Posted tagged ‘apples’

3 tips on running an autumn craft event for kids

October 17, 2016

Now that I have teenagers it’s easy to forget how much attention and imagination you need to entertain and educate younger children – here are a few tips gleaned from the Apple Day where I helped run an activity at our nearby nature park. For more ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children follow this blog or get my book Homemade Kids, out of the library. This post is by Nicola Baird, also see

Apple Day activities at Gillespie Park have to be all about apples. I ran an apple bobbing stall and a nature pendant stall which got kids to decorate air dryed clay with leaves, sticks and seeds.

Apple Day activities at Gillespie Park have to be all about apples. I ran an apple bobbing stall and a nature pendant stall which got kids to decorate air dryed clay with leaves, sticks and seeds.

I love seeing kids getting dirty, but parents increasingly don’t. It’s a shame to hear an adult telling a child not to go in puddles or touch a plant in case they get dirty. My daughters definitely looked scruffy but they were allowed to explore properly. I generally dressed my kids in leggings or trousers as dresses are so restricting. That’s because you are much more likely to do spontaneous cartwheels, play football, climb trees, pick blackberries, face nettles or even kneel down to study something on tarmac/gravel if you are not wearing a dress. But at a public event kids are often quite smartly dressed up. Here’s how to help the children have fun without causing too many parents to get upset about their child’s outfit.

The Morrismen dancers turned up and invited everyone to join in. I have to admit that I abandoned my stall for a dance waving handkerchiefs. If you don't have fun at these big events you don't want to do them when you're asked next time.

The Morrismen dancers turned up and invited everyone to join in. I have to admit that I abandoned my stall for a dance waving handkerchiefs. If you don’t have fun at these big events you don’t want to do them when you’re asked next time.

This is the third year I’ve run children’s events at Gillespie Park Apple Day – an event which attracts a lot of young children (year 3 to babes in arms) and a few older ones. For some reason I always seem to find it hard to rope in a glamorous assistant so it makes sense to be prepared. And that means you might need:

  • A gazebo if it rains. This was essential as I was running a air-drying clay activity and rain would spoil the pendants. During the storm I also moved the apple bobbing under the tent. All of the apple day attendees were rewarded by a fine rainbow when the rain began to stop.
  • A bucket for hand washing (drying clay feels horrible), soap in a hand-pump and a couple of towels. I organised for someone to lend me three towels, and brought the final dry one out for the last hour. By the end of the day they were going to need some serious washing!
  • First aid knowledge... I refresh mine bi-annually. It’s always worth teaching basic first aid to children and teenagers can start learning it properly through the Red Cross or St John’s Ambulance training courses.
Making a nature pendant or nature medal.

Making a nature pendant or nature medal – an activity which suits all ages and skills and fitted in with the all-things-apple theme.

It’s easy to show one child how to make a clay pendant. Ideally I try and show a group of three plus. It’s really nice when later in the day you see kids who’ve enjoyed the activity coming back and explaining to their friends or even cousins what to do. They do teaching with such pride!  To make it easy for anyone who will have to explain what to do to someone else, break down the task into stages so you can demonstrate with ones you’ve made earlier. That way visual learners and active learners can get down to the task while you re-explain to the ones that like words more. I had a round ball of clay; a flattened pendant with a hole in it and a finished item (which I failed to photograph, sorry).

Adapting the pendant idea from a circle or oval to leaf shape - and then pressing the shape of the leaf into it was suggested by an experienced Woodcraft Folk member.

Adapting the pendant idea from a circle or oval to leaf shape – and then pressing the shape of the silver birch leaf into it was suggested by an experienced Woodcraft Folk member.

When you are working with 30 plus children – there were about 200 trying the Apple Day activity between 12-4pm, you soon notice the kids who think in a non-classroom manner. It was really noticeable that children who go to Brownies/Scouts like to follow lists so they can tick off tasks and earn their badges. The ones who go to Woodcraft Folk, even very young children, are skilled at using nature to inspire their art and can also tie knots. As lots of children are quite shy to have a go their parents will step in. This seems a shame, so I try to let the kids make their own art by suggesting their mum/dad does their own pendant. It seems to work and it’s nice for the kids to see that you don’t have to stop being artistic when you leave school.

Over to you
Hope these tips help encourage you to run your own local park or street party event with kids’ activities. Let me know what games work well for Autumn/Winter/Outdoor activities.




What’s so great about apples?

October 5, 2010

Delicious apples. Pick from the tree. Taste blind. Nice or not?

It’s October and I’ve just tasted the first satsuma of the year. As it was from Spain, hopefully shipped in (rather than flown) and bought in the Co-op, I felt as much pleasure from my ethical choice as the sweet-sour taste of this only just orange-shaded fruit. Later in the year these satsumas will be much sweeter, smell less “new” and start to be covered in a thicker pith.

This post is by Nicola Baird using ideas filched from her newest book, Homemade Kids: thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children.

 But Granny Fiona watching my two girls and I doing our taste test – in our family every new and looked forward to taste of the year earns us a wish – wasn’t impressed and went into a long diatribe about how she only ate locally grown seasonal fruit, ie, apples.

And apples are in their glory at the moment. Last weekend we were invited to an apple press party. The idea is that you bring your apples and then use the host’s chunky, old-fashioned apple press to juice your own crop. It’s a lot more fun sharing the work with friends than doing this on your own…

 Arriving late allowed Lola, 12, Nell, 9, and I to walk into a Country Living photo set – under a huge oak tree in the stable yard around a trestle table were arranged mums, dads and little children. The women looked glam and happy, the dads relaxed as they feasted on sausages and beer (as appropriate!) while everyone took a turn chopping and mincing apples or using the lever to push the juice out of the fruit. Did I mention that the sun was actually out or the jokes were about an apple tax?

As my apple tree was back in London I was sent off to pick a bucket of eaters from a big tree that I remember being planted in the 1970s.  Back under the oak tree I cut them into quarters ready for the mincing/mashing/juicing stage. Just as my haul was about to be tipped in the apple press broke, but because it is a relatively simple style machine my brother was able to fix it in minutes and on the juicing went… a process which the poet Keats described in Ode to Autumn as “the slow oozings hours by hours”, except because we’re in the 21st century even old-fashioned presses seem quicker!

Long life
The dark apple juice lasts a week in the fridge, or you can put it in plastic bottles and freeze. Another way of making it last longer is to pasturise it – try heating it in a glass bottle up to 60F for a minute or two. Check Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall for the exact approach.

Why is apple juice so dark? The 10 year old boy loved helping press it.

Kids play

While the adults got lost in juicing dreams – how about adding ginger or sloe or vodka? – the children wandered through the fields in their wellies exploring the overgrown hedge by the boundary ditch as if they were adventurers. This kept them busy all afternoon until the last of the summer wasps unfortunately managed to sting a four year old and everyone had to retreat into the kitchen to recover with Ben 10 chocolates.

Celebrate apple day
It’s easy to celebrate apple day on 21 October even if you don’t have an apple press. You could do it virtually with a visit here, or you can go to the National Fruit Collection in Kent (or just the website). You could go to a market (or a supermarket) and choose a few different English varieties and run a taste test with the kids.

Or try apple bobbing (very hard and wet even in a shallow washing up bowl), or an apple peeling contest. Try cooking and juicing, adding apples (for their pectin) to autumn jams (eg, damson, blackberry and quince), making apple cake or an apple compote for puddings/breakfast cereal toppings. 

There may also be exciting events going on locally to you, including wassailing – drink something and spill something by your apple tree as a harvest thank you. Or try some cider (or perry from pears) or join a tour of an orchard.

These national days may be contrived but they give all of us a big hint about what to talk to our children about that day. It’s amazing how much children not just soak up, but also enjoy annual family rituals. If you haven’t yet given Apple Day a go, then go on and see what happens to your child’s interest in the humble apple.

Leo on the left has his own apple tree.

As Rita, one of the brilliant mums quoted in Homemade Kids pointed out apple trees make great gifts:  “Leo’s granny bought him an apple tree for his first birthday, and he loves the little apples. He’ll be able to watch it grow as he gets older.”

Do share any ideas you have about what’s so great about apples (or pears). Thanks.

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