Reece Give Me Some Peace! LAUNCH EVENT reflections...

It is now a week post the launch event of Reece Give Me Some Peace! Wow did we have some musical fun!

It was hosted by Harry Hartog Bookseller, at Miranda Westfield, Sydney Australia… (thank you for being wonderful hosts Harry Hartog!) and the guests were amazingly supportive and super enthusiastic too!

I had a ball with the children - interactively sharing Reece Give Me Some Peace, with some vocal read along moments, music making with our bodies and then really making some noise (er, i mean music) with musical instruments - all in the spirit of fun loving, noisy music making Reece!

Of course i couldn’t have a celebration without some tasty treats; so organised my very favourites… the Sydney famous Watermelon cake (thank you Black Star Pastry, amazing Italian sweets, Ricotta Cannoli and Nutella Bomboli (thank you Cimini’s Pasticceria and gorgeous customised cupcakes (thank you Buttercream Bakery

It was such a wonderful and happy occasion to get people together for… i am already looking forward to my next book’s launch! :-)

In the meantime, enjoy some pics!

Build the blocks for learning to spell, read and write.

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Wondering how you can help prepare your preschooler to learn how to read, spell and write?

Ensuring your child has good speech and language skills is important. Also of critical importance is laying down some foundations for learning literacy at school.

So – be inspired and get ready to have some fun with the following activities!

Syllable Counting is learning how to break words up into their smaller parts. For example; “birthday” has two syllables, “birth/day”. “caterpillar” has four syllables, “cat/er/pil/lar”. Don’t forget the one syllable words such as “chair”.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to activities to build skills in counting syllables; here are a few ideas… ensure to make it enjoyable!

  • Get physical – clap it out… or skip, jump, hop!
  • Get musical – toy drums, guitars, keyboards, maracas etc… Are great to tap, strum, play, shake to the beat of the syllables.
  • Name items you can see in the room of a house, or whilst in the car, and count out the syllables.
  • Build a tower- take turns counting syllables using blocks; and build a tower as you go; the tallest tower wins.
  • Syllable word lists can be found easily on the Internet – practice counting syllables in words with 1-4 syllables.

If you aren’t sure where to break words up, remember that every syllable has a vowel sound.

 Rhyming is a great way to teach your child new words and get them to think about how words can relate to each other.  It sets the foundation for your pre-schooler to learn about word families and the different sounds that letters can make. Rhyming words have a repetition of similar sounds e.g. rocket/ pocket; pie/ sky. Some activities include;

  • Sharing books that rhyme – the most obvious start! As your child gets to know the book; have them complete the sentence for you (fill in the missing word). You can make this fun, by substituting a nonsense rhyming word, and have your child give you the correct version.
  • On the go – point to items wherever you are, and take turns thinking of rhyming words. E.g. “tree… see!”
  • Place items on a table, have your child select the word that best completes your sentence E.g. If items include rock, hat, toy, ball; you then make up a sentence – “There was a large cat, who wore a large…???”
  • Roll a ball to each other, exchanging rhyming words with each turn.
  • Sing nursery rhymes!

Even if your pre-schooler comes up with a nonsense word, it’s okay, you just want them to get the idea behind how rhyming works.

Hearing the first and last sound in a word

Be sure to focus on the sounds heard (rather than letter names). For example; “Can hear a ‘ssss’ sound in ‘sun’? What else can we think of that starts with ‘sssss’“?

  • Use family names/ photos
  • Catalogues
  • Story books
  • Sound Scrapbook – create a collage of all things starting with a certain sound e.g. “m” page, “s” page etc…

Hearing the last sound can be trickier…

You may give a visual cue, and emphasise the final sound as you say it. E.g. “Room” (whilst pointing to your lips)

Remember to be clear when talking about sounds vs letters to your child. E.g. The letter ‘s’ makes a ‘sssss’ sound etc.

Sounding out words

This is not about the spelling of the words– it is about sounds!

Pre- Kindy; focus on words structures that have 2-3 sounds E.g. ‘go’  (‘g’ – ‘o’) and ‘cat’ (‘c’ – ‘a’ – ‘t’). With a word like ‘shoe’, there are 2 sounds, ‘sh’ – ‘oe’.

Use visual cues

  • Coloured counters
  • Fingers
  • Objects such as blocks
  • Use movement; steps, jumps, tapping, pointing, whilst saying each sound.

When ready, incorporate practice visually scanning LEFT to RIGHT with objects such as the counters, blocks.

I may as well say it again – HAVE FUN! – That is how kids (and adults) learn best!

This article was published in the November 2014 issue of Shire’s Children

Sonia's Fruit & Spice Almond Cookies (Paleo, Vegan, Sugar Free)


Super easy to make – super tasty – and super healthy!

·         Great pre or post workout.

·         Wholesome clean snack on the go.

·         Kids love them too.

I love getting creative in the kitchen with clean ingredients, so I can indulge in something without the guilt, but rather some great energy to boot!

One of the massive aspects I love about these cookies is how fast they are to make; so it’s super easy to bake them as a regular part of your routine.


3 cups Almond Meal

½ cup Coconut Flour

½ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon cacao powder

½ teaspoon natural vanilla extract

2½  super ripe bananas (by super ripe I mean browning peel)

1 apple (grated with peel)

1 orange rind (finely grated)

Vegan Chocolate (optional – to add as topping)


1. Mix all dry ingredients together

2. Mash bananas separately with the vanilla extract

3. Add banana mixture to the dry ingredients and stir well

4. Grate the apple into the mixture (including the peel)

5. Finely grate the orange rind into the mixture and stir well

6. Shape dough into balls and place on a baking tray

7. Optional: press chocolate nibs/ squares into the dough ball centres

8. Bake for 25 minutes at 180-200 C degrees

9. Cool on a wire rack

Sneak in a cookie taste test while they are still warm… yum!

Buon Appetito – enjoy!

Go nuts over this healthy snack!


I really enjoy snacks, and especially enjoy snacks that are easy to make, great for you and tasty too!

Nuts in general are a great energy source for you. Activated nuts I’ve found that my gut can tolerate better than non-activated nuts, which is one of the health benefits claimed; i.e. gentler on the digestive system, with another claimed health benefit being that of enhanced nutrient absorption.

I also enjoy playing around with the flavours, so here is one of my favourite combinations, as I share how easy it is to be able to activate your own nuts at home, and save on the super expensive price of buying activated nuts at the store!

1.       Place cashews, into a large bowl (use natural cashews)

2.       Cover them with water (make sure they are completely submerged

3.       Leave to soak for 6-12 hours

4.       After soaking, strain away the excess water

5.       Place the cashews in a single layer on a baking tray

6.       Sprinkle ground cinnamon and Himalayan pink sea salt over the nuts, tossing to spread evenly

7.       Slowly roast at a very low heat (65°C) in an oven

8.       Periodically (every hour or so) gently toss the nuts whilst on the baking tray

9.       The nuts are ready when they are completely dried out, and super crunchy!

Buon appetito!

Do you have the most important things on your list?

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So you think you’re good at writing lists?

Shopping lists, daily task lists, weekly task lists, yearly task list, holiday list… AND THE LIST GOES ON!

In all your listing, have you ever listed;

What makes you happy?

Who you have to forgive?

Ways that you show yourself love?

Think of the times in your life when you were the happiest…

Who was around? What was around you?

Look at the guts of what it was that made you happy.

E.g. being able to laugh at yourself, laughing with others, having more time out for yourself, spending time with family or really good, genuine friends.

Understand what it is that makes you happy, and then go for it!

The material stuff is exactly that; material stuff. We all know the novelty wears off, and that new Porsche you saved up for, for 20 years might make you happy for a while… but only for a while. Remember the happiest people on this planet have the least material possessions.

Read the above line again if you need to drive that point home. (Excuse the pun; “drive”, “Porsche” etc.) Well I had a laugh, so I can tick that off my happiness list for the day  

Think of the people with whom you continue to hold a grudge. Those whose name/ thought brings you pain, anger and/ or sadness…

YOU are allowing all those people to hold onto your energy. It is your energy. You can control where that energy goes, and can reclaim it through forgiveness. It is the best thing you can do for yourself!

Finally and most importantly, think of the ways in which you show yourself love. That voice inside your head needs to be like that of a best friend. A supportive, encouraging, motivating voice that is both positive and patient. Find ways to nurture yourself.

So where to from here? Happiness, forgiveness and self-love is not necessarily automatic; it takes conscious practice and consistent application – and it is worth it. Not only for you but also for the children in your life.

Maintaining one culture whilst living in another

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Top tips for passing on your homeland language and culture onto your children. 

For those of you born and raised, speaking only English – could you imagine if you and your family moved to a completely non-English speaking country? Would you forget all about your homeland culture, and not speak English to your children? Highly unlikely!

I am Australian. I grew up in an Italian speaking household in Sydney; and today feel blessed to be able to speak, read and write in Italian, with a deep appreciation of the culture (especially its glorious food!).

There are many families who would like to maintain/ integrate their homeland culture and language whilst living in another; and wonder about ways to go about doing this successfully.

The very first and important thing to do is – have a PLAN. Ask yourself;

What is the primary goal?

Is it for your child to; understand your native language? Understand and speak your native language/s? Perhaps to understand, speak, read and write your native language? Maybe it’s just to know about the culture itself, and appreciate their heritage.

Once this is established, the goalposts are clear, as are the expectations for your child.

How will your primary goal be achieved?

When referring to language – like anything – if you don’t use it – you lose it. To have your child develop and maintain your native language; it comes down to opportunity and practice.

One of the key factors needed for your child to practice is motivation. Creating a need and a want can be done in several ways;

  • Motivate your child in a way that is specific to him/ her. Be positive and encouraging (rather than threatening and punishing).
  • Provide loads of fun ways to use the language; visiting local extended family; setting up Skype sessions with friends and relatives who live afar; seek out play groups (that use your native language) or start one up!
  • Be an awesome ‘teacher’. Get your child involved in learning more about your culture, such as the, food recipes, songs, fashion, dances etc. Show dedication to your native language by ensuring you are consistently speaking it to your child.
  • Although not always possible, if you can, plan trips, travel to your home land or a country that speaks your native language.
  • Use storybooks, games and movies to complement exposure to your native language. Remember; prioritise more opportunities to practice the language through human interaction (e.g. conversation). Your child will learn a lot from you both watching a show together, and talking about what is happening, what might happen etc…

Parents and carers do not need to switch to English at home because they are concerned their child won’t pick up English. Children will pick up English nicely from the English speaking community around them. In fact children learn language better from a fluently spoken native language than poorly spoken English. This is because they need to set up a good model of how language is spoken.

The most important thing is that whatever language your child is speaking at home they are meeting the usual milestones.

It can add an extra challenge when parents are from different cultures, e.g. Dad speaks English, Mum speaks Italian. Again it’s important to make a plan and be consistent. Families may choose to follow a one parent – one language rule. If they do, each parent should try to be consistent using their chosen language. Yes there is more work for one parent to translate what they are saying to their child, to their partner; but the commitment is worth it!

Maintaining one culture whilst living in another has made Australia the culturally rich country that it is today – what a gift to be able to experience the best of many ‘worlds’.


This blog post was published in Shire’s Children magazine, Summer Issue 2015;

Building your child’s vocabulary – Why is it so important anyway?

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Between the ages of two and five, children learn at an extraordinary pace, understanding and remembering words they may have heard only once or twice.

Strong spoken vocabulary is linked to high levels of reading comprehension and is necessary for developing skills like understanding and applying information heard. Having a strong vocabulary also helps a child to create information successfully.

So how can you encourage the growth of your child’s vocabulary?

Use the library; it is a great way to add variety to your book list, and gives you a wide range of topics to choose from. You are sure to find something motivating for your child. Bring your child with you and make it a regular part of your routine.

  •  Speak to your child using a variety of words

Be mindful of your own vocabulary, rather than just using the word “big” to describe something, add other words with the same meaning such as “huge”, “gigantic” or “enormous”.

  • Be specific and descriptive

The more words your child hears on a daily basis, the more likely they are to then learn, absorb and use these words. So rather than asking your child to “pick up the teddy bear”, you might say “pick up the teddy bear with the blue pants and striped shirt”. In return you want your child to use specific words, so if they ask for their car, ask, “Which car? The large blue car; or tiny spotted car?”

  • Use everyday life opportunities to reinforce words and the alphabet

There are so many opportunities in your daily routines to build vocabulary. Meal times, bath time, getting dressed, brushing teeth, driving somewhere etc. Talk to your child about what is happening at the time. E.g. During bath time; “Pouring water into the big, blue cup; pouring, pouring, pouring”.  Remember to be specific and descriptive!

To extend this further for your preschool aged child, encourage them to start recognising letters and the sounds they make. You may start with the letters in your child’s name, and focus on one letter at a time. Search for that letter on road signs, shopping lists, catalogues… the list is endless!

  • Make label cards for items around the house

You may do this one room at a time, and label some of the more simple words, such as “bed” and “rug” to start with. Remember to talk about the letters within that word and the sounds they make. E.g. “bed… I can see the letter ‘b’; it makes a ‘b’ sound…                ‘b’ for bed!”

  • Sort and categorise common household items

This will help organise the information in your child’s brain, as they get the chance to see what they are hearing. The idea is that your child can describe and sort items in various ways. E.g. if you have socks, shoes, coloured pencils, and cutlery; you can sort these into categories (groups) such as colour, texture and size.

Last but not least, enjoy being amazed by your child’s wonderful way with words!



This article was published in Shire’s Children magazine; March issue 2015 –  

Book sharing – Make it interactive, for the love of language!

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There is no such thing as “too young” to start sharing books with your child!

The easiest way is to get your child into a regular book sharing routine. You will find you both cherish the special time together. Enjoy, as it does not last forever!!

Sharing books interactively is a great way to enhance not only the whole story experience… but is also a wonderful way to develop oral language skills, i.e. understanding language and using language. It allows a fantastic avenue to introduce young children to the skills they will later need to learn to read, spell and write. There are some key things to remember…

Kids love sound effects – get noisy!

Kids love movement – get animated!

Kids love repetition – so be prepped for this and be patient. If your child wants you to read it again and again – it is a healthy sign!

So how do you make book sharing interactive?

Depending on the age of your child; you will modify the following tips somewhat to suit their age.

* Talk about the title and what you see on the book cover E.g. “I wonder what this book is about?” or “Look at that big bear!

* Read or talk through the story. You can stop after a sentence, and make a comment or ask a question. Ensure you vary your tone of voice; sound excited, sad or worried etc.

* Talk about how the story relates to the child’s experiences e.g. “Sally went to the park…We like going to the park too, and going on the slide!”

* For any tricky or unfamiliar words stop and explain them

* Be descriptive. Talk about the pictures using the “WH” formula; Who; What; When; Where. Also throw in a How.


WHO is in the picture

WHAT they are doing

WHERE they are

WHEN the event is happening

HOW the character may be feeling

* Have your child fill in the words, particularly of a story that they are familiar with. E.g. “But where is the green…?” You may be surprised at how much your child knows, once given the opportunity to actively participate.

* Make mention of the sequence and parts of the story. E.g. “Oh this is the funny part!”, “the happy part is at the end” or “I like thestart of the story”

* Give your reactions to what is occurring in the story. E.g. “I hope he finds his teddy!” or “That’s a nice thing to do”

* Have your child think about the story too, by asking them to predict what may come next, or have them problem solve E.g. “What else can he do to get his cat out of the tree?”

You may use the same book regularly and just change it up a little each time, with different comments and questions as you go along. If you have more than one child to share a book with, it is great to have them all share the book together. For an older child you ask the more advanced questions and for the younger child, of course simplify your questions. The bonus is that your children can also be reinforced to do other things, such as taking turns to flip the pages over, and doing good listening to their sibling answering questions etc.

If you find regular book sharing tricky to fit in everyday; recounting what you/ the family have done in the day, using some of the tips given above; is also a great way to stimulate language development. E.g. “This morning after breakfast; we went to the park with Sally. You went down the slide first, and were so excited, as that is your favourite! What did you go on next?”

To help foster a love of reading, remember to have your child see you read; you may not realise just how much reading you do in day to day life; shopping lists, emails, road signs, recipes, instructions for games/ setting up items, newspapers, magazines etc. I think you get the idea, and your child will also get the idea of how reading fits into the world…

Happy book sharing!



This article was published in Shire’s Children magazine, March issue 2015.

Your child’s screen time habits – don’t get so defensive!

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I have been a Speech Pathologist for over 16 years; and the question I have NEEDED to ask parents more than ever, is “How much screen time does your child have a day?” Screen time includes iPad, TV, phone, computer, portable and car TV/ DVD players, handheld screen games.

Why do I need to ask that question?

Simply because screen time is so easily accessible these days; and over the years, logically, there has been an increase in children’s exposure and dose of daily screen time.

Among other factors; what can contribute to a language delay, and social skill difficulties is excessive screen time; as it takes away from human interaction time, and the opportunity to practice listening and using language.

Australia’s trusted parenting website answers how much screen time is recommended; “Not much is the simple answer. Children under two should steer clear of the screen altogether. Children aged 2-5 years should have no more than an hour a day. And children aged 5-18 years should have no more than two hours”.

Before you start calculating the time your child spends in front a screen and perhaps feeling guilty, like a “bad” parent or defensive – just chill out for a second. Understand that my intention here is to raise awareness and mindfulness of your child’s (and perhaps your) screen time habits – and to say in particular to those parents who may be a little concerned about their child’s communication and social skill development; that there may need to be a little re-jigging done to the “daily screen time menu”. You might consider screen time as a reward rather than routine…

Every now and again, someone will say to me; “I watched TV as a kid, and I turned out okay!” Sure – but let me state the obvious; we are looking at perhaps 20- 25 years ago, in many cases; when the only screens available to look at were TV’s, and the kids TV shows were on during a small window of the morning and afternoon. So, please do not take offence. Exercise common sense.

There is also the subgroup of parents who will often talk about their child’s iPad and how much their child has learnt from it. I agree; there are some awesome Apps; that offer great opportunities for learning different things. The same must be said about the high quality of some children’s TV shows. To enhance even further the world of Apps and TV; consider occasionally sitting alongside your child providing feedback, conversation; and/ or reinforcing what they are learning within daily living routines and activities.

Screens cannot be the replacement of real human to human interactions. Moderation is the key, to open the door to the learning and experiences that is real life!