Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Dr Dog's Hospital

In our house the arrival of a cardboard box equals an opportunity to get creative; a large cardboard box has even more potential. So today I set up an invitation to create for the children - a big box, some card, some tape and scissors, and our box of fancy scrap paper.

I felt like making a dolls' house but when my daughter came home, nose in a book, she was quite clear on the box's destiny. She decided we would make it into a hospital for the main character of the story she was reading - Babette Cole's Dr Dog.

And that's how we came to make our box into a hospital for children. I was instructed to make it as white as possible - because that's how hospitals are, apparently. My job was to cover as much of it as I could in white paper. Meanwhile Daisy wanted the hospital to have an operating theatre, necessitating a curtain - so she concertina-folded a piece of paper, we punched holes in the top, threaded through some cotton and then secured the ends of the cotton to the walls with a little sticky tape. Then we made beds for the ward, and a playroom for those children who were well enough to be up and about, or who were waiting to see the doctor.

I love how Doctor Dog got a surgical mask, and how Daisy put everyone in the hospital to bed before she went up to hers - even the rabbit family, whose children just needed eye tests. They were all happy to stay overnight so they could collect the bunnies' glasses in the morning; what a hospitable hospital.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

As bright as a button

It was cold and snowy the night before my son was born, and it's much the same tonight. By this time I was already in established labour, but Buddy would not make his appearance until much later; the following afternoon actually. So here we are, eight years on, and we're still delighted with our bundle of joy; now as tall as a ten-year-old, as curly-haired as a cherub, and as bright as a button.

For his party this year, we are hosting a sleepover for a few of his friends. It has been pretty high-octane so far, with a hide-and-seek game which nearly turned the house inside out, then, after a quite civilised pause for pizza, the mission to put on pyjamas and settle down in the 'movie theatre' - our living room - was the loudest whirlwind of frenzied activity I've ever known. They are now be-cushioned and be-duvet'd in the dark, watching Megamind and munching popcorn. Occasionally one of them asks for a top-up of water but apart from that they are all immersed in the film and, dare I say it - really quiet. They've all bought sleeping bags (and cuddly toys, I notice) and their beds are set up and waiting for them when the film finishes. I've put our collection of vintage Dandy and Beano annuals in the bedroom for anyone who either can't get to sleep or wakes up too early. I've no idea if this will keep everyone quiet in the early morning, but Buddy knows that me getting out these treasured books is a very special treat indeed.

I'm taking advantage of this sleepover's period of calm to wish my wonderful eight-year-old a very happy birthday. It may be my only chance in what could be a very long night.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Groundhog Day puppets and play

We love Groundhog Day here at Deering HQ. Although we live in London, every February 2, we still want to know whether or not Punxsutawney Phil has predicted an early spring in Pennsylvania. And since my children were very small, they've always re-enacted the ceremony at Gobbler's Knob - usually using a brown sock, or some such, as the groundhog. This year, my daughter asked if we could make a proper puppet groundhog to use in our re-enactment; a sock would not suffice, apparently.

So I set up our kitchen table with the following:

  • Assorted fabric scraps in groundhog colours
  • Craft foam (neoprene) shapes - triangles for ears, circles for cheeks, heart for a nose, squares for teeth, semi-circles for paws
  • Googly eyes
  • Fabric glue
  • Scissors
  • White chalk

Here's how we made our groundhog puppet:

1. Daisy chose which fabric was to be the basic shape of her groundhog and lay it out flat in front of her. Then she put her hand down on top of it with her little finger and thumb stretched out to show where the paws of the groundhog might go.

2. I drew a chalk outline at least two centimetres away from her hand, in a sort-of groundhog shape - making a head with little ears, and two paws where her little finger and thumbs were. If you try this, make sure you leave a lot of room at the wrist end of things - make it wide enough for your little one's hand to fit in (ours was a little narrow, to be honest).

3. I cut out this shape and then Daisy drew round it on another piece of the same fabric to form the back of the groundhog.

4. While I was cutting this out, Daisy decorated the front of her groundhog sticking on the foam shapes and googly eyes with dots of fabric glue. She also wanted it to have a furry tummy and tail, so she drew an oval - for the tummy, and a long narrow triangle - for the tail - in chalk, on the back of some different fabric, which I then cut out for her.

5. While this was drying a little, I put a line of fabric glue around the edge of the back of the puppet, making sure the orientation was correct; the puppet was far from symmetrical.

6. We stuck the front of the groundhog to its back by matching the edges together as best we could, then we put a cardboard tube inside it to prevent the front and the back getting stuck together. It was dry after about 30 minutes.

In the evening Daisy re-enacted the Groundhog Day ceremony, very seriously, to a houseful of aunties, uncles and cousins. After watching her performance Daisy's little cousin aged three, promptly picked up Phil, and had a turn herself. She put the puppet on her hand, made him look around for his shadow, and then 'read' from Daisy's piece of paper that we would indeed have an early... morning!

It seems we have a new Punxsutawney Phil fan in the making.