Reintroducing Darling Buds of Play

The past week has been pretty crazy for me. A week ago, Olivia let me know she’d made the decision to leave Darling Buds of Play. I’ve had to really assess what DBoP means to me and whether I was ready to go it alone.

Welcome to Darling Buds of Play: The Kat Project! I’ve decided that I need to continue on with this venture. I believe so deeply in what Darling Buds is about and what we’ve been trying to achieve that I just can’t let it go.

So, in light of this reshuffle I thought I’d take some time to share who I am, what DBoP is all about and why you should stick around.

What is Darling Buds of Play all about?

Darling Buds of Play is a resource for mums who experience depression, anxiety or who just struggle from time to time with looking after themselves and finding joy in being a parent.

By sharing my journey towards mindful parenting and the struggles I face as a mum when my depression takes over, I hope to provide inspiration, support and positivity to other mums.

Why should you listen to me?

Because I’m a mum.

When I had my second child (a mere 15 months after my first child) I ended up in the Mothers and Babies mental health unit here in Christchurch. For the past four years I’ve had the constant support of psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors and family support workers. I truly wish that these were resources every mother could access because they are a huge reason why I’m the mum I am today.

Darling Buds of Play pairs the lessons and advice I’ve received from professionals, with my own unique struggles, experiences and approach to parenting. Hopefully I’m able to provide a different perspective to parenting challenges… something that you can use or adapt to support your own journey.

Want to know a bit more about me?

I’m a mum of two boys aged (almost) 4 and 5. I believe in gentle and emotionally intelligent parenting. As a parent this means I want to get to the feelings and emotions that are the source of undesirable behaviour rather than punish or deal with the actions.

I believe nature is the greatest imagination kickstarter. I believe kids should be raised to appreciate and respect all the wonderful blessings Mother Earth bestows on us.

I’m also a giant nerd. I love sci-fi, quiz nights, board games and comics. I’m a feminist and vocal advocate for LGBTQ rights. If you follow Darling Buds of Play expect Star Wars references and impassioned equality rants!

Welcome! I’m so so very glad you’re here. Feel free to introduce yourself below.

Six free things to do with kids during winter

Winter is for hot drinks and good books by the fire. Unless you have kids, then winter is about cabin fever and mud. This winter, Olivia and I have been trying hard not to let the cold and wet stop us getting out and active. We’ve put together a list of six things we’ve done with our kids over the last month, both indoors and out.

1. Gardening

In my gardening blog, I talk about how getting kids involved with planting and raising vegetables encourages them to eat them too. Winter is the perfect time to get your seeds sown ready for spring transplanting. Dom’s my little gardener and I love that we have this special activity together. I just got a greenhouse, but you don’t need one for raising seeds in winter… a windowsill works just as well!

2. Explore a park or reserve

We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful country. It seems a shame that we only truly appreciate it during the warmer months. This winter we’ve been getting outdoors any time it’s not raining. There’s something magical about sun sparkling on the frost and breathing crisp, cold air that makes me truly thankful for all my blessings! Remember to wear gumboots and take a change of clothes… if there’s a puddle, there’s a 97% chance of splashing.

3. Play boardgames

I will never stop encouraging everyone to play boardgames! Dom got given Piratak for his birthday and it’s become an instant favourite! It’s a simple and quick card game that encourages counting, sharing and strategy. And it’s simple enough for a 3 year old to understand! I highly recommend it!

4. Do some baking

Buds babies love baking! On our most recent baking day we made scones. These are great for kids who love to get messy! Icky sticky hands and flour everywhere! We used scone recipes from Robyn Martin’s Favourite Bakes… they’re simple and virtually foolproof. There’s nothing better than a warm scone with butter on a cold afternoon!

5. Go on a scavenger hunt

For our family, this was the easiest, most fun activity on the list! We took a walk around the neighbourhood on a Sunday afternoon to alleviate cabin fever. Normally the kids complain they’re “running out of energy” very quickly on walks. Adding a scavenger hunt kept them engaged and made them really take notice of their surroundings in a way they don’t usually. We didn’t have a single complaint the whole trip! I’ve made a printable scavenger hunt that you can download for free!

6. Take a trip to the snow

This one isn’t ~technically free because petrol isn’t free. But packing our own lunch sure cut down on the costs. We drove up to Mt Hutt ski field so the boys could have their first real play in the snow! Dom loved it but Connor wasn’t so keen on the cold. We also found that the snow at the ski field itself was compacted and difficult to make snowballs out of (and what’s a trip to the snow without a snowball fight?). I recommend trying to find somewhere that’s had less foot traffic to get the real fluffy snow that’s perfect for playing in.

These are just some of our ideas… we’ve obviously left off crafts which always seems to be the #1 winter activity on most lists like this. We would love to see your snaps so tag us on Facebook (@darlingbudsofplaynz) or Instagram (@darlingbudsofplay).

Feel free to share your ideas too… there’s a lot of cold wintery days to fill.

How I overcame my fear and joined a community garden.

Most of my childhood memories are outdoors; climbing trees, falling out of trees, getting stung by stinging nettle,and helping grandad pick up leaves.

As an adult I still enjoy being outdoors but feel like I need to be productive with my time and climbing trees just doesn’t feel very in-line with my physical capabilities these days.

Gardening as a hobby has always been something I’ve dreamed of aspiring too yet failed when it has felt overwhelming… THERE’S SO MUCH TO LEARN!

You think with a childhood mostly outside I would have picked up a few gardening tips. Yet sadly I don’t know what a weed is and what’s not.

I have tried to learn how to garden via books, youtube and instagram yet I have accepted the fact that I learn the best by ‘doing’. I heard a few weeks ago that a great way to learn how to garden is going down to a community garden and learning from the others there. Perfect!

Sounds like great advice right?

The only thing standing in the way was myself. I pictured turning up there and being met with a lumberjack and a khaki wearing ranger girl who runs with lions. Why do we do this to ourselves? Build things up in our heads and turn a harmless thing into the scariest most intimidating thing out there. I have made a point of trying to push those (often incredibly wrong) assumptions to the side and facing the fear.

And how wrong was I?! I was met with the most kind, sweet and welcoming duo. They were so happy to see me and harboured no judgement at all. One lady actually admitted that she knew nothing when she started either and really recommended learning through the community garden.

If there is something you’re putting off for fear of looking silly, getting it wrong or whatever it may be. I encourage you to try and push yourself to do it.

Also, if you have a community garden by you I definitely want to encourage you go go down and check it out!

Why I encourage the boys to play outdoors

I was an outdoor child and my imagination was never stronger! I grew up in Golden Bay which is filled with limestone labyrinths and these were the pillars of my childhood. I made houses in limestone caves and large rock platforms were my fashion runway.

 The Grove, Takaka. Photo from the  Department of Conservation .

The Grove, Takaka. Photo from the Department of Conservation .

Research shows that children who have access to the outdoors are better able to manage stress and depression… and the more the better. In fact research abounds about the positive impact of spending time outdoors, both for adults and children.

I still love the outdoors and very little makes me happier than picnics and camping. I love getting in to nature with my boys. And the thing I’ve noticed is that my boys fight less with each other when they’re playing outside. Whether it’s the open space, fresh air or abundance of imagination-triggering objects, I don’t know… all I know is that it works.

And I think the imagination play is my favourite thing. Connor has commanded a “squadron of soldiers” (his words) from a play fort, turned a bush into a soft serve machine selling ice cream over the hedge counter, and, of course, turned sticks into swords. Dom has used tall grass as rocket ship controls, turned cabbage tree leaves into brooms and used sticks as power tools. Together, they’ve been explorers, parents, jungle animals and more. And my heart swells each time I get a glimpse into their imagination-fuelled play.

Before we know it summer will be over and we’ll find it harder and harder to get outdoors. I encourage you all to make the most of it while the sun shines.

How to get your kids eating vegetables they’ve never wanted to try.

I think it’s one of the truths of parenting that getting kids to eat their vegetables is a challenge. After receiving advice that getting your children involved in preparing dinner was one way to get them interested in trying their vegetables, I decided to take it one step further…

I got my boys to grow their own vegetables.

I’ve always wanted to make sure my boys knew how to cook and felt at home in a kitchen. So when I heard that getting them to help prepare dinner was a great way to get them interested in trying vegetables I thought this was perfect, especially for Connor whose stubborn streak definitely applies to eating any vegetable other than carrots.

Getting them started when they’re young enough that helping is a fun activity rather than a chore means I have two very eager sous chefs. In fact, because I can only handle having one mini-helper at a time, there are often tears from the one who misses out.

Last summer, I built a raised garden bed out of untreated Macrocarpa sleepers. I planted a few things but mostly forgot about it over winter. The one thing I did tend was my silverbeet. I found that one way to appease the child that wasn’t my designated helper for the evening, was to send them out to the garden with Daddy to pick silverbeet.

This had brilliant results! Suddenly my boys were talking about vegetables, how much they helped with dinner, and were willing to try this leafy green! And they love it!

Now that summer is here, I cleaned out all my weeds and plants gone to seed and decided to get my boys engaged in gardening. They decided which vegetables they wanted to grow – corn and more delicious silverbeet.

While we dug holes for the seedlings and gently placed our plants, we talked about how plants grow… how sunlight and water and nutrients in the soil all help make our plants healthy and happy. Dominic especially has an interest in all things STEM related so loved getting all this new knowledge.

They help water the plants every day and (more often than not) are the ones reminding me it’s watering time. They’re excited to see their little plants growing and ask when they’ll be ready to eat. They’re ready to plant more vegetables, but unfortunately my garden’s not big enough. It’s certainly the impetus I need to get started on the next raised bed.

I don’t have a love of gardening, myself, but I do love how enthusiastic my to little helpers are. If the results of the silverbeet are anything to go by, we’ll have two lovers of corn on the cob very soon!

I highly encourage you to get your kids involved in gardening. Even if you don’t have a vegetable garden, planting a few lettuce or silverbeet plants in and around your flowers is a great way to start getting the kids involved in where their food comes from and how precious nature’s gift to us is.

Introducing Olivia and Kat

We all have those uncomfortable memories of sitting around with a new group of people when someone announces that we are going to do some ice breaker exercises *queue shrinking in the chair trying to let the earth swallow me up!! No I do not what to become a human knot and try to untangle ourselves…. I DID NOT DRESS FOR THIS!*

…However, we do see the benefits of icebreakers, even if they can be uncomfortable. You get to know us, we get to know you, which in turn takes us one step closer to being full fledged friends, supporters and community. We all want that right??

Below we’re going to answer some typical ice breaker questions. We’d love to hear your answers and if you want to know something else ask it in the comment section. We’re also happy to answer anything… well… almost anything.

But first, here’s how Darling Buds Of Play came to be:

We both worked at the same company but because of maternity leave we actually met for the first time at Paint ‘N’ Sip one evening.

  My Paint N Sip effort. The only thing I knew about Olivia at the time was her crush on our co-worker, who is now her husband. - Kat.

My Paint N Sip effort. The only thing I knew about Olivia at the time was her crush on our co-worker, who is now her husband. – Kat.

Over the next couple of years we bonded over pregnancies, babies, anxieties, juggling life, DIY and creativity. We had many conversations about our values, morals, parenting goals and what we wanted for our kids. This lead to us thinking that there has to be more out there for us. When we both became full time stay-at-home mums, we decided to start the blog that we wished had been available when we were struggling… a community of local New Zealanders sharing their experiences raising kids, managing mental health and being responsible citizens of the earth.

Still with us? Awesome! Here are the icebreaker questions:


What’s your favorite way to spend a weekend?

Kat: Exploring our beautiful city. There are so many wonderful parks, forests and walks right on our doorstep here in Christchurch. There’s no better way to spend a Saturday than packing a picnic and watching the children let their inner explorer out in nature.

Olivia: Out in nature. I love to make the most of exploring new places and getting out of the house. I love spending time with friends and family and try to make the most of it during the weekends.

What are three things on your bucket list?

Kat: Start a blog to share and connect with mums who have experienced post natal depression! BIG TICK!!! Have a lifestyle block on the outskirts of town. Raise chickens.

Olivia: Visit Yosemite National Park, write a novel and own a dog.



Have you ever met anyone famous?

Kat: I’m a lover of music and concerts so I’ve met a few musicians. I guess the most famous are Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco and Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance.

Olivia: Nope… I’ve been at the same restaurant as Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew from Harry Potter) but we didn’t actually meet.

What are you reading right now?

Kat: I’m re-reading A City Possessed by Lynley Hood, the story of the Peter Ellis and the Christchurch Civic Creche.

Olivia: Ken Follets – Fall of Giants – this has to be the biggest book I have ever tackled.



Who’s someone you really admire?

Kat: Brendon Urie from Panic! At The Disco. He’s humble and kind and his words and actions preach love, generosity and acceptance.

Olivia: Maya Angelou! She was so full of wisdom

What was the first CD you bought?

Kat: Ummmm… showing my age here, but my first album I bought was on cassette and it was Dookie by Green Day.

Olivia: I actually bought two at the same time; P!nk – missundaztood and Baha Men – Who Let The Dogs Out?


Okay lovelies, don’t be shy! We really would love to learn more about you! So jump right in and answer a question or two… or all of them!!