Posted tagged ‘cheap activities’

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 www.nicolabaird.com

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.

1 BE PREPARED
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.

2 EXPECT CROWDS
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.

3 TAKE TIME TO PRAISE WHAT NEEDS PRAISING
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.

 

 

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Ideas for back-to-school art and craft

August 29, 2014

Do you have a box of junk you use for art materials or creative projects? Congratulations if the answer is yes. Here are some thoughts about how to make use of broken china – and end up getting it displayed in the Tate.  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 www.nicolabaird.com

Broken crockery transformed - though not by me. This was an exhibit at the British Folk art exhibition at Tate Britain.

Broken crockery transformed – though not by me. This was an exhibit at the British Folk art exhibition at Tate Britain (summer 2014). The doll in the centre gives it a strange 3D feel. Can you recognise any of the china?

In the 1880s dialect researcher, Oliver Heslop, noted that Durham children had a word for the broken bits of pot and earthenware they used to decorate their play homes and toys – “boudy”. I have a pile of broken china bowls and plates under my hedge, just in case I think of a use for it, ideas include making a mural.

Chaos before the washing up is done sometimes leads to breakages. Sorry I mean, art materials.

Chaos before the washing up is done sometimes leads to breakages. Sorry I mean, art materials.

The growing pile of breakages – blame the fact that we wash up by hand – is so colourful and has so much potential… even if I haven’t got around to using it yet.

Junk art
In the just-about-to close exhibition at Tate Britain of British Folk Art, lots of scraps – material, straw, old bones – are used to create significant objects. Some have practical use, like the quilts, others are just time-killers, such as the cockerel made from bones salvaged from the kitchen by a Napoleonic Prisoner of War. There’s a review of the show, here.

But what I liked best was a 19th century tray covered in bits of broken china with a china doll’s head in the centre. It is completely impractical but such a lovely piece of creativity. Making those bits of china fit must have been taxing. I’m not sure if it was done by a child, but I can imagine it would have been fun to do.

And I name this... trudy.

And I name this… trudy (inspired by an art show).

And for a modern child it’s a fascinating history lesson in slow-changing sideplate fashion. Nell, 13, was able to recognise the black and white Napoleon china she’d last seen in a market in Belgium as well as the ever-popular blue-and-white Willow pattern. Amused by the way broken bits had their own name back in the 1800s, she decided to call our own pile ‘Trudy’.

My husband still calls it rubbish though.

Creativity with items on their way out

Utter junk becomes an arty dalek cage.

Utter junk becomes an arty dalek cage.

My house is filled with worn out things that I’ve repaired to make them useable again (eg, cushion covers, curtains, rugs and sofa throws). How much more exciting for a child/teen to find broken treasures and use them to make something unique and new. I helped my kids do a lot of junk art when they were very little – it’s fun helping a toddler make a robot using a cereal box and the paper cores from a toilet roll. It’s even more fun making something a bit more edgy.

Assuming you have some bits and bobs around your home maybe you’ll be inspired to do a last bit of art before the schools go back, using items that are either destined for the bin, recycling or the charity shop. You never know what masterpiece you or the kids may create.

Over to you
Do share some ideas or pix of cool things you’ve done with junk items. Thank you.

What did you do this half term?

June 2, 2014

Do you dare stay put at half term? Are there things on the doorstep you could enjoy doing more of? 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 www.nicolabaird.com

I love to travel – but half term always seems too short (actually so do the two week holidays of Easter and Christmas) to take enough time to enjoy a place. For me the only holiday which has enough time to travel to a place and properly explore it seems to be the long summer holidays… which is the reason my family hardly ever go away at half term.

Of course I get a frisson of jealously hearing where my neighbours are going – or have been. But that shouldn’t stop the pleasure of doing things on the doorstep. This half term we hardly saw my 15 year old as she was studying for GCSEs, so the trips made with Nell (13) had to also be seemingly low key to ensure revision seemed like a better option.

xx

Larking around despite a day of rain, pavements and then the graveyard on a meet the ancestors tour.

1 Find out more about your relations (a walk)
We spent five hours stomping around East London on an ancestors’ tour. Pete had done all the work and took us from put to workhouse to ironmongery (sites of). If you want to avoid this experience never let your significant other ever join AncestryUK.

Explore a park can turn into a name that fish (or tree or flower) challenge.

Explore a park and find something unexpected (toddler sized fish?).

2 Explore a park you don’t know well (get lost)
London has a huge number of vast parks. Nell and I spent a long afternoon in Holland Park, just off High Street Ken trying to orientate ourselves, or find an ice cream. We failed these tasks but were happily distracted by the massive koi carp at the Kyoto meditation garden. Unfortunately I still can’t tell you how to get there…

xx

The man on the left of the foreground is the Pea Eating champion. The man sitting focusing at the table is trying to eat as many peas as possible using a toothpick. Behind him are the amazing dancers who kept passers-by at the Holloway Festival’s opening event in Hornsey Street happily entertained. Not quite sure who won the competition but it was fun to watch.

3 Enjoy a local festival or street party (see and be seen)
Even in central London it’s easy to find private gardens open to the public most weekends… Not only do you get the chance to buy locally-raised plants (ie, slug proof) you may also be able to buy cake and a cuppa, and then go on to a street festival. There are so many in London now it’s like being on a European feast day tour. Going might even inspire you to organise your own!

Over to you
What sort of things do you enjoy doing in your neighbourhood?

What do you say about birds and bees?

May 15, 2014

Talking about birds and bees isn’t always a grimace-inducing sex chat is it? When spring and summer visitors return to the UK even city kids can be tricked out of school grumps and into a happier mood. 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 www.nicolabaird.com

Flowering jasmine makes the street and house smell sweet.

Flowering jasmine makes the street and house smell sweet.

Oh happy day! The swifts are back – the wonderful free-wheeling screamers that zip above the city streets where I live. The swifts are late this year – I know this because the greater celandine in the bucket by the door has nearly finished flowering. And they’ve flown an amazing distance from Africa probably, over war zones, seas and the guns of European bird hunters. It’s hard for me to stop myself rushing up to passers-by to point out these wonderful birds.

I spotted them after my daughters had headed off to school so you’re the first to hear the news. I’m sure you know that spring or summer is really here when a particular plant blooms or bird or animal is spotted. Earlier this week I had to attend some training on a farm a few miles from Guildford. It’s a commuter dormitory but within a few minutes of the main town the roads are wreathed in cow parsley and everything is the perfect English green. On the farm the first thing I heard was a cuckoo. For a city dweller like me this is a really special sound, some years I don’t get to hear them unless I put on a bird tape. At the farm – a dressage centre rather than the conventional food producer – the receptionist said the cuckoo’s return meant she “knew spring was here at last.”

Nell's friends Lucas and Nat look for newts in our garden pond.

Nell’s friends Lucas and Nat look for newts in our garden pond.

My city-born daughters probably have their own spring-is-here coda when the newts come back to our pond. Mostly they don’t fuss much about wildlife and I don’t think that’s very good for their mental and emotional resilience. So when the 15 year old looked stressed from too much GCSE exam revision yesterday I suggested she picked some chard for dinner. She flounced out of the house to do this, very put out.

Fortunately the magic of the garden quickly changed her mood. Even before she’d come back in happier she’d found an ailing bee which she reckoned she could rescue. Her plan was to flip it right side up – a good one. But I suggested she also gave it some sugar water and an empty loo roll middle to shelter in overnight. Happily she set about saving the bee… and the morning report is good. The bee is bumbling about far more happily ready for a bit more sugar water.

Get your coat
Do you find being outside – doing something with plants, animals or insects – helps your child out of tricky feelings?

image001 (2)A good book to help you and your family explore the outdoors in towns and cities is The Wild City Book by Jo Schofield and Fiona Danks. It came out on May day and has loads of things to do to get your kids more comfortable with nature. There are lots of bee tasks – such as making a bee hotel or a nectar café by clever planting. But plenty of ideas could be impromptu such as creating a massive daisy or dandelion chain for a flower necklace or art in the park just using leaves and sticks.  Definitely a book to improve every city dweller’s life whether big, small or six-legged.

The Wild City Book: loads of things to do in towns and cities by Jo Schofield and Fiona Danks (Frances Lincoln, 2014, £9.99). Find it on amazon here. There’s also an opportunity for half term visitors to London’s Natural History Museum to have a go at some of the activities in the book for free and supervised by the authors. Turn up between 12-4 on Thursday 29 June 2014, in the museum’s wildlife garden.


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