May 14, 20190

Top Kids’ Reads for 2019

The days are getting shorter and the weather is getting colder, which means a lot of indoor time ahead. No matter what age or stage your kids are at, this is a great time to get into reading. To find out what the trends are in children’s books this year, we spoke to Dorothy Butler Bookshop’s co-owner Helen Wadsworth.

Dorothy Butler Bookshop is an institution in the world of children’s books in New Zealand. It originally opened as part of its namesake’s home in 1964 and is still going strong now in its Ponsonby location. Helen has co-owned the shop with her sister, Mary, since 2015, and is passionate about reading and kids’ stories.

Hi Helen. To start with, can you give us your top five picks, both for picture books and chapter books, that have been released so far this year?

Sure. Picture books first:

  1. Granny McFlitter: A Country Yarn by Heather Haylock and Lael Chisolm (NZ). This is an hilarious rhyming story about the knitting granny who saves the A&P show from destruction by a bull.
  2. Encyclopedia of Grannies by Eric Veilie. A quirky, funny book – everything you need to know about grannies!
  3. Circle by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. The third book in the Shape series – very funny!
  4. The Go-Away Bird by Julia Donaldson and Catherine Rayner. This book combines Julia’s great way with words and Catherine’s gorgeous illustrations to craft a story about how we all need each other sometimes
  5. The Cat from Muzzle: A High Country Cat’s Incredible Walk Home by Sally Sutton and Scott Tulloch (NZ). Based on a true story, this book tells the tale of Dwayne the cat who walked all the way from his new home in Kaikoura back to his old home on remote Muzzle Station – a journey of five week.

For chapter books;

  1. A Place of Stone and Darkness by Chris Mousdale. An epic new fantasy by a New Zealand author, who also illustrated the book.
  2. Amundsen’s Way: The Race to the South Pole by Joanna Grochowicz. A second non-fiction narrative book from this New Zealand author, about Antarctic adventurers.
  3. Bullseye Bella by James T Guthrie. Winner of last year’s New Zealand Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon Award, this is the heart-stopping story of a girl who can play darts like a pro!
  4. Starfell: Willow Moss and the Lost Day by Dominique Valente. This is Book 1 in the Starfell series, about a witch whose talent is to find lost things – but can she find the lost day?
  5. Where Dani Goes, Happy Follows by Rose Lagerkrantz and Eva Eriksson. The latest in this lovely series about a little girl called Dani, describing the ups and downs of real life for small people. Beautifully told.

Do you see a trend in the subject matter of books released this year?

This year is the 50th anniversary of the moon landing so we’re seeing lots of new and beautiful books published about space and the space race – for all ages. We are also seeing books about activism again for all ages, right from board books for babies.

What is an exciting new book that is being released soon?

 A new children’s book about Ed Hillary and Tenzing Norgay is coming out in June. Called Everest:The Remarkable Story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, it tells the story of the two men who made it to the top – and the team that got them there. But it’s not only about the climb up Everest, it covers the life stories of the two men and the impact they’ve had on Nepal. Should be good!

Then in July we’re expecting a new adventure story for 8-12 year-olds by master storyteller Katherine Rundell. Set in 19th century New York, The Good Thieves is the story of a brave young girl and her circus friends who attempt to save her Grandfather’s house from destruction by a ruthless businessman.

What classics are still popular in your store?

Classics are big sellers here at Dorothy Butler. Parents and grandparents love to read their old favourites with their kids. In terms of picture books, we still sell a lot of Hairy Maclary, Margaret Mahy books, as well as Peepo and Goodnight Moon. Then in chapter books, we have some beautiful editions of stories like Pippi Longstocking, Anne of Green Gables, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh, and lots more!

In your opinion, what is the best way to get kids reading and excited about books?

A really effective way to get kids excited about books and reading is to take them along to author events. The opportunity to meet and listen to writers and ask them questions is inspiring and makes for a memorable experience. Then, reading the book that is being talked about is a natural follow-on and it becomes a much more personal experience. We see the excitement authors and illustrators generate every time we have an event at our shop.

Apart from that, all I’d say is that children are more likely to read if the book is about something they like. If your 11-year-old is into basketball, buy him Stephen Adam’s autobiography. If your child is into Star Wars, get her a Star Wars story book!




April 8, 20194

This latest trend ‘Fiver Party Invitation’ sweeping the schoolyard could be a solution for a birthday party that won’t break the bank!

Kids love receiving invitations to birthday parties but, for some parents, it can be an expensive exercise to purchase gifts for your children’s friends every few weeks. And for the parents of the birthday child, you are often left with unnecessary plastic toys that add to the clutter in the home, not to mention the clutter on the planet.

Enter: the Fiver party. Instead of bringing a gift, each party attendee brings a five dollar note tucked into a card. The birthday child can then use the money to buy something they really want.

Sound good? For some parents this idea will be polarising, as asking for money from friends can seem a bit…unseemly. Careful wording in your invitations will counter this for most parents. The idea should be more of a suggestion than a request. One way of wording it could go like this:

Presents are not required but $5 contributions to Elsa’s scooter fund will be greatly appreciated!

As the Fiver party concept becomes more commonplace, the wording can perhaps be replaced by a simple declaration like, ‘This is a fiver party!’, but in the meantime it is best to tread carefully so as not to offend anyone.


Why have a Fiver party?

The Fiver party concept allows children to choose carefully what they spend their money on. It encourages learning around saving and making change, and it can also spur conversations around waste and looking after the planet.

The importance of a card is driven home. Often, children will ignore the card attached to a present as they hungrily rip into the wrapping. At a Fiver party, the attendee can write a heartfelt message or draw a picture that will actually be seen – before the cash is snatched and pocketed, that is!

No Fiver invitation but still want to keep to a budget and/ or reduce waste? How about these gift ideas:

  • A special and bright kids mug with some sweets in it (if you like) won’t cost much and will often be well-used in the home when kids have hot chocolate or Milo.
  • Books are always appreciated by parents (and by kids later, once the excitement of the party has died down), although they are not always cheap. Buy them on sale and keep for when birthdays come up. The Scholastic Lucky Book Club brochure usually has a few $2 books on offer.
  • Art supplies can be found at reasonable prices and can be combined to make an inspiring gift. Items like pipe cleaners and sticky note shapes make for interesting, creative projects.
  • Cookie mix in a jar. Simply layer all the dry ingredients you need for a batch of cookies into a large jar and label it with instructions. The birthday child can then add the wet ingredients and make their own treats. You can get your child to help design the label and measure the ingredients for an extra learning opportunity.

Tips for birthday gift etiquette

  • Don’t go overboard on the expensive gifts, even if you can afford it. It can make other parents and kids feel bad. You might even upstage the birthday child’s parents.
  • If more than one of your children is invited to a party, bring a gift from each child if you can, even if each gift is small.
  • Avoid noisy toys and items that will take up a lot of space, if you want to remain friends with the parents of the child you’re buying for, that is!




March 1, 20190

It’s the buzzword of the moment, appearing everywhere from magazines to school classrooms. But what does mindfulness really mean? And when practiced, what benefits can it bring to you and your family?

 To debunk some of the myth surrounding mindfulness, we talked to Dr Soph, a clinical psychologist and yoga teacher, whose mission is to spread good quality psychological understanding outside of the therapy room.


What is mindfulness?

Dr Soph starts by saying it’s important to first understand what the definition of mindfulness really is. What many may not realise, is that it’s less about still meditation and clearing the mind, and more about simply ‘paying attention to the present moment, on purpose and non-judgmentally’.

  •  “All it means is being here in the moment, right now, noticing what is happening without trying to change it. It’s a simple idea that’s hard to do because we’re often stuck in our heads, we’re rarely here in the now”, she explains.
  •  “Mindfulness isn’t about clearing your mind or having no thoughts, it’s about noticing you’re drifting away but coming back to the present moment”.


Mindfulness for parenting

As Dr Soph states, there’s no manual for being a parent, and yet it’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do. She sees practicing mindfulness as a great way for parents to learn how to be present, to stop with ‘knee-jerk’ responses to their child’s behaviour and to ensure they’re really listening to other members of the household.

  •  “Being in the moment allows you to act out of choice, not out of autopilot. When you choose how to act, you can sidestep the ‘fight or flight’ response that often comes up when we react to behaviour. With mindfulness, you give yourself the space and kindness to recognise what you or other person needs”.

The benefits of mindfulness for children

Dr Soph explains that introducing mindfulness at a young age gives children an early experience of understanding that their emotions are acceptable and temporary, and recognising the way their emotions come up in physical responses.

 Studies have also shown that mindfulness can actually change the structure of the brain, by strengthening the areas of the brain that support sustained attention, decision making and learning. “Due to this kids become better able to pay attention, they’re less distractible and have better coping mechanisms. In a school environment, this means they can concentrate, have less anxiety around exams or test situations and perform better overall”, explains Dr Soph. “We’ve also seen that they become more compassionate, and able to maintain better relationships with their peers”.


Where do you start?

Making a conscious effort to bring mindfulness into everyday family activities will see it soon become an instinctive part of your child’s own behaviour.

  •  “As we know, children are learning constantly by looking to the adults in their environments. Therefore integrating mindfulness into family life comes down to adults modelling it to children. If you’re a caregiver doing mindful meditation, spending time checking in with your body, thoughts and breath, then kids will automatically start doing it, too”, says Dr Soph.

 She recommends regularly practicing some simple mindful games that will help your child grasp the concept of mindfulness. “If you practice together when calm, it will be available to you when stressed”.

 Mindfulness is purely about being here, right now. It’s about noticing what comes up in your thoughts, but deciding to just stick with what you’re doing.

 To introduce this concept to your children, we asked Dr Soph to share some activities that are easy to make a part of your family life. So, keep an eye on the blog next week, where we’ll share these awesome tips with you!


Dr Soph is a registered Clinical Psychologist, Life Coach and Yoga Teacher, who offers one-on-one online therapy and coaching that fits around your lifestyle. She is skilled in many psychological models, including CBT, CFT, ACT, Mindfulness and Narrative Therapy.


February 7, 20190

Over the past two of weeks we’ve been hearing collective sighs of relief and high fives as kids head back to school, and parents celebrate school holiday survival.

While you might be ready to see their backpacks heading out the door, not all kids are feeling excited about their days of freedom and flexibility coming to an end. There will of course be many looking forward to reuniting with friends and getting back into school activities, others however may be feeling nervous about change – new teacher, new classes, even a new school – or adjusting to new expectations around routines, both in the home and the classroom.

A mixture of nerves and excitement is completely normal. Most children will settle within the first few weeks, others, may take a little longer to find their feet. If you’re worried about an extended adjustment period, there are some ways you can help your family feel more settled, according to Jennifer Pollard, founder and coach at The Kids Coach.

She runs coaching and classes designed to help modern children develop social, emotional and psychological strengths. As a parent, wife and business owner, she knows all about the challenges and demands facing modern families. “The adjustment period can be a trying time for the whole family with increased needs for support, reassurance and assistance. At times these increased demands can strain the time and energy of busy parents and it can be really useful to actively reduce outside commitments during the first term and allow extra time for rest and recuperation for both parents and kids”, Jennifer says.

Here are Jennifer’s tips for a happy household as kids head back to school:

● Prepare, Plan and Organise

Planning ahead helps things to run smoothly! Create simple afternoon and morning routines so that everyone knows exactly what needs to be done and in what order. Some children find having a chart with pictures to follow helps develop confidence and stay focused. Lay out clothes and pack bags the night before. Unpack bags, put lunch boxes on the bench as soon as you get home.

● Reduce extra curricular activities

During the first term give everyone more space and time to adjust to new routines, without added pressures.

● Schedule in downtime for rest and recuperation

And that’s not just for the kids – reach out to family and friends for support, and organise some kid-free time to recharge your batteries.

● Develop a relationship with your child’s teacher

Make an effort to head into school before or after class if possible, or email. Teachers are busy people with lots of children and jobs to attend to so obviously be mindful of that but it is worth taking time build a relationship with your child’s new teacher.

● Encourage playdates

Encourage your child to invite friends from school over to play after school or on the weekend. It is often preferable to invite one friend at a time so that your child can really spend time bonding with their playmate.

● Make extra time for connection

Spend time doing something enjoyable just for fun. Fresh air and a bit of exercise always helps to recharge the batteries and alleviate stress Keep communication open If you are worried that your child may still be struggling after the initial adjustment period, Jennifer says your first step should always be to chat with your child. “Make extra time alone, without distractions, where you can connect with your child, check in with them and really listen. Some children are chatty right after pick up but most need time to process their day and are more ready to talk after some quiet time alone before bed. “Simply being present and allowing them time and space to talk about whatever is on their mind can often be enough but if they need an opening try asking open ended questions.” Here are her suggestions as conversation starters to get your child to open up:

● How have things been going at school?

● What is your teacher like?

● What are you focusing on in class?

● What are the kids in your class like?

● What did you do during break time?

As a parent or caregiver, your natural reaction is often to ‘problem solve’ or quickly offer advice. However, Jennifer suggests listening with an open mind, giving your child space to express themselves and ask you questions. “A great way to finish the conversation is by reminding your child that you are there to support them, appreciate them talking to you about things and that you love and appreciate them,” she says.

Confident kids

Within a few weeks, your child should begin to feel settled, and Jennifer says that by the second terms, they will likely have built up their confidence, developed familiarity with their teacher and peers and adapted to new routines reasonably successfully. “Remember, it is natural to struggle a little when learning new things and adjusting to new people, environments and expectations – that is an important part of the learning curve that can’t be skipped or side stepped!”, Jennifer explains. “The main thing is to keep an eye on is the intensity, duration and impact of your child’s struggle.”

Jennifer Pollard is the director of The Kids Coach. She is passionate about helping families and especially children develop the tools and skills they need to empower themselves, take on the world and make the most of whatever comes their way. Her private coaching and classes combine the most effective techniques from Positive Psychology, Play Therapy and Performance Coaching to teach important life skills to children in fun, interactive and age appropriate ways that they can understand.


September 18, 20180

Knowledge is power, and this is never more true than when it comes to accessing financial support for childcare.

There are a range of New Zealand subsidies available to help families of children in care at every age, so it pays to find out if you qualify. How much you’ll receive depends on the size of your family, your income, your work hours and how many hours a week your child is in care.

If you’re already part of the sKids family or are considering enrolling your child in our Before or After School Care, Holiday or Specialty Programmes, this blog is for you. In it, we look at who qualifies for subsidies, how to apply and where to get support through the process.

sKids offers care for children aged 5-13 and is the largest private out of school care provider in the country, with 170+ sites. The driving force behind our programmes is that all kiwi families should have access to quality childcare. As part of this we want to make sure parents are aware of and can access relevant government subsidies.

The OSCAR (Out of School Care and Recreation) subsidy is particularly relevant for our families. It provides payments for children aged 5 to 13 years (or up to 18 years if they receive the Child Disability Allowance). It helps towards the costs of Before School and After School Care for up to 20 hours a week, and School Holiday Programmes for up to 50 hours a week.

Subsidies are not guaranteed to all families, but you may be able to a subsidy if you’re:

  • Working, studying or on an approved training course or
  • Involved in an activity that Work and Income has asked you to do or
  • A shift worker who works nights or
  • Seriously ill or disabled or
  • Caring for a child in hospital or for a child you get the Child Disability Allowance In most cases you can’t get the OSCAR Subsidy if the child’s other parent or caregiver can take care of the child.

Approved OSCAR programmes include:

  • Before School
  • After School
  • Holiday Programmes and Camps

Childcare assistance starts from the date the care starts (or from the date you apply if you apply after they start). All subsidies are paid directly to the childcare provider.

You can apply now through Work and Income – before your child’s first day. This way, you’ll get a subsidy as soon as your child starts a programme. This is especially important for school holidays.

To find out how much you could be entitled to, click here or the 2018 OSCAR subsidy rates.

If you are interested in finding out if you are eligible for a child care subsidy or would like to apply, visit your local Work and Income office. Alternatively, you can go to www.workandincome.govt.nz and search using the key word Childcare or call 0800 559

sKids can also support you through this process. Talk to one of our staff — we’re always happy to help.