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

Pass through portals of light into the worlds of your imagination

Lincoln Luminarium 2019

“Enter a dazzling maze of winding paths and soaring domes” 

There are lots of events and activities on offer to keep you and your mini ones entertained this Easter but few can be as sensorily stunning as the return of a Luminarium to Lincoln.

Our minis were guests of the Lincoln Performing Arts Centre (LPAC) for the launch of the interactive sculpture last night which the Brayford venue is hosting for an extra day this year due to its popularity in 2018.

For 2019, the city is hosting the QODLUMIN, inspired by the beauty of natural geometry and by Islamic architecture.

Luke was won over even before passing through the airlock when he was handed a map of the domes as cartographer may feature highly in what he wants to do when he grows up.  As Willow often cites rainbow colours as her favourite colour, an experience that immerses you in radiant light and colour was sure to impress and she made it quite clear that, because she was enjoying it so much, she wasn’t ready to go when it was time to leave.  And I loved that it was as much of an experience for Faith who, as well as enjoying the freedom to crawl around the space, enjoyed spinning under the beautifully patterned ceilings.

Entering through the green portal-like dome was a highlight for me as I felt it immediately transportative but it was the monochrome dome (“inspired by the chapel of Notre-Dame-du-Haut de Ronchamp designed by Le Corbusier”) that Luke was fascinated by and kept returning to.

Visitors are invited “to wander, to lie down, to sit down and enjoy the ambience and the space” – for Luke, he was moved to dance through the interconnecting tunnels, pods and domes which, of course, added a delightful new dimension to the experience for me to see.

An immersive experience in itself it’s also a springboard for imaginations both young and old.  Step into the picture, fall down the rabbit hole, follow the yellow brick road through the looking glass, pass through the irresistibly enticing portal, hack into a digital state of being, ride through a wormhole and find yourself in an otherworldly forest as you’re transported to extraterrestrial territory – the only limit to your mind’s travels is your own creativity.

It’s only here until Sunday so find out more quickly at https://lpac.co.uk/ and www.architects-of-air.com 

Putting the story into Easter

Literary family fun can be found throughout Lincolnshire this Easter with perfect events and activities to encourage your mini readers to celebrate stories off as well as on the page.

If your bookworms are keen to go down the rabbit hole then they have a choice of three venues to visit that are currently celebrating the curious world of Alice in Wonderland.

Castle1Follow the White Rabbit and solve the riddles to claim your chocolate reward at Lincoln Castle which is also currently hosting a first edition of the imaginative novel in its Magna Carta Vault.  A Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, Flamingo Croquet, An Audience with Lewis Carroll and Easter Weekend events are also planned in support of the exhibit and quest.

Events are also getting curiouser and curiouser at Rushmoor Farm Park and Falconry Centre near Louth.  Crafts, scavenger and egg hunts, small fluffy animal handling and a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party are part of its Easter Special activities.

And, if you need reminding of the storyline of the fantastical tale, head down the rabbit hole to the Trinity Arts Centre in Gainsborough for a musical performance featuring the colourful characters.

It’s the turn of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit to stand in for the Easter Bunny at Ark Wildlife Park in Stickney with a treasure trail and the chance to meet the long-eared children’s favourite in “Mr McGregor’s Tropical House Garden”.

WizardOzFantastical theatrics at the New Theatre Royal in Lincoln are taking L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz as inspiration for its Easter pantomime.  Follow the yellow brick road to the Clasketgate venue to join Dorothy, Toto, the Lion, Tin Man and the Scarecrow on their perilous journey to the Emerald City.

tigertea.jpgJudith Kerr’s The Tiger Who Came to Tea is celebrating its 50th anniversary and having sold more than five million copies and National Trust property Gunby Hall near Spilsby is the latest stop for a touring exhibition that brings the story to life with a giant cuddly tiger and an interactive kitchen.

With a frog-themed storytime at Waterstone’s, High Street, Lincoln and interactive storytimes with Rhubarb Theatre at Tattershall Farm Park, there’s plenty of book-themed fun to be had during this school break.

Looking for other Easter holiday ideas?  Click on Lincoln Mums or Visit Lincoln for more events taking place across the county.

Author school tours will launch Newark Book Festival 2019

NBF1Children’s authors are set to visit Newark’s schools as Newark Book Festival returns for 2019 with an even bigger programme of events for children.

This year’s theme, Home and Away, will be brought to life with tales from Newark and beyond, circus and carnival themed entertainment at Newark Castle, seaside fun, Paddington Bear crafts, stories from the moon and back, plus The Greatest Show in the centre of Newark to launch the festival which will take place from July 12th to 14th.

In 2018, the more than 30 authors, poets and illustrators that hosted talks and workshops attracted 3,500 avid readers and aspiring writers to visit the town.  This year, the festival will take over 12 venues across three packed days, including the Church of Mary Magdalene and the Buttermarket for the very first time, and includes an expanded children’s programme.

LincolnPeter & the Wolf will be performed at the popular Music for Market concert in the Church, while an 8ft tall living fruit and vegetable man named Froojamaflip and his friend, Fred the gardener, will be sharing stories of the spring-time garden.  Adambara and Zhim, an elephant and mouse duo, will tell the enchanting Indian Panchtantra tale in a puppet show for all ages. Both imaginative acts are the work of Lincoln-based theatre production company, Curious Creations.

The stories of people who have passed through Newark throughout history will be unpacked in a suitcase-themed show from Can Do Theatre at Newark Castle. “Roll up, roll up” tells the tales of the Ringling Bros. Circus, once billed as the greatest show on Earth, which came to the town from America during its travels. Visitors of all ages can also take part in a circus skills workshop with NSDC arts team.

Newark Book Festival Paddington SuitcaseCraft workshops dedicated to Darkest Peru’s most famous bear will be available for children who want to make and create, while a children’s 9-12 year-old panel highlighting the golden age of children’s literature will also give visitors a chance to hear more about the rise in popular fiction for younger audiences.

CWpic3NEWARK FESTIVALFor the first time, Newark Book Festival will hit the road ahead of the event.  Authors including Gareth Baker, Chris White, Ian Douglas, James Nicol and Thomas Taylor will be visiting local schools to work with the children through writing and art workshops, readings and inspiring a love of books and reading to all.

Sara Bullimore, organiser for Newark Book Festival, said: “We had an incredible turn out and response last year from local people and visitors from across the country.  This year, we’re building on that momentum to create a rich tapestry of events woven across the lovely town of Newark.  We’re partnering with more authors, local businesses and artists than ever before to make sure that happens.

9781406386288“From lively performances and spectacular children’s authors to calming craft workshops and storytelling, the festival is set to be an incredible celebration of the concept of home and away – no matter what that means to each individual person. We’d love for more local people to support the hard work of everyone involved by becoming a Friend of the Festival, visiting us or by sponsoring an event.”

For more information visit www.newarkbookfestival.org.uk or follow on Facebook www.facebook.com/newarkbookfest/ and on Twitter www.twitter.com/NewarkBookFest.

Discover the latest trends in kids’ fashion

LFWBannerFashion-loving youngsters can be surprisingly choosy when it comes to what to wear – and it isn’t always what their mums and dads would prefer!

Thankfully, parents can look forward to getting ahead of the game during Lincoln Fashion Week (LFW), by enjoying a sneak preview of the latest looks.  Whether your child is crazy about T-shirts emblazoned with their favourite storybook or TV character or determined to arrive at their friend’s birthday bash in a dazzling “you can’t miss me” beach dress, there will be plenty of inspiration on offer.

During Lincoln Fashion Week, which runs from May 10 to 17, organiser Lincoln BIG is teaming-up with some great retailers who will be showcasing their children’s ranges in catwalk shows hosted by Debenhams at St Mark’s Retail Park on Sunday, May 12.  And there will be a chance to see more during LFW’s spectacular catwalk show in Lincoln Cathedral on Friday, May 17.

The minis took part in Lincoln Fashion Week 2018 modelling
clothes from Gap, Next, Mothercare and White Stuff.

Arts Consultant Sara Bullimore, who is working with Lincoln BIG, said: “Mini fashion shows, featuring clothes for babies to children aged 11 years old, will take place on the first floor in Debenhams from 11am on May 12.  These events are free.

“A range of retailers will also be showing off their new Summer season styles across the age ranges for children and mini models from the community will be taking to the red carpet catwalk.”

Parents who want to book tickets for our LFW Catwalk Finale in Lincoln Cathedral can do so by going online at www.visitlincoln.com/whats-on/lincoln-fashion-week-finale-19

The Debenhams shows will feature garments from a range of retailers including Next, Mamas & Papas, Mothercare and exciting styles from new Lincoln on trend childrenswear boutique Cheeky Monkeys in Guildhall Street.  Look out for anything from cool designer dresses, playsuits and jumpsuits to edgy trousers and T-shirts and fun footwear.

The latest trends at Cheeky Monkeys in Lincoln.

Cheeky Monkeys owner Helen Tonge said: “We are a children’s boutique specialising in garments, shoes and accessories for boys and girls aged from newborn to 14.  We are an independent business and we offer payment plans, lay away schemes and loyalty card discounts.

“There isn’t anything like us in Lincoln.  We carry a range of Spanish and English clothes and we like to think our fashions are affordable, but different.  We say we offer parents a shopping experience.”

Find out more at http://lincolnfashionweek.co.uk/