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!

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

 

 

Finding our way and Book Review…

Anyone  who knows me knows how bad my sense of direction is! My dad could pick up a map look at it once and know exactly where to drive on an 8hour journey. My husband studied Geography and is also has a phenomenal sense of direction and map reading skills.

By contrast:

– on a school geography trip a good friend said she never wanted to partner with me on an orientation exercise again. We’d got lost multiple times and didn’t complete the task after I was “certain it was this way”….

– Friends would rather use a taxi than walk with me on one of my short cuts

– my last short cut on a 10minute (local) car journey took on a 40min route

– when I first told my then boyfriend now husband I couldn’t read maps he, with a degree in geography and infinite patience, said he would teach me. We were on the way to the Lake District. 15min after he trustingly handed it to me, he pulled over in a lay-by and took it back off me. We were lost. He’s a pretty patient guy but I could feel the exasperation.

– once I wanted to surprise my husband for his birthday with a restaurant he’d not been to. After pretending I was misleading him so he couldn’t guess where we were going, I ended up having to come clean, tell him we were lost and hand over the details so he could find the way and we could make the table on time 🙈

So imagine my happiness and joy when my 5yo son started showing an interest in maps! He’s pretty good at drawing them too. Sometimes he even tells me if we’re going the wrong way somewhere. Thankfully it seems he’s inherited his father’s and my father’s skills.

There are so many ways to help children learn to navigate and create an interest in the world around them. I’ve been to the charity shop and bought old ordinance survey maps and A-Zs which we enjoy looking at. I point out rivers etc to him. In the car on the occasions I know where we’re going, I’ll sometimes ask him to guide me left or right etc. These are fun games and I’m learning too!  I also got him some map books which we do together.

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In a world of technology we can think “What’s the point?” (Though I’ve even been known to get lost using Google directions!!) Well according to this article, map reading can help with maths, spacial awareness and visual literacy:

The Importance Of Map Reading

Orienteering also a fun thing to do and a great outdoor activity and good for imagination. My son draws made up islands with palm trees and X marks the spot. And later in life it can save a fortune in taxis and apologies for being late…(ahem…)

Thanks as ever for reading my blog! 💖📚

BOOK REVIEW

The Cockatoo From Timbuktu – By William A.E Ford, Illustrated by Ramile M. Imac

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This is the charming book we were kindly sent by the author and it inspired the blog about directions and finding your way. It’s a beautifully illustrated rhyming book about Kian the cockatoo who escapes from the zoo to find his way back to his family in Timbuktu. As mentioned my son loves  maps (there’s a beautiful one at the beginning of the book) and learning about different countries. The story takes  you around the world  until Kian finds his way home. We really enjoyed reading about the animals in Australia and my youngest loves penguins so his favourite page was when Kian flew through Antartica. The book is a great conversation starter for young ones and there is a lot that children can learn from it including the fun facts at the end of the book! The perfect book for children who love animals and adventuring!

And now for a short Q&A with the lovely author William A E Ford!

Q1: Is there anywhere in the world you’d like to visit but haven’t yet?
A1: I love to travel and see new places. There are so many places I would like to go that I havent visited. I would say Japan, South Africa and Iceland are places on top of the wish list. I should also add Timbuktu in Mali to the list as well!

Q2: When you go there, if you could have any animal as a travelling companion, what would you choose and why?
A2: If I could choose any animal/bird to accompany me, I would have to go for a cockatoo. Failing that it would have to be a monkey to keep me entertained.

To read about more of William’s books and news please visit https://williamaeford.com/

THE STORY OF THE MOUSE WHO DID…

Alfred was in the garden trying to blow bubbles. The harder he blew, the less the bubbles came. His brother laughed loudly at his attempts. A very cross Alfred snatched up his bubbles and stomped inside.

“What’s the matter?” Grandpa asked Alfred.

“I’ll never be able to make a bubble. If I could, I’d blow the biggest shiniest bubble in the whole world.”

“I see,” said Grandpa. “Come, sit with me and I’ll tell you a story.”

Alfred did not know how a story was going to help but sat down anyway.

“Once upon a time, there was a small mouse,” his Grandpa began.

“In fact, he was the smallest mouse in the village. One day, he said to his big brother ‘I’m going to be the first mouse in the village to row around the Great Big Lake.’ His brother laughed but the mouse ignored him. In the garden shed the mouse found a bucket and two sticks of wood.

His brother was fishing on the banks of the lake. ‘You silly little mouse! You’ll never get anywhere in that rusty old bucket!’ he said. The mouse ignored him, climbed into the bucket and started rowing with the sticks. He was still by the shore when the boat started sinking. There was a hole in the bucket!

His brother laughed even harder. But the mouse ignored him and returned to the shed.

This time he found a giant slipper. Back at the lake his brother was skimming stones. When he saw the mouse, he giggled.

‘That’s not going to get you around the lake you silly little mouse!’

This made the mouse even more determined, he got his oars, put the slipper on the lake and sat in it. Straight away water whooshed over the sides. And when the soggy slipper got tangled in the reeds, the mouse’s brother laughed until his sides almost split. ‘You might as well give up!’ he said. But the mouse ignored him. This time instead of going to the shed, he went to the kitchen. He looked everywhere for the best thing he could use as a boat. He even inspected a chunk of cheese and though it was very tasty, it wasn’t going to help him be the first mouse to row around the lake. Then he saw the giant half a walnut shell his grandma used for mixing cakes and cookies.

The mouse carried it to the lake where his brother was snoozing in a deckchair. He put the walnut shell in the water and sat in it. This time, his boat didn’t have a hole in it and the water didn’t whoosh over the sides. He started rowing only pausing to wave at the ducks and geese and say hello to the frogs. When he finally made it back to the riverbank, all the mice in the village had gathered to cheer him loudly. His brother was cheering the loudest!

‘I’m sorry I made fun of you and didn’t believe you. I’m so proud that you are the first mouse to row around the Great Big Lake!’ The mouse smiled. ‘I knew I could do it. It wasn’t a question of if but of how.’”

Grandpa looked down and smiled at Alfred. Alfred ran back into the garden. He stopped and thought. Not if he could blow a bubble but how. An idea came to him. He put his lips together and this time blew very gently. Alfred and his brother watched as the biggest shiniest bubble in the whole world floated up up up and away into the clouds.

 

 

DINO-mite! My children’s Intense Interests and a Book Review…

Welcome to my latest blog! Once again, it’s been a while. It was my 3-year olds birthday and Christmas wish-list that brought me to write another blog. Obsessions. Why? With my eldest 5 it was Thomas The Tank Engine and is now things that rhyme, my youngest is dinosaurs. We watch endless Andy’s Dinosaur or Prehistoric Adventures, have dinosaur books (as you can see in the photo!), dinosaur tops, dinosaur pyjamas, dinosaur underpants, dinosaur toys (some are really annoying – especially if the kids forget to switch them off and then forget they have got somewhere under the sofa) But why? Why do they get so fixated on one or two specific topics?

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Well I had a bit of a Google (so obvs am an expert now…*) and found out a couple of things. Apparently a study by Indiana and Wisconsin University showed that a good number of preschool children at some stage have intense interests and that this is more likely in boys than girls. When they reach school, this fascination in the interests decline at similar rates in both boys and girls.

https://www3.nd.edu/~kkelley/publications/articles/Alexander_Johnson_Leibham_Kelley_CD_2008.pdf

If a child has an intense interest, this can fuel the curiosity fire and make them want to learn more about a topic. It’s a great way to develop language (have you ever tried to get your tongue around some of those dinosaur names??) and to naturally learn how to research and problem solve. Most of all, if they have a special topic that they love, it’s a great way to have fun learning. Whether it’s dinosaurs, trains, fish, insects or even dressing up, join in their games, enjoy snuggle time on the sofa pouring over books, research answers to their questions and feed their passion. After all, we all learn best when we love what we’re learning!

Here are some interesting reads on the topic:

Childhood intense interests and obsessions: Dinosaurs, trains, princesses, horses, etc.

Scary Mommy: Intense Interests Intelligence

The Cut: Psychological explanation for kids love of dinos

*Genuine Experts – people working in education/research: Would love to hear your thoughts and findings on the topic!

BOOK REVIEW

The Dinosaur Who Lost Her Voice – by Julie Ballard and illustrations by Francesca Gambatesa published by Egmont

This beautiful rhyming picture book arrived in the post just before Christmas as a win in a giveaway. It’s about Milly Jo dinosaur who loves to sing more than anything in the world but one day a storm comes and a tree blows down on her neck and she loses her voice. With the help and support of her friends she comes to find a new incredible talent and once more the sounds of beautiful singing fill the jungle.

The Dinosaur Who Lost Her Voice really touched a chord and has a number of positive messages :

– As a parent it’s great to encourage my children to try new things and show them how important a can do attitude  is. It shows them how to overcome challenges in the face of adversity.

-As a dyslexic, for me, it’s demonstrates that there’s more than one way to achieve your potential, celebrates different talents and shows that hard work and persistence pays off. It would also potentially be a good resource for SENCO teacher or parents of children with SEND needs (would be great to know if anyone has used it for this reason and what their thoughts were!)

-As a reader it’s a great book for dinosaur fans with spot on rhymes and stunning illustrations and my children love it! Had to read it 4 times in one sitting 🙂

And I couldn’t leave the review without passing on a couple of questions to Milly Jo via her brilliant author Julie Ballard!

Q1: If Milly Jo could give her young readers any advice if they find themselves struggling to do something what would it be?
A1: Milly would say “Don’t lose heart and don’t give up. Nothing ever worth having came easily.” 

Q2: What is Milly Jo’s favourite song?
A2: One of Milly’s favourite songs she likes to perform with her choir is “Tomorrow” from the stage show Annie because the sun ALWAYS comes out!☀️

And on that very cheerful note I’d like to say thanks for reading my blog hope you enjoyed it! 💖

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.