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Spending Time with Kids: How Much Is Enough?

Spending Time With Kids: How Much Is Enough?

The need to spend time with their parents differs for different kids. For some, there’s no end to the time they’d spend with you. However, other kids feel differently. There’s no right answer.

Australia ranks first

According to a recent study, Australian parents rank number one among OECD countries (including most of Europe, North America, the UK and Finland) when it comes to spending time with their kids. The lion’s share of this time is still invested by mums but Australian dads are ahead of those from many other countries, averaging around 70 minutes a day with their children.

The source of misplaced parental guilt

According to research published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, not spending enough time with children is the biggest source of parental guilt in Australia.

The researchers also found that it’s quality, not quantity, of time children spend with parents that’s important for their emotional wellbeing, achievement and behaviour for kids aged 3-11 years. The researchers concluded that the volume of time doesn’t matter. It’s much more important how time is spent with your children when you are together. This in no way advocates for absentee parenting. It’s about making the most of the family time you have and reducing feelings of stress for you if you can’t be around as much as you’d like to be.

Here are some ideas to help make sure you optimise the time you spend with your kids:

  • Create a tradition of one-on-one time with each of your kids around an activity that you both enjoy, such as a cafe catch up over a milkshake, shooting hoops or playing a favourite board game.
  • Read regularly to each other, as these are special times of connection, especially in bed at night.
  • Eat meals together as a family so you can all catch up and connect – this is worth its weight in gold when it comes to quality time.
  • Pay attention to your children, watching for cues that they’re in need of extra time with you.
  • Adolescents benefit from spending extra time with their parents. Through interactions with their parents teenagers can learn to make better decisions about their health, improve their academic achievement and experience better wellbeing.
  • Take an interest in their interests. Connect with your children through the activities that they value such as music, sport or games, even if they aren’t hobbies you don’t normally enjoy. Your kids will appreciate you making the effort and will respond accordingly.
  • Be present when you’re with your kids. Research shows our minds can wander up to 47% of the time when we are with our loved ones. If you’re present with our kids, you won’t miss out on nearly half of that precious time.

Be mindful of the importance of unstructured time for kids. That is, time they spend playing alone or with siblings and friends. Play is essential for our kids’ wellbeing and development. Play changes as our kids grow up but as long as whatever they’re doing is child-led, it’s play. This is the time to leave them to it.

This blog was reproduced with kind permission from Parenting Ideas


What Shall We Say About Santa?

What Shall We Say About Santa?

What’s the protocol for parents who choose not to ‘do Santa’ with their kids? One mum highlights the pitfalls…

*        *        *       *        *        *

When my brother was seven, the teacher called him a “nasty little liar” and made him sit outside the classroom all afternoon for telling Julie Ashbrook that Santa didn’t exist. My parents, who had no truck with St. Nick, the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny, had briefed their children well regarding not spoiling things for other kids. While I kept shtum, however, my little brother was less diplomatic, eager to ‘educate’ his friends with inside information that Father Christmas was a fake.

Fast forward a few decades and I found myself in a similar position with my own kids. One child would happily humour any friend who still believed in Santa Claus. The other struggled to contain his sense of moral duty to inform his peers they had been duped.

We have never ‘done’ Santa in our house, partly because I never did it as a child so it would feel plain weird to introduce it now and partly (mostly) because celebrating the birth of Jesus is more than exciting enough for us. Nevertheless, I appreciate that many families get great enjoyment from commemorating Santa’s annual benevolence and I have no desire to spoil their fun. But how do you rein in your kids and stop them blabbing, without compelling them to ‘lie’?

It is impossible during this Santa-saturated season to avoid the issue. Father Christmas is everywhere. Even my church playgroup hosts a Christmas party where the pastor, dressed as Santa, distributes gifts from the church altar (which strikes me as a confusing experience for any child). I feel fortunate that my children attend a school where Santa isn’t even mentioned, unlike my own more secular education where ‘letters to Santa’ was standard seasonal writing practice.

My approach with my own kids was to explain that many parents play a ‘fun game’ with their children where they pretend that their Christmas presents come from Father Christmas. “You mustn’t spoil their game. Only the parents are allowed to decide when the game ends”. My children were allowed to say that they didn’t believe in Santa Claus, if asked, but not to declare that he didn’t exist. This worked to a point (with a little recalibration of my blabbermouth child).

The biggest problem, as it turned out, was not with other children but with their parents. Many adults seemed quite annoyed, angry even, that my children had no interest in the big red fella. No matter how politely my kids responded to the perpetual “What’s Santa getting you for Christmas?” questions (“We don’t believe in Santa Claus but I hope Mum and Dad will get me some Lego”), there were frequent objections from the adults (“Of course you believe in Santa!”, “If you don’t believe, you won’t receive!”) … or something more sinister (“Well only good children get visits from Father Christmas so maybe you were naughty this year?”). Ouch!

It’s a tricky one to navigate. We didn’t want to offend or upset anyone. We didn’t want to spoil their kids’ Christmas. But neither did I want my children labelled ‘naughty liars’ or chastised for not playing along.

Santa Meme

A good friend of mine gave me the solution. It was a simple sentence my children learnt by rote and it went like this:

“I’m sorry, Santa is not part of our family traditions”

It is a sentence that sounds so sophisticated coming from a small child’s mouth that it’s patently clear where it originated. It’s a polite “back off” to any adult hearing it as they realise the poor child belongs to one of those killjoy families who deprive their child of the joy and wonder of Santa. And it works a treat!

Happy Christmas, everyone! 


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Ten Top Tips for Students Starting High School

10 Top Tips for Students Starting High School

So you’ve graduated Junior School? Things are about to get really exciting now you’re entering Year 7: New teachers, students, subjects, opportunities – maybe your own locker for the first time. Your workload will increase but your studies will get more interesting as you apply and build on the foundational skills you developed in Junior School.

Ready for a sensational start to High School? Read our top 10 tips, courtesy of King’s Student Wellbeing team:

1. Get Organised

Make this your priority as you start Term 1.

  • Prepare before term starts:
    • Organise your home space – where you are going to do your homework, put things, display your planning calendars etc
    • Make sure you have everything you need:  the correct stationery, school books, electronic device, uniform etc
    • Work out where you can put things to make mornings easier (eg where to leave bag, hat etc)
  • Understand the school timetable and routine – know how everything works so you don’t get caught out. Find out where your classrooms are located and how to get to them – carry a campus map with you, if available.
  • Write everything down – use your school diary, planning calendars etc. Write down your homework and key tasks and tick them off when you’ve completed them.
  • Make a study timetable (see ‘Keep on top of homework’, below). Include breaks and extra-curricular activities in your plan.
  • Pack your bag the night before rather than first thing in the morning. Forgetting homework, sports kit etc is less likely if you organise your bag in advance.

2. Get involved ASAP

This is the year to explore new interests  and try something new. Don’t miss out on all the opportunities open to you. Find out what’s available. This might include: 

  • Clubs and extra-curricular activities
  • A new sport
  • Volunteering
  • Leadership opportunities
  • A new elective in your school subjects (eg food technology, digital arts)

This will help you develop more skills, make new friends and find out more about yourself – your strengths and your passions.

3. Speak up

If you don’t understand something in class, don’t sit quietly hoping you can work it out later. Put your hand up and ask. Chances are there will be at least one other person in the room who doesn’t get it either. I’ll let you into a little secret – teachers love it when kids ask for clarification. And they’re really good at explaining things in different ways. They would much rather go over something again in class than discover you’d not understood it when they see your test results later in the term.  

Learning is like building a brick wall – if you miss a brick at the bottom, you will miss two in the space above it, then three in the space above that and very soon, you have a massive gap in your learning. Do everything you can to help yourself understand a concept – ask a friend, ask your teacher, research, ask your parents.

4. Take care of your stuff

Don’t be one of the kids that has to visit the Lost Property department every lunchtime. For safety and security, use your locker to store your belongings. Make sure your phone is turned off and left in your locker during the school day. Tidy(ish) lockers and bedrooms make things easier to find! 

5. Keep on top of homework (get into a routine)

 YOU NEVER HAVE NO HOMEWORK. There is always something you can be doing every night to lessen your assignment load/help you better understand a topic, rehearse a practical task, study for a test, revise classwork, revise cognitive verbs. If you put aside time every night to focus on school work – you will manage your workload better.

6. Don’t panic if your grades slip

You are working more independently in High School and the way your work is assessed differs to the systems used in Primary School. It may take a little time to adjust. If your marks dip a little in the first semester, don’t freak out. If they plunge to unfamiliar depths, speak to your teacher(s).

7. Learn how to look after yourself

Start your journey towards independence and responsibility now. For example:

  • Pack your own school lunch, iron your own uniform
  • Find out where you can get help if you need it (eg home group teachers school counsellors, pastoral care, homework help/tutoring in library at lunchtime, child helplines)
  • Start motivating yourself rather than relying on your parents to supervise your homework/consult a teacher/organise an activity etc
  • Eat a healthy breakfast every morning (your mind and body need fuelling!)

8. Be proactive with friendships

Include yourself in conversations and friendship groups rather than waiting to be included and getting upset. Be brave, take the first step and join in activities that will introduce you to people who enjoy the same things (see ‘Get involved’, above).

9. Mind your manners

Be courteous to your peers and teachers. Look for ways to be kind and encouraging rather than score ‘cool’ points for the wittiest put-downs. Extend your best manners to email correspondence as well, eg ‘Dear Mr Owens, I did not understand how to do my homework as I was away last week, would you please have some time to go through it with me?’

10. Embrace the change

Let’s be honest, school life will never be the same as it was in Junior School. But that’s a wonderful thing! Yes, you will face greater challenges but you will also have more opportunities and responsibility. Take a positive and enthusiastic attitude to the changes. High School can and should be an stimulating and rewarding part of your life. 


It’s Raining, It’s Boring … What to Do on the Gold Coast When It Rains

It's Raining, It's Boring ... What to Do on the Gold Coast When it Rains

Updated: 14/02/2020

Kids. Rain. Gold Coast. Ideas?

Beautiful beaches, amazing weather, theme parks, promenades and playgrounds – the Gold Coast has it all.

And then it rains.

Yes there’s the cinemas, the bowling alleys and the highly congested children’s play centres … but then what? How do you keep the kids entertained and off the computer games during the soggy season?

Here are my eight (highly subjective) top ideas for what to do with the kids on the Gold Coast when it pours.

1. Get wet

Trust a pommy to state the obvious … but where I come from we’re used to doing things in the rain; if we sat inside waiting for the sun to come out, we’d never leave the house!

The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play (The Cat in the Hat)
(Courtesy of Dr Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat)

Now I’m not suggesting you go out and play in the middle of a thunderstorm or Cyclone Debbie but there’s so much to enjoy on the GC in a light to moderate drizzle.

  • Fun without the crowds

    If you’re going to get wet anyway, why not enjoy a water activity while everyone else is hiding away indoors? Bingo! No queues!

GC Aqua Park, Southport
GC Aqua Park, Southport

  • Go for a walk

    Put on your boots and raincoats and go for a hike – the perfect drizzly weather activity. We live in such a great area, blessed with an abundance of natural beauty. Throw a change of clothes and a towel in the car then enjoy a hot chocolate and sticky bun at a nearby café afterwards once you’ve ‘earned’ it.

    Do check the weather forecast beforehand to ensure you’re not going to get stranded in the middle of a hurricane. And make sure you are wearing sensible footwear and clothing – I once wore thongs to navigate the muddy puddles at Springbrook and got savaged by leeches.


Hinze Dam CafeAmazing view from the View Café, Hinze Dam

2. Do an indoor sport

Try something active you wouldn’t usually do:

Core Climbing, Carrara
Core Climbing, Carrara

  • Practise your swing at Topgolf – a high-tech driving range in Oxenford. Micro-chipped golf balls keep track of every shot.
  • Bounce (Burleigh) and Jummps (Parkwood) offer wall-to-wall trampoline fun.  
  • Is bouncing/sliding on huge inflatables a sport? We think so! Inflatable World in Arundel houses a whole range of inflatable slides, obstacle courses and activities all under one roof. It can, however, get busy … and hot!

Inflatable World, Arundel
Inflatable World, Arundel

3. Sing your blues away

Karaoke of course! Hire a private room in one of the Gold Coasts’ great karaoke bars and enjoy some fun family sing-alongs, Japanese style.  My family are all tone-deaf so we spend more time laughing at each other than performing but we particularly love EStar Karaoke bar in Southport’s Chinatown.  You can hire a private karaoke room for five people from $39/hour and bring your own food and drinks.

E-Star Karaoke, Southport

4. Make like a tourist

I lived in London for over 10 years but never visited many of the famous attractions like the Tower of London or Madam Tussauds as I wrote them off as tourist fodder. I jogged around the Greenwich Observatory every morning for several years without ever paying to go inside.

Locals often overlook the many obvious attractions on their doorstep.  Of course, we’ve all done the big theme parks on the Gold Coast at some point of other, even if we don’t hold an annual VIP pass, but there are many smaller or new indoor entertainment centres to explore on a rainy day (maybe just the one rainy day though; they can be quite expensive). Grab a Gold Coast tourist booklet to find out what the outta-towners do with the kids when they visit the GC or take a look on TripAdvisor.

Here are a few that may have flown under your radar:

  • Escape Hunt, Southport

    In groups of two to six people, you are locked in a themed room and have to use the clues and objects within to work out how to escape. You have 90 minutes to complete the task and there are six different adventure rooms available to challenge you. My family failed miserably to work out who murdered the victim in the wine cellar … and that was with extra time and a ridiculous amount of help from staff via the intercom. The previous party of primary school kids completed same escape room in 45 minutes.

    Alternatively, try Padlockd in Surfer’s Paradise.

Escape Hunt
Escape Hunt, Southport

  • iFly, Surfers Paradise

    Indoor skydiving. Float on a column of air in a giant glass tunnel.No jumping out of aeroplanes. What could be more fun?

  • ArtVo Illusions, Robina Town Centre

    Billed as Australia’s first immersive, ‘trick-art’ gallery”, this place is an Instagrammer’s playground! 1,400 square metres of optical art masterpieces in six themed zones. The museum staff are on hand to help you find the best positions for your selfies as you become part of the art.

  • artvo
    ArtVo, Robina

    • Crazy Cat Café, Surfers Paradise

      This is an odd one: A café, attached to a mock living room set-up, where 14 friendly felines roam freely to be stroked, cuddled and petted.  Heaven knows how it got past Health & Safety but my pet-deprived children went wild for this place.  You can pay for a 50 minute or 25 minute session with the cats and purchases from the café itself are optional (we didn’t bother, although their coffee came third in a recent Gold Coast Bulletin poll).

      Cool Cat Cafe
      Crazy Cat Café, Surfer’s Paradise

    • Infinity, Surfers Paradise

      This has been around for ages but have you ever actually been in?  I love this place: Imaginative, beautiful, challenging, artistic – this is a ‘world’ of different rooms, mazes and spaces to explore (and find your way out of!).  A bit too scary for the littlies and physically demanding for anyone wobbly on their legs (I once took a great aunt who struggled with the different levels and uneven footing, given her two artificial hips. I had to leave her stranded in a pitch dark room on a wobbly rubber floor, supporting herself by grasping the fake arms that extended from the walls, while I desperately sought the exit on my hands and knees.  Never again!). Lots of fun though. My kids never get bored of it.

    • Holoverse, Surfers Paradise

      The world’s first ‘Holographic Entertainment Centre’. Interact with moving holograms and be amazed by 3D special effects in a range of holographic experiences – from a planetarium to a virtual Superman-style fly over the Gold Coast or an immersive action game.  Participants play alone in one of 40 hologram rooms. Has to be experienced to be appreciated. 

     Holoverse, Southport

    5. Get arty-crafty

    • Gold Coast’s HOTA (Home of the Arts) in Bundall runs creative arts workshops, children’s theatre performances and fun family activities throughout the year.
    • Bunnings offers a range of interesting DIY workshops and art classes for kids on Saturdays and in the school holidays. Contact your local store for details.
    • The Sweet Fine Artist Studio (Mermaid Beach) runs two-hour art classes for children on Saturdays and during the school holidays.

    6. Use the rain

    Make the wet weather the central attraction and set the kids a rain-based project:

    • Measure it

      Make a rain gauge and find out how much rain you’re getting:


      Rain Gauge

      Plot a chart to compare day-on-day rainfall (if experiencing a long spell of rainy weather), compare to water fall in a shower or go online to see how the rainfall compares with the previous year.

    • Paint it

      Get the kids to paint/draw the soggy scene they see outside the windows … or the raindrops on the window.   Even better, bundle them into the car, find a shelter in an area of natural beauty and paint the view in situ.  I have children with no interest in art whatsoever but they love the drama of huddling in a covered picnic area with an artist’s sketch pad and a tin of pastels while the rain drenches everything around them.

    • Survive it

      Kids love making dens, forts and cubby houses.  Challenge them to make a waterproof shelter outside in the rain using a selection of materials (tarps, inflatable pool toys, umbrellas, plastics etc).  Don’t send them out in a hurricane, obviously, but see if they can construct a small refuge that would protect them from the elements … and then serve them afternoon tea in it.

    7. Defrag

    Make a wet day an ‘Op Shop Day’:

    Get the whole family involved sifting and sorting through old clothes, toys and clutter then take the unwanted pre-loveds to the local charity shop.  Visit a selection of op shops and let the kids use their pocket money on games, toys and dress-ups that they can enjoy for the rest of the wet day.  (Of course, this may incur an additional defrag day to declutter the house from the new purchases but at least some cheap entertainment may be derived from the exercise.)

    8. Check out Gold Coast libraries and shopping centres

    Gold Coast City Libraries run a wide range of free or low-cost activities for kids and teens throughout the year, including coding and robotics, art and craft, stop-motion animation, lego and electronic music. 

    The larger Gold Coast shopping centres often run school holiday and weekend activities.  Visit their websites for further information:

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    Good Friends and Plenty of Sleep Help Keep Girls Happy

    Good Friends and Plenty of Sleep Help Keep Girls Happy

    Getting enough sleep and spending face-to-face time with friends are the best ways for teenage girls to guard against unhappiness and psychological ill-health, according to a recent UK government report [State of the Nation 2019: Children and Young People’s Wellbeing (October 2019)].

    The research, undertaken by the UK Department of Health and Department for Education, suggests that these two factors are more important than staying off social media, which has a smaller impact on teenage girls’ happiness.

    “Enough sleep” was defined as eight to 10 hours for young people aged 14-15 and a minimum of eight hours for 17-19 year-olds.

    Other “consistent protective factors for positive psychological health” amongst girls were:

    • a positive attitude towards school;
    • a high level of control over their lives;
    • regular physical exercise;
    • feeling safe in their neighbourhoods.

    The report backs up findings from Australian studies (such as the Youth Mental Health Report (2017) and Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Educational Outcomes (2017)) that girls are twice as likely to experience anxiety and psychological illness than boys and that mental wellbeing decreases from the age of 12 for both genders.

    Appearance was the part of life both boys and girls were least happy with. This declined from the age of 12, with 79.9% of children aged 10-12 being “relatively happy” with their appearance, compared to 67.8% of 13-15 year-olds.

    Adolescents were most happy about their family, friends and health, according to the report.

    A 2018 survey by Common Sense Media (USA) found that 61% of teenagers preferred texting, video chatting or using social media than direct communication. Given the benefits of face-to-face friendships for our teenage daughters’ emotional wellbeing, maybe we should be encouraging more IRL* interactions.

    * ‘In Real Life’ (yup, apparently that’s a ‘thing’ now for Gen Zs. How retro!)

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    The School Formal Dress on a Budget


    Is it too early in the year to talk school formal dresses? Apparently not. I was astonished to discover Year 11 parents discussing this topic back in October – nearly a whole year before their daughters would be walking the red carpet to their big event. The main cause of concern was cost and how much they needed to put aside. 

    Research by Fame & Partners revealed that, nationally, girls spend an average of $800 on dressing for their school formal. Presumably this includes shoes, jewellery, hair, makeup, nails, spray tan and a whole load of other peripherals. It still seems a lot of money to me … if not to those parents who are thrilled to fork out $1,000 for their daughter’s ‘perfect dress’.

    For those of us with less money at our disposal, here are some suggestions for finding that fantastic dress without breaking the bank.

    Things to bear in mind:

    • The dress will probably only be worn once..
      … unless your daughter has a wedding or film premiere to attend in the near future. How much to you really want to spend on an outfit for a single occasion?
    • Don’t choose a dress too early
      Bodies, fashions and tastes change – particularly for teenagers. 
    • But don’t leave it too late
      Make sure you have time for fittings, matching accessories etc
    • Check the rules
      Many schools have strict guidelines and regulations about ‘acceptable’ formal attire and will not allow dresses slashed to the navel or above the knee, for example. Make sure you know what those rules are before you splash out on an outfit. At King’s, these guidelines are published on Compass and all dresses must be approved a week before the formal.
    • Underwear
      What will your child wear underneath that backless dress or strappy bodice that will give them support without flashing lingerie or leaving visible underwear lines? Do they need to consider ‘fashion tape’ or shapewear?
    • Consider comfort
      If your daughter is going to feel so self-conscious in that clingy, low-cut gown that she won’t be able to relax and enjoy herself, maybe she should consider alternative styles.
    • Try, try and try
      Trying on a wide variety of dresses in different styles will give your daughter a clearer idea of what suits her shape and what she feels confident in. If she’s never worn a formal dress before, this is a great starting point. Don’t worry about the price tags at this stage, the aim is to establish the look and feel she is pursuing, rather than identify a specific dress.

    Hiring a dress

    This an increasingly popular option for girls wanting high fashion for a fraction of the price. You pay approximately a quarter of the actual price of the dress to hire it for a period of four to seven days and the cost will include dry cleaning.

    Most formal dress hires on the Gold Coast keep a registry of dresses that have been leased for each formal, to ensure girls don’t turn up wearing identical outfits at the same event.

    Typically, hiring a formal dress will cost between $100 and $200, although some boutiques, like One Night Stand in Bundall, start as low as $60 for a week’s hire.

    The Gift of the Gown (Pimpama) is a free hire service run by a Gold Coast mum, leasing donated formal dresses at no charge for those who would not otherwise be able to afford them – although customers are expected to cover the cost of dry-cleaning afterwards.

    The disadvantage of renting is that, unless you are a standard size anything, you may have trouble finding something that fits well. Hire companies don’t usually allow for adjustments to be made. Still, there are plenty of options on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane if you want to go and try on some fabulous dresses for size … plus a plethora of national designer outlets online who will mail out formal dresses for hire.

    Local formal hire outlets (Gold Coast) include:

    NB Most of the above are by appointment only

    Online formal rental hire (nationwide) includes:

    Buying a dress

    Purchasing a dress does give you the opportunity to get it adjusted or refitted in time for the formal and, of course, it may be worn again (or sold on) after the event.

    Second hand

    It’s the ethical, sustainable option … but it’s always going to be a bit hit-and-miss. Set aside lots of time for research and sourcing. However, given how many women sell their evening wear after a single event, buying a pre-loved gown can be a cost-effective way to finding that perfect dress.

    There’s plenty to choose from on ebay, of course, but it’s better to try before you buy. One person’s size 12 is another’s size 8! Here are some other suggestions:

    • Op shops
      Many sell pre-loved evening wear and you might get lucky. The Lifeline Shop in Southport, for example, has a good range of second-hand bridal and formal wear.
    • Gumtree
      Search for pre-loved formal dresses in the Gold Coast region and request to try on for size before buying. There are many beautiful dresses for sale here for under $50.
    • Ex-hire 
      Many of the formal hire outlets have a rack sale for dresses they are no longer leasing, with evening wear typically selling at the $99 mark.
    • Facebook – buy, swap, sell pages
      There are many local Gold Coast Facebook groups where women post formal wear they would like to sell. This is a great place to start a month or two after the formal season when High School graduates are selling their formal dresses. Try:
    • Her Wardrobe Markets (Broadbeach and Coolangatta)
      Vintage and pre-loved designer wear can be found amongst the jumble sale items at these monthly markets.
    • Formally Yours (Logan)
      This is a free service assisting Year 12s in financial hardship with finding suitable formal, celebration and job interview attire. They have a huge range of donated formal wear for students to try on and selected items may be kept for FREE.


    A brand new formal evening dress will usually come with a high price-tag, although bargains may be found in the sales.

    Bridal and formal wear boutiques will often have sale racks. Heavenly Bridal & Formal (Helensvale), for example, sells discounted bridal and evening dresses for $99 – $150.

    Online retailers, ASOS and The Iconic, sell a small range of evening wear for less than it costs to hire a dress.

    TKMaxx (Burleigh Heads / Southport /Helensvale) sells discounted designer and brand name fashions, including evening wear.


    If money were no option, this would be the way to get a perfect fit. With the possible exception of our wedding day, few of us can afford to buy a made-to-measure dress, however.

    I’m from the generation that still remembers Molly RIngwald’s character making her own prom dress in “Pretty in Pink”. I had a mum who designed and sewed all my favourite clothes and I just about managed to make my own wedding dress. Sadly, dressmaking is a dying art and few teenagers now have that aunt or neighbour who can throw together an evening gown from a couple of metres of silk Georgette.

    However, it’s worth checking out crafter’s website Etsy, where you can get a made-to-measure dress for under $200. (Search for ‘made to measure evening dress’). You pick a design and send your measurements to the seller who will sew and return your dress within a few weeks. I can’t guarantee the quality or the fit but it’s an option worth considering. I have a couple of friends who have tried this and were very happy with the results.

    Formal hair and make-up

    Hair, make-up, fake tan, nails…

    It’s funny how we live in an age where we expect to be ‘pampered’ and have things done for us. Do we not have friends who could coiff our hair? Have we not watched enough YouTube make-up tutorials to apply our own smokey eye? When did doing our own hair and makeup with our girlfriends stop being fun?

    Paying for the manicure, the spray tan, the professional make-up application… you might as well push your budget over the cliff! Try to get as much of this done for free if you want to keep a rein on your finances. Call in favours from talented friends and neighbours. Practise hair styles, watch YouTube tutorials, get ideas from Pinterest. Throw a ‘pre-formal getting ready party’ for your daughter and her friends. Maybe you could do the manicures?

    Check out those nails!

    If your daughter insists on being the pampered princess, start buying discounted coupons and treatments from Groupon now. TAFEs and beauty/hairdressing colleges may offer cut-price hair and make-up services. I know of some Year 12 grads who got their formal make-up done at department store cosmetic counters.

    Set a budget

    Once you’ve done a little research into how much formal attire (and accoutrements) cost – and when you’ve picked your jaw back up off the floor – set a budget and stick to it. Consider putting money aside each week/month so you don’t get clobbered all in one go.

    If your daughter wants to exceed that budget, it is reasonable to insist she does so at her own expense.

    * * * * * * * * *

    After 12+ years of education, it is understandable that the school formal is such an important coming-of-age event in your daughter’s life. But it is only one night. And it is not a wedding.

    And it’s not all about the dress!



    Leading the Way for Children During the COVID-19 Pandemic

    Leading the Way for Children During the COVID-19 Pandemic

    If you’re like me, the news of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has your head spinning and your heart pumping. That’s only natural as life as we know has taken a seismic shift in recent days.

    International travel bans, cancellation of sporting and cultural events, shopping frenzies and talk of school closures continue to dominate the airwaves. Terms such as social distancing, self-isolation and social lockdowns have entered our vocabularies and may soon become part of our daily lives.

    Coronavirus is having an unprecedented impact on our daily lives, and will probably do so for some time. While keeping ourselves and children healthy and safe is our main concern, it’s also essential to address the anxieties of children and young people during these changing times. Here are some ideas to help inform, reassure and keep children and young people safe.

    Build on what your children know

    Children and young people have already been exposed to a great deal of information about corona virus through media, digital means and direct social contact. Their understanding will vary depending on their age and also the quality of their information sources so you probably will need to help kids process what they already know.

    Casual conversations with teenagers and older children can be useful ways to glean their understanding. You could ask questions like “What are you hearing about Coronavirus? Is there anything you’re not sure about?” Younger primary age children may need a more direct approach with parents addressing their specific concerns without giving too much information that can overwhelm them.

    Check your own thoughts and feelings

    Check your own frame of mind and emotions about COVID-19 before talking to kids. Most children are astute mood detectives and they’ll gauge their safety by the way you communicate with them. If you tell a child, “You’ve got to wash your hands or you’ll get infected,” you are communicating your own anxieties, making it difficult for them to maintain a healthy state of mind. Have a think about how you can frame your instructions and their importance in a way that doesn’t heighten your child’s anxieties.

    Stay informed

    It’s difficult to work out fact from fiction, correct from incorrect, information from exaggeration when the news is changing so fast. However you need to educate yourself about the virus itself, including how it’s transmitted and how to stay safe. Get information from trustworthy sources such as The Australian Government Health Department website and the current federal government corona virus information media campaign.

    Answer questions truthfully

    It’s important that parents and teachers answer children’s questions honestly in age-appropriate ways and within context of what is happening at the given time. If their sport or hobby has been temporarily cancelled empathise with their concerns, while helping them maintain a sense of perspective.

    Initiate positive action

    One way to reduce anxiety and allay children’s fears is to involve them in planning and preparation for their personal and group safety. Positive activities such as maintenance of personal hygiene, greeting people with an elbow tap and getting plenty of sleep can help restore a sense of control, that is so important for their wellbeing.

    Find refuge in rituals

    Regular rituals such as mealtimes, bedtime stories and regular one-on-one time provide both an anchor to normality and a sense of connection for kids at times of change. Consider reconstituting favoured family rituals at this time if they have lapsed due to lack of time, or lifestyle frenzy.

    Look outwards

    In difficult times there is a tendency to look inwards, which is a natural protective strategy. The alternative is to establish a sense of connection and community spirit by focusing on generosity and togetherness. Help children see past their own needs and look for ways to assist others whether it’s shopping for an elderly neighbour, helping a younger sibling occupy themselves, or planning an indoor movie night for the whole family.

    * * *

    The Coronavirus presents many practical challenges to parents and other important adults in the lives of kids. Staying calm, keeping informed, and adjusting our own habits are just some of the challenges we face. However a significant challenge is one of personal leadership. That is, during these difficult times we need to be civil to each other, look out for each other and be mindful of the common good in everything we do. In this, we can all take a significant lead.

    Reproduced with kind permission from Parenting Ideas

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    #caremongering in the Kindness Pandemic


    Among the daily news of bad behaviour – selfish stockpiling, ignorant racism and reckless irresponsibility – come stories of great kindness: Communities looking out for each other and new friendships flowering, albeit at an appropriate social distance. 

    “Caremongering, not scaremongering,” is the rallying cry of Canadian volunteers and altruists as they band together to bring food and essentials to their country’s most vulnerable. 

    In the UK, an umbrella organisation, COVID-19 Mutual Aid UK, has been set up to manage the thousands of small volunteer community groups that have sprung up across the country. Self-isolating and need emergency supplies? A friendly phone call or a dog walked? COVID-19 Mutual Aid’s database helps connect Brits with people in their postcode area who can reach out to help. Across Australia, neighbourhoods have set up community Facebook and WhatsApp groups to bring people together.

    Closeness had nothing to do with distance

    As borders close and we edge closer towards lockdown in this season of uncertainty, it will be more important than ever to find ways to connect and care for each other.

    Have you started yet?

    Here are some practical ways you can look out for people in your community:

    • Leaflet your neighbourhood with offers to help
      Make sure they have your contact details so they know how to reach you.

      We wrote to everyone in our road and have received wonderful texts, emails and even hand-written notes in reply. We have got to know neighbours at the far end of our street who we’d never met before, including an elderly self-isolating couple who go out on their boat to chat to us from across the canal.



    How are you reaching out in the current crisis? Let us know in your comments below.

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    Great Sporty Reads for Kids Stuck Indoors

    Great Sporty Reeds for Kids Stuck Indoors

    Do your children love sport, but can’t play at the moment? Why not get them reading, now they have time? Get them reading about their favourite sport. King’s Head Librarian, Amanda Roberts, highlights a selection of scintillating sports fiction to get them started. Several of the authors are players themselves.


    Here are two series for the cricket lovers:

    Big Bash League series by Michael Panckridge:

    Big Bash League Switch-Hit Showdown
    Switch Hit Showdown
    Big Bash League Captain's Clash
    Captain’s Clash
    Big Bash League Double Delivery
    Double Delivery
    Big Bash League Bowling Blitz
    Bowling Blitz

    Glenn Maxwell
    series by Patrick Loughlin, James Hart and Glenn Maxwell:

    Glenn Maxwell Lucky Break
    Lucky Break
    Glenn Maxwell Academy All-Stars
    Academy All-Stars
    Glenn Maxwell State Showdown
    Stage Showdown


    And for the netball lovers:

    Netball Gems series by Bernadette Hellard and Lisa Gibbs:

    Netball Gems - Hooked on Netball
    Hooked on Netball
    Netball Gems - Chase Your Goal
    Chase Your Goal
    Netball Gems - Pivot and Win
    Pivot and Win

    Rugby Union

    For all the Rugby Union players here are a few great reads:

    Diary of a Rugby Champ - Shamini Flint
     Diary of a Rugby Champ – Shamini Flint

    Izzy Folau Series – David Harding & Izzy Folau

    Standing Tall - Izzy Folau
    Standing Tall
    Pushed to the Limit - Izzy Folau
    Pushed to the Limit

    Rugby League NRL

    Rugby League lovers will enjoy…

    Billy Slater series by Patrick Loughlin & Nahum Ziersch:

    Try Time - Billy Slater
    Try Time
    Banana Kick - Billy Slater
    Banana Kick
    Show and Go - Billy Slater
    Show & Go
    Chip and Chase - Billy Slater
    Chip & Chase


    AFL players will enjoy these two series: 

    Fox Swift series by David Lawrence & Cyril Rioli:

    Fox Swift
    Fox Swift
    Fox Swift Takes on the Unbeatables
    Fox Swift Takes on the Unbeatables

    Specky Magee Series
    by Felice Arena & Gary Lyon:

    Specky Magee - Ready to Make His Mark
    Ready to Make His Mark
    Specky Magee and the Great Footy Contest
    The Great Footy Contest
    Specky Magee and the Season of Champions
    The Season of Champions
    Specky Magee and the Boots of Glory
    The Boots of Glory


    Basketball players, here are two great reads:

    Diary of a Basketball Hero - Shamini Flint
    Diary of a Basketball Hero
    by Shamini Flint
    Basketball Breakdown - Jake Maddox and Val Priebe
    Basketball Breakdown
    by Jake Maddox & Val Priebe


    I haven’t forgotten the soccer players; here are a couple of great soccer stories:

    Extra Time - Morris Gleitzmann
    Extra Time
    by Morris Gleitzmann
    Zero to Hero - Rob Childs
    Zero to Hero
    by Rob Childs

    With many school and council library buildings now closed, why not check out their online catalogues and access some e-books? It’s a lot cheaper than buying books online! Get your child to read them to you. Discuss the stories and help them with their comprehension skills. Let’s use our precious time with our children, enjoying some great books.

    Happy reading!

    Amanda Roberts

    Amanda Roberts
    King’s Christian College

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    Bored? Try a New Board Game!

    Bored? Try a New Board Game!

    So we’re into our second week of #FunAtHome Easter holidays. How’s it going for you? Have you dusted down the old board games and enjoyed a family game night or two? I’ve seen several discussions on social media about board games over the last few weeks – mostly parents asking for suggestions, as they realise they cannot face the monotony of Monopoly or another round of Snakes and Ladders. What games are fun to play in isolation with your nearest and dearest? What’s new? What have we missed?

    For a little inspiration, we quizzed some of King’s much-loved teachers and staff about the games they enjoyed playing with their families. Care to see what they picked? Step this way …


    Simon Redropp
    Mr Simon Redropp
    Primary Music Teacher
    Reedy Creek Campus

    Favourite game: Sequence

    “Our family’s favourite game is Sequence. It involves maths, identifying patterns and numbers. Team members must also communicate between each other without using words. It’s easy for any age group to play and that’s the reason we love it.”


    Katinka Niemeijer
    Mrs Katinka Niemeijer
    Reception & Administration
    Pimpama Campus

    Favourite game: Monopoly Empire

    “We play Rummikub, Sequence and lots of card games. We love competing against each other in a friendly way … but also spare NO FEELINGS! 😀

    “Monopoly Empire is another fun one – it varies from the original by using a billboard concept around corporations/brands like Coca Cola, instead of street names. You are able to ‘steal’ billboards from other players during the game in a  forced swap. It’s also much quicker than traditional Monopoly – it only take 30 minutes to complete.”



    Gavin Andrews
    Mr Gavin Andrews
    Year 2 Teacher
    Logan Village Campus

    Favourite game: Blokus

    “My family enjoys playing the game Blokus – both at home and when we are camping. This is a great game that involves strategy and planning. Blokus requires four people placing their game pieces on the board. Each piece can only join at the corners. The aim of the game is to get all your pieces out, whilst blocking the other players. Both my boys (seven and 10) enjoy the challenge and the friendly competition involved in the game.”


    Christine Harm
    Mrs Christine Harm
    King’s Director of Performing Arts

    Favourite game: Qwirkle

    “We love Qwirkle. It’s a great game for the whole family, doesn’t use words or numbers (it’s very visual though – so young kids can play too), it doesn’t drag out (like Monopoly can!) and it’s very ‘portable’. The pieces come in their own bag, so you can chuck it in your travel gear or take it off site (picnics, etc) very easily. There may even be a smaller-sized travel version (but we don’t own that one – yet!)”


    Daniel Jurin
    Mr Daniel Jurin
    King’s Coordinator of Visual and Digital Art

    Favourite game: BANG!

    Board games are tricky for us because my daughter, who is six, must win or there is a meltdown. But my son and I like to play board games. Lately we have been playing the card game BANG! It is enjoyable because games are over quickly (15 mins approx) and there is usually high intensity and uncertainty about who will win till the end. The strategy is the perfect level for my nine year old son who understands the subtle elements of the game because they are pretty straightforward. There are ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ and when it is all over you deal again and everyone gets a new role.”


    Melissa Harris

    Mrs Melissa Harris
    High School Teacher Aide
    Reedy Creek Campus

    Favourite game: Throw Throw Burrito

    “Our favourite board game is Throw Throw Burrito. It is exactly as the name suggests: A fun card game that allows the winners throughout each round to duel, brawl or go to war with opponents by throwing a foam burrito when their hand of cards dictates they can. Yep! Awesome right! I love it because it’s like “safe” dodgeball and you need to stay alert and make sure your reaction time is spot on. Even though I am often the winner of the card portion of the game, I am more often than not defeated overall when the boys’ burrito hits me before I can aim and connect with them. My throwing ability and aim is clearly not on point lol. The other reason I bought this game for our family is because one of my brothers used to be the CEO of Guzman y Gomez Mexican Kitchen and it seemed the right game to honour him with.”

    Throw Throw Burrito

    Peter Fossey
    Mr Peter Fossey
    Head of Primary School
    Logan Village Campus

    Favourite game: Scrabble/Trouble

    “As a child I had two board games that gave me a lot of enjoyment: Mouse Trap and Creepy Critters. Nowadays I love playing Scrabble and Trouble with my grandchildren when I am in Geelong, which sadly is not often enough these days. Missing my fam!”

    Scrabble and Trouble

    Ray & Victoria Donaldson
    Mr Ray Donaldson
    King’s Security

    Mrs Vicky Donaldson
    King’s Trade Training Centre

    Favourite game: Billionaire

    Billionaire is definitely a fun one for our family.  We have lots of laughter and shouting as you are all trying to trade cards at the same time, and try to be sneaky to get rid of the ‘Tax Man’.  The kids love this game and we all enjoy playing it together.  What we love about it is the laughter, and it’s fun and easy to play.  We also get the next door neighbours involved too and they also love to play with us.  We love that our house is filled with fun and laughter when we play this game.”


    Carl Hotko
    Mr Carl Hotko
    Assistant Head of Mathematics
    Reedy Creek Campus

    Favourite game: Sheriff of Nottingham

    Mr Hotko has something of a reputation at King’s for being a board game aficionado. When asked about his favourite family board game, he submitted an 11 page document highlighting his favourite dozen! Sadly, we had to pin him down to one on this occasion.

    “This bluffing card game is all about extortion, bribery, smuggling and a little bit of honest business.

    “The play consists rounds where each player assumes the role of the Sheriff for one turn. The other players take on the roll of merchants trying to honestly sell bread, apples, cheese or chickens. However, they may also try to sweeten their day with some illicit goods for a larger profit. Players declare what they are bringing through the gate and the Sheriff, at his or her discretion, may choose to let the merchant in, or search his bags for contraband. The Sheriff may or may not be swayed by bribery or try to extort the humble merchants to speed things along. Fines are paid if you are caught attempting to smuggle. The Sheriff pays compensation if he or she finds no contraband. The game really hits its stride as players ham up the role play. A fun game which works best with more players (up to five).”

    Sheriff of Nottingham

    Ralf de la Mare
    Mr Ralf de la Mare
    Year 5 & 6 Coordinator
    Pimpama Campus

    Favourite game: UNO

    My brother and I played a lot of Yahtzee growing up – I think we just loved yelling YAHTZEE!!! Must have driven mum nuts, but she probably preferred that rather than us fighting over a game of Monopoly. Boys, hey!

    “These days we play a bit of UNO with the kids. Micah (3) genuinely won our last family Uno game much to Macy’s (7) disgust! What a great game for colour and number recognition! We just have to be sure to agree on what rules are in play before we start – what is it about board games that get people so stirred up?!”


    Tracey Verrayne
    Mrs Tracey Verreynne
    King’s Head of Early Learning

    Favourite game: Whatsama (UNO variation)

    The Verreynnes LOVE playing board games with their three teenage children.I like to WIN!” admits Mr Rob Verreynne, a King’s high school teacher.Seeing family members writhing in agony as I execute pain and suffering upon them is an added bonus 🤪,” he adds (somewhat disturbingly).

    King’s Head of Early Learning, Mrs Tracey Verreynne, thinks it’s important to have snacks to keep everyone happy at the table and admits that family board games do “sometimes end in tears, but we all learn to communicate”.

    “One of our absolute favourites which lands up in serious competition is a version of UNO which we call ‘Whatsama‘ …  a game to be wide awake! Our version starts with a sneaky dealer who tries to deal extra cards without being caught (if caught he ‘eats’ two of them before the game starts). To give the dealer a fair speed advantage all players may only pick up their dealt cards once the dealer has picked theirs up to signal the start of the game… Failing to wait for the dealer results in ‘eat two’ for each wrong doer.

    “Although the game starts in a clockwise rotation any player who has a matching card to the card facing up may throw their card down shouting ‘Whatsama!’ and the game continues to the next player in the direction of the game. Any player with an exact the card same colour and number may play out of turn… If they intercept an unsuspecting player, the person who wrongfully shows their card will ‘eat two’ and the player who manages to get their correct card down first continues play. Cards need to be exactly the same number and colour to be played out of turn. The speed of the game creates the odd wrong card being thrown out resulting in another ‘eat two’. The ‘0’ card may be played when the correct colour is being played, at which point the person playing may decide to swap cards with anyone or keep their own cards.”

    Confused? Me too! I can see why snacks might be called for!

    Where to buy board games

    Support your local independent games shop, where you can. If you can’t find the game on on the shelf, they should be able to order a copy in for you. Otherwise, here are some great Australian sites for purchasing some of the harder-to-find board games:

    What are your favourite family board games? Do you have any unusual ones? Pass on your tips for family fun by commenting, below.

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