Meeting a Dragon & Treasure Hunting at Caerphilly Castle

caerphilly castle

It has been a year since we took an amazing trip home. We had a long list of places and people we wanted to visit and top of the list for our stay in Wales was a castle. Growing up in Wales, I took it for granted that my kids would get to visit historical sites with school. Now, I need to pack all the things they can’t experience here, into our visits home.

caerphilly castle

Top of our list for our week in Wales, was a castle. There are so many castles in Wales it was difficult to choose the right one. I considered Castell Coch and Cardiff Castle, but eventually went for Caerphilly Castle, as it was the most traditional of the 3.  I wasn’t certain if it would be too ruinous or if there would be enough there to entertain the kids. As it turned out, it was the kids favourite day out in Wales.

They couldn’t wait to get to the castle as we walked towards it and when they were greeted by Dewi the real Welsh dragon, at the entrance, their excitement mounted.

dragon at caerphilly

Dewi, who first arrived at the castle on March 1st 2016,  is a star attraction at the castle. This May, he flew to Caernavon Castle, to join his sweetheart Dwynwen.  Dwynwen soon  laid two eggs. The eggs hatched into baby dragons Dylan and Cariad, on May 26th and are now taking on summer adventures across Wales. The dragons are an integral part of  Visit Wales’ 2017 Year of Legends, inspiring visitors to discover Wales’ rich folklore. Dewi has returned to his home at Caerphilly.

cadw dragons

Where can you meet Dwynwen and the baby Dragons?

12 -25 June Raglan Castle – Dwynwen and the baby Dragons.

27 June – 9 July  Tretower Court

11 – 30 July  Kidwelly Castle

1 – 13 August  Harlech Castle

15 – 28 Aug  Beaumaris Castle

Treasure Hunting

Included in the admission fee (£23.70 for a family ticket admitting 2 adults and up to 3 children under 16)  was a treasure hunt activity. The children visited every part of the castle looking for information to answer to clues that would lead them to the treasure.

caerphilly castle

We descended spiral staircases.

stairs caerphilly castle

Walked along balconies.

treasure hunt

through dark corridors

castle coridoor

and explored the grounds for clues.

caerphilly castle

After hours of fun (and a few painful feet from new shoes) we found the treasure.

kids activities caerphilly castle

The children exchanged their treasure hunts for a special prize in the gift shop. We admired the view and said our goodbye’s to Dewi, before heading home.

view from Caerphilly Castle

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What is a Dangle?

Disclaimer: contains Amazon Affiliate Link


My kids are captivated by this book, The Art of Drawing Dangles. I’d never heard of dangles before, so what is a dangle exactly?

Dangles, are a from of embellishing lettering by adding charms and patterns that dangle for the letters or shapes.  If you love pattern, design or intricate colouring, you will love dangles.

gymnast dangle
gymnast dangle
At first, I thought dangles looked complicated, but my 6 and 8 year old latched onto the book immediately. They followed the step by step designs and used them as inspiration for their own letter designs, patterns and pictures.  Some they coloured with gel pens and watercolour pencils.

dangle letters
Dangle letters by 8-yr old

My 8-year old exclaimed,
“I love drawing dangles. I just like drawing random shapes that don’t mean anything but look nice. I don’t do their designs (in the book), I do my own.”

To be honest, I’m completely blown away by their creations. These were created within the first few days of using the book; I’m excited to see how their skills and creativity will develop with practice.

dangle design by 6 year old
Heart design by 6-year old.
.Visit my Amazon associates store for other book recommendations:

 

 

Family Friendly Spaces: The Container Park Las Vegas.

container park by dayOn my recent trip to Vegas, I was surprised at the number of people trudging the strip with young children in tow. Though there are things for kids to do in Vegas, museums, shows, the Bellagio fountains and lounging by the pool, I’m pretty sure my kids would soon tire of walking up and down the strip.

If you visit Vegas with kids and want to get away from the strip, the container park is an exquisitely designed haven in the heart of downtown Vegas.

container park vegas

 

The container park as the name suggests, is fashioned from shipping containers. The 3 storey’s of shipping containers are transformed into shops, restaurants, bars and cafes.  The container park was built as part of a drive to transform Downtown Vegas and provide affordable spaces for new and small businesses.

container park

For the kids, there is a wonderful independent toy shop, Kappa Toys  whose  owner  is clearly passionate about toys.  I spent a long time in there choosing a perfect gift for my kids.  Another favourite was the vintage clothes shop, Vintage NV. We ate a delicious brunch  at The Perch, on the 2nd storey overlooking the rest of the park .

The Perch
The Perch

Below the Perch, is an open space with a stage, building materials and chalk boards for the kids.

The play and stage area container park
The stage and play space with comfortable seating for adults

In the centre of the park is a huge, well thought out, children’s playground and outside the playground is another small stage for children’s activities.

 

By night the container park is transformed into a civilised eating and drinking area, where people sit quietly at the wine or whiskey bar. It shuts down at 11pm so doesn’t attract a rowdy crowd.

container park by night

One of the highlights of the container park at night is the animated praying mantis that blows flames in time to music.

I loved the container park, I think every city should have one.

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Simple Art Project for Father’s Day

Materials

  • tin foil
  • cardboard
  • yarn/wool or string and/or wire
  • tape
  • sharpies or permanent marker pens.

father's day art

 

Method

  • Make the word DAD with yarn or wire and tape it to your card
  • make a pattern using yarn or string around the word dad and stick it down with glue or tape.
  • Cover the design with tin foil, wrapping it around the cardboard.
  • Smooth the tin foil gently to reveal the pattern beneath
  • Colour the word DAD in one colour (using multiple colours makes it difficult to read)
  • Colour the rest of the pattern, colouring each section in a different colour.

 

 

I Can’t Be a Teacher who Discourages Mess and Noise

For a teacher like me, who spent her teaching career with under 5’s, I am used to teaching in a messy, noisy environment.  Children are permitted and often encouraged to make a mess and be messy.

duck swimming down the waterfall

Young children need to do and create things on a large-scale. They use big chunky brushes, they use oversized pieces of paper, they are developing their motor skills through moving around in a large space, they build with big bricks, look at big books and work on the floor.

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Children are developing their language, communication and social skills. They are encouraged to talk as they learn, to ask questions, re-tell events, act out scenarios, explore sounds and negotiate with their peers.

If an early years classroom was always tidy and always quiet, I would be very concerned.

Early years classrooms are well organised. Resources have their place and children are shown how to return resources and take care of them.  But when the children are at play they are rarely tidy.

dens

Early years classrooms discourage shouting, teach children to take turns when talking in a group and are building the foundations of listening skills but much of their learning is verbal and kinetic so would not and should not be silent.

It makes me so sad to see children at desks in silence once they start school, children walking around the school without making a sound. It saddens me to see lots of whole class teaching where there is little room to be different, make choices or move around the classroom. Carpeted classrooms where we have to be so careful about making a mess, so there are no painting easels, water trays or sand boxes. Where the kindergartners don’t have an outdoor classroom to extend their space and experiences. Mostly, the teachers know that this isn’t right for the children, they do their best to bring fun into the classroom and make learning as active as possible, but their hands are tied by environments, school policies and by national or state curriculum and assessment.

Sometimes I think I should return to teaching to show that there is another way. Mostly, I think I’d end up demoralised, frustrated and constrained by a system with very different values.

Yesterday, for our final art lesson, I wanted the children to have fun with art, to work on a large-scale and be messy. It was to be an outdoor celebration of art.  My plan was to set up a number of art stations outdoors and have a volunteer on each station.  This didn’t quite work to plan due to a shortage of volunteers so I scaled it down to 3 activities.

Activity one

I taped paper to the base of a large paddling pool. The children squirted tempura paint in different colours into the pool.  I then threw in a variety of balls. We worked together, holding the pool and tilting it to make the balls roll in the paint and make a pattern. The children squealed with laughter. They took it in turns to send the balls towards different members of the class and tried different techniques to make balls of different weights and sizes move.

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Activity two

I added powder paint to pots of bubbles and mixed it well.  A large piece of paper was taped to the wall and the children used a variety of bubble wands to blow the coloured bubbles onto the paper and make it pop. They enjoyed touching it with their hands as it popped and dripped down the wall leaving splashes on the floor.

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Activity Three

I would have done this one outside on a large piece of paper too, but I felt the teacher felt more comfortable at a table, so this activity was moved inside. The children blew paint onto their paper with straws and then used sharpies to turn the shape into a character or person.

My teacher was a substitute. She greeted me with a bewildered look when I described the projects. Her face suggested she was unsure that I had thought it through and that it would be a logistical nightmare to manage.

I suppose our priorities were different. I didn’t care if the kids were noisy and overexuberant. I wanted to see them laugh, explore and take risks. I didn’t mind if transitions weren’t completely orderly. The children were excited by what they had experienced and what they were to try next. I didn’t mind if the children were messy and paint got onto the playground. The paint was washable and the weather would wash it away. I didn’t mind that the end product wasn’t beautiful or particularly thoughtful. I  wanted them to see that we don’t always have to sit at a desk to paint, that we can create with our whole bodies and with a variety of materials. I didn’t have a learning goal. I wanted the children to share a new experience and to have fun.

Children from other grades who were out at recess, came flocking to see what we were doing, they looked on with envy. The Kindergarten children were full of joy, they talked freely amongst themselves and to me, without inhibition and they helped me to lay the pieces to dry, placing rocks to stop them blowing away. They enjoyed the responsibility, before returning to the classroom to sit at desks, eat their snack and listen to a story in silence.

If you have thoughts about spaces for children Suzanne Axelsson is collecting information about how space affects children’s play and learning outcomes and also, more importantly, how it affects your teaching…. if you cannot teach the way children learn, then it is going to have a HUGE impact…  You can respond to her questions and engage in a conversation about learning spaces here.

 

 

10 Outdoor Painting Activities

WP_20160606_003This week we have been painting pebbles. We used a mixture of our own designs and some that we found online.  The ones that we liked we sprayed with mod podge so that the rain wouldn’t wash them away.

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In the summer it is so much easier to paint outside and with more space and capacity for mess you can be more creative with your painting activities.  Here are a couple of our favourites.

  1.  Spray paintingWP_20160422_003

 

Save your old spray bottles and fill with paint to spray on an easel attached to a fence or on the floor. You can also tape images or leaves onto the paper to make prints.

2.  Splat painting

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Fill a stocking with sand, drop it from a height and watch it splat.

3. Paint the ground

painting stepping stones

Use watercolour paint or pavement chalk paint and it will wash away.

4. Paint with water

outdoor play
It’s a roly-copter.

Use different types of brushes and paint rollers

5. Foot painting

large scale painting

6. Print leaves

 

printing with leaves

We painted this giant leaf in stripes and pressed the paper on top to make a print.

7. Bubble painting

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Add dish detergent to paint and blow with a straw. When the bubbles come over the top print onto a piece of paper. Alternatively you could add paint to bubble mixture and blow bubbles onto paper and watch them pop.

8. Paint a snowman

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Outdoor painting needn’t be confined to the Summer. In winter paint a snow sculpture or paint on snow or ice.

9. Ice painting

painting with ice cubes

Freeze ice cubes of paint with a stick inside. As they melt you can make a picture. You could also sprinkle powder paint onto blocks of ice to make patterns.

10. Body painting and Face painting

dragon face paint

My kids love to get the face paints out in the summer, their designs get more elaborate as they practice.  You don’t have to stick to faces, body painting is fun or paint tattoos on their arms and legs.

10 Outdoor Painting Activities

 

New Books to Inspire Family Crafts

Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My family love to create things together but sometimes we need a little nudge of inspiration. These 3 new books from Quarto books  are perfect to inspire ideas that will take us through the summer.

Stick it to ‘Em

Stick it to ‘Em is your invitation to create customized stickers. With just a hint of silly irreverence, this guide includes a list of colorful art tools in addition to easy drawing and lettering techniques and step-by-step tutorials, all designed to get your cheeky creativity flowing. You’ll then be treated to more than 35 pages of stickers, including a selection of fully designed styles to use any way you like, a variety of stickers to color in, and blank stickers to create your own.

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This one was my teenage daughter’s favourite. The beginning of the book teaches how to design stickers using water-colour and she used this as inspiration.  She also took some of the ready-made stickers to decorate her laptop.

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My younger girls liked the stickers that you colour in but may very well be inspired by their big sister’s creations. Some of the slogans on the ready-made stickers are not really suitable for young kids. Though they are meant to be sassy, a few refer to drinking or have acronyms I wouldn’t want my children using, so choose your stickers wisely if you have younger children.

Hand Lettering A-Z

Hand Lettering A to Z is a fun, hands-on book in which artist and calligrapher Abbey Sy presents her creative lettering and invites artists from several countries to contribute alphabets of their own–all unique, all hand drawn. Each alphabet is paired with a collection of phrases to show readers different ways to use the lettering and have fun with it in different languages, including French, Spanish, Irish, Swedish and Portuguese. Readers can use the phrases when making cards, gifts, or embellishing their journals. And unlike calligraphy, hand lettering does not require disciplined study. Hand-drawn lettering is meant to be personal and original, so even beginners can dive in.

 This one is really useful for us. My kids love to make signs and last year we made some for the garden.

Bee Friendly sign

Lettering isn’t always easy without a stencil but this book has given us inspiration to try new ideas and enhance what we have already tried. My 8-yr-old looked through the book and was a little confused as to how we could use it. We went through it together and I explained that the book shows you how to make different fonts step by step and how to add designs to create your own. She tried out a few in black and white to experiment.

hand lettering

 

Mom & Me Art Journal

This full-color art journal for mums and kids to colour and draw together in is designed to be a sharing experience. Mum and child can write each other letters, draw what scares them, imagine what they want to be when they are grown up, color a scene using only one favorite color, whatever their imaginations lead them to.

Mom and Me: An Art Journal to Share is filled with fun hand-lettering and artwork from Bethany Robertson along with creative prompts from licensed art therapist Lacy Mucklow. Mucklow offers up the best ways to communicate with a child through creating together; how to start an open conversation with your child; questions you can ask that will help generate thoughtful responses; and how to tailor the quality time so it’s still fun and engaging for your child.

I love the concept of this book and the activities inside are really well thought out. My 8-year-old said she couldn’t wait to share it with me.  If I could change anything, it would be the title. Aside from my purely personal dislike of the word mom, I feel that this book is excluding dad’s thus I would have liked it to have been entitled Parent & Me. Perhaps there is a dad version on the way?

The book is designed to be used flexibly.  Topics may be chosen based on issues encountered within your family or simply as a springboard for talking.  Children often find it easier to express feelings through drawing or writing, so the book encourages parents to share experiences together. There is no right or wrong way to use the book. As a mother of 3 children of different ages and very different needs, I think I would spend time individually with each of them but also copy the pages and work with all 3 of them together so we could share different points of view. I also think this might encourage teenagers who might not want to share, as they guide and support their younger siblings.  In a similar way I think some of the activities would work really well in a classroom.

The section on feelings has activities like drawing what makes you happy, sad and angry. These could be appropriate for any age group. Some activities, like drawing your inside and outside self  may be a little abstract for younger children or may need illustrative examples and discussions to explain. Allowing time to talk and share ideas is an important element to this book as I feel some of the concepts are difficult to express, particularly  the in the moment section. I would start with feelings and/ or imagination, particularly with children who worry about presenting their ideas.

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