Category Archives: imagination

Play With Shadow Puppets with Black Forest Theater Presents Dinosaurs (Book Review).

Black Forest Theater Presents Dinosaurs is a book set with everything a child will need to investigate shadow puppets.

The set, hand crafted by Montana Toy Company, includes

  • A theatre backdrop
  • An interactive storybook about dinosaurs
  • An Led light that stands up
  • 5 dinosaur shadow puppets with removable sticks
  • A protective cover.

The backdrop is sturdy and stands up well. We set it up and assembled the shadow puppets and the light.

Black forest theater

 

The children had to figure out for themselves the best position for the light and puppets to enable the shadows to reflect onto the backdrop.  I feel that a page of instructions may have been helpful although there is also a part of me that liked them having to work it out for themselves. Perhaps a little section in the book about the science of shadows would be good?

shadow puppets montana toy company

 

The puppets are made of sturdy black card and the sticks have Velcro attachments so you can change the position if desired.  I can see these being popular in a pre-school especially as a prop for an overhead projector.  I would introduce the materials using the rhyming book and then let the children create their own stories.

My children enjoyed inventing their own story with the puppets.

Black Forest Theater – Dinosaurs retails for $29.99

Disclaimer: No payment was received for writing this review, we received a product for review purposes.

 

Advertisements

How to Make Jim Henson Inspired Hand Puppets

Following our visit to the Jim Henson exhibition and the girls fascination with puppet play, they wanted to try making hand puppets.

When they were younger we watched this inspirational video from the 1960’s, where Jim Henson talks about making muppets.

We made a few puppets from old tights with foam pieces for the mouth. The girls didn’t like the foam mouths as it restricted their fingers.

This time, they are a little older and have their own ideas (always better than mine) for making puppets.

The first puppet was made with a sock.  We used a sock from an aeroplane wash kit. They followed the steps on the video and I helped them with ideas.

How to make a Sock Puppet

  1. Cut an oval of cardboard and fold it.

img_2255

2. Place the cardboard inside the sock and secure with an elastic band to make a mouth.

making a sock puppet

3. Add eyes. We used adhesive Velcro strips to join on our eyes and nose.

img_2261

4. Add a nose. We used a pompom.

making a sock puppet

5. Add hair.  Use wool, string or fur. This was also joined on with Velcro but you could also stitch it on.

how to make a sock puppet

Step 6: Add a tongue. We made a paper tongue and glued it on but you could also use felt or fabric.

how to make a sock puppet

My daughter named her Izzy. I think she is an amazing addition to our puppet collection.

Here she is in action.

How to Make a Puppet from an Envelope

The Jim Henson video also inspired them to make a puppet from an envelope.

1.  Fold the envelope into a beak shape and decorate it.

puppet making

2. Glue the envelope head onto a sock. We used double sided pads used for sticking pictures to the wall.

how to make a hand puppet

3. Wrap material around the sock .

How to make a puppet

4.  If desired add clothes and make hands using sticks and cardboard. American Girl doll, or build a bear clothes work well.

how to make a puppet

They decided this one should be called Pierre.

Here is Pierre in action.

Young Puppeteers: Puppet Play Inspired by the Jim Henson Exhibition at MoPop

My love for Jim Henson’s creations isn’t a secret. As most children of the 70’s and 80’s, I grew up watching Sesame Street, The Muppets and Fraggle Rock. I love the Muppet Movies new and old, I cried buckets when I watched the documentary ‘Being Elmo’ and my greatest ambition is to sing on Sesame Street some day.

My love affair with puppets began when I was nine years old and bought Snoopy and Charlie Brown marionettes with my Christmas money.  I joined the Pelham puppets club, who would send me magazines with short play scripts in them. My granddad made me a wooden puppet theatre with a hand painted back drop and curtains you could open and close.  I would perform the plays with my friends and remember making costumes for my puppets and performing a show about a witch for my Brownie pack.

Being an early years teacher, gives me the perfect excuse to continue buying puppets as an adult. I love the way young children respond to puppets and they are invaluable props for my parent and toddler music groups.  My girls have inherited most of my collection and added some of their own.

I have been looking forward to the Jim Henson exhibition at MoPop since the summer.  We decided to save our visit until the winter when the wet weather often drives us indoors. The Jim Henson Imagination Unlimited exhibition continues until 25th February, so there is still chance to visit.

The first part of the exhibition explains Jim Henson’s early career. Jim Henson started out by manipulating his puppets to sing along to  music tracks. At the exhibition, you can choose a puppet, and a track and record the puppets miming along to the music.  The girls were totally captivated and loved watching themselves on the screen. It was difficult to drag them away.

The other sections feature Jim Henson most famous creations.  The journey begins with Sesame Street.  I was very exited to see Ernie and Bert, Grover and the Count.

The girls learned about the generic  blue puppet used in Sesame Street to create multiple characters. The puppet is blank and features are stuck onto the face to change its appearance,  according to the requirements of the script.  The girls played at creating different characters.  We have a similar puppet at home, made by playskool. The girls have made additional features from felt with Velcro attached.

My favourite part of the Muppets section, was a fascinating video explaining how Miss Piggy and Kermit were able to ride bicycles in one of the muppet movies.

The girls loved showing off their theatrical poses and seeing their favourite character, Beaker.

The final section showed exhibits from The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and Fraggle Rock.

img_2163

Outside of the exhibition was a muppet stage set up with miniature instruments. You choose your puppet, a piece of muppet music and create your own puppet show. The girls thought this was wonderful and they were surprisingly good at it.

This inspired them to make a puppet show at home. They often make puppet shows on the stairs, peeking over the bannister. This time, we made a screen from our photo backdrop.  The girls went to town customising it and spent the next few days writing a muppet show, full of jokes, magic, music and dancing.

My favourite was four puppets singing along to the Pentatonix sugar plum fairy.

The song features Kermit, the wotnot, and one of our favourite puppets, a Melissa and Doug ballerina named Peh .The girls called her Peh because when she dances her hair falls in her face, so to get it out of her eyes, she tosses her head, saying, ‘peh’.

We have a few recent additions to our collection.

Melissa and Doug chef

Melissa and Doug cowboy and his cow.

A giraffe

And a cute cat.

We’re now adding even more to our collection, as I’ve discovered Goodwill online is great place to find unusual puppets at great prices. I’m a little bit hooked. I recently won an amazing Jim Henson puppet ( more on that to come soon).

I love how the puppets have inspired them to create stories, costumes and props. They have also become interested in how puppets are made, what makes a particularly good puppet and how to be a ventriloquist. I’ll share some of their home made puppets in a future post.

Disclaimer: this post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase products via these links, I receive a small compensation.

Why Ice is the Perfect Loose Part

Why ice is the perfect loose part

My children are fascinated by ice. I’ve added loose parts to ice before, but never considered that ice could in itself be a loose part.

When the cold weather comes, the first thing my kids do is to check if their water table has frozen and any other containers they have left around the garden.

ice
the cauldron has loads of ice in, not like yesterday. How can we break it?

The next thing they like to do is to go to the storm pond near their friends house to see if it has frozen.

Last year it froze solid for the first time. The kids loved throwing sticks to try to break it and even ice skated on it.

ice skating on the pond

When the ice wasn’t solid enough to walk on, it was just as fascinating.

The children broke off the surface, ice sheets very carefully and had competitions to see who could break the largest piece.

carrying a sheet of ice

My youngest insisted on carrying pieces home, even though her fingers were numb and left them on the doorstep to see how long they would remain frozen.

When the pieces broke, they used them to make these pictures.

Ice is a perfect loose part. It

  • Encourages expoloration
  • Is a full sensory experience
  • Can be any shape or size
  • Can be easily found
  • Presents challenges as it changes form.
  • The children can help create it in different shapes and forms
  • And is fascinatingly beautiful
Ice
I broke this piece – look at all the lovely patterns.

If you don’t live in a cold climate you could make your own in moulds in the freezer or place a few bags of ice outside and see how the children explore.

 

ice on bare feet

child looking at ice
This piece looks like a magnifier. I can look through it – see.

 

Do Hallowe’en Celebrations Encourage Greed? Send a Different Message with Goodwill.

 

IMG_2103

There are many things I love about Hallowe’en, but it can easily be perceived as a festival that encourages children to be greedy. It certainly seemed that way to me when I first moved here.

  • How many goodies can they collect?
  • Who gives the biggest and best treats?
  • Who has the most elaborate costume?

It doesn’t have to be that way. Hallowe’en can be a perfect opportunity to encourage children to reuse, recycle and support their community. A number of initiatives persuade children to trade in  excess candy and if we help children make their own costumes, they can utilise objects that might otherwise be thrown away. One thing I hadn’t considered until now is that donating and shopping at Goodwill thrift stores could help my kids be more socially responsible this Hallowe’en.

Last week I was invited, with a group of fellow Seattle bloggers, to visit the Milgard Work Opportunity Centre in Tacoma,  a job training centre funded by Goodwill.  When I donate or buy from Goodwill, I am glad to be reducing landfill and helping a good cause but I’ve never really looked into where the money actually goes.

Goodwill thrift store profits and donations, fuel programs that help people with limited income, disabilities and disadvantages to overcome barriers to education and employment. There was a lot to take in at our visit, the facility was inspirational and the staff and young people were unreservedly passionate about the facility. The model reminded me of Children’s Centres in the UK – a one stop shop with multi-agencies under one roof but for young adults rather than families. A place to go for training, support and education.

Youth Build
Learning construction skills at the Youth Build Program

Some of the facilities available at the Milgard Work Opportunity Centre are:

  • A job resource room
  • Barista training
  • A culinary school (they served us a really delicious, high quality lunch)
  • Financial advice
  • Youth build (learning the construction trade whilst working towards the GED)
  • Drop in Math support
  • GED program
  • Warehouse and Logistics Training
  • Computer and Office Skills Training

The following graphic explains the centre’s  community impact.

The People served by Goodwill

The second part of our visit was to the Goodwill  Hallowe’en Thrift Store in Spanaway – the largest such store in the country.  It was a treasure trove of costumes and accessories.

img_1898

 

I rarely buy new costumes. Part of the thrill of dressing up for Hallowe’en is deciding on a costume and using materials from Goodwill, Buy Nothing Groups or things we have at home, to create something unique. Rushing to buy the an expensive, ready-made costume feels like cheating to me.

Some of my favourite costumes over the years, have been made from simple materials. This girl in my daughter’s class  was a vending machine-made from a cardboard box.

vending machine costume

Every year my daughter’s school dance in the Thrill the World Event in Redmond Town Centre. The zombie costumes are great fun to make and each year they decide on a theme. Last year we put together this Hamilton inspired zombie from a dress somebody donated.

hamilton zombie

My younger daughter is joining in this year and wants to be a zombie fairy.  I found some great items at the Goodwill Costume Store which I will share with you soon. We have a family trip to Goodwill scheduled this week. My youngest wants to make a bat costume and  I’m hoping the others will  find inspiration for their costumes. I’ll share the fruits of our labours soon.

I know it can be tempting to simply run out and buy a ready-made costume but consider these great reasons for creating your own.

  • Recycling old costumes and clothes helps reduce landfill
  • Your costume will be truly unique
  • Encourages creative thinking
  • Encourages working together and problem solving
  • Learn skills
  • Encourages sharing as you request materials from friends and community.
  • Reduces costs
  • Encourages forward planning and design
  • It is a great family activity
  • It raises money for worthy causes.

 

 

Why not donate last years costumes at a local thrift store/ charity shop or organise a costume swap to encourage your kids to recycle and help those less fortunate?

 

 

 

Whittling with Kids

Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon affiliate links, this means if you purchase any  products using these links, I will receive a small commission.sticks to whittle

The girls are totally hooked on the television survival series Alone and eager to go out into the woods and test out their skills. My 6-year-old can often be found attempting to whittle a stick with a pair of blunt ended scissors.  It worried me that she didn’t have the correct tools to do this properly and I felt it may be more dangerous to whittle with scissors than with a suitable knife.

My husband bought my eldest a knife when she was younger, so we discussed when might be a suitable time to introduce the younger girls to knife skills. I always believe that when children show a strong interest in learning a skill, then the time is right to introduce them to the appropriate tools. My youngest has very strong motor skills and co-ordination and follows instructions well. The girls are able to peel vegetables with a peeler and  have practised chopping fruit and vegetables with a small kitchen knife. With this in mind, we decided the time was right to buy the girls their first knives.

My husband researched the knives used by a local wilderness school and decided on the morakniv fixed blade outdoor knife.  The knives are the perfect size for little hands. They have  a grip handle, sharp blade and a sheath with a clip belt. They come in a variety of colours. We chose neon colours, so they would be able to see them easily.

The first lesson was how to get the knife out of its sheath. They were a little frightened at first but soon got the hang of it. These knives have a bump at the side to remind the children of the correct way to face the knife when removing it from the sheath.

The children have to follow the following rules and guidelines:-

  1. They are only to use the knives under adult supervision
  2. Always put the knife back in its sheath when not in use.
  3. The knives are to be stored in a special drawer and always put away after use.
  4. Never cut towards their hands (they’ve seen what happens if this rule is broken on Alone).
  5. Always sit down when using the knife
  6. Always keep their eyes on what they are doing. If they need to look away, put the knife away first.

IMG_1768

The girls loved whittling sticks and were desperate to try other projects. I bought them a book on whittling, The Little Book of Whittling.  Some of the projects were difficult with their knives because the blade was too long.  On our camping trip this summer, we bought them a multi tool with a smaller knife. With this, they were able carve more successfully and new skills were learned.  They learned how to  fold it safely and we only had one small accident when my youngest closed it a little to close to her hand.  This made the girls more careful in future.

Whittling has been the favourite pastime of the summer. I had to spend a lot of time supervising them, and my garden is littered with bits of wood and splinters but they have had so much fun and learned a lot.

One of my favourite projects, was sharpening sticks to put in the ground and make a playground. They added string to join pieces together and made a zip wire, slide, climbing frame and monkey bars.

IMG_1738
The slide
IMG_1879
My personal favourite, the zip wire for teddy

They spent a lot of time stripping  bark from sticks. Some they used for tent pegs, some they sharpened to make arrows and sometimes they simply whittled the sticks for fun.

They also learned to split pieces of wood with a knife. They used a thick stick as a hammer to push the knife through the wood.

splitting wood

They attempted to make a spoon, like one of the contestants on Alone, but hollowing out wood was a little tricky with their knives. They found it much easier with the multi tool.

attempting to make a spoon

They came up with all kinds of imaginative projects,some more successful than others. In the video my daughter demonstrates how she is making a rain collector. The large stick on the floor is the one they used as a hammer, to split sticks. You can clearly see the difficulty the girls had with hollowing sticks. This project remained unfinished, which is just as well considering we haven’t had any rain this summer!

I can’t wait to see what they achieve as they become more skilled.

 

Storytelling with Shadow Puppets

I recently cleaned out the linen cupboard and gave the kids a huge bag of old sheets to play with. They like to make-up stories and turn them into royal capes or build dens with them. In amongst them was a white sheet. I thought it could be used to build a shadow puppet theatre in the garden.  We have a swing set that isn’t safe to use, so I removed one of the swings and fastened the sheet to the frame.

outdoor shadow puppet theatre

The children and I made puppets from cardboard. The children chose characters and I helped them draw them in silhouette. They collected sticks from the garden, whittled them to smooth them out and stuck the cardboard characters on with tape.

home made shadow puppets

I also found images of hand shadows. I printed and laminated them and stuck them  on the swing set frame for reference.

hand shadows

We had to do a bit of work cutting back the tree branches to make a clear screen, but soon it was ready. The magical stories they have created have been wonderful.  I think this would be a great resource for a school or pre-school to encourage story telling and build the foundations of story writing. You could build it outdoors or inside with a light source behind.

 

Videoing the story showed the children where they needed to improve. They saw that sometimes you couldn’t see the characters well because they were too low or placed at an angle. They also noticed that the size of the puppet changed according to how close to the screen it was.

I love the way my daughter played with accents and voices.  It particularly love the voice of the bird and banana man in the land of the forgotten.

 

Shadows, like mud are a great, free play resource – check out some of our other shadow explorations or follow my shadow and light pinterest board