Monday, 28 February 2011

Polly Dunbar is my hero (well definitely one of them)

I first came across Penguin kind of by accident. I bought a pack of picture books with DVDs from the book people to use in my nursery. I knew a couple of the stories but hadn't read Penguin before. As soon as I did I loved it and so did the children (boys as well as girls).

The story is about a little boy called Ben who gets a present of a penguin. But the penguin won't talk and Ben tries everything to make him but to no avail! Finally through an exciting plot twist penguin opens up completely! Polly Dunbar does lovely illustrations but my favourite is the penguin's special speech bubble, this is a double page illustration using childlike drawings to retell the whole story.

After reading the story I used to use an empty version of the speech bubble for the children to retell what they could remember through their own pictures.(This worked really well and I used the idea with lots of stories putting the main character at the bottom of the speech bubble.)

Gosh I do go on... anyway we got the book for the little man and he loved it too! Joining in with lots of the fun bits, blowing raspberries, doing dizzy dances etc.
So I was very excited to see it on as a play as part of the Imagine children's festival at the Southbank.

We took the little one on Sunday. This is always a bit scary as you never know how well a 16 month old is going to cope, but he loved it. Well once he got over his fear of the blue narrator puppet, who he kept saying a tearful "bye bye bye" to while waving hopefully.
It is a puppet show by Long nose puppets, which was cofounded by Polly Dunbar and Katherine Morton. The puppets were brilliant and so like the illustrations and the extra bits fitted in really well with the feeling of the book but adding an extra magical sparkle (which is the bonus of having the author on board I guess). I loved the 'hand made' feel of everything, using an overhead projector for the background was really charming. The music was fab too, nowhere near the painful music some children's performances seem to feel is necessary, but then again it was written by Tom Gray of Gomez. Even my slightly less easily won over husband was thoroughly enchanted by it. And I think the fact that our toddler sat on my lap engrossed for the whole 45 minutes is the strongest praise going!

Ps I was thinking of a few things that might be nice to do after seeing the show- most would probably be better for older children but it may have been nice to have tried the speech bubble idea for the children to draw their memories from the show? I am really not a big fan of making children write about this kind of thing as it can just turn a lovely experience into a chore, but it is nice to give them the opportunity to record something if they are that way inclined.
I also thought doing their own little show of the story could be cute, especially if you bought the music. Lots of craft opportunities in making the props, the aliens could be lots of fun, as well as the raspberry blowing raspberries.
Or you could just give them a little penguin wrapped up in a box, a play person and a lion painted blue and see what happens! I am may try this but as I seem to be going round in circles today maybe I will fail, good intentions and all that!
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Friday, 25 February 2011

Terrific Tate

The next artist I am using as a starting point with my little one is Bridget Riley. I hadn't heard of her before but when googling abstract artists I found her and thought she looked good. And then amazingly she has an exhibition at the National Gallery. So my plan was to go to the National and then get a bus to the Tate Britain (I had googled to find a Mondrian on display).
But then I realised I was being a fool, not unusual, as it was half term and that Trafalgar Square would be hideous. So decided just to head to the Tate Britain instead. I didn't have high expectations of the toddler loving it, but it was fab!!

He very kindly slept for about an hour and a half at the beginning of our visit, nothing short of miraculous from the incredible non-sleeping boy. This gave me and my mum some time to look around and scout out some more toddler friendly bits as well as eat our lunch!

We had a look round the Susan Hiller exhibition which took me a minute to adjust to but I actually really liked it, lots of food for future mum and baby projects. And some fun installations that the toddler enjoyed when he finally woke up.

Without really thinking I took him to the contemporary art first, I suppose as I thought they are the artists that will easiest to do activities based around.

A giant flashing chandelier? What's not for a toddler to love.

Ah Pollock, I have to wait for nicer weather as I don't think my husband would be impressed if we explored his style inside the flat.

Ooh spots now that is a plan.

Well even if I chickened out of going to the National Gallery I did get one Bridget Riley picture.

But this is when I realised the error of my ways! I don't know if I've mentioned my child's obsession with dogs? It has been going for quite some time now and will definitely be used as focus for future gallery trips. As once away from the more contemporary pieces he played his own game of spot the dogs.

So a great day even if I failed to find a Mondrian, apparently only at Tate Modern now.

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Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Packaging play

So not only did we get a sea of bubble wrap with our new desk but also lots of other packaging.
I thought that we must be able to make something fun with the big sheet of cardboard and other stuff. We sat on the cardboard and threw the balls up the slope for a while.

Then I thought that maybe I could make a shute, took me a little bit of time but I thought it was ok.

Albie ignored it in favour of more bubble wrap popping. But a little while later his interest was peaked. And a some investigating ensued!

The tube kept getting squished which caused some very frustrating traffic jams. So we made a smaller tube.

We had some fun but it did look like a big fat mess in the front room. That's a small price to pay for a busy, happy toddler, as well as "bomb-site" appearing to be my default setting.

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Monday, 21 February 2011

The most favouritist toy boxes we found.

Living in a flat and being an obsessive spoiler of my baby (even if my take on spoiling him is giving him many old bottles and boxes from the recycling to play with) means we can struggle slightly with storage. Me and the other half had been discussing/arguing over a toy box that would fit in the flat and we liked the look of. All discussion stopped when we found these...

Now I have to own up to the fact that my husband and I do tend to the geekier side of life, and the teacher in me is slightly obsessed with construction kits, so what could be better!

We got them from a place for everything, but I think they are available at other places now. I am currently in negotiations over how many more we need, I feel that we need to get some of the varying sizes and imagine the forts you could build with loads!!

Mudlarks first of the fun (hopefully free) Fridays.

The little one and I have something on most days. We have a class of some description every morning except for Fridays. So my New Year plan was to try and go on baby-friendly outings, as we live on a stricter budget now I am hoping to find as many cheap or low cost things to do as possible. I have set up an email inviting my other baby friends but for my first week noone could make it. Poor us. The lack of company somewhat stifled my spirit of adventure but not wanting to give in completely we popped to the local farm.
But this week I had a friend in tow, yes just the one but a lovely one! And we headed up to Canary Wharf to the Museum of Docklands. I had done a bit of internet research and found out about Mudlarks. It is room aimed at the youngest visitors to the museum. It has a small soft play area and a range of other activities. It's really cute! Everything in the room is themed around the docks. The soft play area has a DLR with a screen playing views from the real life trains. The cushions are London buses or bunches of bananas etc and there is a very speedy slide.
There is a cool sand and water table with constant flowing water so the children can build dams and block the channels. There are big soft blocks decorated like famous buildings from the area so the children can have a go at constructing them and more!

(don't tell him he's going the wrong way.)

The toddler was a little bit little for lots of it but could enjoy most of the activities at his level. Just smushing the gravelly sand was fun for him and he enjoyed loading the boat with heavy containers even if working out how to spread the load was beyond him! I appologise for the terrible photos but trying to catch the best moments with my phone as well as hopefully enjoy it with my little one appears a bit beyond me at the moment.

Showing off his muscles!

Cool ships funnels that had different dockside smells.

You have to collect a ticket on your way in although it is free, this gives you your 40 minute slot. But you can pop out and pick up tickets for the next session so can easily have longer. They are only allowed a fairly limited number of children in and when we were there they were full but it was not too busy at all! Much calmer than normal okay spaces. Also you have to be under 1m tall to go in the soft play, perfect as much less risk of squishing. And very soon (possibly this week) they are opening a cafe just outside the doors to Mudlarks, so will be even better.

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Woohoo POP!

As with most little ones our toddler LOVES bubble wrap! After a disappointing batch that more poofed than popped, you can't imagine his excitement at the fact our new desk came wrapped to hell and back in the stuff. The very multi-purpose paddling pool is now over flowing with the amazing noise making material.

PS it is very good at helping to develop their pincer grip, vital for their later writing. So fab fun but functional too.
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Monday, 14 February 2011

Gorgeous book and beyond

When looking at Littlebig magazine I came across a review of a book that sounded right up my alley and quickly added it to my wishlist. The book was Gestalten's Play all day (which I very happily got for Christmas and was definitely one of my favourite presents).
I was initially drawn by the cover image, it is one of Jan Van Holleben's "dreams of flying" pictures. I had seen some of these pictures in various places and had always loved the idea of doing a project with my Nursery class based on them, but had somehow never actually got round to it. But the whole book is amazing, I would love (lottery win allowing) to open a children's play space as am so often underwhelmed by the ones I take my little one to. This book has amazing images of inventive toys and play spaces that have further inspired my daydreams.

One of the featured spaces was 'funky forest' an incredible interactive ecosystem where the children are able to control the projected environment by the way they move their bodies as well as use props to block and change the direction of the river. I loved it and thought it would an amazing experience for all children as even the youngest babies would enjoy the light show, and as they got bigger they could begin to notice the cause and effect relationships before going on to fully understand what they need to do to create the response they want. It also is a "clean" experience so would be brilliant in a busy play area,

I loved it so looked up the people behind it, Theo Watson, and found a whole selection of playful installations that I'm sure would inspire the child in all of us.- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Mondrian for beginners

I have been trying to think of ways of introducing artists into my little one's life. This is as much as a way of keeping me inspired with new ideas as anything. I have discovered a new found love of installation art at galleries. But have decided that the abstract artists are a good starting point for home, again really as this gives me a bit of a framework to begin to play with colours and shapes.

The first artist I have tried is Mondrian.

Composition C (No.III) with Red, Yellow and Blue 1935

© 2007 Mondrian/Holtzman Trust c/o HCR Internatio© 2007 Mondrian/Holtzman Trust c/o HCR International, Warrenton, VAnal,, VA

He seemed good, his bold pictures introduce primary colours as well as squares and rectangles (yes I know my little one is way too little- but the activities were just fun exploratory ones but I got to make a nice book!).
I had a whole bundle of felt that I had bought for a previous madcap scheme that fell by the wayside, so I thought I would make Mondrian inspired fuzzy felt.

Here my little man again showed his enthusiasm for dismantling, but did have a go at splatting bits of felt at the board.
So then I decided that the lightbox would be fun too. Now, here is where I made a very irritating mistake, so primary colours hey? So that would be red, blue, yellow and um green! Anyway you can still see the effect, just bits of acetate cut into different shapes with strips of black card.

As all the shapes are squares and rectangles I thought building blocks could be used to further explore this theme. But I wasn't sure how to do it. Decided to paint some junk boxes and thought the toddler could help. Lots of mess! Anyway I turned boxes inside out and we had fun slapping some paint on. He had most fun tasting the paint and then doing some hand prints.

Then I finished them off when he was asleep. Sticking them back together and painting the black lines on.

He did some stacking, with a little bit of help from his friends.

But the build'em up knock'em down still proved a fave.

I thought I would indulge his penchant for getting in stuff too.

So as I said I decided to make a book, I found lots of Mondrian images and interspersed them with my photos. I added labels for colour and shape to some of them and wrote a very short introduction to the artist. Then, to find a front cover. I was very proud of myself at finding a picture to use on the front, added my title and smugly sent a photo to my husband. At no point had I registered Piet Mondrian's resemblance to any other famous historical figure (yes I must have been blind or very self absorbed) but this was quickly pointed out to me. Any ideas who?

He likes his book though.

Now I have to add more pictures now I have my lovely OHP...

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Thursday, 3 February 2011

Stuff my son has tried to get in this week....

My other half and I have a bit of an ongoing debate about our son, normally going something like-
OH: He's a bit nuts, I love him dearly but he's definitely a bit nuts!
Me: No he's not he's a baby!
OH: I know but even so....
At this point I normally get a bit defensive and stroppy. But his words stay in my head and sometimes when we are at one of our classes surrounded by calm little people- who I'm pretty sure don't, in the comfort of their own home jump out their skin when there mum moves a millimetre away, who in the classes don't decide to shout "BANG BANG BANG" and thump on the nearest object for no apparent reason- I begin to wonder.
He hasn't helped his cause recently by becoming obsessed with getting in things! It started, with what I had taken as normal baby behaviour with getting in a laundry basket, then the a big box, then, well have a look and see what you think.

Laundry basket, fairly normal I reckon.

Big cardboard box, again not unusual.

Small box from jigsaw puzzle which he tried to sit down in, beginning to be a little suspicious.

Small handbag....


Snack cup... Really!!!

And the plug hole after bathtime (can't put a photo as my bath is slightly shameful).

My rational early years brain says it's all good exploratory learning, developing his understanding of size and space, helping him clarify his place in the world, hell-it's even early investigation into capacity. My far less rational brain that has been corrupted by my husbands whisperings on the other hand is beginning wonder.

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