Make The Most of Your Mail

Here is how you can augment the education factor  (and feel like such an awesome home school teacher) before you even open the envelope of ANY mail! (Children who are lucky enough to be enrolled at GAP will be getting some personalised mail this week, too!)

Spend time talking about:

* what does it say on the envelope?

* who is the envelope for and how can you tell?  (address, always in the middle)

* who sent it and how can you tell?  (return address, always either top left or on the back, and smaller than the TO address)

* who brought it to your house (the postie) and how did s/he bring it (on foot, by motorbike)? what do posties wear so you can tell they are posties and people can see them on the road?

* how did it get from the teachers to you? The teachers put things inside the envelope and sealed it and wrote the address on it, and then we took it to the post office. The post office sends it to a sorting station. The mail sorting is done by robots and people. The mail sorters don’t read the address from top to bottom like we do when we are reading a story; they read from bottom to top. First they sort the mail by country; then they take all the mail for our country, Australia, and sort that into different boxes for states/territories. Then they sort all the ACT mail into different postcodes. Then they sort by suburb. Then they sort by street and by the postie’s route, and put it into the postie’s bag to take out to the people!   Look on a world map or globe to see how that all works. 

* look at a map of Canberra, and see if you can figure out where the letter journeyed on its way to you?  There’s a postmark showing which post office it started it. Where is your local sorting station? Mitchell? Fyshwick?

* what’s on the pictures on the stamps? does anyone in your family collect stamps? what do other stamps look like?  would you like to draw your own design for a stamp?

* what do the stamps mean?  (they mean that someone paid the post office to deliver that envelope)  how much did they cost?

* is this a brand new envelope or did the sender use recycled envelopes? why is it good to use recycled envelopes? what else can you use your envelope for now? 

* sing along to the traditional German children’s song Kommt ein Vogel geflogen, about a little bird delivering a note (ein Zettel) to a child. Fly around the room like a bird, flapping your wings and delivering letters.

* want more? Here’s a kids’ video (in English) explaining the journey of a letter through Australia Post.

* now that you know how the postal system works, maybe think about leaving a note or picture on your mailbox for your postie to show your gratitude for their great community service. 

Lisa’s SUPER HOT TIP for parents wanting something to keep kids busy for HOURS for DAYS!!!
Get empty tissue boxes (or some sort of big envelope) and have your kids make mail boxes/pouches for each person in your house (to prop up outside each person’s bedroom door).  Kids can then spend HOURS drawing pictures to “post” to their family members. You can even supply some envelopes (recycled from your bills).  Be sure to check your personal mailbox regularly and make all the right noises when you find post there: Oh WOW! I got mail!!!  “Ich habe einen Brief bekommen!”

Useful German vocabulary:
ein Brief:  a letter
eine Briefmarke: postage stamp 
ein Briefumschlag:  envelope
der Brieftraeger (or die Brieftraegerin): postie (or lady postie), letter carrier
Adresse or die Postanschrift: address
ein Briefkasten: a mailbox

When you make your own mail box, you will surely want to have the German or Australia post logo on it!  Here they are:


Viel Spass, everyone!!

Six Animal Stories

Looking for School at Home story ideas? Here are three nicely told and illustrated quiet time stories by Eric Carle, and three classic German children’s shows. You could play them as audio only, or watch the video as well.

Quiet Story #1: Caterpillar
You can’t go past this classic story: It has numbers, days of the week, names of foods, and a biology lesson.  Here is the beautifully presented video of Die Kleine Raupe Nimmersatt (The Very Hungy Caterpillar)

Quiet Story #2: Chameleon
If you watch and listen to Chamaeleon Kunterbunt together, you can pause the video and ask your child to identify the chameleon’s various colours as the story progresses. There are lots of animals to pause on and identify as well. 

Quiet Story #3: Cricket  
Die kleine Grille singt ihr Lied, is about a cricket singing her song, and teaches about insects.

Classic German Children’s Show #1: Mouse
If you want to feel really German, you can join loads of German children (and parents) watching episodes of the hugely popular Die Sendung mit der Maus.  If the German is too complex for you/your child, there are also MausSpots which don’t have much text. 
The mouse has his own page (Die Seite mit der Maus!) where you can download games and short audio-books and all sorts of stuff. 
No doubt many German parents will remember it from their own childhood.  If you are interested, you can educate yourself culturally about the show here

Classic German Children’s Show #2:  Rabbits
For fans of the Guess How Much I Love You rabbits, there is a whole series of Weisst du eigentlich wie lieb ich dich habe stories online. 

Classic German Children’s Show #3:  Polar Bear
Lars der kleine Eisbaer is quite a gentle series. Letting your child enjoy Episode 1, for example, will give you 26 uninterrupted minutes to sterilise your house and hold your video conference for work…. uh, I mean, give your child 26 minutes of German education (!!!).  (Actually, if your child is sensitive maybe sit with them for episode 1 where Lars learns to swim and later accidentally floats away from his family on an ice raft and through a storm, to start his adventure…. from memory, it should be okay after that.  Spoiler alert: He returns safely to his family in the end.)

Tanzen und Turnen – Getting Exercise

Been on your Baerenjagd walk and found all the neighbourhood bears for now?

Tanzen und Turnen (dancing and gymnastics) to music at home is a great way to lift one’s spirits and stay fit and healthy.

 The ABC has some great advice for young and old about staying healthy during the shut down.  

Here are some of our top picks for dance / movement songs: 

  1. Das Lied ueber mich (one of our teachers Katja’s favourite song) covers vocabulary for different parts of the body, and a few animals as well. 
  2. Aramsamsam mit Kinder.  The lyrics are nonsense words but it is very popular with children in Germany. It even has been performed for children by the Frankfurt Opera Company. Have fun with it getting faster and faster! (I wonder if adults sing it in the giant beer tents at Oktoberfest?! Could be a lot of fun… But I digress.)
  3. So ein schoener Tag will have you zooming around the room like an airplane, flexing your tiger-strong muscles, stretching up like a giraffe, jumping, swimming and dancing around holding hands to the music because it is such a beautiful day.
  4. Das Zappellied (the wiggle song) which is also good for vocabulary and concepts like beside / in front / behind / sit down / lie down… when you just can’t sit still on a chair!
  5. Tschu Tschu Wa.  Most GAP parents have participated in this action song at pick up time already, so they can enjoy a reprise at home.  You’d better all know this one off by heart when we get back together later this year!! 🙂  
  6. A-E-I-O-U is another great one for movement. Here’s a version with subtitles, but even if you don’t know the words following the teacher in the first link will give you a pretty good workout. 🙂  (Here is the original of that song with good old Volker Rosin who must have written about a billion children’s hits in Germany since the 1980’s.) 
  7. Ich bin ein Einhorn. I’m not sure what sort of actions you and your children can come up with for this last song, but this one is especially for our unicorn fans.

Viel Spass! (Have fun!)

Prepare Your Home School

Here are a few staples that it would be great for each child to have at their home-school. 

The basics:

  • crayons  (wax crayons; don’t go with oil pastels as you will never get it off your carpet/walls/furniture/work clothes/dog’s fur)
  • pencil crayons (the little tiny packs you get on airplanes are rubbish… invest in 12 or so long ones of a reputable brand like Crayola)
  • a normal pencil
  • a pencil sharpener
  • a pair of children’s scissors
  • paper (lots of white is great, some coloured if you can) (it doesn’t matter if it has Department of Finance stuff or whatever on the back… it can still be used for drawing and colouring)
  • glue and/or glue stick
  • sticky tape

Optional highly desirable items

  • a pack of children’s textas (any size) to colour on paper
  • chalk (for drawing outside)
  • a blank A4 book to draw in
  • an old paint brush (1 to 2 inches wide) to ‘paint’ on the pavement outside, using water in a bucket / empty container
  • a ball of coloured wool (the thicker the wool, the better)
  • a stapler
  • some envelopes (recycled from your bills)
  • a 246-inch screen and unlimited subscriptions to Netflix and Foxtel  (NO! I’m KIDDING!!)
  • bottle of wine and big block of chocolate (for Mummy) (Again, NO! I’m KIDDING!! Put that back!)

In the craft and activity ideas we provide on our website during our COVID closure, we’ll try to give you craft ideas that involve things that can be found at home.

Good luck, everyone!

Rest Time is Important

Want to maintain a GAP-like routine at home at rest time? (Hint: The correct answer is yes! It will keep you and your children SANE!)

The GAP children are used to listening to 40 minutes from our Ruhezeit (rest time) playlist at rest time every day.  It is their cue to lie down and relax. (With any luck, once you have established the routine at home, it can also be your cue to get a whole pile of work done, too!) 

Here’s our quiet time Spotify playlist for you… GAP Ruhezeit.

Rest time (Ruhezeit, pronounced ROO-eh-site) comes right after lunch and story time at GAP. 

For the first ten minutes the children all lie down and relax… no books, no toys… just resting with their heads on their pillows, lights off, stimuli put aside and curtains drawn.  Some children like to be patted on their backs.  No talking, just meditating and day-dreaming.  

After ten minutes, teachers silently mime opening a book (using baby sign language, as depicted below) and those who haven’t fallen asleep then look at books or play with a soft-toy, either sitting or lying on their mattress, for the remaining 30 minutes. 

Even for older children who don’t usually sleep at rest time, it is a good recharge and a chance to just relax and day-dream for a while. After their day-dreaming time, they could extend their rest time with an audio book or chapter book.

The GAP children are all pretty good at this, and it is a good skill to have in life. 

Baby sign language for reading a book

Enjoy your Ruhezeit!

Going on a Bear Hunt

Looking for some extra fun while you are walking in your neighborhood?

Perhaps you and Oma and Opa would like to join in the fun while staying safe indoors, too.

Pop a teddy bear (or a few of them) in your window, and walk around the neighbourhood in the coming days and see if you can find more.

To extend the educational experience, you can enjoy children’s author Michael Rosen’s delightful telling of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt story (in English).  

There’s a fun audio version of the Bear Hunt song (in German) here, too. 

Be sure to participate in the actions, and enjoy your Baerenjagd.  

Viel Spass!

Setting Routines at home

Here are our tips for setting a routine at home, now that the family are working and schooling from home.

* Set a routine schedule for the kids; it helps make things predictable for the children. 

* Communicate with your partner and share the workloads: one of you works (the paid work) while the other looks after house/food/children (the super-valuable unpaid work), then you swap.

* With a steady schedule in place with your partner, you will know when you will be available for video conferences with colleagues, for example. Stick to that schedule as much as you can.

* If you are on house/food/children duty and are squeezing work in on the side, that’s fine, but if the children need attention remember YOU are on duty and your prompt attention to their needs will ensure your partner can keep working (and they will do the same for you when it is their turn). 

* Schedule in that each parent gets a bit of free time once a week as well, while the other does the children/food/household.

* Whenever both parents can work (ie kids’ nap times, special movie time), do that.

* Involve children in laundry folding, bed making, dishwashing, meal preparation, etc… even if it takes three times as long, it counts as time spent with them, keeps them busy and keeps your household moving forward.

* Plan (and shop for) your meals for the week so you don’t have to interrupt your partner’s work to find out what am I meant to be cooking tonight, nor find out that the ingredients you planned to use on your rostered dinner-night have already been used up. 

* Be realistic in what you can achieve at (paid) work. Your productivity may well dip but that is to be expected.

* If trying to juggle it all starts negatively affecting your relationship with your children, stop and reassess your priorities. Hone down your work commitments or seek outside help.

* Be patient and kind to each other and to the children…. Remember it’s tricky for everyone to adjust to the new situation.  

* Remember the children are not actually trying to wreck your work life (really, they’re not! It just seems like it sometimes!)… They just want love and attention.

* Our teachers will help you by preparing some materials (which we will post on the webpage and email to our GAP families) with activity ideas, and hopefully we will be able to make little videos for the children, too.

* If you have room, set up individual spaces in the house so you each have somewhere to retreat to recharge and maintain your sanity.

* Keep your family routines: Keep normal meal times, wake and sleep times.

* Get dressed properly for work on your work days. It maintains a sense of normalcy and reminds you you’re still working. 

* Make a “happy list” of things you can do and enjoy while at home, include things you can do even when locked down or isolated.

* Music is a wonderful mood setter. Use music to calm children and your household, or cheer everyone up.

* To cut down on the number of directions (orders) you need to give to children throughout the day, like “brush your teeth, get ready for bed, come to the table to eat, tidy up, rest time…” keep to routines and take a tip from our teachers and choose some non-verbal cues such as a certain song or the sound of a little bell or similar to signal the beginning of routine activities. GAP children will know [ring, ring! (of a bell)] “Wir räumen auf!” or “Wir gehen rein!” for example.

* The children have all learned how to sit quietly for one minute (and sometimes longer) having meditation time at GAP. It is a great calmer. Ask them to show you how to do it, and add it to your regular daily routine (we did it 2-3 times per day at GAP after circle/story time and before handwashing and meals). We sometimes chime a little triangle [ding!] to gently signal the end of meditation time.

* Remember that ‘social distancing’ is really just ‘physical distancing’; keep in social contact with your friends, neighbours, colleagues and extended family.

* Think of lockdowns, travel bans and closures not as a reason for panic, but more as a chance for humanity to all stand still for a while, in an act of mass cooperation worldwide to protect the vulnerable in our society.

Spielwelt’s covid-19 response

The ABC news live COVID-19 coverage each day is a great place to keep up to date with the latest news in this rapidly changing and developing situation.

Spielwelt has decided not to wait for ACT schools to close. We are taking action earlier as a precaution, especially given the knowledge of what our extended families in Germany are experiencing already.

For Spielwelt the situation is as follows:

1. Schlaumaeuse put its sessions on hold until further notice, from 6pm on Wed 17 March 2020.

2. Pfadfinder ceased meeting face to face from Wed 17 March, and will carry on online.

3. Spiel und Spass ceased meeting until further notice, from Sun 22 March. 

4. The German Australian Playschool held its last session on Mon 23 March, and will reopen as soon as it is safe to do so. Teachers will prepare regular emails for families and include activities, songs, ideas and tips (and hopefully even videos) to help families offer GAP-at-home for their children.

Have written separately to all our groups to let them know about the refund policy and how it applies to them, and exactly how any childcare subsidy is likely to be affected.

All our groups aim to re-open later in 2020, when the COVID-19 situation has resolved to the point where bans and distancing measures have been lifted and the health risks are greatly reduced.

Stay healthy and sing along, everyone:  Haende waschen, Haende waschen (even if your towel is gone, like in the song!)

We love the Arboretum.

We love the Arboretum so much, we have been a couple of times this year. We even helped launch their new network of trails and discovered there is more to the Arboretum than the fabulous acorn playground.

Looking at bark, leaves, insects and wondering about different types of eucalypts

We scrambled over big boulders and up the sides of steep hills, adventured into forests we hadn’t seen before, played atop a hill in a forest, completed an exciting scavenger hunt in a formal garden, and visited the building that looks like the Sydney Opera House.

On another visit, we went again with our favourite education officer, Heather, to help let some helicopter seeds fly in the wind, watch birds feeding their young in a nest, see a big nest, explore the bonsai garden (and imagine we were tiny fairies living in those tiny forest scenes), and hear a lovely story.

Helping Heather launch helicopter seeds in the wind
Testing our skills and confidence inside the acorn playground
The teachers were impressed by seeing how many children were brave enough to go all the way up to the top of the acorn playground by themselves.