Friday, 2 April 2010

Tried and tested

And suddenly it's the Spring holidays when many a parent's fancy hastily turns to thoughts of..... entertaining the children.

Now, I am not one to pack in the days out, so I just chose one organised activity away from home this four-day weekend. I fancied today's Wondertots session at the V and A's Museum of Childhood (I was enticed by their dress for mess slogan). But alas, it was fully booked - some parents are so organised, aren't they - and upon reflection it was probably just as well. Daisy benefited from an extra day close to home to recuperate. However, it does mean I'm now quizzing Time Out and other publications with renewed vigour for an alternative Easter weekend activity.

There seem to be an increasing number of lovely things for little ones to do in and around London. We are spoilt for choice. Museums, galleries, parks and historic houses are all catching on, at last providing for their youngest and most demanding visitors. A recently published handbook by Jo Graham, First Steps, is a great place to start if you are interested in finding out what's been going on behind the scenes in the development of this kind of provision.

As well as organising out-and-about activities for my own little ones, I'm preparing for my contribution towards Spring holiday entertainment in a professional capacity. And one of the great things about this aspect of my work is that it actually benefits from me being a mum with two young children. On 13th and 14th April I will be leading Nursery Rhyme Time (NRT) sessions for children under 5 at the Geffrye Museum and before then everything will be thoroughly tried and tested at home by my discerning pair.

Of course two children respond very differently to a group of sixteen - as there will undoubtedly be at the museum. But I try out the activities just the same, and I especially rely on Buddy and Daisy to test-drive the craft element.

I design the NRTs to provide something for little ones that encourages their Creative Development, which if we can get specific here, fits in with the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) statement about creativity being how children respond in a variety of ways to what they see, hear, touch or feel, expressing and communicating their own ideas, thoughts and feelings. When I create activities for NRTs, I always refer back to this area of learning in particular. Being able to use the museum's collection (and objects associated with it) is a wonderful hook from which to hang it.

In the EYFS, the exploration of media and materials within Creative Development is about children's independent and guided exploration of and engagement with a widening range of media and materials. Finding out about and working with colour, texture, shape, space and form in two and three dimensions. Naturally, it is the craft elements of my NRTs that always support this.

Developing the craft activity is always the trickiest part of the devising process. There needs to be opportunity for children to practise the skills they might already have, to experience those they are developing, plus an element of freedom to enjoy, explore and engage with the media and materials themselves. All this, plus they must have a finished item, of sorts, to take away with them. They simply love that.

Because of this, Buddy and Daisy always get to road-test the craft activity in its last stages of development. This helps me to decide what materials will need to be prepared in advance. It helps me to see in what order to offer materials (if staggering their introduction is necessary). It helps me to identify when grown ups need to help but to spot when it becomes too reliant on adult intervention. In actuality the sessions still turn out very organic and full of surprises, the road-testing just helps me prepare for the unexpected, I suppose.

All the Geffrye Museum's NRTs this holiday, including my Lavender Blue and Flower Power, link with the museum's new temporary exhibition A Garden Within Doors:Plants and Flowers in the Home which opened at the end of March. So in our home this week, there will be planters of beautiful blooms and scented sock drawer sachets to be tried and tested - when we're not out-and-about of course.

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