Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Little chefs and The Playful Parent cook up a storm


On Sunday I spent the day at the wonderful Geffrye Museum promoting my book The Playful Parent: 7 ways to happier, calmer, more creative days with your under-fives. The shop sold out of their stock - so I guess it went well!

I set up an activity from the book, an invitation to play, where younger children could come and take part in some let's pretend cooking using home-made lavender or fresh mint play-dough, herbs, leaves and petals from the museum's gorgeous garden.


                            

                        


My daughter was a fantastic help, charming the little chefs in a way that no grown-up could. She chatted with them, and made them feel right at home in the little nature kitchen gazebo. They rolled, stirred, tore, squished, cut, and smelled the dough, herbs and flowers and made some wonderful 'food', leaving their grown-ups relatively free to chat with me about the recipe for the play-dough (in the book) - and how these set-ups can work at home to develop young children's independence and help them find their playful flow.




Some older children visited the stall too and, though the tables were a little small for them, they happily stayed and made some very photogenic food with the goodies - from posh canapes to nature pizza.





It was great to meet so many lovely children and their grown-ups, and to have the opportunity to do my bit towards making the world of parenting a more playful place. Thanks to everybody who came to play!

Friday, 4 July 2014

DIY haute couture



A friend just posted this wonderful video on Facebook and I've watched it about ten times already. It may not exactly be a 'how-to' demo - but it is totally inspiring. Who wouldn't be tempted into making a miniature glamorous outfit or two after seeing such a beautiful film? 

HOW CAN WE RECREATE THIS OPPORTUNITY FOR OUR CHILDREN?

It isn't impossible to achieve this kind of experience at home with the kids. I'm not promising the immaculately appointed, soft-focus studio of course but with just a bit of child-friendly kit and using this little Dior video for inspiration, it is possible to get children designing and making their own mini-outfits independently, without using any needles, pins or even scissors. Here's how:


THE KIT

Mini-mannequins:
I absolutely love these little mannequins from Harumika. They make dress-designing satisfyingly simple for the littlest of hands and the most creative of minds. This is due to the ingenious addition of a thin rubber-lined slit that runs down the back of each mannequin. Each kit comes with a little paddle that helps tuck in and secure materials into the slit, so there's no need for any cutting, pinning or stitching at all.

Fabrics:
Our local art, craft and fabric shop has a huge basket of handkerchief-sized (and smaller) off-cuts that cost between five and thirty pence. My children love rummaging through it and choosing a few pieces of material whenever we visit. Add to any fabric pieces you have, a few ribbons and sticky gems or sequins and that's really everything you'll need to get those couture creations off the ground.

THE EXPERIENCE

Creating the dresses: 
Arrange the fabrics, ribbons and any other little goodies you might have to hand on a clear and clean work surface along with a mini-mannequin or two, and let the making begin. If you lose your paddles, a lolly stick or the handle of a teaspoon work equally well. If your child is unsure about how to get started, try asking them to design something for themselves or someone they know well and suggest a few scenarios for which to design a costume. Perhaps they could make a dress for a wedding party, a special lunch, a red carpet event, a garden party, a book launch, a Halloween party, a winter ball, a job interview, a rock festival or a birthday bash, for example.


Keeping the creations:
Once an outfit has been made, your child will probably want to make another straight away - it is quite addictive. Be sure to take a photo (or even a little video) showing the outfit from a few angles before it's disassembled. This way there'll be a record of its unique design and if they want to make it again in the future the photograph can be used to jog their memory.

Enjoy the video and why not have a go at making some mini-couture outfits with your little ones. If Dior can do it, so can our kids, right?

Here are some of my children's couture creations made with our Harumika mannequins.

 
 










Friday, 27 June 2014

The Playful Parent promo premiere!




Want to know more about my book The Playful Parent: 7 ways to happier, calmer, more creative days with your under-fives? Well here to tell you, as well as a rather nervous me, is my very confident daughter Daisy! She knows ALL about it.

This promotional video was filmed and edited by Paul Roscouet, and the music is by my husband Rob Deering - with vocals from our son Buddy!


For more information visit www.theplayfulparent.co.uk

You can now follow me on Twitter: @DeeringJulia 








Tuesday, 24 June 2014

All the fun (and physics) of the fair!


This weekend, Carter's Steam Fair came to our lovely local park, and we spent an exciting couple of hours there on Sunday afternoon. Carter's is always a huge hit with my two children. Personally, I love the traditional-looking rides, the bright retro-colours and the 1950s music; the vintage feel of whole thing ticks all my boxes. Bud and Daisy, however, are much more taken with choosing how to spend their £10.00 as quickly as they can, and seeing how many extra times I'll allow them to go on the dodg'ems after all their money's been spent.

As a teacher with a science background I can't help but take the chance to chat with my children about the physics of the funfair whenever we're there. I do try to let them enjoy the super-swirling, scream-inducing, tacky-prize-obtaining opportunities as well; I promise I don't get too nerdy and spoil the fun. But being at an old-fashioned fair such as Carter's really does provide a fantastic excuse to talk about some real-life applications of the laws of physics and mechanics and, of course, to experience them in brilliant, hair-raising style. 

If Carter's, or a similar type of traditional fair, comes to your town - try talking with your kids about the science behind the rides while you take a look around. You don't need to know much yourself; just by asking the right kinds of questions, you'll be getting them thinking about the physics behind the fun, and this will definitely fire-up their enthusiasm for scientific enquiry. And, after they've been on the rides, they'll be able to tell you, first-hand, about the effects of physics on their bodies. My son, for example, says he never wants to go on the chair-swing ride again - he hates the spinning-out feeling apparently (no future as an astronaut then) - whereas, my daughter absolutely loves it; NASA, here she comes! Buddy was more at home behind the wheel, displaying a natural instinct and unbridled joy on the dodg'ems; judging when to avoid, steer into or anticipate the inevitable collisions of other cars. Daisy, not driving and therefore with no control over what happened to the car, was hilariously surprised by practically every bump; she screamed and whooped nearly the whole time. 


Here are a few questions you could ask your children when you're at an old-fashioned funfair:


1. Take a close look at any steam-powered engines working the rides: 

  • What's making the steam?
  • How does the steam make the ride move?
  • What fuel is heating the water to make the steam?




2. Try the person-powered swing-boats:


  • What did the fairground attendant have to do to help us get on the swing without it moving?
  • Look up! Why do we have to hold each other's ropes - and not our own?
  • How do we make our swing go higher and higher?


3. Experience the centrifugal force on the chair-swing ride:


  • What happened to us, and our chairs, as the ride started spinning?
  • Why did our chairs keep moving up and out from the centre of the ride?
  • What does it feel like to be on the ride?



4. Experience collision/motion physics on the dodg'ems:


  • What happened to your car when you went into the back of another?
  • Was it different to when someone when into the back of you?
  • What happened to your car when there was a side-by-side collision?
  • Why did that man's hat fall off when his car collided with another?



At home, we've made all kinds of mini-fairground rides - from up-turning and spinning an umbrella as a merry-go-round for small soft toys and whizzing the salad-spinner to give others a centrifugal-force-experience, to demonstrating the exciting effects of collision on friction-free motion using a tray covered with a layer of ice and a few matchbox toy cars.

I'd love to know what else we could try. Do leave any ideas in the comments box.


You can find details about other family-friendly funfair physics facts and investigations here:


Monday, 2 June 2014

Out 5 June: THE PLAYFUL PARENT; 7 ways to happier, calmer, more creative days with your under-fives



Some of you may already know that my book THE PLAYFUL PARENT; 7 ways to happier, calmer, more creative days with your under-fives is released this week. I am beyond excited to the point of feeling a little sick every time I think about it. It's been over two years in the making - just one neglected blog and a somewhat nocturnal life later...

The book is designed to help parents and caregivers of children (aged 2 - 5) use play every day as a powerful tool to parent smarter, and to help them enjoy - not endure - the messy early years of childhood. It's for parents who aren't as blog/website savvy as you lovely followers of Adventures at Home and who think they may have forgotten how to play, who are fearful of craft, who hate yelling at their kids and who don't want to use the naughty step.

I know you are already brilliantly playful parents, grandparents, aunties, uncles and the like - but I hope you'll find something in my book that makes spending time with any little ones in your life happier, calmer and more creative. I want to make the world of parenting a more playful place. Help me spread the word. 

Thank you.

                                                               


Out 5 June: THE PLAYFUL PARENT; 7 ways to happier, calmer, more creative days with your under-fives. You can pre-order your copy here: 




"I have had a sneak preview and it's blimmin brilliant - chock full of ideas of games to play and things to do with your little ones. Most importantly, the ideas are tried and tested and DO-ABLE (no Pinterest-type fails here!)" N Lasocki  (parent of two children under-five)


Tuesday, 13 May 2014

An investigation station


Our occasional investigation station is back, and it has a new theme - the seashore. It was easy to set up thanks to the wonderful finds we brought back from our recent trip to Dunraven Bay in Wales. My two little nature-lovers have been tempted into this activity again and again simply by my setting out the equipment and specimens invitingly and leaving everything there, ready when they are. Here's what's available:


Samples

1. A collection of small rocks, minerals, pebbles and fossils.

2. A selection of shells.

3. A piece of drift wood.

4. Prepared slides with plant material.





Equipment

4. A mini-torch.

5. Hand-held magnifiers.

6. A microscope.







Resources

7. A handmade rock-pool I Spy poster (made on location in Wales).

8. A wild flower pocket book.

9. A copy of the Spotter's Guide to the Seashore.


It hasn't taken long for the children to work out that if you want to use the microscope successfully you have to have very thin slices of material to enable light to travel through. In other words, the pebbles and shells, it turns out, must be viewed using the torch and the magnifying glasses - not shoved under the lens of the microscope. 



But, whether using the microscope or the magnifiers, there have been ooo-s and ahh-s aplenty, and it's been a great opportunity to investigate our favourite bit of seashore on a very different scale.