I have finally become ‘cool’ in the eyes of my children. My secret? Telling my boys that Mister Maker was going to be calling me. ‘That’s so cool Mum! You are so cool! Can you ask him how to make a rattle snake? Can you ask him to come to our house?’

It was at that moment I felt a bit nervous about the interview – and what I would tell my kids about Mister Maker afterwards. After all, I had to remember I wasn’t going to be speaking to Mister Maker, but the man behind the spotty vest and spiky hair, Phil Gallagher. It is always interesting when you interview someone who you see on television every day – there is a feeling that you know them already – so sometimes it can be a shock when they are not as you imagined them to be.

However, when my phone rings at 10.03am (only three minutes after our interview was scheduled), Phil apologies for keeping me waiting. I tell him it is fine because of my new ‘Cool Mum’ status and he laughs, asks all about the kids and tells me to say hi to them from him, and that he would love to see them at the show. He is lovely (cue Mum Crush) – and it is clear, from the onset, Phil loves being Mister Maker.

“Getting this job was the best day of my life and every day is even better,” he reflects. “It was always my dream to be a kids’ television presenter and the live shows have taken on a life of its own. It is beyond my wildest dreams.”

“I’m so excited to be coming back to Australia. This year we are bringing the biggest show we have ever done.”

I do not think Phil could ever have imagined how big ‘Mister Maker’ (and other series’ including Mister Maker Comes to Town, Mister Maker Around the World and the new Mister Maker Arty Party) would become since first airing on our screens in 2007. It now plays in over 100 countries and live shows are touring around the globe (he tells me that as well as touring around Australia and New Zealand, he will also be taking the latest live show to Hong Kong and across the UK later in the year).

Perhaps the popularity of the show comes from the fact that the show inspires parents to set up arts and crafts for children who are crying ‘I’m bored’, without fuss or expensive materials (and we know from Mister Maker’s ‘minute makes’ that you don’t necessarily have to put aside a whole afternoon to create something).

ARTY TIP: “Recycle and collect materials to use – something that is ordinary that you can turn into the extraordinary. Plan ahead and start your own ‘doodle drawer’.”

When I ask Phil what he believes is the main benefit of doing arts and crafts for children, he says the key thing is confidence. “When I was growing up I loved making things. I got a lot of pride from what I made, so I believe art and craft generates confidence,” he says. “That is not just for children but for grown-ups as well. I often have parents and grandparents talk to me after live shows and they say thank you because the show has shown them that they can be creative and they can be arty. That is the cause of the show at its very core – to teach simple techniques. Once that has been taught, we hope to inspire whatever age that they can have a go – and the materials are easily attainable. It makes me pleased and proud that people surprise themselves.”

(Breakout) MISTER MAKER’S FAVOURITE MAKE: Phil says ‘pom-pom bugs’ are his favourite arty make. “It was something I made with my grandad when I was little. I still have one I made over 30 years ago, which I treasure.”

The tour commences June 25 in Hobart – with performances following in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth. For complete tour and ticket information go to – and if you do see Phil out-and-about, Mister Maker loves meeting his fans. “Quite often it is the grown-ups that stop me first,” Phil says. “A lovely thing is that children don’t expect to see me in any other way than in my spotty waistcoat and spiky hair, so it can take a while for a child to comprehend what’s going on. It is lovely when people say hello – grown-ups and mini makers alike.”
What should I include in my child’s ‘doodle drawer’?
If your child’s art and craft box only consists of paper and pencils, Phil offers some of his top arty material inclusions:

  • Pom-poms (Phil says they are his favourite arty material)
  • Googly eyes (or you can use white stickers and draw on the eyes with a black pen)
  • Pipe cleansers
  • Gloopy glue

TIP: Not the glitter…If you curse Mister Maker when you are cleaning up glitter after your child creates a masterpiece they saw on the show, Phil offers a handy ‘glitter clean-up tip: “A piece of sticky tape is a good trick. Gently push it onto a surface and the glitter sticks to the tape.”
“I do apologise to all the grown-ups about glitter,” he says. “Quite often parents will come up to me with a smile, put their arm around me and say ‘Why, Mister Maker? Why the glitter?’. I apologise for that. If it’s any consolation, I find glitter everywhere. My mum came to my house yesterday and as I was making her a cup of tea she remarked how much glitter there was in my kitchen… It follows me everywhere.”


Food basket
A ‘gourmet food’ basket can also be a fun and useful gift for a toddler – tailored to suit the toddler’s tastes of course! Think things that are handy to have on-hand, such as boxes of sultanas, muesli bars, rice cakes, plain biscuits and fruit/yoghurt/custard pouches. Some handy storage containers or a little lunch box, drink bottle or packet of wipes for sticky fingers make great additions.

Messy play
Anything that makes a mess will be a hit at this age! Water-based paints, crayons, Playdoh and large pieces of chalk are always winners. As a side note, an art smock is a great addition to any messy play or craft gift, or is also great as a stocking stuffer.

Role play
A favourite game for many toddlers is doing the things their mums and dads do every day. There are so many toys that can let your toddler emulate everyday tasks, such as a toy kitchen with plastic food, toy shop, cash register and shopping trolley, dolls pram, change table and baby bath.

Toddlers love anything that moves! And depending on your budget, there are many options including tricycles, wagons and pedal cars. A great gift idea is a balance bike (which is essentially a training bike without pedals, which allows the toddler to scoot along with their feet, as they learn how to balance their bike.

If you are buying for a toddler who appears to have every toy available, then why not get them an experience? Passes for swimming lessons, toddler gym, a music class, trip to the zoo or even a toddler-suitable concert or show (think The Wiggles or Justine Clarke).

Stocking fillers: bath crayons, toothbrushes, crayons, PlayDoh, bath toys, balloons, bubbles , musical instruments, hat, bucket and spade.

Whether for participation or for passion, there are many sports and performing arts options for your child to try. We look at the options, so you can make the best decision for your child.

Dance is a popular activity for toddlers right through to adults, and for good reason. Jerrika Howley, head of the ‘Petite Performers’ and ‘Young Performers’ departments at Brent Street, says there are many advantages of dancing, including social relationships, balance and coordination, as well as confidence, respect, fun, sportsmanship, teamwork and goal setting.

There are many types of dance your child can try, but Jerikka recommends a beginner try ballet and/or jazz. “Ballet is the foundation of dance so all dancers will benefit from ballet training, and the co-ordination of jazz technique is always fun with the upbeat songs,” she says.

Liliana Maddams, principal at LA Talent School, recommends children try out a trial lesson. “Some kids love ballet but some find it a little bit slow,” she says. “Others love hip hop, which is very popular, and they love jazz. The best way to decide is to come along and try a class because every child is so different.”

Whether you take your baby to a music class or encourage your child to learn an instrument – there are a number of options available to immerse your child in music.

Professor Alan Lourens, head of UWA Conservatorium of Music, recommends children take part in music from a young age. “We know that students who take part in musical activity before the age of 12 develop very particular pathways in the brain, in a way that no other subject does,” he says. “What they do is connect the right and the left side of the brain very strongly.”

Students who take part in musical activity before the age of 12 develop very particular pathways in the brain, in a way that no other subject does.

He adds the sociological benefits are also massive. “One of the things about having students take part in music is that it is a social activity,” he says. “They have to learn to work with others in a way that is positive. There is no one trying to stop them from being their best because there is no opposition. For young kids, they are learning things like having to give things back, having to wait their turn, and having to put things in a particular place.”

To increase self-esteem or to bring out their inner actor – why not consider a good drama program for your child?

“Although there can be a misconception that a Performing Arts program is all about the performance side of things, it is often more about learning life skills,” says Helen Davey, Executive Principal, Helen O’Grady Drama Academy WA.

“Drama in general can help children with confidence, self-esteem, creative thinking, language skills and communication. The wonderful part about it is that all children have amazing imaginations which can be tapped into and used as a platform on which to build these skills. Creative programs can really help children to articulate their thoughts, feelings and emotions – to help them find their voices.”

Helen says performing arts programs suit everyone. “All young people enjoy creativity, when presented in the right environment. Some children come along to classes to increase their confidence and self-esteem, while others attend drama classes as a creative outlet, and to improve on their drama skills.”

There are many types of martial arts, including judo, karate, mixed martial arts and more – and they are great not only for fitness, but to learn self-defence and increase confidence.

Celeste Knoester, coach at Kano Judo Schools, says judo and many other martial arts have physical benefits for children, such as improved gross motor coordination, spatial awareness, strength, balance and overall fitness levels. “The aspect that sets martial arts apart from other sports however, is the impact it has on the whole person,” she says. “Children will learn respect, friendship, confidence, emotional and physical self-control, conflict-resolution and self-defence skills.”

There are various martial arts classes, so when choosing a class for your child, Celeste advises to ensure it is something your child enjoys and looks forward to attending every week, while you as the parent feel they are learning something of value.

“Trust your gut as a parent and if you are not comfortable with something being taught, there are plenty other martial art options for you and your child. A good martial art will keep your child active, while building them into the best version of themselves.”

Swimming is a great bonding activity for parent and baby (and is a perfect way to introduce young children to water). As your child grows, swimming lessons allow them to learn their strokes and develop water safety.

VenuesWest spokesperson and manager of Aquatics and Swim School, Taryn deLestang, says swimming lessons should be appropriate to the developmental age of the child, be fun and engaging, and include safety skills.

“When choosing a swim school parents should look for experienced and competent instructors who can guide your child through the learn-to-swim process in a safe and compassionate environment,” she advises. “It should be a positive experience for children and parents. As with learning any new skill, practice is key and being able to attend classes at a suitable time and location is also a major consideration. If the classes are close to home and at convenient times then you are more likely to be able to commit to regular lessons.”

If you are worried about your child becoming bored with a repetitive activity, why not try Little Athletics?

Little Athletics Australia CEO Martin Stillman, says there are a wide range of events for children from 5 to 15 years of age in Little Athletics including running, jumping, throwing and walking and the events are modified to suit the age, developmental stage and ability of the children.

“Little Athletics promotes that it is important to ‘Be your Best’,” he says. “The emphasis being on fun, participation, performance, technique and getting involved with your family in physical and healthy activity.”

Ball sports are great to promote team work and skills – and with options including netball, basketball, soccer, football and more, there is sure to be a suitable ball sport for your child.

Kobie Combes, Netball WA’s Participation Manager, says Suncorp NetSetGo (Australia’s official netball starter program) is suitable for girls and boys aged 5 to 10.

“One of the biggest advantages of the Suncorp NetSetGO program is the use of modified equipment and rules,” Kobie says. “This allows the participants fundamental movement and motor skills to develop at an appropriate pace while allowing them to feel success and confident. Suncorp NetSetGO is also a very inclusive program for all boys and girls of all abilities aged 5-10.”

Kobie adds that playing a team sport such as netball from an early age holds many physical and mental advantages including developing self-esteem, teaching leadership skills, improving team building friendships and developing communication skills.

Janine Ripper, Marketing Officer, Act-Belong-Commit, says some of the advantages of children taking part in activities such as Performing Arts and sports are:

  • Boosts their mental and physical health and overall wellbeing.
  • Builds resilience.
  • Helps them to develop a sense of belonging and connection to others through forming new friendships and feeling a part of something.
  • Improves confidence and self-esteem.
  • Adds meaning and purpose to their lives.

If you are worried about not doing enough activities (or doing too much), Janine says there is no ‘ideal’ number of activities for children, “it all depends on the individual child and the family”. “We highly encourage parents to strive for a sense of balance, especially between structured and unstructured activities, free time and rest.”

Remember there are so many activities that your child can try! If none of the featured sports/activities appeal to your child, why not try something a bit different, such as parkour, fencing, breakdancing or archery.

Choosing where to give birth is one of the biggest decisions you will make during your pregnancy. Whether you are contemplating public or private care, there are several important factors, as well as possible alternatives, to consider when choosing the best maternity care option for you and your family.

Finding out you are going to be a parent is a very exciting time, but making decisions about the right maternity care for you and your new baby can be a bit overwhelming. We take a look at some of the maternity care options available.

Private Care

If you have maternity care included in your private health package, you may wish to choose private care for you and your baby. If you receive care through the private system, you choose a private obstetrician, who will care for you from your antenatal appointments, right through to the birth and postnatal check-up.

Dr Stephen Lane, president of the National Association of Specialist Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (NASOG), says in the private system, the baby is delivered by very experienced caregivers, with obstetricians going through six or more years of specialist training, on top of their five or six-year medical degree.

He says the most common reason many people choose to have a private obstetrician is continuity of care.

Dr Lane says some considerations expectant parents think about when choosing an obstetrician include:

Gender (for some women, choosing a female obstetrician is important)

Location (“Is there a suitable carpark that is accessible? Are the rooms easy to get to? I think these things are important to consider,” says Dr Lane)

The obstetrician’s desk staff (“If the desk staff are friendly and approachable that is a good sign,” Dr Lane says. “It gives a good feel that they are a mirror of the person you will be seeing.”)

Cost (Dr Lane says the majority of obstetricians and gynaecologists in Australia charge well below the Australian Medical Association’s rates, with the average out-of-pocket cost for delivering a baby throughout Australia around $2000).

Note: Ask about your chosen obstetrician’s fee schedule and check with your health cover provider to find out exactly what is covered so you can be prepared for any out-of-pocket expenses.
“Australia is recognised as one of the safest countries in the world to have a baby, and this is a reflection of the world class education our specialist obstetricians and gynaecologists undertake, with many completing more than 12 years of study and training,” he says. “NASOG believes that the care provided by specialist obstetricians and gynaecologists is worth every cent to the patients who enjoy improved health outcomes as a result of our professional care.”

Katie Lavercombe says she chose a private hospital because she wanted to be able to access any pain relief that she wanted during childbirth and was afraid her wishes might not be respected at a public hospital.

“I loved giving birth at a private hospital, the care was great, it was never too busy, and the staff were attentive,” she says. “We loved being able to stay together as a couple and have time to bond with each new baby.”

Katie is currently pregnant with her fourth child and does not have the right level of cover to choose a private hospital this time, so is receiving care through the public system.

“We are utilising the public system, and while it is full of hard working doctors and midwives, there are long wait times at each appointment, meaning a large chunk of my time is taken up by waiting for medical appointments,” she says.

Crystal Henderson decided to have her daughter at a public hospital because her GP recommended it. “We had planned to go Private, but when he recommended it, along with many of our friends, who shared their very positive birth stories after giving birth in public hospitals, we thought we should at least look at it,” she says. “When we went to the public hospital, and they took us through the rooms and birth suites, we were blown away.”

Ms Henderson says she was very happy with the care she received. “There (were) some minor complications during the labour and I needed extra medical assistance, however I felt very safe, in control and informed of everything the whole time,” she says

Shared Antenatal Care

If you have a great relationship with your trusted family GP, then shared antenatal care might be an option to consider. In a nutshell, antenatal shared care involves a woman’s appointments being shared between maternity care providers (usually GPs, midwives and obstetricians), and is most commonly between a GP and maternity staff in a public hospital.

Dr Wendy Burton, chair of The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners’ antenatal/postnatal care specific interest group, says women choose to have shared antenatal care with their GP for a number of reasons.

“They may have a good relationship with their GP and are confident that they will be well taken care of,” she says. “The GP’s rooms may be closer or more convenient than the hospital/obstetrician or GPs may work extended hours, making appointments easier to plan around work commitments.

“Antenatal shared care involves a woman’s appointments being shared between maternity care providers – usually GPs, midwives and obstetricians.”

“The best models of shared antenatal care involve a collaborative team effort with well-informed GPs communicating effectively and efficiently with the other providers of care,” she adds. “If your usual GP is not up-to-date with current best practice for antenatal care, they may be able to recommend another GP who is better placed to provide care for you.

Work is currently underway to create digital records and an app for women, which will give additional options for the sharing of the pregnancy health record.”

Your Support

Who will be your support person when you welcome your baby into the world?

Many women will choose a partner, family member (such as their Mum) or a close friend to be their support person. However, there are some options to consider.

For example, a midwifery student is a good choice. They will attend antenatal appointments with you and, if you consent, can also attend the birth.

Another support option is a doula (a professional, non-medical birth and/or postnatal companion who is able to provide continuity of care, and emotional and physical support during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period).

Michelle Perkins, chairperson of Australian Doulas, says many women hire a doula after experiencing a negative or traumatic previous birth experience.

“Some hire a doula to help them understand the maternity/obstetric systems. Some hire a doula to provide emotional and physical support if they do not have a partner, or if they believe their partner may also need support and guidance.”

Home Birth

Do you want to have your baby at home?

Grace Sweeney, coordinator at Homebirth Australia, says a woman who chooses to birth at home is guaranteed to receive continuity of care from a known midwife.

Ms Sweeney says the most important thing that a woman considering homebirth needs to do is to seek out a midwife as soon as possible.

“Nearly a decade of a sustained witch hunt against homebirth midwives has meant that midwives in private practice are scarce, and book out early,” she says. “It’s worth doing research on midwives in your area before you’re pregnant and making a booking as soon as your pregnancy is confirmed.”

Dr Lane says NASOG does not support home births in Australia.

Sarah Purvey decided she wanted a homebirth for her first child. “I had two private midwives,” Sarah says, when asked about her care. “A primary midwife came to my house regularly in pregnancy, so I built a very close relationship with her in that time and all the options for tests and injections were managed by her, with my consent and our discussions about them first. My primary midwife was there during the birth and then I had a second midwife attend shortly before my babies were born. For my first birth, I was also supported by a private obstetrician. I saw her a few times during pregnancy and she was open to supporting me, if I needed to transfer to hospital, if I needed more medical support from home.”

She says her experiences were wonderful and empowering.

“My first birth was very tough, long and in the end, I did transfer to the private hospital with my obstetrician, as I had a long second stage. In the end, I had an episiotomy, which couldn’t be done at home. This was handled beautifully by my midwives and by my obstetrician. I spent about 30 minutes continuing to labour in the private hospital, once I arrived, then we all discussed the option to do an episiotomy. I consented and this was done well. I felt wonderful when my baby arrived, despite 18 hours of active labour and a previous night of no labour.”

“Second time was much easier – four hours of active labour and my baby was born in to the water, straight into my arms and onto my chest.”