Wednesday, 23 May 2012

More tricks with sticks

My children are definitely going through the stick collecting phase. Whenever we go for a walk - be it through a park or wood, or even along a street - they are always on the look-out for them. Usually the sticks are collected simply because they are 'good ones' - and who am I to question that? - but last week, during a wonderful walk through Highgate Woods, the sticks being sought were to be wands. Below you can see Buddy and Daisy testing out the magical potential of a couple of them.

Back at home, with several sticks in hand, Buddy explained how he wanted to make a wand as instructed in his book Wizardology. In the extract below you can see that this would have involved stripping the stick of its twigs and leaves using a special kind of knife and then carving patterns into it.  Although I like the idea in principle, I really didn't think Buddy had the skills to carry this out safely.

[from Wizardology: the book of the secrets of Merlin - published by Templar 2005]

Fortunately Buddy agreed that we needed to think of another way to decorate his wand. When we found he could strip the stick of its bark quite easily and that felt tip pens marked the wood beautifully it gave me the idea of making a trompe-l'oeil - or 'trick-of-the-eye' carving. Buddy liked this idea, and thought he'd definitely be able to do it.

So he began peeling away his stick's bark; he found this to be a very satisfying and absorbing occupation as you can see in the photograph at the top. Then he drew round his wand on some paper and planned out some 'carving' designs as you can see below.

He used the felt-tips to mark the wood to create a very detailed carving-effect, with all sorts of special markings - to help with its magic, apparently. I gave it a quick spray of varnish and allowed it to dry thoroughly before handing it over to my wannabe Harry Potter so he could practise his spells. It certainly looks magical to me.

And as for my little Hermione-in-the-making - well, she wanted to paint her wand. So I got out our metallic acrylics and both she and I spent a very lovely half hour painting lots and lots of sticks - I mean wands - for all the members of our family. And I just love how these turned out too.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

After the rain


I've been out and about with a class of five and six-year-olds today; we spent a very enjoyable hour in the glorious herb and flower gardens of the Geffrye Museum. The recent and plentiful rainfall had every plant looking its very best, but luckily the rain stopped and the sun shone while we were outside. As we strolled around the grounds I encouraged the children to look carefully at how delicate and numerous the colourful petals were, to notice the lushness of new green leaves and to spot the jewel-like droplets of rain adorning some of the plants. 

Their teacher took plenty of photographs - I wish I'd had my camera with me; these pictures were quickly snapped on my iphone after the session - but the main way they recorded what they saw today was to sketch and then colour (using watercolour pencils) their favourite flowers. There were so many plants to choose from - some sketched wisteria, roses and poppies, others peonies, irises and violas - and soon their pieces of paper were in full bloom. 

Back in the classroom they magically transformed their drawings into watercolour paintings by adding water with paintbrushes. They all left the museum very happy, clutching their beautiful - and still damp - watercolours; the pictures looked as fresh and as vibrant as the gardens themselves, after the rain.

Monday, 14 May 2012

The cheese-on-a-stick trick

When I asked my seven-year-old, 'What could we make this cardboard cheese packaging into?' I was not surprised, when he cheekily replied, 'I don't know. Cheese, maybe?' I took his offhand comment as an indication that my hint-y craft-prompt was not going to fly on this occasion. I was on my way to put the packaging into the recycling box when Bud stopped me - and said, ' No, mummy. I really want to make that thing into some cheese.'

With that, he took the box (which I'd flipped inside out) and announced that it needed to be coloured yellow. He used a painting pen for this and soon it really did resemble a block of cheese. He even added a flap of paper to the edge that didn't have a side - which he measured, coloured, cut and stuck on with a glue stick.

It was this flap I think, which gave him the idea that the cheese could have something hidden inside it; something that could pop out. Now, who or what could be hiding in a cheese? Why a mouse of course! I knew all those Tom and Jerry cartoons weren't a waste of time.

We found our cute finger puppet mouse - he fit perfectly - and Bud worked out that we'd need something to make him pop out. So, we attached the mouse to a thin wooden stick (with a little sticky tape) and hid him inside the cheese. Ta - dah!

I really loved Bud's interest in making something using paper, paint and glue - he usually reserves that confidence and enthusiasm for Lego creations. Here are Buddy and Daisy to demonstrate how it works.

This trick has sparked-off other ideas for pop-ups we could make - we do have a lot of finger puppets. So far, they've come up with their mermaid puppet swimming out from a big shell, mini-monkey jumping out from a banana, and little Tinkerbell flying out from a flower. I don't know if we'll ever get round to making these other pop-up puppets - but it's been such fun chatting about it. And in the meantime, we're still loving Buddy's cheese-on-a-stick trick.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Five ways to have fun with football (even if you're not a fan)

A visit from Nan and Grandad this weekend coincided with the FA Cup Final. As huge football fans we knew they'd want to see the match so of course we said we'd watch the televised game with them, and we came up with some fun and creative activities that got everyone excited about football - at least for the afternoon. Here are five fun things to try:

1. Play air-ball

Bud and Daisy drew a chalk pitch on our PVC pouffe, and then, kneeling opposite each other, they each used a drinking straw to blow a ball - actually a screwed-up piece of paper - around the pitch. To score a goal the ball had to be blown off the pouffe at the goal markings on their opponent's side. An exciting match ensued - it got extremely noisy and dribble-y, and made them laugh so much they got the hiccups.

2. Bake footballer biscuits

Using a simple butter-cookie dough recipe we soon had a whole team of footballer biscuits ready to munch during the match. Bud drew chalk markings on some green paper, and I covered the whole thing in sticky-backed plastic before the biscuit-players and balls were strategically placed all over the pitch. It really didn't take long for them all to get sent-off* though.


3. Play football-oon
During the match - and out of the way of the TV screen (mostly) - my five-year-old's attention was happily occupied with balloon keepy-uppy. We spotted some very fancy footwork, great headers and brilliant slow-motion action replays.

4. Prepare refreshing oranges for half-time
Rolling oranges around and around with the palm of her hand (to release the juice) entertained Daisy for quite a while during the match. Then she helped me cut the oranges into quarters for everyone to suck during half-time - just like real footballers. Do they still do that?

5. Have a pre-match kick-about
Fortunately the sun came out for long enough that we all got out for a quick kick-about before kick-off. Nan and Grandad showed our children some pretty impressive ball skills. Never mind the final score of the FA Cup -  for me, the best result of the day was seeing them all enjoying playing football together in the sunshine.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Handsome horse marionette

Our puppet craze continues in earnest - we've made another marionette - but this time it's a horse. He's been named Handsome, and he is brilliant. He clip-clops around the house on his mismatched button hooves and he is particularly good at jumping. Here's a little clip of his skills in action:

I love that Handsome is made entirely from recycled and found materials; frayed string for his mane, forelock and tail (just seen), and empty toilet rolls for his head and body. I think he'd have been even better with some googly eyes but we used all ours in last week's puppet project - which you can see here.

We just need to find a good way to display all these puppets now. I think I need to buy some hooks...