Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Little chefs and The Playful Parent cook up a storm

On Sunday I spent the day at the wonderful Geffrye Museum promoting my book The Playful Parent: 7 ways to happier, calmer, more creative days with your under-fives. The shop sold out of their stock - so I guess it went well!

I set up an activity from the book, an invitation to play, where younger children could come and take part in some let's pretend cooking using home-made lavender or fresh mint play-dough, herbs, leaves and petals from the museum's gorgeous garden.



My daughter was a fantastic help, charming the little chefs in a way that no grown-up could. She chatted with them, and made them feel right at home in the little nature kitchen gazebo. They rolled, stirred, tore, squished, cut, and smelled the dough, herbs and flowers and made some wonderful 'food', leaving their grown-ups relatively free to chat with me about the recipe for the play-dough (in the book) - and how these set-ups can work at home to develop young children's independence and help them find their playful flow.

Some older children visited the stall too and, though the tables were a little small for them, they happily stayed and made some very photogenic food with the goodies - from posh canapes to nature pizza.

It was great to meet so many lovely children and their grown-ups, and to have the opportunity to do my bit towards making the world of parenting a more playful place. Thanks to everybody who came to play!

Friday, 4 July 2014

DIY haute couture

A friend just posted this wonderful video on Facebook and I've watched it about ten times already. It may not exactly be a 'how-to' demo - but it is totally inspiring. Who wouldn't be tempted into making a miniature glamorous outfit or two after seeing such a beautiful film? 


It isn't impossible to achieve this kind of experience at home with the kids. I'm not promising the immaculately appointed, soft-focus studio of course but with just a bit of child-friendly kit and using this little Dior video for inspiration, it is possible to get children designing and making their own mini-outfits independently, without using any needles, pins or even scissors. Here's how:


I absolutely love these little mannequins from Harumika. They make dress-designing satisfyingly simple for the littlest of hands and the most creative of minds. This is due to the ingenious addition of a thin rubber-lined slit that runs down the back of each mannequin. Each kit comes with a little paddle that helps tuck in and secure materials into the slit, so there's no need for any cutting, pinning or stitching at all.

Our local art, craft and fabric shop has a huge basket of handkerchief-sized (and smaller) off-cuts that cost between five and thirty pence. My children love rummaging through it and choosing a few pieces of material whenever we visit. Add to any fabric pieces you have, a few ribbons and sticky gems or sequins and that's really everything you'll need to get those couture creations off the ground.


Creating the dresses: 
Arrange the fabrics, ribbons and any other little goodies you might have to hand on a clear and clean work surface along with a mini-mannequin or two, and let the making begin. If you lose your paddles, a lolly stick or the handle of a teaspoon work equally well. If your child is unsure about how to get started, try asking them to design something for themselves or someone they know well and suggest a few scenarios for which to design a costume. Perhaps they could make a dress for a wedding party, a special lunch, a red carpet event, a garden party, a book launch, a Halloween party, a winter ball, a job interview, a rock festival or a birthday bash, for example.

Keeping the creations:
Once an outfit has been made, your child will probably want to make another straight away - it is quite addictive. Be sure to take a photo (or even a little video) showing the outfit from a few angles before it's disassembled. This way there'll be a record of its unique design and if they want to make it again in the future the photograph can be used to jog their memory.

Enjoy the video and why not have a go at making some mini-couture outfits with your little ones. If Dior can do it, so can our kids, right?

Here are some of my children's couture creations made with our Harumika mannequins.