Imagination 3: Choices and a Book Review

One thing I’ve noticed about toddlers, specifically my 3 year old. They love control. Or another word for it might be independence. Both my children have always been fiercely independent, almost to a fault. My youngest particularly. Almost as soon as he could walk, he wanted to get in and out of the car by himself. After what felt like hours of watching him struggle to get in, I’d give him a little push up. To which he’d respond with ferile anger, get out of the car, push the door shut and start all over again! The same with getting dressed – so much as my finger on his trousers to help him get a leg in, off everything would come with loud “NO! I do it myself!” and we would have to start all over again. My husband and I have only got ourselves to blame – we can be very stubborn and rarely ask or accept help. With my children, I’m learning to sit on my hands and just say “if you need help, let me know.” And actually if they really need it, they will ask.

But how does this relate to imagination? I’m no educational expert, but I’ve seen how leaving them to their own devices and not interfering (unless it’s dangerous or we’re in a big hurry to be somewhere) can give them the opportunity to think of new ways of problem solving. Letting them figure it out and make their own choices as much as possible, gives them the tools to think in different ways. Whether that’s using a bicycle pump to etch a new design on the wall (yes that happened after I took crayons and keys of him 🙈) or working out how to put their shoes on.

Giving children choices can be helpful in encouraging both creative and critical thinking, as this article mentions: How You Can Help Children Solve Problems

Sometimes I even think you can hear their little brains ticking over new solutions.

Another way of encouraging children to think creatively and independently is by allowing them to choose their own storylines in books. I used to love the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series and for my young children they really enjoy The Storypath by Kate Baker and Madalena Matoso.

Pictures are laid out along paths and there are questions to prompt the children, but they choose which way the story goes and how they can describe the characters.

They are all gorgeous books but the one that in future years will be classed as one of my boys’ “childhood favourites”, is You Choose by Pippa Goodhart and Nick Sharratt which I really enjoyed reviewing. I loved looking through the pictures and thinking about what my preferences would be!

Thanks for reading my blog and hope you enjoy the review!

Book Review

You Choose – by Pippa Goodhart and Nick Sharratt

Published by: Puffin Books

Do you remember staring for hours at an Argos catalogue, imagining what you’d choose for your home. Then imagining what your house would look like…would you live in a castle or a lighthouse? Would you live by the sea or in a forest? Well You Choose does exactly but is way more fun and has so many more options!

Before my eldest started reception last year there was an evening for the parents to meet the teachers, get to know other parents etc.

The headteacher gave us all advice which was music to my ears. The most important thing we could do for our children over the summer was to read to them. And read lots. Maths and learning alphabets etc, she went on to say, would be taught in reception. Reading to our children would teach them about empathy and choices and the softer skills. She told us the books didn’t even need to have many words in it. You Choose was on the top of her list of books she recommended. Apparently it had been her children’s favourite too when they were younger. I’m so glad we got it. It’s helped my 3yo’s vocabulary, he loved the independence of choosing and it has encouraged both my children’s imagination as we discuss characters that they have chosen. It also gives us something to chat together about as we talk about all our choices!

I read that there are also different games you can play with the book – only choosing things beginning with a certain letter, or perhaps objects with particular colours. This book provides hours of fun and I very much recommend not only reading it at bedtime and when you can have more time together for longer chats. It’s easy to get so caught up in conversations you don’t realise how quickly the time goes! Absolute children’s classic of a book. We love it!

And now, we turn the tables on the author Pippa Goodhart and illustrator Nick Sharratt to find out a few of their choices!

Q&A

Q1. You can take 3 animals on a hot air balloon ride with you. Who do you choose?

 Pippa: Um. Not a giraffe because its head would be up in the balloon. An elephant would be so heavy we might not take off. A mouse might get frightened and run up my trousers. Not my cat, Dotsy, because she’d get scared and dig her claws in. Not my chickens because they’d get in a flap. I’d take my dog, Winnie, who would be a good companion. And I’d take two herons in case the balloon collapsed. I’d hold their legs while they flap big wings, and we’d glide down to land safely. 

Nick: a parrot a tortoise and a kitten

Q2. You’re invited to a fancy dress party. The theme is superheroes. Who would you choose to go as?

Pippa: The super-hero that comes to my mind straight away just now is Annie, who is one of my daughters. She is a doctor working long difficult days in a hospital, caring for very ill patients, all whilst she’s six months pregnant. So I’d put on a pair of scrubs and face mask, and borrow a stethoscope. 

Nick: Snoozerman – as I already have an almost superhuman capacity for dozing off.

 

Q3. You get to spend lockdown in the building of your choice from the following:

  1. a) light house
  2. b) space station
  3. c) castle

And why did you choose it?

Pippa: That’s a difficult choice! I like my home best, but I’ll choose c) castle. Because a space station or a lighthouse would feel so restricted, with no garden to go out into. A castle would be too big to feel cosy, and might be cold and strange and possibly scary, but at least it would have lots of room outside where I could walk and think. 

Nick: A castle – the four-poster bed would be a great place for an afternoon nap.

Q4: What’s your next project?

Pippa: Well, funnily enough, one of the next books to get published is a new You Choose book! You Choose Fairy Tales. Nick Sharratt has done absolutely wonderful pictures for it, as you can imagine. 

Nick: I have lots of exciting projects in the pipeline. So watch this space!

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?

HAPPY WORLD BOOK DAY!

I have been so excited and looking forward to World Book Day. My son is going to nursery dressed as a Highway Rat (his nursery is celebrating tomorrow). A costume I spent hours slaving over….honest guv…not a click & collect….erm….OK….I CONFESS! While other parents may have been sweating blood & tears, feet in blisters trailing every inch of every craft shop to prepare for the big day I cheated and got a ready made one. You have to understand, at school it took me THREE YEARS to sew an apron. That’s right. THREE YEARS…the teacher gave up on me. I also made a cushion at high school. Stuffed with plastic bags rather than lovely soft cushion foam. I forgot until the last minute and it was the best idea I could come up with. So trust me when I say that me not making a costume is for the best. Otherwise I’d need to start making it for an 18 year old rather than a 4 year old…. Anyway, I’m going off topic. World Book Day. Yes. We love it in our family. Yes the costumes are fun etc etc but the main thing for me is that it gets children talking about books. It gets teachers talking more than usual about books and importantly it gets parents talking about books! If we’re engaged and invested then the children become engaged and invested. Talk about books you like and don’t like. Ask questions about the books they are reading. It can be hard to find time to read to them – even bedtimes can be a struggle if parents work late. My husband is rarely back for bedtime during the week but reads to them at the weekends. I read whenever I can to them and always have a book to hand…car journeys, if we go to coffee shops, restaurants, anywhere we might be queuing or waiting. Books are a great way to keep kids entertained until their food turns up! There are loads of little pocket books that you don’t need a suitcase to carry. I remember my mum used to read to me at the dining table while I was eating or having a snack….even when I was on the potty.

Here is a link to the fantastic BookTrust with various useful reading tips.
BookTrust Reading Tips

Happy reading!

BOOK REVIEW Charlie Changes Into A Chicken – written by Sam Copeland, Illustrations by Sarah Horne
charlie chicken.jpg

Well, one book that has been everywhere with us*, is Charlie Changes Into A Chicken written by Sam Copeland.

*we did get some funny looks on the tube when I was reading out loud to my son about spiders having 8 bums – but I bet that’s just because the other passengers were jealous. (That they were just reading boring newspapers, not because they don’t have 8 bums…..)

Charlie McGuffin is a boy with an incredible secret….when he feels anxious and worried HE CHANGES INTO ANIMALS. All sorts of animals. Spider, flea, pigeon and even a rhino! This book is a bonkers, laugh out loud kind of a book and covers some sensitive topics in a unique way that is very relatable to children. Charlie is worried about his brother in hospital, the school bully and appearing on stage (my son hate’s going on stage in front of everyone so could empathise quite well with this). He has to find a way to deal with his new power and luckily has his three best friends to confide in. Children will love reading this book or having it read to them (if they can wrestle it off their parents first – I found myself reading it well after son was in bed!) Though be warned, there’s a lovely (happy) lump in your throat moment towards the end that had me reaching for the tissues. Cannot recommend this book highly enough. Such a beautiful read and the amazing illustrations by Sarah Horne perfectly match it.

About the Author
Sam Copeland is an author and literary agent living in London. His favourite part about writing the book was writing about the friendship between the characters and feeling the characters come alive. Having read it I can understand this. You can close your eyes and imagine them in real life. They’re the kind of best friends that don’t just get you out of trouble after it’s happened but the ones that come along with you for the ride to make sure you’re ok.

I couldn’t not ask Sam the question (note to author – apologies if it’s the 100th time you’ve been asked!) If he could change into any animal, what would he change into? He answered that he’d love to turn into something microscopic like a myxozoa as it would give him a truely unique view of the universe. Also, as Sam pointed out it makes a great scrabble word!
(What?? You don’t know what a myxozoa is?…Well thank goodness for Google & dictionaries :-))
And if Sam were a flea and could jump on anyone’s head for the day without them noticing he would jump on a dog as “animals are far more interesting than people”. This is a good point. People all tend to do similar things get up eat, go to school/work, come home, eat, go to bed…boring stuff (except of course for Charlie who is very unique). However, there are sooooo many varieties of animals…including ones with weird names like myxozoa….

Having read Charlie Changes Into A Chicken we cannot wait for Sam’s new book out in August Charlie Turns Into A T-Rex. Especially that we’ve been promised the most disgusting wee scene EVER….(just when I didn’t think anything could top the revolting rhinos scene in chapter 12 of this book…hold your noses people!) 

 

Children’s Poetry…

Children’s rhymes and poems can shape the way we look at the world when we’re younger and bring back amazing memories when we’re older. To give you an example, I honestly can’t walk past a fish tank or see a kitten without fondly remembering sitting in a classroom (think it was Year 1) and learning, writing out and illustrating this one by Ogden Nash:

The Guppyby Ogden Nash

Whales have calves,
Cats have kittens,
Bears have cubs,
Bats have bittens,
Swans have cygnets,
Seals have puppies,
But guppies just have little guppies.

A.A. Milne, Michael Rosen, Roger Mcgough, Spike Milligan all have special places in my heart and different meanings for me. I think the one that terrified me was one we had to learn for a school concert: Matilda – Hillaire Belloc it’s a bit like “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” but much darker!

Children’s poetry is fantastic for repetition, vocabulary and according to one blog even physical coordination…

Why Reading Poetry is So Important for Children

It’s also great to create poems with children and get them thinking about how words can sound with rhythm. How they can be used to express thoughts and feelings or just fun noises!

A game that my 3 year old son loves it when I rhyme words and change the first letter to make new and sometimes nonsense words. He joins in which is fantastic (though we have to be a bit careful…listening to the radio he heard the name Jack Horn…he suddenly started shouting “Jack Horn! Jack Corn! Jack Forn!Jack Morn! Jack P…..” 😳 Luckily we were in the car so no one around and I managed to distract him by shouting frantically back “Jack Corn Jack Corn” and then change the topic which seemed to work)<<<<<<<<<<<<
y article that gives ideas for simple activities. I particularly love the suggestion of having a book around the house that kids can write in. I used to have my own blue notebook (would love to dig it out!) And poetry is educational, helps kids to read etc but most of all it's just good fun!

Children’s Poems <<<<<<<<<<<<
ouch and let me know – What was your or what is your child's favourite childhood poem?

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Honest Mum

Curious world…..

My eldest is 3 and going through the question stage. “It’s dark Mummy! Why is it dark? What about the moon Mummy? Where is the moon? Pointing at a light in the car: What is that Mummy? Answering his own question: It’s a light! Why is the light on Mummy? Light goes off: Where has the light gone Mummy? The light has gone off….” etc. etc. All this within a 2minute journey from the nursery to the car. It doesn’t stop there. Some days we get what feels like a full day in question commentary. Exhausting but fun – unless you’re trying to get somewhere on time! It got me thinking “Why do they ask “why?”so much?”

I found a couple of interesting links which helped answer my question….and apparently kids can ask up to 300 questions a day!!!! I shouldn’t be surprised but still…Wow!

Mothers Are Asked Nearly 300 Questions a Day….

The article below has some great tips and also suggests reading books to your children to encourage the questions. I love books that give children the chance to ask and answer questions. One of my son’s favourite is a Thomas the Tank Engine book that asks questions along the lines of “What does Bertie need to continue his journey? A red light or a green light?”

Why do children ask “why?”

Such a lot for them to find out about and sometimes we learn new stuff along the way too! Thanks

Last but not least, hope you enjoy my latest poem. It’s about some of the things I’ve found myself saying…….No wonder they ask so many questions!

What a Confusing World! – by Kirsten Allen

I’m listening and watching and only three-But oh my! The world’s such a confusing place to be.
Mummy says “Stay where I can see you!”
But how would I know where that is?
Mummy says “Don’t talk to strangers!”
But “be polite and say ‘hello’ to this lady! Go on – give her a kiss”
“Don’t run – you’ll slip and fall in this dreadful rain!”
“Quick run or we’ll miss the very last train!”
“You must share toys – now give him your bat!”
But if I want something “No! She’s playing with it – you can’t take that!”
“Sit still! Slow down! Don’t just inhale the food on your plate!”
“Come on! Hurry and eat up or we’ll be late!”
However, I’m hopeful that by the time I’m four,
I’ll understand a little more!
©
Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Honest Mum

Something for the weekend….

What a lovely week! I’ve been fortunate to have been asked to do a monthly blog for a wonderful charity, Motherwell Cheshire CIO so watch this space!

https://www.motherwellcheshirecio.com/services 

Also I’ve volunteered to do a regular storytime at Hanwell Library in London which starts on the 9th November. Very excited and looking forward to it!

We’ve also got a wonderful new addition to our book family (it was recommended by a lovely lady on a Facebook thread) It’s such a sweet amusing story I just had to share!!!

The Pout-Pout Fish – by Deborah Diesen

This is a story about a pout-pout fish with a pout-pout face spreading his dreary-wearies all over the place! (Think we’ve all had those days! 😂) It’s not his fault…it’s the way he was born…or so he thinks! This has lots of repetition and rhyming, alongside colourful characters. It’s a great one for the under sixes. Really love this book and so did my 3 year old. Here’s the link below. Have a great weekend!

Pout-Pout Fish

Interesting Article….

I love this article with some simple tips on helping children to read. I’ll be honest…my 3year old loves books but not sure how many letters he recognises (or is supposed to recognise at this stage! -Any early stages teachers out there -I’d love to hear from you out of interest!). He knows “O = Oliver” and “H = Henry” and “T = Thomas” (the latter 2 from the bain of our life Thomas the Tank Engine….at least it has some uses!! 😂) The rest he just makes up. The only reason I have any concern is because dyslexia is in our family. However, he’s only 3 so not going to worry about it at the moment and just let him enjoy the books at his own pace (I’m only allowed to read Green Eggs and Ham at the moment!!) 

Have a great weekend! 

http://www.readingrockets.org/blogs/shanahan-literacy/11-ways-parents-can-help-their-children-read

Storytelling nerves…..

What are your favourite Autumn children’s books? 
This week Sandhurst Library have very kind in asking me to lead a storytelling session on Thursday and it’s Autumn themed. I’m so flattered that they would like to hear some bits that I’ve written alongside  some Autumn type books.

So here’s a little something I wrote for the occasion:

Autumn – by Kirsten Allen 

Mud squishing in my fingers 
Brown conkers all around
Golden leaves are falling. What a crunchy sound!!!
Furry squirrels playing hide and seek with the acorns that they find.
Lushes lovely berries!
Types of every kind.
These are the wonderful things I think of,
When Autumn springs to mind.

©

Just had to review….

So it’s been a mad whirl of holidays, teething and 3 year old birthday parties. My youngest has been waking at 5am and then going back to sleep. Oliver then wakes up and while waiting for his younger brother we’ve had a lovely time cuddling and reading a a story before getting ready. He received some beautiful books as birthday gifts which he loves. Including this one which made me smile and he loved it. Can recommend it:

There’s No Dragon In This Story – by Lou Carter & Deborah Allwright

This story is about a dragon. He wants to be a hero….unfortunately for him Goldilocks, The Gingerbread Man, Hansel and Gretel plus others already have their stories. Surely someone needs a dragon to save the day……
This is a fun easy read story for 6years old and under. Have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it!!!!

On another note I came across this interesting article. I have to say, even as an adult I love bonding with people over books they’ve read. Chatting with friends about what they’ve been reading has opened up new genres for me which I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. Also, my son loves telling me about stories that have been read at nursery. Children are never too young to be read to!

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2016/11/09/how-to-bond-with-your-child-through-reading/

Half a book review…

It’s only half as am only part way through but really enjoying it! It’s a bit advanced for my 3 year old but I’m keen to review a variety of children’s books not just picture books. So taking one for the team I’m reading them myself (and loving it!!!) the one I’m currently reading is The Name of this Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch.  Would say it’s aimed at 9-12 year olds (not as grim as it sounds but mentions death and divorce). It’s about a girl (Cass) and a boy (Max-Ernest) who stumble on adventure. A lady brings a box full of smells to the antique shop Cass is staying at until her mother returns from a business trip. The adventure leads to a magician’s notebook. I’m almost half way through and can’t put it down. Wonderfully woven into the story are little historical facts, and things to do (how to make a compass) and there’s an appendix with useful words and definitions. Please don’t give the end away as am still reading but would love to know if your child (or you!) have read this book and if they enjoyed it?