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!

Dragon Activities and a Scorching Hot Book Review

It’s a tricky time at the moment. Everyone seems to be in meltdown (at the supermarkets!) or lock down (with the kids at home) I’m currently prepping for some form of home-schooling for next week with a 5 year old and 3yo. 5yo loves trying to write, lego, board games and drawing maps. 3yo loves eating, climbing on every item of furniture, drawing (whether it’s on paper or walls) and finds things like headbutting me at full pelt hilarious. Then he gives me the most amazing cuddles. It should be interesting. Truthfully, I’m actually looking forward to spending time with them and hubby who typically works long hours. Also truthfully, ask me again in a week’s time:

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One thing both my boys love is DRAGONS. I’ve tried to think of a couple of dragon related activities to do with them (minus fire – health and safety first!) Hope you have fun with these activities!

TO DOWNLOAD AS PDF CLICK HERE: DRAGON ACTIVITIES

  • Pin the tail on the dragon:

Prep:  Draw a picture of a dragon minus the tail on some paper or card and make a tail out of card/paper separately. Put re-useable adhesive (eg. Blu-tack)  on the back of tail. Put picture of the dragon up on wall.

Game: Blindfold the first player, give them the tail and spin them round 3 times. Player then has to try and pin the tail on the dragon. Player who gets the tail the closest to wear it should be wins.

  • What time is it Firey Dragon:

OK (If it’s not obvious!) I’ve pinched this one from “What time is it Mr Wolf?” but used dragons instead. One person is the Firey Dragon.  The other players stand at other side of garden or room and shout “WHAT TIME IS IT FIREY DRAGON?” The dragon answers with a chosen a time eg. 2 o’clock. The other players then take that number of steps forward. Repeat until players are closer or Firey Dragon decides to chase. At that point the players shout “WHAT TIME IS IT FIREY DRAGON?” and firey dragon shouts back “BARBEQUE TIME!!!” and chases and the others try to run away. Whichever player the dragon catches, then becomes Firey Dragon.

  • Find the Dragon Egg – Hot and cold:

Make a dragon egg either use a rock and pretend, or if you’re feeling more creative make one out of Papier mâché or even draw an egg on a piece of card and cut out. One person is the knight and the others are the dragons.  The knight has to close his/her eyes or go in a different room while the dragons hide the egg somewhere (home or garden). The dragon has to look for it and the knights shout warm, warmer, hot and if the dragon is almost on the egg “boiling!” if the dragon moves further away then it gets colder until freezing! When the dragon finds an egg, it becomes a knight and someone takes their place.

And now for the book review…Dragon themed of course 🙂

BOOK REVIEW

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The Boy Who Grew Dragons – by Andy Shepherd and illustrations by Sarah Ogilvie. Published by Piccadilly Press

You’ve heard of dragon fruit right? But did you know that they are actual dragon plants? As in dragons grow from them… No? Well neither did Tomas. Until a dragon popped out one night. Much trickier than cucumbers! But for all the poo in the porridge and burnt rucksacks the dragons are definitely loveable trouble! Even if they are difficult to keep secret. My 5yo son adores this book – it’s funny, it’s imaginatively written, beautifully illustrated and IT’S GOT DRAGONS IN IT!!! What’s not to love?! And the special bond Tomas has with his grandfather is just incredible and makes me think of the lovely relationship that my boys have with their own grandparents. We can’t wait to read the other books in the series The Boy Who Lived With Dragons and The Boy Who Flew With Dragons which are out now. Very much recommend this book and am very excited to see that there are more books planned in the future (check out the Q&A below, with highly imaginative and very lovely author Andy Shepherd, for details!)

Thanks for reading the blog and review!

Q&A with Andy Shepherd

Q1: If Tomas were on Gardener’s Question Time what advice would he give
to anyone thinking of growing dragons?
A1: Keep your eyes open for a tree that looks like an upturned mop head, with
sprouty cactus leaves and a hairy knobbly trunk. Before any dragon fruit grow
you’ll see vivid yellow and orange tendrils, shooting out from the cactus
leaves, like a burst of flames. Next will come a moon-white flower, but if you
want to see it you’ll have to camp out in the garden because it only flowers at
night!
Once the fruits start to grow they change from green to red – now you can
start getting excited because a red fruit means the dragon is ready to hatch!
Top tips:
Don’t over water your dragon-fruit tree – like all cacti it doesn’t like soggy feet.
Invest in some good quality poly tunnels to protect your vegetables – once the
dragons start bursting out of the dragon fruits the first thing they look for is
nice tasty veg to give them fuel for their trip North.
Keep oven gloves and a hose at the ready to deal with the dragon poo they
leave behind – dragon poo has a nasty habit of exploding when it dries out!
Make sure you have a bench by the dragon-fruit tree. When the dragons start
hatching you will want to lay down your tools and watch the magic. You never
know what dragon might grow next – perhaps it will have scales that ripple
and shimmer like sunlight on the sea or breathe rainbow sparks that light up
your garden like tiny fireworks. Growing dragons is A LOT more trouble than
growing cucumbers, but there is also A LOT more magic in a dragon!
Happy dragon growing!
Q2: What is the best thing about having a dragon as a pet?
A2: When they are small and they sleep next to you, their warm scales are like a
hot water bottle. And when they settle on your shoulder, their tails curl round
your neck and their warm breath tickles your ear. Then when they get big you
can soar across the sky on their back, hollering to the stars, the whole world
stretching below you.
NB Dragons aren’t really pets. We grow dragons and they are our friends. We
look after them and the tree they grow from. But they don’t belong to us.
Dragons belong to themselves.
Q3: Any plans for more books?
A3: The fourth book ‘The Boy Who Dreamed of Dragons’ is coming out in June
and then in January 2021 there will be a fifth book, ‘The Boy Who Sang With
Dragons’.
In the next part of the story Tomas meets some new friends, both human and
dragon. When Zing a sparky little dragon with oversized wings hatches there’s
a whole lot more trouble in the garden. Then when a new girl, Aura, arrives at
school declaring herself to be Queen of the Dragons, Tomas finds life
changing even more.
But as Grandad says ‘If nothing changed, nothing would grow. And things
need to grow. Even us.’

 

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!

🍂 🍄🍂🍁🍄🍁🍂🍄🍂🍁🍄🍁🍂🍄🍂

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
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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!)