Thursday's leaden skies and intermittent drizzle forced us to abandon our planned expedition to a new art installation on the South Bank - Rainbow Park. Instead, while the children were tucking into their after-school snacks, I raided my stash of emergency play-prompts. One of the first things I spotted was a brand new spirograph set from Nan. So, out it came.
Playing it cool, I said, 'Look what I've found. I don't suppose you'd like to try it out, would you?' They responded with oohs and ahhs, and can we really do this now? I love it when this trick works - they're putty in my hands.
I helped remove the packaging, my seven-year-old read out the instructions with an important air - he loves doing that, and we had a bit of a discussion about gears and cogs. And then, I'll admit a little reluctantly, I stood back and left them to it; my presence was definitely surplus to requirements. Although spirographs have been on the market since the 1960s, I can tell you that they still have plenty of appeal to at least two 21st century children - they simply loved this activity. And as they played and created, I noticed the rain stopping and the sun coming out.
They were so pleased with their pictures that they decided to display them. I suggested, off-handedly, that they might make their own art gallery - and they were off on a new exciting adventure. Signing and displaying their finished pieces, writing labels, and pricing up their artwork - they busily got ready for the opening. The pictures looked quite beautiful against the now sunny window; their translucency giving them a luminous, rather ethereal quality.
Daisy ran upstairs to get their cash till, and then they displayed paintbrushes, paper and rulers to sell on the counter. At last the pop-up gallery was ready for the grand opening. Thank goodness Daddy was now back for the first viewing.
It's amazing how all this play and creativity flowed from just one initial prompt. It's just having that special something up your sleeve - that's the real trick. That, and an unexpected rainy afternoon.