Today’s guest post comes from Aussie mother Elise, who blogs at Inspiration Surrounds, Creativity Abounds. Elise is the mother of three young children, and I am constantly amazed at her ability to use ordinary items to inspire creativity, play, and learning. Visit her blog to find wonderful ideas for learning, play, and arts and crafts!
Australia is a land of contrast and beauty. It boasts the largest organic construction on Earth with The Great Barrier Reef, tropical rainforests, deserts, sprawling cities and the vast outback. Australia is the sixth largest country in the world and over 85% of Aussies live within 50km of the coast, hence a great affinity for our golden, sandy beaches. Australia is home to many unique animals and our land is teeming with wildlife.
I enjoy teaching my children about Australia, its unique features, history and cultural aspects. Some of the ways in which my young children have explored Australia include:
We looked at some books that are illustrated by Aboriginal artists to see various dot paintings. Aboriginal artists use dot paintings to tell stories. They are very symbolic and traditionally were done on cave walls, rocks and bark. If you don’t have access to such books, you could find images of Aboriginal artworks on the internet.
Two books we used were:
- Campfire Dreaming by Leesa Smith and illustrated by Debbie Taylor. This book is more suited to older children, however I have been able to tell the story to Savvy and Blakie by reading parts of the story.
- Possum and Wattle: My Big Book of Australian Words, illustrated by Bronwyn Bancroft
We were inspired by such artworks to create some of our own dot paintings on our boulder wall in our backyard.
Photo below: I painted some very basic designs (snake, boomerang and goanna) to fill in with circles and dots. Grandad also joined in the fun. My daughter was quite creative when it came to using her body and her surroundings to create dots.
Photo below: Time to do some splatter painting around our hands. I told my children that Aboriginals would not have used spray bottles and that sometimes they put the paint in their mouth and spat it out.
Learning about Aboriginal culture is also an excellent way to discuss conservation and respect for the environment. The Aboriginal people are incredibly resourceful and care deeply for the environment. You can look at the ways in which the Aboriginal people had to problem solve and use the land to survive and thrive. You could use either Aboriginal artifacts, or images of ways in which the Aboriginal people used the land (as a source of food – witchetty grubs, seeds etc.; to make boomerangs, didgeridoos, shelter, baskets etc.)
To learn about Aussie animals I made some habitat cards depicting the various environments in Australia (bush, beach, rainforest and outback). Then I gathered a collection of pictures of Aussie animals (I used pictures from calendars) to match the picture of the animal to its environment.
Some old calendars proved invaluable to learn about Aussie landmarks. I combined a little bit of maths as we viewed examples of Aussie landmarks. I prepared a few items (Australian flags, coins – laminated paper ones, not the real thing – and ribbon) to use to measure different landmarks featured on the calendar pages. You could start by estimating how many flags, or coins, you think could be required to measure the height, or width of the given landmark. Record the estimate and then start measuring using the manipulatives. Discuss if you needed more, or less, of the manipulative to measure the landmark.
We also did some Y charts for some of the Aussie landmarks. A “Y” chart involves pretending you are actually at the landmark and discussing what it feels like (hot, cold, lonely, busy, dry, wet, scary etc.; What it looks like (think colour, size, does it look like anything you have ever seen before etc. and what does it sound like (is it silent, noisy, can you hear traffic, people, animals etc.)
Some Aussie songs that my children enjoyed:
Waltzing Matilda (you can hear this here)
The Kookaburra song
Home Among The Gum trees (you can hear this here)
Some of our favourite Aussie tucker includes Pavlova. It is one of my favourite desserts. It is basically a meringue dessert with a crunchy outside and a light and fluffy (and oh so sweet) inside. It is mostly made of egg whites and sugar. Pavlova is usually topped with whipped cream and fruits that are in season (often kiwi fruit, berries, strawberries, grapes, slices of banana).
Anzac Biscuits – my mum makes an awesome Anzac bikkie, they are hard, chewy and syrupy (I’m sure syrupy is not a word, but I am going to use it anyway because it is perfect to describe these delicious bikkies)
Anzac Day Biscuits
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup self raising flour
1/2 cup plain flour
3/4 cup coconut
3/4 cup of sugar (raw, brown or white)
1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda (baking soda)
2 tablespoons of boiling water
125 g melted butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup
Mix all dry ingredients.
Dissolve soda in boiling water and then add to melted butter and golden syrup.
Add to dry ingredients and mix well.
Place on greased tray.
Bake in moderately slow oven for 15 minutes.
There are so many more fascinating aspects to learn about Australia. Hopefully some of these ideas may inspire you to learn something about this beautiful country.
Thank you, Elise, for your wonderful post! I learned a lot, and those Anzac Day Biscuits sound delightful!
Exploring Geography is a weekly feature showcasing cities, states, and countries in a child-friendly manner. Please email mamasmilesblog at gmail dot com if you are interested in contributing a guest post.