Do you know a mini crocodile fan?

A few days after finding out Willow will be in Ladybird class in September we found out that Luke will be in Crocodiles when he moves up a year.  So now I have added green paint to our craft shop haul of all things red and black.

CrocodilesPegsWhen considering crafting crocodiles my first thoughts are to start collecting egg boxes but, for Kerry from Blissful Domestication, it’s wooden pegs, green pipe cleaners and googly eyes that make her shopping list in order to make her Peg and Pipe Cleaner Crocodiles – and the peg’s action make the completed reptiles eminently snappable!

Having bought several new ladybird books for Willow, Luke was quick to insist he should also receive some appropriate new reading material.  We already had I Love Crocodiles: First facts and pictures by Steve Parker and Steve Roberts as well as stories such as Open Very Carefully: A book with bite by Nick Bromley and Nicola O’Byrne and Alan’s Big Scary Teeth by Jarvis.  We’ve had Roald Dahl’s Enormous Crocodile recommended to us several times and the titles we’ve chosen to add CrocodilesDentistto our home library so far are Could a Crocodile Play Basketball? and other questions by Aleksei Bitskoff and Camilla de la Bedoyere and The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water by Gemma Merino.

Another title featuring the scaly creature that Jane from Hodge Podge Days recommends is The Crocodile and the Dentist by Taro Gomi.  Describing it as “a lovely, easy to read story with lots of repetition” Jane found it “full of simple humour and empathy” as both titular characters learn to be brave and face their fears.

CrocodilesSealifeFor Rainy Day Mum’s Cerys it’s all about finding more life-sized versions of the animal, whether it be wooden sculptures in Rendlesham Forest when on Scavenger Hunts with Toddlers or similarly tame ones that provide a safe photo opportunity at Colchester Zoo (World Animal Day Blog Hop).  But the highlight of their visit to Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary saw her son finally came face to face with one of the centre’s three very alive crocodiles, “luckily through a sheet of glass”.

What is your favourite fact about the many-toothed creature?  Let us know in the comments below.

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Crafts and activities for your little ladybirds

It’s that time of year again when we already start to think about the start of the new academic year that September will bring with it even before we’ve had the chance to start the July that will say goodbye to this one.  It will be a big one in the Malpi household as Willow will be joining her older brother at school for the first time and she’s just found out that she will be in the ladybird class.  Cue all things red and black spotted being celebrated in our house and who better to ask for suggestions around the coccinellidae subject than fellow bloggers…?

The striking colours and pattern of the most well known of their species lends itself eminently to craft projects – add red and black paint to a few children’s craft box staples such as paper plates, toilet paper tubes and eggboxes and the greenfly in your back garden will soon be thinking the leaves are greener on the other side of the fence.

LadybirdInspirationEditAngela, who writes at The Inspiration Edit, and Wendy, from Daisies and Pie, just use card and LadybirdPaperLooppaper for their creations.  Angela includes a downloadable template as part of her Easy Preschool Ladybug Craft and Wendy includes a quick video demonstration of her Paper Loop Ladybug Craft.

ladybirdnumbersAnother blogger offering a free printable as part of their suggested activity is Louise from Messy Little Monster.  Download her printable number leaves, add 10 red bottle tops and a black sharpie pen and you can recreate her Learn to Count Ladybird Craft and send your children on a number hunt.   And, if your messy monster is too mini to take part in the hunt quite yet, you could try out Louise’s Ladybird Baby Footprint Keepsake instead.

LadybirdPlateBlissful Domestication’s Kerry shows us How to Make a Paper Plate Ladybird utilising a split pin and Being Mrs C’s Penny’s How to make a simple paper plate ladybird which uses the back of the plate for its domed effect was inspired by a re-reading of Lucy Ladybird by Sharon King-Chai.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI hadn’t heard of King-Chai’s story of a ladybird in search of her spots before but have now ordered one along with another book I’ve come across thanks to writing this post – Tales from Nature: Ladybird.  Laura, of Laura’s Lovely Blog, reviews it in her Beautiful Board Book for Babies article where she praises it for showing “how ladybirds camouflage from birds and how it hatches its eggs… It’s great for young children and babies with the colourful, bold and engaging pages.”

LadybirdPosterOne book my minis are definitely familiar with, however, is Julia Donaldson’s What the Ladybird Heard and so are Crafts on Sea‘s Kate’s children.  Her posts include a What the Ladybird Heard on Holiday Paper Plate Craft that includes a secret message hidden under her wings and a What the Ladybird Heard Wanted Poster.  Younger siblings can also create their own minibeast makes using Kate’s (cotton bud) Q-Tip Ladybird Craft for Toddlers.

In Our Spring Activities, The Queen of Collage’s Helena tells us “We’ve recreated the farm that the ladybird in What the Ladybird Heard lived on, viewed the Bad Tempered Ladybird on Youtube which would be great to introduce time”.

LadybirdReelIf Donaldson’s quiet hero captures your mini readers’ imaginations then check out Jenny’s reviews of the sequels on her blog The Gingerbread HouseWhat the Ladybird Heard Next sees crafty robbers Hefty Hugh and Lanky Len out of jail and heading back to the farm with another cunning plan to cause trouble and What the Ladybird Heard on Holiday finds the thieves in London planning to steal a monkey from the zoo and use it to pinch the Queen’s crown.  Jenny also uses some painted ladybird and bee stone counters in her How to make a simple cable reel blackboard noughts and crosses game.

LadybirdGemFor more rock painting inspiration take a look at Gem’s Painting Rocks and Pebbles on Childsplay ABC which also includes bumble bees and her son’s smiley faces.

Gem also pointed me towards the lovely A guide to British ladybirds – in pictures article by Beatrice Sayers in 2013 on the Guardian website.  “The UK Ladybird Survey has found 26 species that are readily recognisable as ladybirds.  Here are some of the common ones, the colourful ones – and alien invaders”.

Ladybird12

If all of those ideas aren’t enough to keep us going over the summer holidays and fill her bridger scrapbook then we might head over to read Rainy Day Mum’s suggestions.  Cerys’s Ladybird Crafts and Activities include buttons, egg boxes and fingerpainting as part of projects making sun catchers and pegs and she even outlines What to plant to encourage ladybugs to make sure your little ones have real examples of the beetles to compare their creations to.

LadybirdFlowerPotPerhaps you could even start some of the plants off in an appropriately attired flower pot as Jane from Hodge Podge Days has designed in Crafts: Make Your Own Ladybird Flower Pot.

What a lovely way to finish #30DaysWild too!

New books provide readers with wormholes to the final frontier

Titles celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing are perfect choices to inspire future astronauts

July 20th, 2019, marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.  Whether you were alive or not in 1969 to see the first broadcast of that one small step, watching the black and white footage of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin setting foot where no man had gone before is still likely to be one that has had a lasting impact on any subsequent viewer.

(Just to clarify I’m not quite old enough to remember the original, only the reruns, despite my children’s belief I was alive in “the olden days”).

Field Trip to the MoonCelebrating the anniversary gives the opportunity for a new generation to be inspired by the final frontier and I was delighted when my six-year-old’s choice of new book was Field Trip to the Moon by Jeanne Willis and John Hare (Macmillan Children’s Books, £6.99).

Can you imagine a class outing to the moon?  What would happen if you went with a teacher whose head counting skills didn’t match up to the task and you got stranded in outer space?  Exploration, creativity and making friends are at the heart of this sweet story that fortunately is set in a time where it isn’t too difficult to make the 384,400 km return trip to Earth’s natural satellite to pick up a young straggler.

There are plenty of other titles that have been published to mark the historic date too and I asked two Lincoln book sellers to pick their current favourites for younger readers.

Gill Hart’s (Lindum Books, Bailgate, Lincoln) recommendations revolve around the satellite that revolves around us…

MoonLandingMoon Landing (Campbell Books, £5.99) is a lovely board book for the littlest astronomers in Campbell’s First explorers series. Blast off in the rocket, moon walk across the surface and splash down back to Earth with the Apollo 11 astronauts as they made history in 1969.  Each scene has chunky push, pull and slide mechanisms perfect for little hands with fun facts about the Moon Landing.

MoonstruckMoonstruck! Poems About Our Moon edited by Roger Stevens (Otter-Barry, £6.99) features new poems about the moon from well-known and up-and-coming poets combined with classic poems with a moon theme.  This inspirational and beautifully illustrated anthology includes poets Roger Stevens, Brian Moses, Valerie Bloom, Mandy Coe, Grace Nichols, Liz Brownlee, James Carter, Jay Hulme, Tony Mitton, Sue Hardy-Dawson and Rachel Rooney, as well as Percy Bysshe Shelley, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Emily Bronte.

NeilArmstrongLifeThe Extraordinary Life of Neil Armstrong by Martin Howard (Puffin, £6.99) – One little boy who loved the idea of flying became the first person to set foot on the moon.  From his childhood playing with model planes to becoming one of the most famous astronauts of all time, discover the incredible story of Neil Armstrong’s life in this beautifully illustrated book, complete with narrative biography, facts and timelines.

SpaceRaceBlast off on a journey through space exploration history, from the Apollo Moon landings to mind-boggling plans for living on Mars, with The Space Race, The Journey to the Moon and Beyond by Sarah Cruddas  (Dorling Kindersley, £16.99).  How did we land on the Moon? What will the space jobs of the future look like? And why did we send a car to space? Sarah Cruddas brings to life the hidden stories behind the most famous space missions, before taking the reader on a journey through our space future. This children’s book includes a foreword by NASA astronaut Eileen Collins, the first woman to command a Space Shuttle mission. It also includes fascinating insights from Sarah’s interviews with real-life astronauts including Apollo 17’s Eugene Cernan and Virgin Galactic Test Pilot Kelly Latimer.

And, indeed, humans have only extended their reach into the galaxy due to the individuals involved and the titles Deborah Holland (Waterstone’s, High Street, Lincoln) has chosen provide perfect role models for those dreaming of walking an astral path when they grow up…

GalaxyHerOwnA Galaxy of Her Own – Amazing Stories of Women in Space by Libby Jackson (Penguin, £16.99) goes from the origins of space travel to space in the future. It’s also one of my favourite non-fiction books for children (and adults).  The influence and number of women involved in space travel is greater than you think and largely their contribution has gone under the radar.  This book reveals those individuals, shining a light on them and reinforces that knowledge that no dreams are impossible.  Each individual listed has a written biography on one page with an illustration of them on the opposite. Every illustration done by graduates or students of London College of Communication. Just incredible.  A forever book for 9 years old to 109.

HowtobeAstronautHow to Be an Astronaut (and other jobs) by Dr Sheila Kanani & Sol Linero (Nosy Crow, £7.99) combines great illustrations with information laid out in a simple format that makes it really accessible to younger children, perfect when it is recommended for ages 5 to 8 years old.  What is really clever is how interactive it is with more than 100 stickers, a press-out rocket and fold out space scenes.  This is a winner with my 7 year old.

StephenHawkingStephen Hawking by Isabel Sanchez Vegara & Matt Hunt (Frances Lincoln Publishers Ltd, £9.99) – Though not strictly the moon or space, I could not not include at least one of the Little People, Big Dreams series.  Stephen Hawking may not have travelled in space but he was the most famous cosmologist of all time, studying astronomy and the universe, how could I not?  This biography, as with many in the series (which includes David Bowie, Ada Lovelace and Rosa Parks to name a few), is stylishly illustrated yet quirky.  With its age appropriate and simple content this makes it accessible to children as young as 5 or 6 years old.

PlanetraiumPlanetarium curated by Chris Wormell and Raman Prinja (Templar Publishing, £20) is a great addition to the Welcome to the Museum series.  You essentially get an exhibition in a large format book. Amazing for a budding stargazer or potential intergalactic traveler.  Explore the wonders of space from your armchair. Ages 9+.

WheresMrAstronautWhere’s Mr Astronaut by Ingela P Arrhenius (Nosy Crow, £6.99).  Love these lift-the-felt flap board books as they are ingenious in design and very funny too. This one is no different. A fabulous introduction to space for any 0 to 2 year old. Bold and colourful illustrations.  Perfect for the very young.

Do you love a tale of intergalactic adventure that you’d recommend to other readers?  Let us know in the comments below.

 

Something for readers of all ages

Newark Book Festival 2019

NBF1This July the Newark Book Festival is once again set to captivate young readers with a whole host of family-friendly fun.  Alongside its numerous adults’ events, the programme includes children’s panel talks, writing and craft workshops, storytellers and street theatre, as its organisers explain…

Between July 12th and 14th, this year’s festival theme of Home and Away will be brought to life with tales from Newark and beyond, circus and carnival themed entertainment at Newark Castle and seaside fun, Paddington Bear crafts and the Greatest Show in the centre of the town.

With a wide selection of both ticketed and free events, there is something for everyone to see and do.

The children’s programme includes a schools’ event featuring young adult (YA) fiction award-winning and bestselling authors, Kim Slater, Sara Barnard and Paula Rawsthorne.

On Sunday 14th July, there is also a chance to meet the authors of some of this year’s biggest new fiction titles for ages 9 to 12 in the Magic, A Malamander and Mystery event. Thomas Taylor, illustrator of the first ever cover for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, talks about his stunning new novel Malamander. He is joined by Michelle Harrison, author of beautiful new spell-binding story, A Pinch of Magic, and Newark Book Festival favourite, Elly Griffiths, who has released her first children’s book, A Girl Called Justice.

In 2018, the minis enjoyed mask making, story stone crafting and
fairy house hunting as part of the Newark Book Festival.

Interactive fun happening across the Festival weekend aiming to get young readers and artists inspired includes a promenade theatre performance of Robin Hood and the Monk and Fairy Tales for under-fives at St Mary Magdalene Church, poetry workshops with Troy Jenkinson, Chitra Soundar and celebrity children’s author, potty poet and illustrator, Chris White.

At Newark Library, the festival and the creators of Super Kitty will be helping to launch this year’s Summer Reading Challenge and there will also be the chance to meet Maisy Mouse and see the Festival’s Helen Cresswell Exhibition.

The market place and town hall will be alive with activity all weekend with street theatre performances from Adambara and Zhim, Frroojamaflip and Fred and Angie Mack Hula Street Show.  On the Newark Book Festival market stall, visitors will be able to find information about events and pick up for free this year’s special festival postcard produced by illustrator Mark Chambers.

In 2019, the Festival is also introducing its first ever Primary School programme, matching authors Gareth Baker, Chris White, James Nicol, Ian Douglas, Wilf Morgan, Daniel Henshaw, Frances Stickley and Thomas Taylor with schools across Newark for a day of writing and art workshops, readings and inspiring a love of books and reading.

For the full programme of events visit www.newarkbookfestival.org.uk or pick up the festival brochure from venues across Newark and beyond including the theatre, festival venues, coffee shops and libraries.  To book tickets call Newark Palace Theatre on 01636 655755 or visit www.palacenewarktickets.com.  Stay up to date with the latest festival news on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

Stepping into the page of a book in time for tea

The sad news of the passing of author and illustrator Judith Kerr this week will have many readers, young and old, mourning her loss.

Well loved for titles such as the Mog series and When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, it’s The Tiger Who Came to Tea that’s a particular favourite in our house.

A celebration of the hungry orange and black visitor took us to National Trust property Gunby Hall, near Spilsby, at the end of last month just in time to enjoy the Seven Stories touring exhibition.

Firstly we toured the country house searching for striped residents bearing letters – clues to the answer to a question that would win the completed trail holder a sticker.

Then we headed into the room of the exhibition itself and straight into Sophie and her mummy’s kitchen.  The huge tiger was already sat at the table and the minis soon set about fixing him an appropriately large afternoon tea as well as trying on some stripes themselves.

A slightly smaller tiger was purchased from the shop on the way back to the car.  Fortunately daddy bought some biscuits too as obviously our tiger got a bit hungry on the way home and Willow needed to keep him sated with an extra portion of the chocolatey treats.

TT10

Is the exhibition coming to a National Trust house near you?  Find out at www.sevenstories.org.uk

A stage adaptation of the book is being performed at the:
New Theatre Royal in Lincoln on June 22nd and 23rd
Skegness Embassy Theatre on June 30th and July 1st
Grimsby Auditorium on October 2nd and 3rd
For other tour dates click here.

The Tiger’s 50th birthday may have been last year but there are lots of other children’s classics that are celebrating big anniversaries this year too – The Gruffalo is 20 years old, The Very Hungry Caterpillar is turning 50 years old and Elmer and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt were published 30 years ago.

Educational, fun and easy ways to inspire children to connect with nature

IMG_6479“Inspiring children to connect with nature” is the strapline adopted by children’s activity subscription box company Mud + Bloom.  It’s definitely an aim we can get behind and the minis were really pleased to be given an April box for review.

As well as educational and fun, Mud + Bloom’s website promises that its monthly gardening and craft activities aimed at ages 3 to 8 will be easy – “The boxes will be delivered to your door with all the seeds and materials needed for the gardening activity – there’s no need for you to have a garden or tools” – but I still worried that I would find some of it difficult to carry out with the minis.

So, when one of the first activity cards I read was “Watch a… Puddle disappear”, I was quite relieved.  Helping children to “see how water turns to vapour and disappears when the rain stops and the sun comes out” and accompanied by a water cycle diagram, the chalks required to draw round the edge of a puddle were included in the box.  It’s a perfect example of one of Mud + Bloom’s tasks – yes easy, educationally effective for both visual and physical learners and with a resource (the chalk) that could be used multiple times for the same task or also in other ways.  I had pictured us going on to make various patterns or drawings whilst waiting for our puddle to shrink but, despite being the month famed for showers and the simplest of the activities, it’s the one that we haven’t yet had the chance to carry out.

The card daddy and Luke started out with was “Grow your own… Wheatgrass”, four compost pellets and a packet of wheatgrass seeds were provided, you just needed to find a small plate to spread and sprinkle them on – “All seeds are certified organic and biodynamic. We also provide organic peat free compost pellets in each box, to enable our subscribers to get planting immediately.”

Next I tackled the craft project “Make your own… Water cycle bracelet” with Luke and Willow.  I loved the idea of this – Luke learns best with physical action, threading is a great fine motor activity, I think the water cycle is a particularly compelling subject due to its various very different states and Willow is always interested in anything involving jewellery – and with Step 7 being “make another bracelet for a friend” there was enough beads and thread provided to one bracelet each (we were gifted a single box but sibling boxes are also available).   The task did seem to very much do the trick with both Luke and Willow recalling what step in the water cycle each colour bead represented as both were firstly threaded and then played with when on their wrists.  The beads supplied for this however were far too small for my minis’ little fingers – Willow did persevere and manage the first bead but then I had to help with all the rest.

As well as showers, April brought us Easter this year and the next card we picked was “Make you own… Batik eggs”.  The idea of this immediately appealed to me again as it reminded me of a previous cyanotype printing activity we enjoyed.  We started by heading into the garden to collect some small leaves, flowers and grasses before wrapping them around some eggs in the muslin cloth provided and then boiling them in a pan with onion skins in.  It obviously sparked Luke’s creative imagination too as he was very quickly coming up with different ideas of what materials we could use to try for different effects.  Whilst we tried getting him to concentrate on following the steps as written for our first go he’d be glad to know that Step 9 is “You can reuse the muslin cloth, should you want to make more!”  Even Faith liked this activity as she got to enjoy the culinary results of this one after we’d finished admiring the aesthetic ones.

A few days later and it was time to scatter the organic Nantaise 2 Milan carrots seeds provided in the box.  We are fortunate to have a garden but they could also have been planted in a deep grow bag, container or pot.  Hopefully in a couple of months we shall have some “sweet and crunchy” orange veggies to enjoy at dinner!

As well as seasonal gardening and crafts the box also include nature news, a quiz and a spotter sheet, all of which have been created by qualified teachers and support the national curriculum with influence from Forest School, Steiner and Montessori education.

For the first time since they’ve been publishing their boxes there was an accidental omission on one of the cards but the benefit of it being a subscription service meant that they were able to contact all their readers to correct it.

Sign up now and your May box will include pressed flower bookmarks, poppies, bark and leaf rubbings, sweetcorn and bee spotting.  If they sell out of May boxes before you have time to click then you’ll start with June’s instead – perfect if you’re planning on joining in with the Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild.

You can subscribe from month to month at £9.95 per single box (£12.95 for a sibling box) or commit to six month or 12 months at discounted rates.  Gift subscriptions are also available.

Find out more at www.mudandbloom.com 

*We received the April single box for free in order to review the subscription service.

Engineering festival Sparks interest

SPARKFestThe biennial SPARK! Engineering Festival is back in Lincoln this week for its fourth year.  Here co-organiser the Education Business Partnership tells us what’s in store for the event’s visitors this weekend…

Thousands of people are expected to flood to Lincoln Cathedral next month for the return of Spark Festival, a free three-day event (May 3-5) which celebrates Lincolnshire’s excellence in engineering.

Aiming to inspire future generations and showcase Lincolnshire as a leader in engineering innovation now and in the future, this year promises to be even bigger and better.

Siemens has been announced as the headline sponsor at the biennial festival and, for the first time ever, the event will incorporate civil engineering with an opportunity to find out more about Lincoln’s new Eastern Bypass.

In previous years, the event has seen more than 9,000 people attend across the weekend. This year will see the addition of the Institution of Civil Engineers Bridge to Schools, along with the return of exhibits from top engineering businesses.

The minis enjoyed a day out at the SPARK Festival in 2017

John Latham, chair of the Spark Engineering Festival steering group, said: “We are delighted to bring this festival to Lincoln for the fourth time and are thankful to Siemens for making the event possible by being this year’s headline sponsor.  It has become one of the standout events in the annual calendar for engineers, teachers, students and businesses from all over the county.”

Organised as a partnership event by the Education Business Partnership, the City of Lincoln Council and local businesses, Spark aims to promote Lincolnshire as an engineering hotspot and inspire local young people to consider a career in the industry.

“The festival is about increasing awareness of Lincolnshire’s pioneering excellence in engineering both locally and on the world stage. Our county is responsible for the supply of some of the best engineering people, services and products across the globe and we want everyone to know about it.”

John added: “The incorporation of civil engineering this year gives us a great opportunity to celebrate and showcase Lincolnshire’s achievements in this arena. Housed in the Lincoln Cathedral, a historic civil engineering feat in its own right, Spark is an event that should not be missed.”

Visitors can expect to see a number of interactive displays and impressive exhibits, including a showcase of early civil engineering archaeology to show the historic roots of engineering. This will be joined by the return of our infamous 50ft timeline which details the evolution of the industry in Lincolnshire, along with a display about the use of robotics in engineering to show the stark contrast between past and present. Science busking demonstrations will also be taking place, as well as a variety of hands-on activities suitable for all ages.

John added: “It is incredibly important to encourage an interest in engineering from a young age so children understand the benefit of science and maths. We want to give an insight into the career opportunities on offer in this sector so a real focus can be given to the skills needed in early education.”

The free event will be open to local schools on Friday, May 3rd, and will showcase cutting-edge developments in science, technology, engineering and maths happening across the county right now.

“We’re also really keen to engage the community and show people why investment in engineering and development projects is essential to economic growth across the county. Lincolnshire has lots of exciting projects lined up for the future and we hope that Spark can help to bring them the attention they deserve.”

Find out more at www.sparklincoln.org