Friday, 29 April 2011

The shoemaker extraordinaire

I love it when I get to see my children's creative ideas flow out of them and straight into their play. This happened yesterday when Daisy a) retrieved two empty tissue boxes from the recycling box and b) decided it was time to play shoe shop.

She asked me, 'What do you want your shoes to do for you?' in the manner of Steve Light's The Shoemaker Extraordinaire, a book we'd read together at a friend's house about a week ago. I was meant to reply something along the lines of 'I'd like them to make me taller or faster or snazzier.' I was playing catch-up at this point though - not quite remembering the thrust of book - so Daisy vetoed all my early, more practical ideas; in the end I was allowed to ask for shoes that made me jump higher.

Then Daisy set to work cutting, decorating and lacing up the boxes to meet her specifications. Of course this was easy for her - she was, she informed me, the best shoemaker in the world.

Eventually it was time to open:

'Daisy's Jimna Shoe Shop
Best Shoe Shop In The World'

She made a sign for the door, set up a counter and fetched her cash till before I was allowed in. She measured my feet using a ruler and tape, and double-checked the type of shoes I had ordered. At last it was time for my fitting and I was presented with the finished footwear.

Yes, they were rather roomy and, let's face it, rigid - they were boxes after all - but Daisy was completely immersed in the pretence of the game. She was sure she had made me the ultimate jump-enhancing shoes, so I paid up my 20p eagerly - and jumped around the shop gratefully.

Watch out FitFlop - there's a new kid on the block, and she means business.

[How lovely to be featured on this week's It's Playtime - check it out for more fantastic play ideas]

Friday, 15 April 2011

Quarantined kids

This week, with one of my children spotty with chicken pox and the other doubtless incubating the illness, we tried to stay at home as much as possible. However in an attempt to avoid cabin fever we simply had to escape the confines of our house - just occasionally.

When Daisy felt up to it we headed out to some of London's open spaces, and we managed to have a lot of fun, albeit under quarantine-like conditions.

We timed Bud running round and round a lake in Epping Forest.

We found a huge abandoned den; Buddy and Daisy were quick to establish it as their own, happily immersing themselves in some ambitious home-improvements.

We played weddings on the glamorous lawns of Regent's Park using the abundance of fallen blossom as confetti and making daisy chains for Daisy-the-bride's floral crown.

During our excursions I had to keep an unusual check on Buddy and Daisy: ensuring they were staying away from other people. This was particularly hard on Buddy because he is just about the friendliest little guy in the land. Generally he loves to introduce himself to everyone we meet and then he converses with aplomb. So I did not like enforcing this rule - at all.

However I could encourage them to get up close to a few things: the bright and jolly flowerbeds...

...the sparkling, cool waters of the boating lake...

...and some heavenly, melty ice-creams.

So not too bad really.

And today I'm glad we insisted on those quarantine rules; Buddy's chicken pox have arrived in earnest.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Pants not pox

Daisy has chicken pox, and she is not happy about it. To cheer her up we read some of our funny books - stories about pants. First Pants by Giles Andreae and Nick Sharrat and then The Queen's Knickers by Nicholas Allan (pictured below).

My children love all the different designs of knickers in both books but yesterday they were particularly impressed with Her Majesty's special pants which transform into lifesaving devices at the pull of a cord. Handy.

I remembered a piece of fabric which I'd salvaged from an old cotton apron; it is the exact shape of a giant pair of knickers. I showed it to Buddy and Daisy and we had a laugh trying them against ourselves - their vastness was brilliantly comical. Then they decided that really they were far too plain and needed to be jazzed up a bit - just like the Queen's knickers.

And so began a lovely activity whereby we used the giant cotton knickers as a template for our own giant paper pants. Then we got busy designing and drawing, sticking and cutting. I think their imaginative designs are worthy of a royal seal of approval.

I designed a flowery pair of gardening knickers, Daisy decorated hers especially for a visit to the zoo, and Buddy drew buttons, switches and a pull cord on his so that his transformer pants could change into an amphibious vehicle in seconds.

Daisy really cheered up during all this designing and making, so much so that when we'd finished our pants (they each designed two pairs in the end) she helped to hang them on the washing line.

Then she gave us an impromptu Pants Dance beneath the giant knickers. Bravo! Here's to pants, not pox.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Potion laboratory

Yesterday afternoon I set up an outside laboratory for the children to make potions. Using finds from last week's kitchen spring clean, I was pleased to put our out-of-date store-cupboard goods to use.

We used:

1. Out-of-date spices, cornflour, bicarbonate of soda, mustard, ketchup and some poster paint.
2. Diluted vinegar, water and vegetable oil.
3. Empty spice jars, plastic medicine spoons and chopsticks.
4. Plastic funnels and a pipette from a liquid vitamin bottle.

Bud and Daisy absolutely tore into this activity, I simply stood back and let them go.

There was thorough mixing...

... and careful pouring.

There was selecting and measuring...

...and then a bit more pouring.

Equipment and ideas were beautifully shared...

...and some fine mixes were concocted.

Jars were filled with various combinations of powders, gloop and liquid...

...and a glorious mess was made.

When a jar had been filled they took it over to the display table. Here the potion was given a final shake or swirl then observed for a moment before being named...

We had potions such as Fizzy-Bizzy, Bluey-Luey, Disco-Looker and Dark-Looker, and my goodness they did look pretty in the sunshine.

Bud and Daisy made 12 potions in all and were 100% absorbed in the activity for an hour and a half. We'll definitely be playing Potion Laboratory again.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Spring things for a Mothers' Day picture

Yesterday when I was spring cleaning the kitchen I collected a pile of things destined for the recycling box. However they were just too good not to be used for something with the children first. Today I knew exactly how to use this salvaged stash of stuff - a printmaking activity.

The inspiration...

This morning on my cycle ride to work through the elegant residential streets of De Beauvoir Town, I passed a spectacular display of beautiful trees in full blossom. Those gorgeous gardens (and the image above - a newspaper cutting) were the inspiration for our printing.

The motivation...

Mothers' Day is coming up and with a wonderful Nana and Nan to celebrate, I knew I could motivate my children with the idea of making some spring pictures for them.

The materials...

I spent a pleasurable 10 minutes mixing up the paint colours - I just love all those pastel shades - and before school pick-up I temptingly set out the materials. Our printmaking tools were kitchen roll rollers, corrugated cardboard strips, bubble wrap pieces, plastic bottles and lids, a rubber pastry brush and a wooden butter spreader.

The process...

Then followed our usual free-for-all plunge with Buddy and Daisy thoroughly enjoying trying out the unusual printing tools, hearing the paint squelch and using those soothing pastel colours. Unusually, I suggested the order in which they created their spring scenes: printing the sky and ground before the tree(s), and the branches of the tree(s) before the blossom. Surprisingly they went along with this and we got some great pictures as a result.

The picture...

A rather lovely soft Monet-like effect, don't you think? But with a cotton-wool spring lamb and giant yellow sun of course.