How to help teens take care of their health

How to help teens take care of their health

The teenage years see many dramatic changes our kids’ health and development. In 2020, these dramatic changes have been compounded by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Research has shown that young people have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, and are experiencing increased stress and anxiety. It’s important that parents are equipped to help teens take care of their health, especially through this challenging period.

Every parent will be aware of how difficult it is to support teens to make beneficial changes. It feels like they rebel against us out of sheer spite – if we tell them vegetables are good for them, they will most likely never touch a carrot again. At least, not until they are 25 and have woken up to themselves.

Trying to get a teen who doesn’t like exercising to exercise, or one who never talks to open up… well, we’ve got our work cut out for us.

Three golden rules

Remember the three golden rules for getting teens to do absolutely everything:

1. Make it about their friends

If you can tie their mates to their wellbeing, you’ll have more chance of success. This could be offering to be the car pool driver for them all to go the local pool or a gym session; providing a healthy fruit and veggie platter when they are all hanging out at your place; or even just mentioning that so-and-so is looking good after starting a new gym program, etc. 

Helping teens take care of their health through their friendships

2. Ask, don’t tell

Making a ‘suggestion’, not ‘telling them what to do’ is our best strategy for gently nudging our teens in the direction we want them to head. It helps if you can offer them two healthy choices and then the decision is theirs.

3. Bin the nags

It can be so easy to fall into a pattern of nagging. All our teens hear when we do this is that we find fault in everything they do. Instead, seek out the times when they are doing something well and hit the praise button as hard as you can. “Well done for walking to school this morning, did you feel good?”; “Thanks heaps for taking the dog out, I really appreciate it”; “I noticed you picked up your towel this morning and I’m really grateful,” etc.

To further help us out, the YMCA have created Virtual Y. It’s a completely free online wellbeing hub aimed at supporting kids at home. The team have a few areas where they can help teens take care of their physical and mental health.

Nutrition loading

While we know that Nutrition Australia’s Healthy Eating Pyramid is a great place to start for good nutrition,  getting our kids on board isn’t easy. Good nutrition in the teen years if vital for physical and mental health, but it’s hard to get kids to understand the benefits.

Help teens take care of their health through good nutrition

We can relay info to our kids until we are blue in the face, but they are unlikely to change their Gatorade-guzzling ways. Enter Virtual Y, which shares important nutrition information in a non-confrontational way. There’s a nutrition coach available to answer any of their food and nutrition questions. They also regularly update the site with new and delicious recipes that will appeal to even the fussiest teen.

Latest recipes include asparagus fries, banana and blueberry bread, and Japanese vegetable pancakes – all straight-forward enough for even brand new cooks to make themselves.

Keep ’em moving

It’s more important than ever for teens to get their bodies moving and stay physically active. Not only is exercise vital to health, growth and development, it also has emotional and intellectual benefits. Physical activity can help to improve mood, sleep patterns, mental health and even concentration.

Virtual Y includes a range of online fitness classes to help teens get into and reap the benefits of movement and routine. From Pilates, yoga and dance, to HIIT, strength and cardio training – there’s bound to be a class that appeals. It’s all completely free to access online – so they don’t even need to leave the house.

If the Virtual Y program doesn’t appeal to your teen, there are plenty of free workouts, yoga and pilates channels via YouTube. Just make sure the instructors are qualified! We like Yoga with Adriene, The Balanced Life for Pilates, AthleanX for strength training and Joe Wicks for HIIT-style workouts.

Teens take care of their health

The key to keeping teens active is to help them get into a good routine. Exercise should become a habit, like brushing their teeth (hopefully teeth brushing is a habit by now!) or checking their Insta.

Set up a schedule for getting them moving, and work with your teen to add as much variety in there as possible. They might walk to and from school each day, do a Virtual Y yoga class before school on Tuesdays, a HIIT class before dinner on Thursdays and go for a long bushwalk, skate or surf on the weekends.

Mental health is just as important

Mental health becomes very important during the teen years, as teenagers spend more time with friends. They begin experiencing new pressures and stressors, and often turn to social media to stay connected.

Mental health can be impacted by factors including diet and exercise (see above), sleep patterns, or drug and alcohol use. Teens are also experiencing a flurry of hormonal changes, which can then affect their mental health (and our own!!). Many teens are in quiet crisis during these turbulent years, so stay alert for changes in behaviour and be ready to seek help if necessary. There’s a list of contacts that can help your teen here.

Though it can sometimes feel hard when our kids push us away, it’s important to stay connected in order to support their mental health. Virtual Y suggests that parents can do this by taking an active interest in their teens’ lives. Encourage them to talk about their feelings and show plenty of love and affection. Spending quality time with them away from everyday distractions will help get them to open up.

50+of the best movies to watch with your teens
11 family games teens will be into too
100 fun, quirky, important ways to bond with your teen

What’s your top tip to help teens take care of their health?

This post was not sponsored by Virtual Y – we just wanted to share their excellent free program.

Feature image by Madison Compton;  beach by Vince Fleming; salad by Brooke Lark; skate by Priscilla Du Preez 

Don’t get us started on how cute this reinbeer is…

Don’t get us started on how cute this reinbeer is…

Emma Rowe of Frog Goose and Bear party fame is our resident crafty minx. She makes all kinds of fabulous stuff for birthdays and Christmas. Including reinbeer.

Reinbeer! We die!

It’s a pretty simple concept. You stick pipe cleaner antlers, a little red pom pom and googly eyes on your choice of beer bottle. Sometimes the most effective craft moments are actually the easiest.  Dead simple, as it happens. Creativity is so often an IDEA more than a commitment. And, honestly, no one can say they’re not crafty when faced with something as simple as this.

Total reinbeer awesomeness

Reinbeer bottles are so much fun

What you need

  • Hot glue gun
  • Brown pipe cleaners
  • Googly eyes
  • Beer

What you do

Take one pipe cleaner and wrap it around the lid of the bottle to secure. Cut a second pipe cleaner in half and twist onto first pipe cleaner to make antlers.

Glue a nose and eyes onto the neck of the bottle.

If you grab a six-pack of beer, you can add a cute printable label to the box for added Christmas cheer. You can find a free label here. OR you could head here and customise your own.

Hello reinbeer and thank you for being so cute for so little effort! Could it really be that easy? It could. Can it really be this cute? It is!

Try making Emma’s crackers too:


Expressing gratitude at Christmas

Apparently reindeer beer is something that’s been doing the rounds on Pinterest for a while. We couldn’t trace the exact moment someone first came up with this most excellent concept, but we are grateful to them.

We are also especially grateful to Emma. Firstly, for being wonderful and generous and kind and just so ridiculously clever, always. And secondly for introducing us to the glory that is reinbeer.

We’re off to find the hot glue gun and make someone’s day…

Know someone who deserves a reinbeer this Christmas?

What makes a good teacher?

What makes a good teacher?

We recently spoke to Eddie Woo (of WooTube and Teenage Boss infamy) to get his thoughts on what makes a good teacher. This question was sparked by our own frustration at the enormous differences between classroom teaching styles and teachers ability to engage a student. Given Eddie’s popularity, we figured his approach was worth listening to.

“Great maths teachers must marry two key skills,” explains Eddie. “First, they have to know their individual students well so that they can provide tailored support and know how to engage them with the subject. A typical high school teacher like me will have about 150 students in their various classes during an average year, and so there is enormous diversity in their learning needs and backgrounds!

“But second, they also have to a deep knowledge of the curriculum. This enables them to know what concepts to emphasise, how to anticipate common student errors and what explanations or experiences are most helpful to develop understanding.”

You can read more of Eddie’s insightful thoughts on kids learning maths here.


Given the success of his massive YouTube channel (over 1 million subscribers and counting), it’s really interesting that Eddie puts the personal relationship with his students first and foremost. It’s a reminder that our kids can be ‘tutored’ by others – including tutorials on YouTube and other places – but the relationship they have with their classroom teacher is critical.

We asked around to find out from both students, parents and teachers what makes a good teacher. Some of their answers might surprise you!

What makes a good teacher?

The students

“A good teacher is a fun teacher. They make lessons entertaining and you don’t get bored and switch off.” – Jayson, 12, Year 7

“My favourite teacher so far was Miss Wiseman because she was caring and kind.” – Anthony, 11, year 5

“I like any teacher that takes the time to get to know me and adapts lessons to suit the whole classroom, not just the smarter kids.” – Claire, 16, Year 10

“A good teacher listens and doesn’t just stand up at the front of the classroom dictating to bored kids. They get feedback and are flexible.” – Rayaan, 14, Year 8

What makes a good teacher - probably not this

“The best teachers are the ones who can relate the subject matter to real life. The real life of a teen, I mean. What’s going on for us right now.” – Jade, 17, Year 12

“The teachers I like best are the ones that try to relate to the class, not just do their own thing. It’s much more interesting when they get to know you.” – Matt, Year 10

The teachers

“I think what makes a good teacher is one with plenty of experience dealing with lots of different kinds of students. Teaching to every learning style.” – Mrs C, English and Drama

“Good teachers can be many kinds of teachers – strict, more easy going, current or old-school. The defining characteristic is that they take the time to get to know their students and make the classroom a conversation, rather than a lecture.” – Ms W, Maths and PE

“I like to think I’m a great teacher because I listen to my students and work really hard to create lessons that will engage them.” – Mr P, Maths

“I think it’s easier to define a bad teacher as opposed to a good one. That’s because there are plenty of ways to teach a classroom of students well, but only one way to disengage them and that’s to never take the time to get to know them.” – Mrs T, Science

“Good teachers adapt learning plans to suit individuals as much as possible. Their door is always open and they personally get to know the kids as well.” – Miss R, English and Drama

“A good teacher is one that puts in every effort to explain the curriculum in a way the kids can understand and relate to.” – Mr R, HSIE

“Having a thorough understanding of the curriculum so you can adapt it to suit what your students are into. I think learning styles are also important and look to give varying examples so different learners can grasp onto something each time.” – Mrs R, History and Geography

The parents

“A good teacher is one let’s me know if my child is falling behind!” – Leonie, mum of kids aged 7, 11 and 13

“Being caring. At the end of the day, kids will learn regardless of the teaching skills. But, not being caring makes a crappy teacher.” – Kylie, kids aged 8 and 10

“The teacher one of my children had in year 5 took him from being a kid who hated school to a kid who skipped in each day. He’s never forgotten her.” – Sarah, mum of daughter 14 and son 16

“Remembering that not all kids learn the same way! Being able to adjust to students and think outside the box to help them.” – Tracy, sons aged 11 and 16

“Empathy. Understanding that everyone learns and responds differently. Willingness to sometimes divert off the set learning path and see ‘where the lesson/kids take you’. Consistency. And most of all a passion for the job.” – Sarah, mum of daughters 12 and 16

“Recognising kids’ different motivations.” – Emily, mum of son 7 and daughter 10

“They approach learning holistically. They see the whole child and not just a test score. They hard to give their students the tools they need to be the best versions of themselves. Education is approached mindfully and resilience is a huge factor in their learning.” – Tegan, mum of son, 11

“Being adaptable, patient, caring and kind. Knowing that not every day will be the same and what my children are okay with one day they might struggle with the next.” – Cathy, mum of kids 17, 9, 8 and 5, two with ASD

“Seeing each child as an individual and taking some time to understand them and their interests – which can be very different from their siblings.” – Rebecca, mum to kids aged 12, 15 and 16

Kids know a fake, so being genuine with their interactions, remembering things about them and the way they learn. Any teacher can teach them things if they don’t feel a connection or can’t relate that knowledge to real-life then they haven’t reached that child. Teachers need to be adaptable and go with the flow at times, especially with remote learning. If something isn’t working, change it up and try a different way.” – Cathie, kids aged 14, 13 and 7

Love the students

There you have it, and there’s a very strong common thread. As Eddie Woo recognises, a good teacher is one who gets to know their students. They take time to understand what would be most engaging to them and adapt their lessons to suit. A good teacher is also flexible and brings parents into the learning when necessary.

I think we all recognise a “good teacher” simply by the fact that they love their job and, most of all, they love kids. Something no one mentioned was knowledge or passion for the subject matter. I think some teachers make the mistake of going into teaching because they love maths or science or PE, rather than that they love teaching. It definitely shows when the are that kind of teacher. A love of the students and the process of educating is top priority when it comes to someone being a great teacher.

What do you think makes a good teacher?

Feature image by Zhu Peng; Disengaged student by Pixabay; happy students by Iqwan Alif 

21 fantastic books for older girls (picks by bestselling author AL Tait)

21 fantastic books for older girls (picks by bestselling author AL Tait)

AL Tait recently shared her top three tips to get girls reading books again. Go check them out because we’re certain something there will spark your own girl to pick up a book again. It can’t all be Tik Tok and Insta 24/7, can it? It’s time to halt the scrolling and the trolling and look for books older girls will like.

There are so many reasons why books are important for kids. Putting down the screens for a while is just one of them. For that reason, we asked AL Tait to recommend a list of books older girls will find engaging and fun. The kind of books a girl can get lost in.

For our older girls, it can be hard to find a nice balance between books that challenge them, suit their lifestyle and preferences and don’t feel too hard or daunting to read. We reckon AL’s list below will tick all those boxes.  Happy reading, girls!

21 books for older (age 10+)

These books are recommended by the Your Kid’s Next Read community or other experts. There’s a mix here of historical, contemporary, genre and age groups, but they’re all books that will draw girls in and hold their interest. Click each title to read more about the book or to buy it on Booktopia.

Ages 10+

When This Bell Rings by Allison Rushby


When This Bell Rings by Allison Rushby

In London’s Belgravia, Tamsin lives next door to Edie St Clair, famous author of the ‘London of the Bells’ series of graphic novels. With the series’ tenth and final novel overdue, Tamsin offers her idol help and discovers that Edie can literally draw herself into her stories. When Edie goes missing, Tamsin draws herself into the novel and lands in a world of unexpected danger. There, Tamsin discovers that Edie needs her more than she could have realised – only she has the power to write the perfect ending to this story. But the perfect ending will come at a great cost to all.

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn by Kate Gordon

The Case Of The Missing Marquess: Enola Holmes #1 by Nancy Springer

The Unadoptables by Hana Tooke

The Unadoptables - a great book for older girls

In all the years that Elinora Gassbeek has been matron of the Little Tulip Orphanage, not once have the Rules for Baby Abandonment been broken. Until the autumn of 1880, when five babies are left in outrageous circumstances: one in a tin toolbox, one in a coal bucket, one in a picnic hamper, one in a wheat sack, and finally, one in a coffin-shaped basket.

Those babies were Lotta, Egg, Fenna, Sem and Milou, and although Gassbeek might think they’re ‘unadoptable’, they know their individuality is what makes them so special – and so determined to stay together. Twelve years on the children still have each other – until a fateful night threatens to tear them apart. The gang decide to make a daring escape, beginnning their adventure with only a scrap of a clue to guide them to their mysterious new home . . .

The Royal Ranger (series) by John Flanagan

Across The Risen Sea by Bren Macdibble

Sick Bay by Nova Weetman

Ages 12+

The Fire Star (A Maven & Reeve Mystery) by A. L. Tait

The Fire Star by AL Tait

A maid with a plan.
A squire with a secret.
A missing jewel.
A kingdom in turmoil.

Maven and Reeve have three days to solve the mystery of the Fire Star. If they don’t, they’ll lose everything. This could be a complete disaster . . . or the beginning of a friendship.

Click here for full review.

The Book of Chance by Sue Whiting

Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

Dragon Pearl is one of our highly recommended books for older girls

Rick Riordan Presents Yoon Ha Lee’s space opera about thirteen-year-old Min, who comes from a long line of fox spirits. But you’d never know it by looking at her. To keep the family safe, Min’s mother insists that none of them use any fox-magic, such as Charm or shape-shifting. They must appear human at all times.

Min feels hemmed in by the household rules and resents the endless chores, the cousins who crowd her, and the aunties who judge her. She would like nothing more than to escape Jinju, her neglected, dust-ridden, and impoverished planet. She’s counting the days until she can follow her older brother, Jun, into the Space Forces and see more of the Thousand Worlds.

When word arrives that Jun is suspected of leaving his post to go in search of the Dragon Pearl, Min knows that something is wrong. Jun would never desert his battle cruiser, even for a mystical object rumored to have tremendous power. She decides to run away to find him and clear his name…

The Jane Doe Chronicles (series) by Jeremy Lachlan

Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal by Anna Whateley

The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

Ages 14+

When The Ground Is Hard by Malla Nunn

When the ground is hard

Adele loves being one of the popular girls at Keziah Christian Academy. She knows the upcoming semester at school will be great with her best friend Delia at her side. Then Delia dumps her for a new girl with more money, and Adele is forced to share a room with Lottie, the school pariah, who doesn’t pray and defies teachers’ orders.

As they share a copy of Jane Eyre, Lottie’s gruff exterior and honesty grow on Adele, and together they take on bullies and protect each other from the vindictive and prejudiced teachers. When a boy goes missing on campus, Adele and Lottie must work together to solve the mystery, in the process learn the true meaning of friendship.

Ghost Bird by Lisa Fuller

Aurora Cycle (series) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Deep Water by Sarah Epstein

None Shall Sleep by Ellie Marney

You Were Made For Me by Jenna Guillame

You were made for me

Katie didn’t mean to create a boy. A boy like a long-lost Hemsworth brother: six-foot tall with floppy hair and eyes like the sky on a clear summer’s day; whose lips taste like cookie dough and whose skin smells like springtime.

A boy who is completely devoted to Katie. He was meant to be perfect. But he was never meant to exist.

Stars Like Us by Frances Chapman

Everless (series) by Sara Holland


Packed with danger, temptation and desire – a perfect read for fans of The Red Queen. In the land of Sempera, the rich control everything – even time. Ever since the age of alchemy and sorcery, hours, days and years have been extracted from blood and bound to iron coins. The rich live for centuries; the poor bleed themselves dry.

Jules and her father are behind on their rent and low on hours. To stop him from draining himself to clear their debts, Jules takes a job at Everless, the grand estate of the cruel Gerling family.

There, Jules encounters danger and temptation in the guise of the Gerling heir, Roan, who is soon to be married. But the web of secrets at Everless stretches beyond her desire, and the truths Jules must uncover will change her life for ever … and possibly the future of time itself.

What books for older girls would you recommend?

A.L. Tait is the author of three epic and engaging series for readers aged 10-14, including The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher and The Maven & Reeve Mysteries. Find out more at

Read AL Tait's latest book - The Fire Star

Feature image by Daria Shevtsova; Cover images via publishers

The best advice my mother ever gave me

The best advice my mother ever gave me

Happy mother’s day, mums! I’m celebrating my 16th MD this year. My first was the day after my son was born, way back in 2004. I was recovering from a 40-hour labour and Max was already showing signs of being a “non-sleeper” (as the midwives so mildly put it). To say I was overwhelmed and in over my head is an understatement. That feeling has basically never left me.

Which reminds me of the best advice my mother ever gave me. It came six weeks later after Max was born. Mum had sent me to bed just after midnight, telling me she’d wake me when Max needed a feed. She then sat up through the night, patting Max back to sleep for as long as she could to give me the first solid five hours of sleep I had had since his birth. When I stumbled into the lounge as the sun was rising, protesting that she didn’t have to do that, she simply said, “You take care of my baby, and I’ll take care of mine.”

I’ve been trying to do right by my mum by taking care of her baby ever since. It’s definitely made it easier for me to take care of my own.

Here’s how: The self-care parents really need (and it’s not a holiday) (although that would be nice)

To celebrate the wisdom and wonder that is the mum, we asked a bunch of wonderful women to tell us the best piece of advice their mums had passed on. We can think of no finer way to celebrate mothers than to pass on their wisdom and their love.

The best advice my mother ever gave me

On relationships

“My mum told me to marry a kind man, and she was exactly right. Kind men make wonderful fathers.” – Amy, 37, mum of two boys, 7 and 11.

“Mum warned me that love wasn’t enough, you have to like someone more. She was right, I divorced my first husband and I like my second much better.” – Rachael, 42, mum of girl, 14 and boy, 4 and step-mum to two girls, 16 and 13.

“Don’t ever do for your husband or children what they are perfectly capable of doing for themselves.” – Ade, 39, mum of three boys, 11, 9 and 5.

“My mum told me to always sleep naked and ‘that stuff’ would take care of itself. It was as cringe-worthy a moment as it sounds, but I reckon she might be right.” – Lisa, mum of two daughters, 18 and 13, and three sons, 16,15 and 9.

Weird advice from my mother

“Mum embarrassed me endlessly at my wedding by getting drunk and slurring ‘Never stop dating your husband‘ right in my ear, but really loudly so everyone could hear, at least 25 times. It’s wise advice that I remember every day. The memory of her wine breath on my ear still makes me shudder a little bit, though. Which seems fitting.” – Jodie, mum of sons, 9 and 6.

“Your husband will be around long after your kids have left if you look after him right.” – Baydan, 48, mum of two sons, 19 and 16.

“Give a relationship everything you’ve got, except your independence.” – Robyn, mum of three step-daughters, 17, 14, 10.

On life

Nie wywołuj wilka z lasu‘, which is an old Polish saying that means ‘never call a wolf out of the woods‘. In other words, don’t make life harder for yourself than it already is.” – Lena, 40, mother to daughter, 14 and son, 12.

“That old saying, ‘A stitch in time saves nine’ was ingrained in my brain by my mother since birth. I reckon its saved my sanity many times. Just get the small jobs done and out of your head!” – Nicole, 46, mum to daughter

The best advice my mother ever gave me

“The best advice my mother ever gave me was, ‘With every kick, you get a boost.’ I had no idea what she was talking about for many years, but now I understand that you learn something important from every setback.” – Lucy, 44, single mum to son, 14.

“The smallest steps still get you to the finish line. She’s never been a rusher, my mum.” – Amy, 37, mum of two boys, 7 and 11.

Try this: 10 ways to make today a good day


Focus on the ‘what next‘, not the ‘what if’. My mum passed on when my kids were small and not a day goes by when I don’t miss her big time. It’s hard not to think ‘what if’, but I try to take her advice.” – Danni, 33, mum to son, 11 and daughter, 8 and step-mum to daughter, 8.

“Instead of asking ‘why?’ all the time, try asking ‘why not?’– Ann, mum of four, 16, 15, 11 and 9.

Don’t lie to anyone, especially not yourself.” – Rebecca, 44, mum of four

“An early night is always a good idea.” – Sally, mum of three, 15, 14, 11.

On parenting

“Every child is unique, which means you need to be four different parents.” – Rebecca, 44, mum of four

“The best advice my mother ever gave me was, ‘Allow your kids their freedom as soon as they feel ready, not when you do.'” – Anna-Maria, 49, mum of daughter, 17.

“Stop teaching and just watch instead.” – Delphine, 39, mum of three boys, 11, 9 and 4.

The best parenting advice my mother gave me

“Widen your circle as big as you can – your friends, your routine, your world. It takes many different perspectives to raise a whole child.” – Abby, 36, mum of two sons, 9 and 8.

More doing, less thinking.” – Raelene, 38, mum of daughter, 17 and son, 11.

“Try saying, “I don’t know, what do you think?” to your kids more often.” – Lisa, mum of two daughters, 18 and 13, and three sons, 16, 15 and 9.

“When my eldest started school, Mum turned to me and said, ‘The golden rule of parenting bigger kids is to praise often, question regularly and criticise never.‘ Which is all well and good, but I remember being criticised all the time, so maybe it’s something she came up with later? LOL.” – Annabella, 44, mum of daugthers, 16, 13, 10.

“You can always start again in the morning.” – Jodi, 31, mum of sons 10 and 8.

What’s the best advice your mother ever gave you?

Feature image by Shari Sirotnak; bed by Alexandra Gorn; sewing and plants by Kelly Sikkema

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