Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Paddington Bear helps explain the refugee crisis to young children

"Mummy, what's a refugee?"

With our current media depicting the plight of thousands of refugees it's no wonder that children are starting to ask these questions. Every day they overhear conversations, see images or catch snippets of news. Trying to explain the current global situation to young children is of course by no means easy, but I don't think that means it should be ignored, or seen as irrelevant to them.

A simple & meaningful way we've used to explore the subject of refugees with young children is with the help of a special little bear who has a particular penchant for marmalade sandwiches. Paddington Bear is known & loved by children the world over, & of course one of the special things about Paddington is that he leaves his homeland to begin a new life in another country.

Michael Bond's classic story tells how Paddington bear fled from 'darkest Peru' as a stowaway in a lifeboat taking with him only his hat, briefcase & marmalade. It goes onto explain that Paddington was orphaned in an earthquake which destroyed his habitat & he was then cared for by his Aunt Lucy. When she could no longer look after him & moved to a home for retired bears Paddington sets sail for England.

Why did Paddington choose to go to England? His Aunt Lucy reassuringly told him:

"Long ago, people in England sent their children by train with labels around their necks, so they could be taken care of by complete strangers in the countryside where it was safe. They will not have forgotten how to treat strangers."

So with few belongings, just like the current refugees we see on the television & in the newspapers, Paddington arrives in a new country after a long & perilous journey.

To explore Paddington's story a little more with young children we found using the following questions & ideas useful.

I wonder how Paddington felt when he set off on his journey into the unknown?
Was he frightened, cold, hungry?
He must have felt alone & sad to leave his homeland & his only relative Aunt Lucy behind.
I wonder how the refugees we see in the media are feeling?
I wonder how we would feel if we had to leave our homes & everything we owned?
I'm guessing Paddington was very brave to make that journey.
I think he must have been very desperate to start a new life to take such a risky trip in a boat across the sea.

When Paddington arrived in London he still had a note attached to his coat that his Great Aunt Lucy had written for him.

"Please look after this bear, Thank you."

In the story books Paddington is found by the Brown family at Paddington Station, & although they can't understand his bear name or his bear language they decide to look after him & welcome him into their home.

I wonder how we can help those people we see in the news who are leaving their homes for different country? Those people who have left their homeland behind to find a safe space for their families to stay. What can we do?

There are lots of things we can do, here are just a few that any family, school, or group could do to help.

1. Donate money to a charity which is helping to support refugees & Syrian families. Here are a few international ones, but check your local media for any smaller local charities which maybe offering help.

Save The Children's Syria Crisis Appeal
UNHCR Refugee Crisis in Europe
Oxfam Refugee Crisis Appeal
Unicef Syria Children Emergency Appeal

2, Check your local area for any collection points for items to send to refugee camps. If you can't find one in your area check out CalAid or Kos Kindness for more information.

3. Host a bake/toy/book sale, or sponsored event. Why not ask your school if you can have a 'take a teddy bear to school day' or a 'Paddington day' & donate money to one of the above charities.

4. Share the story of Paddington. Share how strangers from another country recognised his need, & welcomed him as one of them. If you have a cuddly Paddington toy you could ask individual children or a class to look after him & consider how they could help him & make him feel welcome.

5. See if you can find where different countries are on a world map or world globe. Can you find where Syria is? If you're interested in finding out more about where refugees around the world are travelling to & from you may find this newspaper article helpful.

6. Join in with Project Paddington & share special bears with children who may no longer have theirs. Click here for more info.

Sharing the story of Paddington with your kids can help them understand compassion, like that of the Brown family in the story. The care the Browns offer to the lonely lost bear who had nothing is a way of helping kids understand kindness & concern for others, even when people may seem different from us. It's also a great story to share with kids who are starting a new school term when there may be those who are feeling lost or lonely in a new school environment. Paddington's story reminds us all how important respect, friendship & empathy are.

I hope this little bear & his story helps you & your kids in some small way to explore the current situation, & encourages you to consider ways you might be able to make a difference.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Make a Difference #SaveSyriasChildren

Last night as I kissed my sleeping child snuggled in her bed I couldn't help but think of other mothers around the world doing the same thing. Then I thought of those mothers & fathers who have fled from their homes in Syria in search of a safe space for their family, who must be watching over their children at night, if they still had them with them, & how on earth must they be feeling. I simply cannot imagine.

Like many who have recently witnessed the horrific images of refugees washed up on shorelines, the photos of countless families fleeing their homeland, & the heartbreaking image of Aylan Kurdi the Syrian toddler on the beach, I feel I have to do something. Clearly these people are in desperate need & have risked everything in the hope of a better, more peaceful life.

We don't choose where we're born, it's the luck of the draw. We're so fortunate to have all we have. Let's never take it for granted. I don't know about you, but if I can make a difference however small to those people who have nothing, I'm going to do it.

Join me in making a difference today in these 2 simple ways.

1. Text Syria to 70008 to donate £5 to Save the Children Save Syria's Children Appeal.

2. Join with a number of UK bloggers & post a black & white image on social media of your children, family or just you with the words 'It could have been me' or 'It could have been us' along with #SaveSyriasChildren.

Please don't choose apathy, please choose at least one of the above options. Together we can make a difference.

One last thing. As you kiss your kids goodnight tonight think of other mothers just like you doing exactly the same thing, whether in a warm safe home, on a boat, or in a refugee camp.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

50 Outdoor Activities for the Summer Holidays

The Summer Holidays have started & we're looking forward to many days together outdoors. Here are 50 of our favourite activities to have fun & explore the beautiful Summer season.

1. Enjoy some shade on a nature walk through local woodland.

2. Create your own land art in your garden or local park with sticks collected on a woodland walk.
3. Design & build your own Water Wall.
4. Create a magical world at the bottom of your garden.
5. Get creative at the beach & create your own sand art. Can you make a monster, mermaid, or pirate using seaweed, driftwood, & pebbles?

6. Have a tide fight. Build sandcastles with friends near the sea & wait to see which sandcastle will survive the longest.

7. Go crabbing by the sea, or fishing in a local lake.

8. Explore rock pools.

9. Collect shells from the beach & make a beautiful wind chime.
10. Explore the flowers in your garden with these 10 activities.
11. Make mud pies

12. Discover & play in a mud bath!
13. Create your own Flower Sprinkler from a milk carton.
14. Make your own play dough ice-cream stand
15. Take a picnic & go an adventure to a local park, woodland or beach.
16. Create a coffee shop or tea room in your own backyard.
17. Roll down a hill!

18. Hold a seaweed swinging competition at the beach. How far can you throw the seaweed into the sea.

19. Cool off in the summer sun with some ice play.
20. Create your own ocean.
21. Explore a little science & make a rainbow using a garden hose/sprinkler & sunshine.
22. Create a nature wand using summer flowers & leaves.
23. Paint outside using a space hopper & patio toys!
24. Have fun with homemade spray paint.
25. Host your own Olympic Games for your toys.
26. Stay up a little later & go on a sunset walk.

27. Go camping some place new, or in your back garden.

28. Stay up late & watch a night sky & stars appear.

29. Make an outdoor Zip Wire for toys
30. Build a den

31. Explore the life of a pond & how it changes over the Summer.

32. Play with the clouds on sticks!
33. Go on a bug hunt with these bug spotter sticks.
34. Create new worlds with these magical mini doors.
35. Explore & play in the rain with these 20 Activities.

36. Wash toys outside in the paddling pool.

37. Play Poohsticks with your family at a nearby bridge
38. Create a butterfly garden, or a simple space for wildlife.
39. Build a boat or raft & set sail on a new adventure.
40. Make your own traffic signs for outdoor play. Learn about road safety & what signs mean.
41. Create simple lanterns to decorate summer evenings.
42. Go on a butterfly hunt. How many caterpillars, moths or butterflies can you find, & where did you find them?

43. Grow a bean tepee tent! Great for producing homegrown veggies & great as a natural tent to play in!

44. Make a collection of crazy play dough bugs.
45. Create a garden mosaic.
46. Climb & explore trees.

47. Make your own drumsticks from sunflowers!
48. Make your own desert island.
49. Upcycle & create garden snails
50. Decorate your garden throughout the season with these hovering dragonflies.

Wishing you a happy Summer filled with many outdoor adventures that will make magical memories for many years to come. 

Monday, 20 July 2015

Giant Story Cubes - Explore favourite tales or create your own

Looking for a creative & alternative way to explore stories? How about these giant DIY storytelling cubes. These are great for exploring familiar stories, as well as encouraging children to create new ones. Perfect for sparking imagination & ideal for a range of ages.

We used large card boxes from a craft store, but any upcycled box would work just as well.

Encourage the children to draw 6 different images on each side of the cube. They could draw absolutely anything & just let their imaginations run free, or if you're following a topic or theme, or focusing on a particular story they could add relevant illustrations to the cube.

Once completed the children can use the giant cube to construct a story.

 You could encourage them to roll the cube & the picture lands face up is the starting prompt for their story. Their narrative could be as long or as short as they wish, & they could roll the cube as many times as they desire as long as they incorporate each new image into their story. 

This creative activity not only encourages & inspires imagination & storytelling, but it also offers children as chance to share their narratives & ideas without the need to write it down. It's especially useful for kinesthetic learners, & those who may struggle with expressing their ideas on paper.

It's also just a neat way to encourage confidence, & have fun with stories.

Friday, 17 July 2015

How to Make Rose Petals Dance - Outdoor Science with Nature

How do you make rose petals dance? Here's a step by step guide.

First collect handfuls of rose petals that have recently fallen onto the ground. Make sure the petals have no bugs or beetles on them & carefully carry them to your trampoline.

Stand in the middle of your trampoline & throw the petals up into the air so that they fall & land around your feet!

Then jump, jump, JUMP! 

As you jump watch how the rose petals 'dance' around your feet.

A great nature inspired Summer activity which offers sensory play as well as plenty of physical play. It's also a neat way to explore a little science & the effects of force, motion & weight. You could try moving your body in a different way, what would happen to the rose petals then, would they still dance? Or you could try dropping a football, tennis ball, or pebble onto the trampoline & make predictions as to whether they would cause the rose petals to move in the same way? Or how about going underneath the trampoline, lying on your back & kicking the base, what would that cause the rose petals to do?

Simple Summer outdoor fun with oodles of learning & discovery too!

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

How to Make Space for Toads & Frogs in your Garden

Why would you want to make space for toads in the garden? Surprisingly toads are a blessing to gardeners! This may sound strange to some but it's true. These amazing creatures are brilliant at providing pest control which of course makes them a very welcome guest in any garden or veggie patch which are so often plagued by slugs, snails, caterpillars & more.

So how do you encourage toads into your garden?

For the last few months we've been rethinking our garden & how we can create areas which will encourage more wildlife. When we've been cutting the lawn we've left several small areas of grass to  grow wild & have been amazed at the results. Within these 'wild' patches of grass we've seen several types of wild flowers & clover & as a result we've seen more bees & butterflies hovering around the lawn.

Yesterday however we made a new discovery in one of our wild areas & Minnie found a baby toad sheltering in a shady spot towards the edge of the garden. This got me thinking how we could offer more space for toads & frogs in our outdoor area. 

We don't have a pond in our garden yet so Minnie was surprised & delighted to discover this new visitor. We talked about how amphibians live both on land & in water & that toads & frogs only need a pond during the breeding season when they lay their spawn, at other times they can be found in shady spots on land. 

To get a closer look at her new garden visitor she carefully scooped the toad up in her hands & rested it on her leg. This gave her a real opportunity to see close up how it's body & limbs moved, as well as how nimble & quick it was.

She wanted to make a little den for the toad so grabbed a nearby tub & instructed us to add a couple of rocks & some leaves. She gently lowered the toad in & watched with interest as it explored its new habitat.

This gave her a chance to see how easily the toad could blend into its surroundings & camouflage itself, & gave us a chance to discuss why this was necessary for frogs, toads & other animals. 

After five minutes or so we let our little toad hop free again, & soon it was back in the cool shade of the long grass where it had sprung from.

If you're interested in attracting toads or frogs into your outdoor space but don't have a pond, here are a few simple ideas to try:

* Leave a small area (or areas) of your lawn uncut in shady cool spot in your garden.
* Build a pile of logs, branches, pebbles etc in a corner of your garden to create a shady spot
* Don't use pesticides or chemicals which are toxic to wildlife
* Grow a selection of plants in your garden that will provide plenty of shade & moisture at ground level.
* Create a small shallow ditch which can hold water or collect rainwater throughout the year.
* Make sure there is a gap somewhere around your garden where toads or frogs can move to & from other gardens nearby.

Our next project is to build a Toad Den in our garden close to where we found our baby toad, watch this space.

If you found this helpful you might also like our Wildflower Rainbow, Mini Wild Meadow & Bug Spotter Sticks

Monday, 13 July 2015

Nature Weaving with Herbs - Using Fish Shape Frames

These nature weavings not only look beautiful but they smell gorgeous too. Made from natural materials they're also a neat activity to share on a camping trip or nature walk. 

 We recently had a tidy of our garden & were left with several fresh rowan tree branches. These were so thin & pliable & perfect to bend into our simple fish shapes.

To make our fish frames we made sure we used the most flexible thin branches & removed any leaves. We then carefully bent each branch over to form a fish shape, & secured with a pipe cleaner. You could use string or twine to secure the ends of the stick, but for children the pipe cleaner was easier & quicker to use. To make sure the stick holds its shape wind the pipe cleaner around in a crisscross pattern. 

We threaded a length of string through the sticks to complete our frame, making sure we wound it around each stick twice so it would stay in place. To secure we simply knotted the ends.

Younger children may find it easier to use a pipe cleaner to create a slightly simpler weaving frame.

We used a selection of herbs from the garden, but you could use any grasses, flowers or leaves to weave with.

We started threading each herb through our frame & it slowly started to take shape. The beauty of this is that you can add as much or as little as you like. It's a great activity for young children to practice manipulation & fine motor skills, as well as create their own pattern & design with nature. 

The different herbs offer a multisensory aspect to the activity too, as each herb is threaded its delicate scent is released. If children are unfamiliar with herbs & their properties this is a neat, hands-on way to introduce them. 

When each design is complete they can be hung indoors or outside by a length of string. We decorated a tree in our garden with a few of these & we now have one hanging on our kitchen wall. As the herbs dry they still retain their scent which is a wonderful addition to my kitchen. 

Simple & relaxing to create, these woven fish make a fun outdoor activity for all ages to share together. 

If you enjoyed this you might also like our
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