Children’s Mental Health and A Book Review

The boys started back at school and nursery last week . I’m very happy with how the practitioners and school have set up for learning in lockdown and how thorough and vigilant they are. It should absolutely be parents’ choice on whether to send the kids back or not but for us school/nursery returns couldn’t have come at a better time. The past couple of lockdown weeks, I’d been noticing a change in both my sons’ behaviour. My 5yo had been having frequent outbursts of frustration. The other day when I asked if he wanted to talk about anything he calmly told me “I’m just fed up with your face, daddy’s face and my brother’s face!”

My youngest (3yo) loves his nursery and talked a lot about his friends and carers there. Now he was talking about them several times a day. We got a paddling pool “I splash with my nursery friends in the nursery pool”. He plays with sand “I play with sand at my nursery with my friends”. “My friends will come to my house and I will play with them” He even told a family member on the phone that he’d played cricket with his best friend that day. He hadn’t. We are not as a family even that into cricket! The most heartbreaking moment was when my eldest mentioned flapjack and 3yo suddenly from nowhere started hysterically sobbing. He’d just been smiling and laughing. I bent down to cuddle him and half thinking it was a toddler tantrum explained that we didn’t have any flapjack. Bottom lip quivering and tears down his face he stuttered “But I love flap jack. At nursery G. makes flapjack and my friends eat flapjack and I sit together eating flapjack because my friends eat flapjack and they sit next to me and we all eat flapjack.” I mean, what do you say to a 3yo who’s world is upside down and you don’t know when it will be the right way again. And I (perhaps naively) had no idea that a 3yo could have such emotions about things that are not in their immediate vicinity. So I started much more with him about his friends and also tell him I miss mine. We often ask children to share how they’re feeling but try and hide our emotions from them. I’m not a child psychologist, and I’m not suggesting we bombard them with all the adult issues of the world but I have noticed, if my kids are a bit quiet or look upset and I say something like “I’m sad because I miss my friends” or “I’m frustrated because I want to go to the playground and we can’t” then they are more likely to open up too. Though it’s important not to dwell on negative thoughts, once they’re out but I do wonder how children are expected to learn to talk to us when we try and shield things from them? One thing I do with my sons is talk about a imaginary red balloon. If we’ve had a bad experience or day, the balloon is down. To get it to go up, we fill it with happy experiences from the day eg splashing in puddles, snuggling on the sofa or even my son put a lasagne he enjoyed in it. I say if my balloon is on the floor too. Then I ask them where they’d like the balloon to get to (as high as an aeroplane or up into space etc) If it’s only as high as a tree, we put more happy thoughts in it. I’ve found this way, I get to hear what’s bothering them and also we learn not to focus on negativity.

There are also some amazing books which help us which I’ll be reviewing including Pete Stays Home by Karra McFarlane (which will feature in a future blog!) and starting below in this blog with incredible AB Gets His Wings by Richard Bland.

Book Review

AB Gets His Wings by Richard Bland, Illustrated by Rosie Philpott

I saw AB Gets His Wings mentioned on Twitter and ordered a copy straight away. It’s about a bear in a toy factory who is waiting for his turn to be picked to be a toy for a child. One day he’s plucked off the shelf, and into a box away from his toy friends. He has a lot of questions and thoughts of uncertainty of where he’s going and isn’t sure of what to expect. He’s delivered to a kind RAF team and with their help overcomes his worries and joins them on their flights and adventures. The illustrations are beautiful and the book got my 5yo to open up about the worries and uncertainty of lockdown. It’s such a lovely comforting story. He declared it one of his favourite books in the world!

There’s a beautiful reading of it by Colin WD McLean on The Healing Voice’s YouTube Channel here and my son’s school loved it so much they’ll be getting a copy to read to pupils.

To visit AB’s website please visit:

https://www.wcab.co.uk

Copies of the book are available for purchase at Bear Hunt Books

To read more about why the book was written, please see below.

*PLEASE BE AWARE* The section contains references to self-harm and suicide which could act as triggers to some readers*

Seven years ago Richard Bland, the author, devastatingly lost his son to suicide. He now tirelessly raises awareness of mental health problems for children. All his life, Richard loved taking photos of aeroplanes and went to many air shows with his children. When the kids grew up, he started going to photograph planes with a mate and found a not very well known spot in Wales where they got some amazing snaps of RAF planes! A chance meeting with the partner of an instructor led to Richard getting to know the RAF crew and taking photos for them.

Photo by Richard Bland: The photo of the instructor blowing a kiss

It was an officer at the Met Police (they had a partnership at RAF Valley) who introduced Richard to 19 Squadron, which changed his life. He was asked to produce 2 charity calendars which raised £30000, was made an honorary squadron member and got to fly with them!

Photo by Richard Bland

Photo by Richard Bland: Richard as honorary squadron member

After the 2 calendars and limited edition prints, Richard was asked by the boss “What next?” . He then struck on the genius idea of getting a teddy bear that the pilots could take with them and photograph. The bear of course has his own log book and has been everywhere starting with Las Vegas to Afghanistan. Richard spent 2 years posting, taking, collecting photos of Wing Commander AB all over the place. From, the Red Arrows to some of the most prestigious last flights of RAF jets, to flying in the lead jet of a Buckingham palace fly past, to flying with the met police, Manchester police. It became a must do for RAF aircrew and friends.

Photo by Richard Bland: AB Bear with his log book

All was going well then Richard and his family’s world fell apart. Their 31 year old son Andrew took his own life and Richard and his family didn’t know where to turn. The dedication of the guys around the country was immense. Fritz, the met policeman was with them in 2 hours from the centre of London the night Drew died. He came and took over everything for them and dealt with the police on their behalf. Drew died on a Friday and every Friday night since has been torture for Richard and his family. Every night, they sleep with the light on in the hallway so that Drew can find his way home.

Photo supplied by Richard Bland: Richard’s son Andrew

As the mother of 2 young boys, it’s impossible to even contemplate that something like this could ever happen. And I look at the photo of a young Drew and it could be like looking at a picture of one my sons’ friends or the son of a family member.

Photo supplied by Richard Bland: Richard’s son Andrew as a young boy

We never know what their future will be like but it’s so important to talk about mental health and get our children to open up and know that it’s ok to ask for help. Richard started looking for a person or group to help them deal with what had happened and his eldest son, Peter, found The Dove Service the only grief support charity in Stoke-on-Trent & North Staffordshire, providing services to people within the community from the age of 4+ who are experiencing issues relating to bereavement, loss or life-changing illness. Richard and his wife Sue visited them several times and they provided fantastic support whenever things got on top of them. Richard offered the charity Wing Commander AB (AB stands for Andrew Bland after his son) and photographs to auction or sell to raise money for the charity as a thank you. After several meetings, the idea of a children’s book was formed. Because the book was all about the RAF with real people and names, Richard and the team spent time getting permission with the help of the RAF Valley station commander. The official reply from the MOD came back and everything looked doubtful as it was necessary to apply for an intellectual property licence and getting one would be unlikely. Undeterred Richard applied and visited the MOD in Whitehall twice and was granted it! The whole process from writing to publishing took 5 years as every page, image and name in the book had to be approved by high level MOD people. Richard says that there are a lot of people to thank for getting AB’s story to the bookshelves! The main message of Richard’s book is to get kids to talk, talk, talk. And it works – my son talks about why AB is worried in the book, tells me if he’s feeling nervous about something and likens it to how AB is feeling. He’s a happy kid and full of bounce and fun but when the chips are down, or he’s going through changes for example the lockdown, he doesn’t always know how to express that and like many children often doesn’t say anything. Books like AB Gets His Wings are fantastic for giving children characters and vocabulary to help them express these thoughts. There are plans in the pipeline for a future book too so watch this airspace for more AB adventures. Thank you so much for reading.

If you have been affected by suicide or are having suicidal thoughts please know there is help out there and you are not alone. Please do reach out.

Help and advice can be found here:

NHS – advice and helplines

The Dove Service

Imagination 2: Animal Antics and A Book Review

Don’t laugh and don’t judge. I’m sure we’ve all been there at some point. Haven’t we? Please say yes 🙈 When I was little (around 7 years old) I wanted to own a dog. Both parents working full time and a mum who wasn’t keen on four legged furballs, it was never going to happen. So I did the next best thing and pretended to be a dog instead. Until I realised something very obvious. I didn’t want to be a dog. I wanted to be a cat…because cats can drink milk out of saucers. I still remember the bemused/slightly terrified look of the babysitter.
Then a few months ago, I caught my 5 year old playing fetch shouting “Come back here little doggy! Come on! There’s a good boy!” to his 3 year old brother, who much to my horror was dutifully obeying, running towards him with a rotten old stick in his mouth.
Both the boys regularly “charge” at us pretending to be rhinos and my eldest even went through a phase of being a woodpecker. That was fun and games. Particularly when he had decided that hubby and myself were trees. It was like living with a very enthusiastic and excitable Woody Woodpecker.
But why do children pretend to be animals and how should we, as parents and carers react to it? It could be pretty frustrating if your kid is pretending to be a worm and all you want is for them to put their shoes on. Or perhaps it’s Bolognese Wednesday but they’ve decided they’re a penguin and refuse to eat anything but fish?

According Dr Gleason in this article Why My Kid Won’t Stop Pretending To Be A Lion – New York Times it’s to do with a cognitive developmental task called “the theory of mind” she goes on to say it’s the idea that “other people have thoughts, and those thoughts can be different from your thoughts,” ‘ the article also helpfully goes on to give advice on how to manage behaviour if the child is spending a little too much time being their animal.

Another benefit of this form of play can be the development of gross motor skills. It can get children using all sorts of different muscles.

One game we’ve played in the form of “Simon Says” was an animal race game.

Activity – animal Simon Says Animal Race

– one person is “Simon” the other children stand side by side at one end of garden or room

– ‘Simon’ gives the command eg “Simon says slither like a snake”

– children then have to race to slither to other side of garden/room. When they reach the end, they run back to beginning.

– Simon can try and catch them out by saying “Hop like a frog” instead of “Simon says hop like a frog”

Animal ideas:

Hop like a frog/kangaroo/flea
Slither like a snake
Wiggle like a worm
Pounce like a tiger
Run like a cheetah/ostrich
Crawl like a spider/insect
Pretend to fly like a bird
Stomp like an elephant
Charge like a rhino
Buzz like a fly
Flap like a butterfly

As strange as we might find it there are so many benefits for our children to pretend to be animals. It’s so good for their imagination! And ours. The last few days, neighbours may have heard me zooming around the garden with my spider powers chasing the tasty little 2 legged flies. When I caught them they got spider tickles. Then they tried to catch me by turning their fly powers into super cheetah and mega bee buzz powers. I can honestly say that it’s the best fun we’ve had in a game! So if your child is pretending to be an animal, as long as it’s not stopping their day to day stuff like going to school/nursery and isn’t causing disruption to they’re daily life, then absolutely join in the animal antics!

Thanks for reading! Below is a review for the unique and humorous inspiration for this blog “I Am A Tiger” by incredibly kind and imaginative Karl Newson.

Book Review

I Am A Tiger – by Karl Newson and illustrated by Ross Collins

Published by: Macmillan

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When is a mouse not a mouse? Well when they’re a tiger of course! What a great book with really eye catching illustrations. A mouse convinces his friends that he is in fact a tiger. He’s so convincing that even the tiger believes him! But what does that make the tiger? And what are the other animals? It’s such a fun book and really gets kids thinking. What I love is the mouse’s confidence and belief that he can be anything he decides he wants to be. Fabulous for guessing games – describe some animals to children and imagine how the mouse might see them. A thin, pointy thing that hangs in trees couldn’t possibly be a snake could it? And if it’s tiny, colourful and sits on a stick surely it must be a lollipop?

We had lots of fun and giggles with this bright, colourful hilarious book and will definitely be getting the sequel “I Am Not An Elephant”

And now a big thank you to Karl for this the Q&A – loved the answers!

Q1: How would the mouse describe you if he saw you?

Ross and I play a game in our events where we do this exact thing! I’m described as ‘Wild. Curly topped. Weedy.’ The children can only see the description on a silhouette of broccoli and they shout out guesses of what they think Mouse is describing – it’s lots of fun!

Q2: What is the main piece of advice that the mouse would give to any fellow mice that might be struggling with self-confidence?

I think she’d say (I always think of Mouse as a ‘she’, but to Ross she’s a ‘He’ – I love that Mouse is different for us all) don’t feel restricted by how you look on the outside – it’s how you feel on the inside that counts. And how you feel can fit a time and a mood and a place – it can change… make it work for you when you need it.  🙂

Q3: What is his favourite part of being a tiger?

I think it’s all the ‘GRRRR’ing!

Q4: What are your future book plans?

Mouse has a three-quel publishing in August (and I have plans for her that I’m hoping might happen one day). I have three other books due to be published between August and October (two more picture books and a young fiction) and a few more due next year. I can’t really say much more at the moment as most of them are under wraps for the time being… but they should be revealed soon, I hope! I’m writing lots more at the moment – in my experience picture books tend to take about 2 years to publish after being contracted so I’ve got 2022 in mind now and am guessing what the trend might be then. I’m looking forward to finding out!

 

Find out more about Karl Newson and his books here: Karl Newson

And do check out Mudwaffler Club! It’s sure to put a smile on your face and my kids love it. There’s even a reading of “I Am A Tiger” Click below for the link:

A place to nestle down and make things up, brought to you by children’s book author Karl Newson. Here, we’ll read books, write stories and create drawings together. We’ll write our own NONSENSE POETRY. We’ll make our own MUDWAFFLER CLUB BADGE. We’ll colour things in. Cut things out. Read letters. Answer Questions. And eat biscuits… Are you ready? It’s Mudwaffler time!

Imagination and a book review

In this crazy world of lockdown, one thing that has blown and impressed my mind, is the children’s imagination. Pre-lockdown, I knew of course they had one. The time my now 3yo used a red wooden toy to draw some unapproved and uncommissioned artwork on the wall. When asked whodunnit “The gorilla mummy!” . Or the other day when my 5yo drew a picture of sun, sand and sea. It was a holiday we’d been on with grandparents. “Are you going to draw all of us and the buckets we used?” I asked. “No, we’ve all gone for a walk!”

Imagination helps eliviate the boredom, takes us to new places and helps us think beyond our four walls.

One thing I’m learning to do during lockdown is to relax a bit when it comes to play. As long as it’s not dangerous or harmful it’s fine. My “don’t touch this” or “don’t do that” or “get down from there” are starting to turn into “show me” , “don’t worry that’s what baths and washing machines are for!” and “that’s a great slide you’ve made out of the sofa cushions!” It’s by no means perfect. There are fab days with sunshine, books, successful home learning and skipping around feeling like Mary Poppins. Then there are the days of potty training toddlers leaving “deposits” in the kitchen, tantrums (I’d say split pretty evenly between them and me! 🙈) and dinners of fish fingers with a side serving of haribo and 10 billion hours of tv.

But whatever the day, there’s not one that goes by where I’m not impressed by the kids’ imagination! Even it’s the choice of insults when my eldest is shouting “YOU YOU YOU STINKY OLD RHODODENDRON!” in a fit of rage at his younger brother. Or when they make up their own games like “What time is it Mr Gopher? NIBBLE TIME!” or when my 3 year old tells people he had a lovely day and played cricket for most of it with his best friend from nursery….we hadn’t played with the forgotten cricket set in over a year and with social distancing certainly hadn’t been anywhere near his best friend. But imagination is a coping mechanism and gives us hope and alternatives.

Imagination comes in many forms and I’ll be writing a couple of blogs to explore this. As this article describes activities such as arts, crafts, science and messy play are important part of their creativity How To Nurture Your Child’s Imagination – Parents Magazine and I’m trying my best in lockdown to stick to 2 rules.

1. Mud and paint will come out in the wash

2. If it doesn’t, make sure you had lots of fun doing it!

Generally I’m relaxed when it comes to messy play, but even I struggle when at 8am one morning my 3yo son ran out sporting nothing but pants and wellies, got a watering can and started pouring water all over the lawn. To create muddy puddles. Cheers for that Peppa Pig. That said 3yo had a whale of a time. And it did in fact come out in the wash.

Another (not so messy!) way to develop young imaginations is guessing games.

Here are a few suggestions:

– Put things in a box, cover the box and the child can guess by touch or description what’s in there.

– gather some “noisy” objects eg. Pan and spoon, rice in a jar, and a half filled bottled of water. Get the child to guess what noise they’ll make.

– Put objects with different textures on a tray. Before touching them, ask the child to tell you what they think it will feel like.

– my love of books is no secret but read and read lots with them. Little Gym Chiswick suggested swapping the book character’s name with the child’s name. Eg instead of “Goldilocks sat on the chair” it could be “Megan sat on the chair”. This helps develop imagination and empathy.

– Play the “what happens next?” with stories so the child guesses before you turn the page.

– Ask questions about the book characters that might not be in the book. “What kind of a house do they live him?” Or “What’s their favourite colour?”

– Find a few objects in the house and ask children to create stories about them. If you like, write the stories down for them so they can just focus on the telling part. I tried something similar with my 5yo son and wrote it down for him and this was the result (though TBF his handwriting would probably have been better than mine 😆):

Would love to hear how you get on!

As mentioned earlier, imagination is such a huge topic it’s impossible to include everything in one blog (though looking at the length of this one, it would seem that I’ve tried 😆) so I’ll add a few more in the coming days.

In the meantime thank you so much for reading and please check out below for two completely different and highly imaginative books by the very talented Susannah Lloyd

Book Review

This Book Can Read Your Mind – by Susannah Lloyd and illustrated by Jacob Grant

Published by:  Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Said it before and said it again. This book should come with an actual health warning. My 3yo laughed so hard he choked up a green bean. This was on the fourth time of reading it. On the day we got it. The first time we read it we were all snorting with laughter – I think the most we have laughed since lockdown. It’s a very sensible and well researched scientific experiment to see if the book can read your mind. Just don’t think of elephants. Or elephants in pants. And you’ll be fine. My 5yo tried to think of pink gophers and cottoned on quite quickly but has still requested me to read it over and over! 3yo even tried to “read” it himself and shouts of “PANTS” followed by lots of giggles could be heard from his room. Just brilliant. It’s a book that very much makes the children feel a part of the story and that they are the cause of the main character’s (a very sensible scientist’s) reactions.

But as Susannah herself said be sure to have only strictly sensible thoughts. It’s a VERY delicate book!

The Terribly Friendly Fox by Susannah Lloyd, illustrated by Ellie Snowdon

Published by: Simon & Schuster Children’s UK

The Terribly Friendly Fox is about a fox. Who is invited to the Annual Woodland Creatures Ball…oh please don’t worry! It’s fine! He’s turned vegetarian so no need to panic. The guests are having a fine time with all the party games and a magic performance. There don’t seem to be as many guests at the end of the book as there are the begin though. Perhaps they were just worn out by all the fun and went home…

This is one of my favourite picture books. The children love it too. It’s darkly humorous and interesting to see the children work out where the guests disappeared to. Cleverly written by Susannah Lloyd and ingeniously illustrated by Ellie Snowdon it’s definitely one for the bookshelves!

And now for a real treat – a Q&A with the very lovely Ellie and Susannah – the imaginative duo that created this foxy book !

Q1: If Gerald were to give his own dinner party which creature would be at the top of his menu…oops…sorry I meant guest list of course?

Ellie: That’s a good question! I think even though Gerald loves ALL animals equally, there’s no denying he has a fondness for rabbits…mostly because he loves nothing more than a lovely leftover rabbit stew on a Sunday!

Susannah: There is such a fine range of tasty treats on offer at this party, so it would be very hard for him to choose. But I think, if Gerald is anything like me, he would save the best for last, so I fear it would be the mouse, if he could only get his paws on him…

Q2: What is Gerald’s favourite go to party game to distract his guests?

Ellie: He has so many but I think musical chairs is Gerald’s cleverest distraction as things (*ahem* guests) can get lost so easily amongst the fun.

Susannah: I think it would have to be his dazzling display of conjuring tricks. Gerald is very talented at sleight of hand, and disappearing tricks are his particular speciality.

Q3: If you were able to understand each other, and you could invite any animal to a dinner party who would you invite and why?

Ellie: Mine would be a hare…mostly because the Mad March Hare in Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland is one of my all time fictional characters. I think he would be a very bonkers and entertaining party guest! (plus he could run out of there very fast should a certain fox show up..!)

Susannah: My dream party guest would be a badger. I just love them so much. I am currently working on a new idea that features as many badgers as can possibly fit the pages. They are practically spilling out of it. I would love nothing more than to snuffle my way through a selection of cakes and pies with a very jolly badger for company.

Q4: What were your favourite books as a child?

Ellie: There are so many! I loved anything by Janet & Allan Ahlberg… ‘The Jolly Postman’ was a particular favourite. I’ve still got my original copy with all the postcards still intact and miraculously unharmed! Also ‘The true story of the 3 Little Pigs’ by Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith was another favourite – a right old giggle!

Susannah: Oh yes! I loved the Albergs too, but my favourite was Burgler Bill. The best part was when he returned everything, including the policeman’s helmet and the stolen toothbrush.

The children’s books I loved the best were the ones where you got the feeling that the writer or illustrator was thoroughly enjoying themselves, being playful and having a marvellous time creating it. Picture books by William Steig, Russell Hoban, John Yeoman and Quentin Blake gave me that feeling. My favourites were The Wild Washerwomen and the How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen, which cracked me up as a child and still do.

Growing up I really loved all the Beatrix Potter stories too, which I think has very much influenced my own writing. People often mistakenly think of her stories as being sweet, but she had a brilliant talent for thinly veiling nature tooth and claw in sentences cloaked in civility. Her beautifully dressed animals, sipping tea in patterned floral cups often had very sharp teeth! I especially like this understated line from Benjamin Bunny when his father discovers a cat is holding his son hostage under a basket: ‘Old Mr. Bunny had no opinion whatever of cats’, meaning the cat was in VERY imminent danger indeed. or this one, from The Tale of Ginger And Pickles, where Ginger the cat has trouble serving the mice customers of their shop because it makes his mouth water so much: ’It would never do to eat our customers, they would leave and go to Tabatha Twitchet’s,’ Pickles tells him.

Q5: Susannah, do you have more fabulous book writing plans?

Susannah: I have another picture book out now, called This Book Can Read Your Mind, with Jacob Grant. It is a book that can actually read your mind! One word of warning however…it is extremely delicate, so whatever you do, just please make sure you don’t think of anything silly. I’m sure I can trust you with that!

My third book is on its way next year, this time with illustrator Paddy Donnelly. I am very excited indeed about it. It features my second favourite sort of beast (after badgers) but I think it is still under wraps so I will have to keep you in suspense as to what that is for now!

The (not so) Great Hamster Escape

Think my writing is being influenced by lock down🙈

Thanks for reading/watching and hope you’re safe and well 💖

The crazy mummy between kids’ snacks reading The (not so) Great Hamster Escape

The (not so) Great Hamster Escape – Kirsten Allen

The hamster, (his cheeks filled with food)

Looked through the cage bars and thought it was rude

That the humans had the run of the house,

So did the cat, the dog and the mouse.

“I’m going to escape!” He said

And plans started to clack like a wheel in his head.

He couldn’t squeeze through the gaps – they were narrow

And his bum was the size of a small wheel barrow.

When he tried to prise the metal apart

The only thing that escaped was a silent long fart.

He attempted a gnibble and attempted a gnaw

But all the chomping and chewing gave him a sore jaw

He paced up and down trying to think

Only stopping briefly for a quick drink

An idea suddenly hit him like a tank at full throttle –

He’d make a small hole in his drinking bottle!

The hamster carried out his devious plan

And the next day at breakfast over croissants and jam

The smallest human noticed the bottle was dry

And the little offspring let out a cry

“Oh mummy, oh daddy there’s not a drop spare!”

But the grown ups were too busy to care.

So the little girl decided to do it herself

And grabbed a new bottle from the pet food shelf.

She carefully put the new bottle in

Then put the old one in the bin.

The hamster’s excitement reached the highest peaks!

“She’s forgotten to shut the door!” He squeaked!

He cartwheeled and rubbed his paws with glee

Very soon he knew that he’d be free!

Lit by only the moon, the house was quiet once more,

He crept and creeped out of that door.

But oh no! Alas! Alack!

He never saw the puddy cat…..

I Wonder About Aliens – Poem and Worksheet

Finger’s crossed no regrets tonight about letting the little one sleep for a bit. Big one is upstairs playing so finally I get a minute to write a very quick blog. Or at least add a couple of activity sheets and a poem to the page! This one I took to a nursery workshop and and a year 1 workshop a while ago and it worked well. As a basic for nursery session, I read the poem then chatted about the kids where they would take their alien for the day. One of my favourite responses was “I’d take them to Tesco!”. Priorities eh?

For year one, I got them to describe their alien, then the other person had to draw. For lockdown – this could work well on video call with a friend perhaps?

Gah going to have to hurry – big one has just come downstairs with a broken Lego jail…..

So here’s the poem, and worksheets with activity ideas. Hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading and please share any pictures on Twitter/Instagram with @kidsstoryworld #AlienAntics !

I WONDER ABOUT ALIENS – Worksheet

I WONDER ABOUT ALIENS – ACTIVITIES

I Wonder About Aliens

By Kirsten Allen

I wonder about aliens

And what would happen if they came,

Down to visit planet Earth.

Do you think we’d look the same?

Would they have hands and toes like us?

Or the biggest furry paws?

Perhaps neither, perhaps both…

Perhaps GINORMOUS purple claws?

Do you think the aliens would talk like us?

What would they like to do?

Perhaps they’d want to spend the day at a local zoo?

Do you think you’d ever meet one?

What on Earth do you think they’d do?

THE MAGIC BOOTS STORY AND ACTIVITIES

Hi all – I’ll be putting together a few activities for the stories. Here’s one I was supposed to take into schools.

Please feel free to print/download/colour in/read outloud . Would love to see pics and stories! Share them with @kidsstoryworld on Twitter and Instagram

Kids Storyworld – MAGIC BOOTS STORY AND ACTIVITIES

Any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me and thanks for reading!

THE MAGIC BOOTS – Kirsten Allen

 

Eve was enjoying her walk in the rain. She loved nothing more than hearing the pitter and the patter of the raindrops and jumping in big puddles. The muddier the better! Suddenly, she heard a voice shout “Help! Help!”. Eve looked around but couldn’t see anyone. “Here I am! Please help me!” the voice cried. She looked down and there on the grass, close to the edge of the village pond was a fish. It was very pale and gasping for breath. Without any hesitation, Eve quickly picked it up and as the fish plunged back into the water, Eve saw all the colours of the universe shimmering and shining. A long, long time ago a bright shooting star had fallen out of the sky and into the pond. When the star hit the water, it’s light shattered into a thousand pieces and swirled back together forming this magical fish.

“Thank you! Thank you!” the fish said. “It rained so heavily that the pond water over-flowed and I went with it! But how can I ever repay you?”

“There’s really no need.” said Eve “You’re more than welcome!”

“I insist!” said the fish “I know how much you love dancing and jumping in puddles. If you look in the reeds, you’ll find a pair of boots.”

Eve looked.

“Wow! Thank you so much! I love them!” she started to put them on.

“Wait!” said the fish. “They are magic boots. When you would like to play in the rain, you put them on and say the magic words ‘Splosh, splash, splish! Rain is my greatest wish’ and it will rain.”

“And how do I get it to stop?” asked Eve.

“Yes, that’s very important! When you’d like the rain to stop you must say ‘Splish, splash, splosh make the rain stop!’. Don’t forget!”

“I’ll remember” promised Eve. “And thank you again!”

One very dry morning Eve put on her boots and said the magic words. The rain came and Eve danced and jumped in the puddles until her parents called her inside for lunch. But what she didn’t know was that Barnaby, the mischievous boy from next door had been watching and listening. “I want those boots” he said to himself. Eve had left them on the doorstep to dry out and when no one was looking, he took them and ran off to a quiet spot in the park.

Barnaby put the boots on and remembered the words “Splosh, splash, splish! Rain is my greatest wish!”. The rain came and Barnaby joyfully danced and jumped in the puddles. He splashed about until the sun went down and the moon came up. “I’d better get back home for dinner!” he suddenly thought and tried to remember the words that would make the rain stop. “Drip Drip Drop! Make the rain stop!” But the rain didn’t stop. “Paddle, paddle, paddle! Make the rain skedaddle!”

But the rain didn’t stop. No matter how hard he tried he could not remember the words. Worried about what his parents would say he ran home and didn’t tell them about the boots. The rivers whooshed, the banks flooded and soon the water was flooding the village! When it started coming under the doors of the houses, Barnaby knew he must say something. He waded next door holding the boots and knocked on the door. “My boots!” said Eve.

With no time to lose, Eve put on the boots and said the magic words “Splish, splash, splosh, make the rain stop!” and the rain suddenly stopped.

“I’m sorry,” said Barnaby “I should have asked before I took them.”

“That’s ok.” said Eve kindly, “We all mistakes. You did the right thing in the end and brought them back.”

From that day on they became firm friends and whenever there was puddle jumping to be done, Eve would ask Barnaby to join her. And Barnaby never took anything without asking again.

© 2020 Kirsten Allen ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 

Life Through A Lens and a Book Review

“A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly.” Roald Dahl, The Twits

This morning we were getting ready for school. My 5yo son casually said “I don’t like the photo on my peg at school. It’s GROSS!” I asked him if someone had said something to him. “No it’s just yucky and my face is red!”
I was shocked but explained to him that sometimes we like our photos and sometimes we don’t but that photos don’t reflect how we really look and don’t show what’s inside us. (Tried not to make it too preachy!!) As much as I’m on my phone far too much and blog etc I do try not to take endlessly photos of the children and rarely do selfies. Honestly, I’ve never been keen on having my photo taken anyway but I used to take hundreds of the kids. “Stand here! Smile! Look this way! Do that again. Left a bit, right a bit…” It all changed on a trip to Tate Modern (brilliant place for kids by the way!) There was a family with a couple of kids. The children were naturally playing and giggly and having fun. They ran joyfully down the slope. Then the parent called them back “Ooh can you run like that again? I want to take a photo! That’s it…no not like that like you did before!…” and of course the children obliged but it wasn’t the same and they didn’t play as naturally. I thought back and realised that I did the same thing. They do something cute and we immediately want them to do it again and capture the moment. But it’s not the same moment. It’s a different moment. A forced moment. From then on I always ask if they want their photo taken. If they say no, I respect that. If I’m lucky enough to capture a precious moment on camera then great. But I’ve stopped trying to re-create the moment and instead try and keep it as a special memory. There’s that very striking photo of a lady at a premier. Everyone seeing life through the lens but she’s taking in the moment as a memory. As much as I love taking photos and feel that it’s a necessary part of today’s times, I really hope I can do the same and encourage the boys to understand that life is for living and not just for lenses.

Book of the day

The TwitsRoald Dahl

My son is starting to get in to chapter books. I hadn’t read The Twits in years!!! Then after the conversation about appearances I marched upstairs and retrieved it from the book pile. We read it on the bus. It was a great opportunity to discuss what makes someone beautiful (how they are as a person, their smile, good intentions) . I love that my son loves it (he was gutted when we had to stop reading to get off the bus!) and that this could be the start of our Roald Dahl adventures.

Autumn Walks and Autumn Books…

Autumn is my favourite time of year. Even though it took me years to be able to spell (such a funny looking word isn’t it?) it’s still my favourite time of the year. It’s the season I remember most vividly as a child. On way home from nursery, kicking through piles of leaves that I swear came up to our armpits. Walking home from primary school collecting conkers then soaking them in vinegar or painting with clear nail varnish before threading with string for conker wars in the playground. I want my boys to experience all these memories and more (are conker wars still allowed in the playground???) To my joy the school organised an Autumn Walk for reception classes. They went to the local park, they looked for sticks and leaves and when I collected son he had rosy cheeks and his shoes and trousers were covered in mud (typically on the one day I forgot his karate kit so he had to do it in muddy clothes!) Best of all was his excitement from their adventures. Exploring, rolling in piles of leaves, muddy puddles, grazed knees, ruddy cheeks, warming up with a cup of warm milk or hot chocolate after an autumn walk… isn’t that what childhood memories are made of? 😍

Thanks as ever for reading my blog and happy exploring!

Here are our top Autumny kind of books for those snuggly kind of Autumny days…

1. That’s Not My Hedgehog- Usbourne Touchy-Feely Books perfect for little hands!

2. We’re Going On A Bear Hunt – Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury absolute classic rhyming story. My boys love this book…and crunching through muddy woods looking for bears!

3. Kiss Good Night Sam – Amy Hest, Illustrated by Anita Jeram

“It was a dark and stormy night on Plum Street….” outside the wind is howling and Mrs Bear is putting Sam to bed. He can’t go to sleep but what has Mrs Bear forgotten? This is one of my favourite books. Beautiful illustrations and makes you feel all toasty warm after reading. Perfect bedtime story for a cold Autumn night😍

4. The Wild Woods – Simon James

Love the illustrations and the story is simple but makes me chuckle every time. Jess goes for a walk with Grandad and tries to persuade him to let her keep a squirrel. Gorgeous book!

5. The Squirrels Who Squabbled – Rachel Bright & Jim Field Two nutty squirrels after the last pine cone of the season. A great rhyming book for teaching about sharing. Fabulous picture book!

6. Stanley Stick – John Hegley

My sons LOVE sticks. Eldest even had youngest pretending to be a dog and threw them for him to fetch. Which he did. Carrying them in his mouth 🤢

For less revolting ideas of things to do with a stick this book we’ve borrowed from the library is amazingly imaginative! It’s not just a stick. It’s a dinosaur, a spoon, a fishing rod and so much more! Lovely illustrations too.

7. Storm – Sam Usher

What can I say about this book? 😍 We were given it as a birthday gift for eldest. The illustrations are just fantastic and highly imaginative. It’s blowing a gale outside so a boy and a grandad decide to go kite flying, but can’t find the kite. While looking, they remember all sorts of memories. When they finally get outside there’s all sorts of adventures to be had! My sons were reminded of flying kites in the Hebrides this summer and I love the language and descriptions the book uses. Perfect book for the days where a storm is brewing and the wind is huffing and howling!

🍂 🍄🍂🍁🍄🍁🍂🍄🍂🍁🍄🍁🍂🍄🍂

Anti-Bullying Week: Book Review Charlie Turns Into A T-Rex by Sam Copeland

I say this everytime I write a blog….where has the time gone?? This one was supposed to be written back in September, then son started new school, then I did an obstacle course, broke fingers and wasn’t allowed to type (and they say exercise is good for your health?? I’m sticking to books from now on!)

This week is anti-bullying week and today is Odd Socks Day and what better book to review in honour of this than Charlie Changes Into A T-Rex written by the very fab author Sam Copeland, illustrated by the very talented Sarah Horne.

My now 5 year old LOVES the Charlie series which was started off by Charlie Changes Into A Chicken. We had to take this book everywhere. My son insisted that I read it on train/bus/plane journeys, in queues waiting for stuff and at bedtime. Oh and of course woe betide me if I forget to bring it for our trips on the underground.

Our excitement when we heard there was a new book out “Charlie Turns Into A T-Rex” (reading age 8+ but my 5yo loves me reading it to him)  was immense and of course we had to have a copy. It came out when we were on holiday… in the Outer Hebrides (I kid you not…2 weeks on the absolutely stunning Isle of Harris).

The Isles of Lewis & Harris  have one main bookshop. And we were over an hour away. But we HAD to have this book. So I phoned ahead and was told by the lovely people at the Baltic Bookshop in Stornoway there was a single copy available. We reserved it straight away and set off with the kids for a day trip to Stornoway (where they also have a gin distillery….yum!!) The scenery on the way was absolutely stunning! We picked up the book and headed back. 4 year old had many, many questions. Where are the dinosaurs? Did they used to live here? Which came first the rocks or the dinosaurs? What do dinosaurs eat? How did they die?  ….and sooooo many other questions that only children know how to ask.

He even had a dinosaur jumper on especially for the occasion (ok that was coincidence!!)

Cottage came complete with chickens…(or is it really a changed Charlie???)

When we started reading the book, we were so happy that we’d made the journey to get it. If you haven’t read Charlie Changes Into A Chicken, see my previous review here . Then go and read the book. It’s awesome. The series is about a boy (Charlie) who turns into various creatures when he gets anxious . Both books in the series are fantastic for children who have anxiety and get those knots in the stomach. As someone who was bullied throughout school, I know all too well how that feels. These books are a great small way to help children learn and understand how to deal with these anxieties. Obviously not just by changing into different creatures which would be amazing but encouraging talking about issues and standing up to bullies. Standing up to the bullies at school and standing up to grown up bullies.

Charlie thinks he has his habit of changing into creatures when he’s anxious, under control. However, when his dad’s business is in trouble (thanks to bully Dylan’s dad), the thought that his family might have to sell their house and live with a weird aunt sets off his anxieties and triggers the animal transformations again. Family pressures, school pressures (courtesy of bully Dylan)…It’s all too much and hard for Charlie to control himself. The book is imaginative, hilarious, sensitive and really gets how children think without being patronising. It’s about tackling bullies, finding friends who love you enough to wee on you when you’re in a certain kind of trouble and need weeing on (just brilliantly funny and as promised in my previous review THE MOST DISGUSTING WEE SCENE EVER!), asking for help and not bottling everything up.

To sum it all up I asked my son “I’m writing a review about the book. Is there anything you want to say about it?” His response was
“Yes! It’s they’re the BEST BOOKS EVER!!! I love these books!!” And he’s one tough critic!

We can’t WAIT for the next one in the series Charlie Morphs into A Mammoth (well we’ll have to – it’s out February 2020 so watch out for it…like you could miss a mammoth!)

Q&A with author Sam Copeland

Q1: If you could be a hybrid of 3 dinosaurs, which  amazing dino-features would you take from each (one per dinosaur)  and what would you like your new dinosaur name to be?

A1: I WOULD HAVE THE BODY OF A PTERODACTYL, THE NECK OF A BRONTOSAURUS AND THE HEAD OF A T-REX BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE ONE AWESOME DINOSAUR TO SEE. AND I WOULD LIKE IT’S NAME TO BE GEOFF.

Q2:  All your favourite childhood authors are in danger. You can only rescue one author by covering them in wee. Who do you choose and why?   (If you prefer not to answer this question or would just like to say who your favourite childhood author is then would accept that answer too 🙂 )

A2: OBVIOUSLY I CAN NOT ANSWER WHICH CHILDREN’S AUTHOR I WOULD LIKE TO PEE ON… BUT MY FAVOURITE CHILDHOOD AUTHOR’S FROM WHEN I WAS KID WERE ROALD DAHL, TOLKEIN, AND GEOFFREY WILLAN – AUTHOR OF THE AMAZING MOLESWORTH BOOKS.

 

Been a while…

Firstly Happy New Year! It’s been ages since my last blog. Before Christmas we had about 6 weeks of household bugs then a crazy dash to get everything ready for the big day. However, I did manage to read a book during this period. Hope you enjoy the review!

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

This is a good but dark book about a boy whose family is murdered and through a sequence of events he ends being brought up by ghosts in a graveyard. He then makes it his mission to find out who murdered his parents. The books is aimed at 12year olds and older (it mentions divorce and suicide and obviously being set in a graveyard covers the topic of death a bit).

I have to be honest and say that I found the first couple of chapters a bit confusing but this could be due to trying to read it with little sleep as the kids had been ill. Once I got into it I couldn’t put it down!!!! If your 12+ year olds are into fantasy/horror I would definitely recommend it!

If your child has read this book or has any other suggestions for the 12+ readers, would love to hear from you!