Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The book nook

During a recent parents' meeting with my youngest's teacher I noticed the classroom's book corner. It was draped with chiffon, had cosy cushions and big, open book boxes - the usual stuff of a well-appointed reading zone, except one thing. It wasn't in a corner at all. It had been relocated to the middle of the room. It struck me as a great, if audacious choice of position but I was particularly tickled at the reason for its move. The reason was my daughter.

Apparently she spent so much of her time hidden away in the corner under a pile of books and cushions that they missed her. Now, in the new central book area, she is the centre of attention and I bet she loves it - she's not one to shy away from the limelight if there's any to be had. I'm glad her love of books and reading hasn't resulted in her being invisible at school.

At home, with children's books all over the house, we don't have a specific book corner at all. Or rather we didn't. A couple of days ago my creative little bookworm suggested we make one. And somehow we managed to find a space behind the living room sofa and she made the cosy book nook pictured above.

She spent a very happy half-hour fetching cushions, soft toys, blankets and a box from the recycling stash - which I gladly covered in cheery gift wrap. We filled the box with books and then she spent the next hour there - reading, relaxing and playing her harmonica.

She hasn't spent much time in the book nook since that first morning; it was definitely the process of making it that she enjoyed most. She's still avidly reading - just anywhere and everywhere like before.

Maybe that new nook will soon become something completely different - watch this space.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Mess and making

Here's an activity that never fails to get my reluctant artist Buddy straight to the making table. It's a sure-fire way of getting him cutting, sticking, colouring, glittering and designing. I sometimes sneak in new materials and techniques for him to try too - like printing and painting. These would usually be a big no-no for him; he's never been keen on the messy stuff.

It came about because I really like to keep all the birthday cards we receive. Instead of hoarding them though - and getting very sentimental and tearful over them as the years pass - I've stored them in a box for Buddy and Daisy to cut up and use to make personalised greetings cards for their friends. Of course, I have kept their first birthday cards out of the craft box, along with anything else particularly poignant.

While Daisy is very enthusiastic, diving into any art activity just for the fun of it, Bud seems to need the incentive of a cool outcome to entice him. Making birthday cards using images and motifs from the shop-bought variety to get him started works brilliantly for him.

So here's a selection of gorgeous cards made by Buddy and Daisy. They've used all kinds of techniques and it's just wonderful to watch them both get stuck in - really enjoying a creative session of mess and making.

And yesterday they made Thank You cards for their teachers...

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Memories are made of this

Pairs - or Pelmanism - is a popular game in our house. While Daisy is still prone to give up if it's not going her way, Buddy is reaching the age where his youthful, brilliant brain gets him winning every time - often spectacularly.

By accident we've recently acquired a new set of Pairs cards. And they are unique, beautiful and personalised to boot.

I wanted some prints of our recent happy holiday in Wales and so ordered two sets - one for us and the other to give to Nan and Grandad. Using Snappy Snaps' online service for the first time, I mistakenly ordered photographs of just 6cm x 8cm - too small.

While I was able to get another set of larger prints for free (thank you, man in Snappy Snaps) - there I was with two sets of mini-photographs - the cutest, playing card sized, blue-skied snaps ever.

In a flash of inspiration I came up with the idea of using them to play Pairs. Simple.

We've since made a snazzy box to store the cards and it's proving to be a fabulously fun way to enjoy our photographs and share some precious memories.

And yes, so far Buddy has won every time.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

How to draw your dragon

We were back at Screen On The Green's Kids' Club yesterday and thrilled to see what was on - How To Train Your Dragon. This is a firm favourite of both my children. It's a great story about not fitting in, learning to be tolerant of others, being inventive, brave, and succeeding against all odds. Plus it's packed with fire-breathing dragons and edge-of-your-seat adventure. We love it.

Back at home we listened to the film's fantastic soundtrack; Buddy and Daisy were inspired to play with their toy Toothless (a Night Fury) and other soft toys that fancied being dragons. They dramatically re-enacted the film's spectacular flying sequences all round the living room and garden.

I suggested they might like to draw their own dragons - like Hiccup (the hero of the story). Buddy and Daisy were very keen to do this; they thought the drawings could be pages from the film's How to Train Your Dragon manual.

The paper, I was told, would have to look old - so last night we carried out the classic tea-staining technique. We used cream-coloured card, and after a spot of teabag painting we aged it by scrunching it up whilst soggy.

This morning, when it was dry, I singed the paper's edges to make it look even older.

Daisy got stuck in to her drawing straight after breakfast and was finished well before Buddy had even remembered our plans from last night. And what a fabulous dragon she has created (pictured below).

I knew there was a good chance Buddy wouldn't want to draw a dragon at all this morning. So I just left out the paper and pens. Sometimes this is the right thing for him - he often circles an activity and eventually swoops down and joins in in his own time. Sure enough, he took his time today.

But as you can see below Buddy eventually did draw a dragon - two in fact.

So how did I persuade him?

Well, I didn't. Music did. I played the soundtrack once more and suddenly he was all about the dragons again. He came and sat down and began drawing with great gusto. And while he drew he told me all about his dragons with the stirring Celtic music in the background, setting the scene perfectly.

And that - for Buddy, anyway - is how to draw your dragon.

[Buddy dressed up as the heroic Hiccup on World Book Day.]