them. They come in very handy and have some good vouchers too.

beach

TIPS FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS

Try not to get too hung up on producing the images you imagined you would get in your mind.  The photographs I took on this trip are far from my best.  However, they are my family memories so I love them all the same.

Remember to spend some time without a camera and be present for your family.  It becomes very easy to spend your entire holiday behind a lens.  Enjoy just being with your family.  It’s worth it.

bonustips

Hope these tips have been helpful for some of you.  Let us know in the comments if you have some super travel tips of your own.

thatsall

 

Ethan is our little computer coder of the family.  I am not a naturally techie person and having a son who has a strong interest in computers and programming has certaintly been an eye opener for me.  You may remember Ethan’s adventures in Minecraft modding I wrote about a while back.  The mod was a great success and I look forward to sharing a wrap up of his Youth Digitalcourse experience soon.

Ethan has taught me so much about keeping an open mind.  Had it not been for him, I wouldn’t have the appreciation I do now for the importance of learning to code.  I think it will become almost as important for our kids as learning literacy and numeracy.  Children are such creative and imaginative beings.  Learning to code empowers them to bring their ideas to life.  I am now also seeing the many other areas that learning to code helps Ethan.  It is developing his literacy skills (his motivation to learn how to read, write and spell really flourished when he wanted to make a Minecraft mod), explores many mathematical concepts and strengthens problem solving skills.  I enjoy watching him bring his imagination to life, plan his projects and seeing the huge smile on his face when he says “I did that” or “I made that happen”.

Recently our family was sent a Bitsbox to try out.  We don’t have an affiliation with the company.  We were just super lucky to have the opportunity to test it out and let you know our thoughts.  Ethan couldn’t wait to give it go!  There is something extra special for kids getting a parcel in the mail.  Bitsbox is a monthly subscription product allowing kids to learn how to code and create their own apps for mobile devices.  The startup company is the product of a successful Kickstarter campaign run by Scott Lininger and Aidan Chopra.  These guys worked together in the past on SketchUp at Google and then at Trimble.

One of the first things that struck me once the box was opened was how artistic, playful and whimsical the contents were. Not your typical techie product.  I was not suprised to find out that Scott and Aidan didn’t originally come from IT backgrounds.  Scott has an arts background and Aiden has a fine arts degree and background in architecture.  This really shines through with Bitsbox and highlights the fact that the arts and technology can work  together beautifully.  I hope to see a future where our most creative and artistic kids around the world grow up to become more involved in technology development.

Anyway, back to the Bitsbox.  Inside the box you will find a colourful magazine style book with lots of bite sized apps to code at www.bitsbox.com.  The magazine also includes other activities and fun information and facts.  Once you have created a log on, your child can start coding using the virtual tablet on the webiste.  Nothing to download so very quick and easy to start using.  The website is quite intuitive so it is easy enough for a 6 or 7 year old to use by themselves (Ethan is 7) and would be enjoyed by kids up to about 12.  In saying that though I’m sure older kids and even adults could have a bit of fun with it too.  Code needs to be entered on a computer, not a mobile device.  When prompted, enter the 4 digit number associated with the app you wish to make from the book and away you go.   The child types the code as shown and when completed they can play the app on a tablet or smartphone by scanning the QR code in the upper right corner of the computer screen.  The app can also be shared.  How cool is it for a kid to be able to share an app they made with their friends and family?  Teachers and parents guides are provided too (a must have for technically challenged me).

Each month the box has a different theme.  The theme of our box was Marvelous Mischief.  As well as the book, the box contains some other fun goodies.  There are stickers and temporary tattoos. Ethan loves temporary tattoos (Ava liked them too)!  There is a mystery toy along the lines of the monthly theme.  Ethan was excited to get a slinky.  Also included is a pack of trading cards.  I thought the cards were a great idea.  I loved card packs as a kid (I remember Garbage Gang were my trading cards of choice).  The Bitsbox trading cards have little mini apps to code on the back.

Ethan seemed to enjoy the fast gratification Bitsbox coding provided.  It is easy and doesn’t take long to create an app to play.  So it is great for kids who have a shorter attention span and may not last with longer courses like the ones Ethan loves to take at Youth Digital.  Youth Digital is amazingly comprehensive (which is a good thing) and uses professional software, but some kids may find it takes too much time and effort to reach the end product.  Bitsbox code is short and sweet, but still teaches important concepts including programming grammar and syntax.  You may be familiar with programs like Scratch which is widely used to teach kids coding concepts.  The drag and drop environment of such programs are wonderful as an introduction to coding for kids.  However, what I liked about Bitsbox was that while it was also a great introduction, it in addition teaches actual programming language.  Not just the concepts.  Bitsbox teaches the widely used programming language, Javascript and introduces it gently in a condensed format.  The environment can also run any “naked Javascript” so one of the advantages of Bitsbox is that they can slowly introduce more natural Javascript over time to make more advanced apps as students progress.  Ethan had fun experimenting with modifying the code (changing characters, sounds, backgrounds etc…)

So now I have told you all about the awesomeness of Bitsbox, I do have to be honest and say it is a bit on the pricey side even though I feel the price is totally justified.  Living in Australia, it would unfortunately be out of our price range at $40 USD per month (plus international postage).   If you are in the US, you can keep the cost down by taking advantage of a discount when you purchase a year at a time.  The good news is that you can subscribe for $20 USD per month for a PDF of the projects if you are happy to go without the physical products.  We have found that given Ethan goes to school and has other activities outside of school to keep him busy, one month of  Bitsbox projects lasts significantly more than a month.  There is enough there to keep busy for a while, so you may find a Bitsbox less frequently than once a month suits you.  You can stop and start the subscription at any time.

The best news is that the website itself is actually free to use and there are introductory projects on there for everyone to have fun with.  So I seriously recommend just giving it go.  It really is lots of fun!

I would love to hear about any kids coding experiences you have had in the comments.

Bitsbox Review

 

  • August 4, 2015 - 4:07 am

    Celeste Pav - This sounds really cool!! I’m laughing because just today at Target the boys picked up some boxes of Slinky’s as we walked past a display. :) Thanks for sharing. Definitely going to check it out!ReplyCancel

  • December 13, 2015 - 12:04 pm

    Courtenay Farquharson - What a great review! We are thinking about setting something like this up in Aus, what do you think a reasonable price is for this?ReplyCancel

McClelland Gallery + Sculpture Park is an absolute gem of a place to visit with your family.  I can’t believe I hadn’t heard about it until recently.  We visited a few days ago and ended up staying for HOURS.  So much to see!  The park is located in Langwarrin on the Mornington Peninsula. It is about a 40 minute drive from Melbourne and entry is by donation.

Approximately 100 sculptures are situated along beautiful walking tracks on the 16 hectare property.  The Gallery also presents a comprehensive and changing exhibition program and collection displays within three award winning exhibition spaces.  You can enjoy a bite to eat and a drink in the licensed cafe overlooking a gorgeous sculpture lined lake.  We chose to munch on some sandwiches and snacks from home in the grounds.  If you do this, be sure to take your rubbish with you. 

What I loved about the gallery and park most was that it was so enjoyable for both of my kids regardless of the age gap (they are 7 and 3).  Ethan was very interested in what the sculptures and artwork meant.  What were their messages?  He wondered about how the sculptures were made and the materials used.  He was inspired by the way artists had used everyday materials or discarded items to make art.  Ava enjoyed identifying different colours and textures.  Overall the day was a big adventure for them both.  Kids have amazing imaginations and it was wonderful to watch them explore and play in this environment.

We were lucky enough to catch the tail end of the annual McClelland Sculpture survey and awards which is running until July 19th.  It was an extra trail of amazing sculptures to see.

Below are a selection of images from our day.  It was hard to cull them!

McClelland 1McClelland 2McClelland 3

  • July 13, 2015 - 11:09 am

    Helen Wright - Gorgeous photos and subjects Narelle.ReplyCancel

  • July 13, 2015 - 11:23 am

    Russell Bailey - Great job Narelle. Was the tree of life there its gone from the free wayReplyCancel

Are your kids getting cabin fever these school holidays?  Last school break we discovered geocaching and it is a great way to spend time outdoors having fun without spending any money.  I had heard the term geocaching in the past, but didn’t know what it was all about. I was curious though as my kids love to be outside and saw that I could download a free app to get us started.  Geocaching is like going on a treasure hunt (Ethan said he was being a land pirate) using your phone GPS with the app to nativate to different coordinates.  When you are getting close to the geocache (which is a container), the app lets you know to really start looking around.  Once you find it, you write your name and date on the log within the geocache and can even swap little trinkets left there.  If you take something you need to leave something of equal or greater value.  You can also keep track of your finds within the app and leave notes about your experience. I was so surprised to find there were lots of geocaching opportunities right near our own home.  Ethan has found 9 so far!  He especially likes following the compass and has no idea about how educational it is (bonus).  Ava is only 3 so doesn’t understand much of what is going on, but loves running about and exploring.  I have to admit I got quite an adrenaline rush when we found our first container tucked under a bridge. It really is a lot of fun. Geocaches come in a variety of shapes and sizes. There are opportunities to level up and seek out more advanced geocaches.  You may even end up wanting to set up some geocaches of your own for people to find.  There are also many resources to help you along the way such as kits and books. Geocaches can be found all over the world and I bet you walk past some every day!

* This post contains affiliate links.  Items purchased through the links will not cost you more, but I will receive a small commission for sending you their way.

Geocaching

It has been a while since I posted on my blog.  I have had some wonderful quality time with my family and fun activities with the kids. Will share some more about that in the lead up to school holidays (just around the corner!)  I’ve also had some great family and commercial photography sessions.  I do need to post more on here so you can see what I have been up to.  I know I’m always saying I’ll share more and I never seem to post as much as I want to.  I am telling myself I really will this time.  Anyone with a blog have some tips for me to stay on track for regular posting? I have so many post ideas in my head!

I thought there was no better way than to start with a recent session with a lovely family.  Bubs was just about to turn one and was completely adorable.  She was so happy and full of personality.  She loves songs and making animal noises.  Such a wonderful age.  Can you believe this is a Winter session?!

Mfamilyblog

  • June 18, 2015 - 12:39 am

    chavi - Lucky you! Our winters look very different. & the photos are fantastic!ReplyCancel