Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Right place, right time...

[Image from]

On Saturday we went to King Henry Walk Garden's Open Day. I often cycle past this rather private-looking place on my way to work so it was great to be allowed a peek inside. It certainly lived up to my expectations; it was magical. There were beautifully tended allotments, colourful flowerbeds, a pond teeming with life - we spotted pond skaters, newts and water boatmen - several fragrant herb plots and a delightfully shady little wooded area. It was all the more special for being off-the-beaten-track and - well - a  bit secret.

We spotted a craft activity table where they were making paper blossom branches, and headed over. Unfortunately they were just packing up their wares as we approached. Tears from my daughter were only avoided when the kind lady in charge offered us a few twigs and a generous handful of crepe paper squares to take home with us. Daisy was delighted.

Back at home I laid out the branches, pink paper and some glue on our making table. I assumed that one or both of my children would soon get pinching, scrunching, and then gluing the petals to the winter branches. Much later, when I realised my children were not in the least interested, I decided to make a few petals myself. This tempted Daisy and she joined in. She made precisely two petals, announced she'd finished - and off she skipped. End of making.

I decorated the remaining branches later that evening - after the children had gone to bed. It was a most enjoyable occupation that complemented a glass of wine and a spot of Saturday night TV very well indeed. Yes, I am that sad. And I'm very pleased with how my branches have turned out - see how delicate and real they look in our backyard. Daisy has asked me to point out which of the petals are her handiwork; keen to take a bit of the credit then. I'll take that as a compliment.

This weekend's experience has got me thinking about children's Making activities and how they do sometimes fail. With my son, I know that certain things are never going to fly. I always think carefully about what kind of activity to offer to him - it has to suit his skills and his interests, otherwise he will simply not participate. Daisy is more inclined to have a go at most things so her uncharacteristic disinterest on this occasion reminded me of another factor in determining the success of making things with children - the importance of timing and setting. Maybe Daisy wouldn't have engaged for all that long with the petal-making in the secret garden but she was so keen to try - the time was right then, not hours later at home. And looking back, the original place of the activity was perfect too. It would have been so lovely to make pretty flowery things in the dappled light beneath those real blossom trees. For Daisy, our living room simply didn't cut it  - and I think that's fair enough.

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