Chances are your little ones have been asking about Christmas since the beginning of October now, so why not indulge their excitement and snuggle up together for an especially festive story time? Here are Giraffe’s top five picks for some memorable seasonal tales to get you all in the mood. What your children’s favourite Christmas books?
Jerry Palotta & Howard McWilliam
Perfect for little boys and girls who love dinosaurs, this is the amusing tale of Father Christmas’s prehistoric helpers. Yes, in the days before he had reindeer, a wonderful range of dinos pulled Santa’s sleigh, and here he reminisces on the advantages and disadvantages of each, from high-flying Pterosaurs to a distracted giganotosaurus. Funny and with fabulous illustrations in bold colours, this will keep your toddler highly entertained.
We’ve all heard of The Snowman but here is another wintry Raymond Briggs tale, this time telling of a particularly grumpy Father Christmas who is rudely awakened from a summery reverie to discover it’s already Christmas Eve and there is work to be done! A classic tale for all ages.
The Night Before Christmas
Clement Clarke Moore & Maggie Downer
The traditional poem ’Twas the night before Christmas’ which we surely all know by heart is brought to life for toddlers here, with flaps to lift and sparkling surprises! Everything is really well thought out, with some lovely touches, from the red felt on Santa’s jacket on the book cover, to the glittering snow, holly and mistletoe throughout the book. Your little one will love opening the windows and discovering what’s hiding behind the flaps.
Susanna Davidson & Anna Luraschi
Clara’s journey into the festive Land of Sweets is made audible here, bringing Tchaikovsky’s beautiful ballet score to your little child’s fingertips with an interactive sound panel. Children will be entranced by the magical story of the Nutcracker, which comes to life on Christmas Eve, the evil Mouse King and the enchanting Sugar Plum Fairy.
The Polar Express
Chris Van Allsburg
A slightly longer tale aimed at slightly older children, The Polar Express tells the story of a boy who refuses to stop believing in Father Christmas. Boarding a mysterious steam train on Christmas Eve, he arrives at the North Pole, meets the old man himself and is offered any gift he could possibly choose. The boy’s modest selection makes for a heart-warming ending that will delight children and adults alike. In a world full of the commercialism of Christmas, this stands the test of time as a modern-day classic.
Lots of choices there to curl up and read together over the holidays. Don’t forget to read our post about Preparing for Christmas with your Child.
Christmas is just around the corner as many of us start putting up the decorations and making our festive plans. It might seem like mayhem for us – but imagine the logistical nightmare December is for Santa Claus. Who’s been naughty, who’s been nice? How to get around the world all in one night?! Here’s our favourite jolly man Santa from around the world!
In Indonesia, everybody can play Santa, it’s not an exclusive job only available to white-haired and large bellied men. The only requirement is to have plenty of love to give to the children!
When Christmas is still far away, Santa likes to relax and occasionally catch a game! Here he is taking a break for a few hours to watch a Pawtucket Red Sox game in Rhode Island, USA.
Look at all these Santas, going on a brisk winter’s walk together! We wonder if the real one is somewhere in the picture, taken during the Great Edinburgh Santa Run… Maybe!
Sometimes the reindeer get tired, so Santa needs a little extra help. Santa’s modern sleigh is a helicopter, which is traditional Christmas red and travels through the sky like his sleigh. Here he is arriving in Guatemala.
It’s not easy to find out who’s been good and who’s been naughty, so Santa spends a lot of time working in his special office, going through all the lists of children and deciding which ones really do deserve a present. Here he is at his home in Lapland, Finland.
It’s not only children on Earth that look forward to opening presents on Christmas morning. It’s been said that extra-terrestrials love Christmas too. Here’s alien Santa as a white bearded Santa might frighten young alien children.
When Santa is running his small errands, he lets the reindeers get a rest and uses this convenient little vehicle to zip across his factory floor, or nip outside to buy groceries or post the mail. Don’t forget to buy cookies, Santa!
Do you think it’s easy to spend a whole night delivering presents across the world? Santa can only do it because he works out during the rest of the year. Here he is at the Fort Lauderdale Beach Park, catching some waves.
Don’t forget to look at our post about preparing for Christmas with your child.
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Halloween is just around the corner and it’s time to prepare! Whether you’re invited to a party, you’re planning on going trick or treating, or whether you’ll just be hanging out at home, kids just love to dress up for this special occasion. Here are some ideas for easy homemade costumes that won’t break the bank: (more…)
Gardening is a wonderful activity for children of all ages. It teaches them about nature, it helps them to understand the growth cycle of all living things, and it gets them outdoors in the fresh air. If you have a garden (or even just a patio or balcony with the space for a few pots), encourage your child to join in the gardening with you.
Most children are naturally fascinated to discover where our food comes from. If you possibly can, involve them in every single aspect of growing vegetables; encourage your child to plant seeds and care for them, then help transfer the seedlings outside in a pot, grow bag, raised bed or vegetable patch. Let your child be responsible for regular watering as the vegetables grow, and show them how to attach climbing plants such as tomatoes to stakes to help support their weight. When the vegetables are ripe and ready, pick them with your child, prepare a dish together and eat them! Few activities offer such a full experience of the life cycle, and even if you don’t have the space to grow vegetables outside, you can always grow herbs or cress indoors.
Good vegetables to try: tomatoes, courgettes, peppers, cucumbers, carrots, and beans
Sunflowers are wonderful to watch grow – observe your children’s faces light up as they realise their little tiny plant is growing far taller than they are! As their name suggests, sunflowers thrive best in full sun, after the last frosts of the winter have disappeared. They should ideally be planted against a wall for support. First let your child help prepare the soil by loosening it gently with a garden tiller. Then plant the seeds together at a depth of 1 inch – 3.5 inches, adding a little compost to improve the nutrients of the soil. After that it’s simply a case of watering regularly and watching the little shoot grow, and grow, and grow.
Planting bulbs in winter helps teach your child about the passing seasons and how spring brings your garden back to life. A fun Christmas time activity is to decorate a plain plant pot with stickers, foam shapes and tinsel, then plant bulbs inside. Water regularly and enjoy the first blooms of spring with hyacinths, daffodils and tulips. Outdoor bulbs could also include snowdrops, crocuses and irises.
Children will also love to watch things grow in a window box garden or maybe identify a planting area in your back garden; plant seeds and grow flowers that provide nectar and attract butterflies and insects or plant tomatoes, strawberries, peas or other fruit and veg which are easy to grow and your child will love to taste. Children will feel a strong connection to nature as they have a direct hand in its creation and have watered the plants and watched them grow. It is very rewarding to see the fruits of their endeavours and then enjoy a tasty smoothie! You may wish to be more adventurous and create a ‘wormery’ with your child which can be very simply done with an old plastic recycling box with a lid placed on bricks – drill holes in the bottom and the side, line it with newspaper so the worms don’t fall out and then add a bucket of worm bedding and soil – then you are ready to add worms! Your child will love watching the worms decompose tea bags, banana skins, vegetable peels, coffee grounds etc. but be careful not to overload the box.
by Bryony Sutherland
Reading is an intrinsic part of our culture and a life skill your little one simply can’t afford to miss out on. Through the magic of words, kids can escape to fairy-tale castles, far-flung planets and deep dark forests. And if you can foster an early love of reading, your child won’t just benefit from the enjoyment of the stories he can then read himself, but he will also have the confidence to tackle any tasks he meets at school and beyond. (more…)
It’s never too early to foster a love of books with your child. Stories will teach them all they need to know about the world they live in, take them off on wonderful imaginary adventures and ultimately encourage literacy skills as they begin to read for themselves. Here are some of the children’s books we love and the children in our centres love!
Babies learning to talk crave friendly words, repetition and plenty of clear pictures that are easy to focus on. The illustrations in Baby Boo! depict a number of babies photographed in simple black and white and juxtaposed with colourful, minimalistic text. This early board book is a visually stimulating experience for your child. Baby Boo! is a lovely, simple rhyming book celebrating babies of all dispositions with a mirror at the end for that extra surprise touch.
This is but one of the hugely popular That’s Not My series, all of which use colour and texture to stimulate young minds. The simple, repetitive language ‘That’s not my tractor, its engine is too bumpy‘ is specifically designed to improve vocabulary, linking common adjectives ‘rough’, ‘scratchy’ etc. to inbuilt textures for babies to touch. Investigate the rest of the series for similar books discussing dinosaurs, teddies, princesses and many more.
Few children’s bookshelves are complete without this longstanding favourite. This books has a wonderful sensorial element, with cutaway holes for little fingers to explore and colourful food to recognise and count. Toddlers will love to anticipate which foods the caterpillar will eat next. And of course his amazing metamorphosis into a beautiful butterfly! This is a timeless classic.
Far and away the best book Giraffe ever saw on teaching the concept of colours to older babies. Your toddlers and pre-schoolers will also enjoy searching for the hidden objects and counting their findings too. There are only a few books that truly stand the test of time as children’s learning abilities develop so quickly, but there really is something for every age in here.
Few things induce the giggles in three-year-olds more than the subject of underpants, and this brilliantly funny book capitalises on the effect. It’s a zany tale about how aliens came to earth to steal your knickers! This is only the first in the series, which has been expanded to include the underwear of pirates and dinosaurs. A fun bedtime read.
The author Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler deserve a special mention here, as the multi-award winning team behind The Gruffalo, The Snail And The Whale, Monkey Puzzle and many more much loved titles. In ‘Room On The Broom’, we learn the tale of how a witch and her various animal friends overcome all manner of obstacles as they fly through the air. Many of the children in giraffe know this one off by heart!
This popular educational series from Usborne shows young readers what it looks like inside your body, in a fun, colourful board book. There are plenty of flaps for your child to lift and discover further information. As well as covering human anatomy there are similar titles including the topics of space, planet earth, the sea and more. Note to parents: these books make brilliant birthday presents for your children’s friends!
Winnie is an enduring heroine who appeals equally to girls and boys. Her exploits are delightfully madcap! The illustrations are so finely drawn that it takes many, many readings to thoroughly appreciate all the hidden humorous details. Winnie The Witch is the original tale, which has now been expanded into a whole series of adventures, all of which are highly recommended. This book is almost as much fun for the parents as it is for the kids!
Don’t forget to check out our other blog post on Making Reading Fun!
What are your favourite books to read with your little ones?
It’s quite common for children to have regular coughs and colds as they have immature immune systems and are more susceptible to viruses to which they have not yet developed immunity. After all, it is estimated that more than 200 different viruses cause the common cold and your child can develop immunity to only one of them at a time! If you think about all the colds, we as adults have had over our lifetimes and are likely still to catch, then it is unlikely any of us will ever be immune to the common cold!
As your baby grows, he or she will be interested in everything around them and will naturally begin to explore their environment which involves a lot of touching and licking! Most flu and cold viruses are spread by direct contact so it is quite easy for a child to pick up a cold virus on their hands and then simply rub their eyes or put their fingers in their mouth and the virus will take hold.
On average, children under age 3 can catch up to six to eight colds a year. Because your child cannot always tell you in time when they have a runny nose and you don’t always spot it immediately, then the virus can end up on their hands, clothing, and toys and sometimes even on furniture and bedding! It is estimated that cold virus can live for approximately 30 minutes which explains how the virus can spread so quickly. When another child touches an infected toy and then rubs their nose or eyes, then they are vulnerable to catching the cold as well.
When your child is in crèche, they may be susceptible to catching more colds as they are constantly mixing with other children. Good hand-washing hygiene for all the children and the staff team at crèche is essential as it is at home for your child and all the family to minimise the spread of the cold virus.
Children also catch colds more frequently in the autumn and winter months because cold air and indoor heating dry out their nasal membranes, making it easier for a cold virus to take hold. Children also spend a lot more time inside where viruses can spread easily from person to person so it is important to ensure that children have fresh air daily and that their crèche and home environments are aired by simply opening a window and are regularly wiped down.
No medicine will make a virus go away any faster, but you can help your child feel better and prevent the infection from getting worse by making sure your child gets plenty of rest and fluids.
Granny was right: Chicken stew contains anti-inflammatory substances that may ease cold symptoms, it’s easy to digest and helps prevent children from becoming dehydrated, it feels soothing on a sore throat, and is liked by children.
Since most children don’t master nose blowing until about age 4, here are a few ways to help ease their congestion:
Catching a common cold is something that happens to us all but we can make it easier for our children by helping to manage their symptoms and letting them get plenty of rest to build up their energy. Children are generally not excluded from crèche if they have a mild head cold and a sniffle, however, if they have a high temperature, are lethargic and cranky, and generally unwell, then parents are advised to give their child some rest and TLC at home until they feel better.
Who was Maewyn Succat, and how did he go on to become Ireland’s globally-celebrated patron Saint Patrick?
We have put together an educational infographic that contains 33 (and a third!) facts about Saint Patrick’s Day, from Patrick’s own childhood on the western coast of Britain, to how both sides of the Atlantic have developed traditions to celebrate the national Irish holiday. The informative infographic is fascinating to both children and grown-ups alike, with the first ever St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1737, to Patrick’s founding of the Armagh Cathedral, and the other countries that have a connection to our own patron saint. (more…)
Last week it was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. To celebrate it with all our children relocated from Israel, we invited Maya’s mum Efrat to come today to bake a Challah with us at our centre in Celbridge. Challah is a special Jewish braided bread. The one made for Rosh Hashanah is made with honey to wish you a sweet New Year. The children had so much fun with this activity and the end result tasted delicious. Efrat has kindly shared the recipe with us below so you can have a go at making it for yourselves at home.
1 kg Plain Flour
2 Tablespoons of Dry Yeast
1 Tablespoons of Salt
¼ Cup of White Sugar (50 gr)
¼ Cup of Honey
2 Big Eggs
1/3 Cup of Oil (80 ml)
1 Cup of Lukewarm Water
Wishing you all Shana Tova!!! A Happy & Sweet New Year!!!
No day is ever the same!! You cant get bored in this job. You are always on the go, educating and caring for the children, meeting new people and dealing with the daily demands of a busy centre. I love my days off just like anybody else but to be honest, after a few days off I can’t wait to get back to the creche!
We all have our good and bad days but in here you can be cheered up within a matter of seconds. You only have to open the door of the rooms and the children are usually shouting your name, running for a hug or bidding for your attention. They are always so keen to tell you all their news which has to be told in a matter seconds and everyone has to tell you all at once. I just find them fascinating to listen to and watch while trying to figure out what goes on in their little minds.
I also love the fact that while you work in your centre with your team on a daily basis, you are also working with another 20 centres and their staff teams and everyone supports each other! I have worked in a few centres over my time and I love that when I go to another centre, I am bound to know a friendly face – Giraffe is literally like a little community.
Day in the life of: Our Chefs
I wish I had joined earlier………….
Father’s Day is a great chance to celebrate the Daddies and it is a lovely family day. We brought a real sense of that into the centres with many activities leading up to the day.The boys and girls in our crèches had a busy week leading up to Father’s Day preparing gifts and cards for their Dads. The preparation for Father’s day involved many Aistear themes – well being, identity and belonging and communication!
Felicity in Junior preschool in Liffey Valley had a great fun making this special card for her Dad!
Our Blanchardstown children painted lovely pictures of their Dads and told us why their Dad was the best.
Boys and girls in NCI made beautiful cards and gifts for their dads and grandads! They painted mugs with their handprints and made cute cards that said ‘I love you berry much’.
We welcomed all the Daddies for a special breakfast in each of our centres on Friday June 19th to celebrate Father’s Day. They could drop in and stay for a sit down breakfast, or we even had a ‘breakfast on the go’ option for those in a hurry. We had great smiles all around from both the Daddies and the little ones as the children loved having their Daddies with them in the crèche for a while that morning.
Here is Anna and her Daddy Paul at the Father’s Day Breakfast in Celbridge.
The Dads in Stepaside were treated to a lovely sit down breakfast with their children.
Giraffe Harcourt Road had a splendid breakfast laid out for the Dads. Here are some of our children with their Daddies on the day!
Some very happy Dad’s with their children having breakfast in Giraffe Leopardstown.
We asked many of the children in the centres what do they love about their Dads. We got some wonderful, clever and super cute responses.
I love my daddy because he brings me to funky monkeys – Ethan (4)
I love my daddy because he gives me a kiss when he goes to work- Shauna (4)
I love my daddy because he reads me stories at bedtime – Louise (4)
“I love my daddy because he brings me for a cycle” – Seán (3)
“I love my daddy because he’s bringing me on holidays” – Olivier (3)
“I love my daddy because he does everything for me” – Noah (3)
Macie aged 2 (pictured below) says “I love my daddy because he says whoosha on the see-saw”
You can see from all the happy faces that the children (and the Dads) really enjoyed all the Father’s Day activities and a great time was had by all.
Starting school is an exciting time for you and your child and you’ll naturally want to help them to best prepare for the adventure ahead. While it may be normal for you to feel a little nervous about your child starting school, remember that they’ll pick up on your emotions and take your lead, so it’s important that you’re relaxed and feeling positive about the change.
Remember also that your child doesn’t need to be able to read, write or do sums before starting school. Children start school with a wide range of abilities, and their teacher will be used to this. What’s most important in those special preschool months and years is that you and your child have fun when you’re together. All of those hours sharing stories, singing songs, playing games, chatting and encouraging them, helps to build their confidence.
Here are some tips to help you prepare your child for starting school so that you both start school with a smile!
Chat with your child about starting school. What do they think it will be like? What are they most looking forward to? Is there anything they’re unsure or worried about? Look at the school’s prospectus or the website together and talk about the pictures.
Find photos of you and other family members at school, and chat about happy memories from your own school days. If possible, visit the school with your child before they start – either on formal open days, or fêtes, plays and other events.
Try not to overload your child with endless talk about school – treating it in a matter-of-fact way rather than focusing on the ‘big step ahead’ will help soothe an anxious child. Don’t over-hype school as your little one may feel let down or upset if it doesn’t live up to expectations, find a balance that feels right to you.
At Giraffe we help prepare children for school. By reading storybooks about starting school and introducing lunchbox Wednesdays in the summer term, children become familiar with the idea of school and packed lunches. In our book corner, we keep a scrap book of pictures of ‘big’ school and there are also a couple of school uniforms in the dressing up area so that children are familiar with them. Read more about our Preschool Graduations.
Promoting your child’s independence in toileting in preparation for school is also important. Working alongside your approach at home, at giraffe we help children become confident about getting to the loo in time, wiping properly, using toilet paper rather than wipes, flushing the toilet and washing their hands. You can also remind your child to ask the teacher if they need the toilet and reassure them that it’s ok if they don’t get there in time. Remember to pack some spare underwear and clothes as well, accidents will happen.
If your child has already spent time in a crèche or pre-school setting, they’ll be used to spending time apart from you, mixing with other children, communicating with other adults and taking some responsibility for tidying up after themselves and looking after their own belongings. But don’t worry if your child hasn’t attended a childcare setting or pre-school. Playing with other children, whether friends and family members, or other children at the park, comes naturally and is good practice for forming friendships with classmates at school.
Children that don’t know one another will usually make friends very easily. If your child does struggle with the change however, teach them some useful phrases such as ‘can I play with you or can I join in? or ‘do you want to share?’ If you already know some other children who will be in your child’s class, organise a play date or outing together before the start of the school term.
It’s also a good idea to establish an open, friendly relationship with your child’s class teacher, ask them when you first meet what are their preferred times and means of communication. Your childs teacher will be an expert at helping young children to settle in and thrive at school, and will be able to reassure you about most issues that come up. If you do have any concerns, raise them early to prevent them from developing into bigger problems.
If there’s anything you think might help your child to feel settled, be sure to suggest it to their class teacher. Remember, you know your own child best.
The training was over, the rain gear was on and the laces were tied…
From time to time staff from all our centres get together to do something as a team. Many staff members from our different centres got together last week to take part in one of the biggest women’s sporting events of the year – the VHI Dublin Women’s Mini Marathon. The mini marathon takes place each year on the June Bank Holiday Monday and each year thousands of women of all ages from all corners of the country line up on the streets of Dublin to take part in this amazing event. The atmosphere is one of camaraderie and good craic. And whether walking, jogging or running everyone is glad to reach the finish line.
This year our Giraffe team completed the mini marathon in aid of Laura Lynn Children’s Hospice, a very worthy charity and one very close to our hearts here at Giraffe.
Whether walking or running, the 10KM course is a challenge. The challenege was further increased this year by some very wet weather on the day. It didn’t stop our ladies giving it their best for this extremely good cause.
As expected, there was some friendly rivalry between the centres, but it was Simone from Rathbourne who was the first person from Giraffe to cross the finish line! Congratulations to Simone and to each and every one of our staff members who took part on the day. 🙂
Some tips to help with a child who is clingy
As adults and parents, we sometimes need to remind ourselves that clinginess is a natural reaction to feeling anxious or fretful about something, particularly if there have been some changes in your child’s life. In young children, clinginess is a normal response to feelings of anxiety or upset and can brought on by normal life changes such as a new baby, changes in routine or any number of new situations. The good news is it’s just a phase and there’s lots you can do to put your little one at ease and help them to move on.
Don’t ignore or overly discourage their clinginess. When young children exhibit clingy behaviour, view it as a positive sign that your child feels secure with you and seeks you out for comfort when they are upset or distressed
Praise your child for tasks or activities that they are able to do independently. Like helping to tidy up, finding their wellies or playing nicely on their own or with their friends. Praising your child for doing things independently helps them be confident without your constant close supervision and guidance
Increase social activities and arrange special playtime. Socialising with children of the same age will help children develop attachments to their peers and can build social skills necessary for interacting with people outside of the immediate family. Set up regular play dates (crèche is a great resource here) or schedule a fun day out or weekly trips to the local park
Stay with your child during social activities. Play with your child and their friends until they are comfortable playing on their own. Be available during play dates to teach and model social skills, respond to conflict, and monitor situations that may cause stress or anxiety
Use a consistent phrase when saying goodbye. Be brief, do not linger, and do not overreact if your child gets upset after saying goodbye. Overreacting will only feed into your child’s anxiety and make it worse, while lingering will increase the likelihood that your child will continue to cry or seek your affection to prolong your stay each time
Finally, remember, periodic clinginess is normal, and it’s actually a sign that you and your child have a healthy relationship.
Young children just cannot get enough of Nursery Rhymes
Selected Giraffe settings provide an additional after school childcare service for children up to twelve years old (based on demand). The service is flexible and can be structured around your changing needs. We are happy to provide your child with a nutritious breakfast, drop your child to school and also collect them at the end of their day with a friendly face.
Your child can complete their homework and unwind with a broad range of exciting and challenging activities including Cookery, Arts & Crafts, Games, Music, Dance, Computers as well as mixing with their friends or siblings.
This service is available all year round, closing only at week-ends and on public holidays.
Please contact us on (01) 2450935 to enquire further about this service.
Many of us treat ourselves to a nice bit of chocolate from time to time, but what goes into that bar or Easter egg? How were today’s popular chocolate inspired? Did you ever hear of a Chocolate Potato Cake? Would you be surprised if the Irish were involved in such a recipe?
We have produced a mouth-watering timeline: The Delicious History of Chocolate, just in time for Easter! Covering 4,000 years of the tasty treat, we’ve shown the path from harvesting cocoa beans in Central America, to Christopher Columbus ignoring them during his search for gold, to the opening of chocolate theme-parks, to the recent development of chocolate stout – this fascinating timeline shows just how much time was needed to perfect each succulent bite!