Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Gifts for a new baby

We are all in love with the latest addition to our family; my sister's gorgeous baby boy was born a week ago. My children, keen to give their new cousin a present, suggested they each design him a baby-grow. And in case I wasn't sure what they meant, Daisy explained, 'You know, mummy - those things with the poppers going all the way round.'

I only managed to find some plain long-sleeved vests in size 0 - 3 months, but as they had at least three poppers going a little bit round, they were considered acceptable. I set out an invitation to create - with paper and felt-tips in the colours I knew we had in fabric pens, and then stepped away to give creative juices a chance to flow.

Both children were wonderfully motivated and very soon had their designs all mapped out and ready to go. I inserted a piece of card inside each vest to stop any colour seepage and to make for a more solid canvas and, along with our fabric pens, I handed them over to the designers. Twenty minutes later the vests were finished. They have since been proudly given to the scrumptious one - most definitely gifts made with love.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

The case of the disappearing Dalek

We're always raiding our recycling box for art, craft and play materials. A few weeks ago my son asked, just as we were leaving for school, to plunder its wonders for his CDT lesson that day. He chose about five items including what he considered to be the Coolest Container Ever, and told me he was going to use it to make a Dalek*.

Fast forward to the end of school, and my seven-year-old appeared in the playground absolutely distraught. It transpired that someone else thought that his container was the Coolest Thing Ever too, and had had the gall to swipe it from Buddy's tray. We went back to the classroom and searched high and low, hoping that he had just misplaced it, but it had completely disappeared. So we reported the incident to his teacher; to my child, this theft was the height of injustice. We had to make sure Bud knew we were doing all we could to find the culprit, and retrieve the Dalek.

Of course, that never happened. His teacher said she asked everyone in the class and, surprise-surprise, no one came forward. After a few days I told Bud that it looked like that Dalek had gone for good. But I tried to find something positive to add, so I said that we might eventually find another container just the same, and then he could make the Dalek again - this time at home. He seemed OK with this, so we let the whole thing rest. Then, last week we happened to find a shop that stocked Calippo Shots (fruity ice pieces) - in the exact container required for the Dalek-make. When the icy treats were finished, I washed up the pot and left it on our help-yourself-shelf to see if Bud would take the bait. Days passed, and I really had started to think that a new Dalek would never materialise.

But then, after school a few days ago, I heard him call through to the kitchen, 'Oh look! I can make my Dalek. I'm going to do it now!' He'd discovered the empty Calippo Shots box. And because he'd made it before he knew exactly what he needed, and busied himself collecting sticky tape, scissors, card, a milk bottle top and of course the Coolest Container Ever. He set up his very own little 'invitation to create' as you can see below. And I was so pleased.

And I was proud of him too, a reluctant crafter to say the least, getting over the disappointment of the initial Dalek disappearance (the thief is still at large) - and to find the enthusiasm and motivation to do it all again. He really enjoyed making it too; he tried out new ways to get the Dalek 'bits' to stick on, and he used about a roll of sticky tape in the process. We're keeping the Dalek safe at home, because we now know how desirable Daleks can be to light-fingered Dr Who and Container fans. Bud even agreed to pose with his finished Dalek - Fred 9, as it's called. I do love a happy ending.

* We don't watch Dr Who; far too scary and grown-up for my children. But my son has a T shirt with Daleks on its front - a great hand-me-down from his cousin. He wears this with pride, and loves the idea of people thinking he watches Dr Who.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Palaces and parks: a refreshing and royal Sunday stroll

Last weekend, in an attempt to chase away some gloomy thoughts (of mine), and some cobwebs (of the children), we got out of the house, and dipped into one of our favourite books London: Adventure Walks for families by Becky Jones and Clare Lewis. With family-friendly walks packed with points of interest, and just the facts and background information to pique everyone's interest, Becky and Clare's walks are always right up our street. 

This time we chose a regal-sounding walk called Kings and Queens: London's great palaces. We began at Somerset House - a little east of where the walk officially starts - but this is where our bus stopped. We always enjoy popping into the central courtyard, and are especially excited when we find the fountains turned on. It's then essential to run between the sprinkling jets of water in inappropriate footwear and non-waterproof clothing.

After a short stroll along the Embankment we arrived at the walk's official starting place, the Houses of Parliament, in time to hear Big Ben chime four o'clock; a great start to the walk.

Although crowded with tourists, it was pretty exciting to be amongst the buildings of parliament, and the statues of the great and the good. Daddy read out from our book the fascinating and historical facts including the whereabouts of the exclusive politician's taxi light. It was very satisfying to photograph this whilst everyone else walked straight past it.

One of the highlights of the walk was visiting the tiny, but perfectly formed medieval Jewel Tower, just opposite the site of the Houses of Parliament - pictured at the top. We were just one of a handful of people there - and it felt all the more special for being a bit of a hidden gem. Our walk continued through the amazing St James's Park, full of classic autumn colour. Then as we crossed a particularly picturesque bridge we saw, tantalisingly framed in the distance, Buckingham Palace looking grandly serene and elegantly pale. 

As we continued our walk, we came across something not mentioned in our book; clearly a new feature of the park. It was a giant floral crown made to celebrate this year's Diamond Jubilee. A feat of gardening expertise, it was a lovely incentive to help us press on with our progress towards the Queen's official home.

Fuelled by some rather delicious ice-cream we eventually made it to the gates of Buckingham Palace. We sang They're changing guard at Buckingham Palace as we marched up to them, although we arrived far too late in the day to witness that. We did pause at the gates for quite a while though, trying to spot the guards moving - they did, and waiting for the Queen to invite us in for tea - she didn't.

My children's energy was fading fast by the time we reached Green Park Tube station - and so we finished our regal walk here. It was a shame not to see the posh shops of Piccadilly but we didn't want to push our luck and end up with over-tired and irritable children at Fortnum and Mason. That final part of the walk would have to wait for another time.

But thanks to Adventure Walks for families we had a fantastic, fun and frugal family afternoon out in central London - and as a result, we all felt refreshed, revitalised and ready for the week ahead.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Spooky spiders

We had great fun making these spiders and webs this evening. Here's what we used:

 For the webs:-

  • black card squares
  • white wool
  • blunt plastic needle
  • sticky tape

... and for the spiders:-

  • pompoms
  • pipe-cleaners
  • googly eyes

Here's what we did: 

First I punched holes into the black card. To get to the middle of the squares, using a regular hole-punch, I just folded them wherever I needed, making temporary edges, so that the hole-punch would reach. Once the pieces of card were full of holes and flattened back out, the children started weaving their webs. 

I would recommend Eric Carle's The Very Busy Spider for ideas for web shapes, but tonight I just let the children use their imaginations to create their own designs. We secured the wool-ends with a little sticky-tape.

The spiders were made by sticking on as many googly eyes as desired to pompoms of choice. I secured the pipe-cleaner legs to the spiders using our warm glue-gun.

After photographing the finished spiders and webs, we decided to spookify them a little more by inverting the colours on the image. Now they look extremely Halloween-ish.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Watch this space

This art-making game is an old favourite of mine. I've used it very successfully with adults, teenagers, and nine-to-eleven year olds, and soon I'm going to use it with younger children in a museum setting. Before unleashing it on classes of thirty five-and-six year olds later this term, I thought I'd dust it down, and test it out on my little ones first. All you need for this version of the game is:

  • Paint-pens or chunky felt-tips or chalks - in a variety of colours
  • A long piece of paper; I used a roll of brown paper as I had it to hand
  • A die, each face covered with a sticker showing a particular shape or pattern - like circles, loops, triangles, stripes and zigzags (at the museum we have large foam dice with transparent pockets on each face to hold the pattern/shape descriptions)

  1. All players choose a pen or paint colour, and sit wherever they like near the edge of the paper. 
  2. The die is rolled, and whichever pattern/shape lands face up is drawn on the area of paper in front of each player. They can draw as many as they like, and just as they like.
  3. Players move round one place to their left (keeping their colour), and the die is rolled again.
  4. With the new pattern or shape in mind, players now add to the existing marks on the section of paper where they've just moved. They can draw the new shape or pattern in, around and/or next to these marks - just as they like, to add to the art.
  5. The game continues like this, until the paper is full.

The more people you have, the better it works - but with just four of us playing, we made a rather lovely piece of communal art, which we've since used as wrapping paper. They all agreed it was lots of fun - and said they really enjoyed seeing the art grow.

My daughter has already suggested we play a Christmas version of the game to make festive wrapping paper - with a die showing fir-tree shapes, baubles and stars and so on, using metallic colours. This reminded that once I used black paper and neon-colours for a fireworks version. It really is an adaptable game - and one we'll be playing again, in some shape or form, in the not so distant future. Watch this space!