The biggest annual celebration of books and reading is coming soon - 4th March will see the 15th World Book Day event in England and Ireland, but the origins can actually be found in Spain!
On 23rd April 1616 one of Spain's most famous authors, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, died. Better known simply as Cevantes, he wrote Don Quixote. On that same day in England, William Shakespeare, our most celebrated author also died.
But it's not just because of these two authors we celebrate 23rd April - it is also St George's Day which is very significant because in Spain on 23rd April it is customary for men to give roses to their lovers. Since 1925 it has become the custom for the women to give their men in return, a book. Many booksellers today still carry on the tradition is Spain, you'll often get a rose in your new book if bought on this day.
It is for these reasons that UNESCO deemed this date most appropriate to celebrate books in all their glory. Children especially are encouraged to take a book and read it! Children all over the world will do so each year!
In the UK the date was revised in order for World Book day to fall in March when children are mid term at school rather than on school holidays.
Nowadays it's an important part of the calendar and schools and children celebrate it all over the country. Some will wear costumes to school dressed as their favourite characters, others will dress in their pyjamas to stress the importance of the bedtime story. Whatever you do, just don't forget to do something with a book on 4th March - and make it fun!
Dramatic play is a great way to encourage communication, teach your children about social behaviour and show them how they should respond in unfamiliar situations. It is a means by which children can imitate adults and act out various situations. But, remember even dramatic play, is still play! Don't make it arduous. It's just a way to re-enact situations or practice behaviour and use their imagination! Most of all, its a way to have some FUN!
When children dress up and do dramatic play, they can try out new roles, experiment with behaviour and watch for other people's reaction. It's a way to further understand their world.
How can you encourage this type of play? Here are a few tips.
Be a playmate. Don't just tell them what to do; get down there and play with them! If you become a playmate, an equal, it will seem that you are both on the same level and this may encourage dramatic play. Act out going shopping, going out for coffee, going to a library. Get your child to talk and act like the shopkeeper or librarian. Choose a situation that your child will relate to. Keep it casual, keep it simple and keep it fun.
Don't interfere. If you want to encourage creative, dramatic play try not in interfere too much or lead the game. Try not to suddenly announce all stop for lunch and spoil the flow. Why not have lunch in the underground cave or on the pretend plane? Play along with what they are doing. Welcome their ideas.
Space. Creative play needs space so try to create some space that can be used and not worry too much about it getting messy or untidy! A dining room table can become a cavern, the sofas can be moved round to create an indoor play house. It can all be tidied away afterwards! It helps the children be creative in their play and makes them feel they are a little in control of the game if their ideas of building a blanket rocket are not always met with a no!
Ideas. Use things you see or read about as ideas for imaginative play. Create a fairy cave or a vets on the moon in your living room and try and encourage any ideas your child has.
It's a good idea to have a collection of bits and pieces that you can use again and again for dramatic play. You could use an old cardboard container as a prop box and keep some useful props in there at the ready. Or, just gather the bits and pieces as you need them. Below are some ideas of things to put together to really make a bit of imaginative play into something really special - especially if you permit your child to use real, grown-up items!
Ideas for a prop box:
Put a bit of thought into your dramatic play together and you'll find you both really enjoy it!
Children love imaginative play and will enjoy our ideas for obstacle courses and treasure hunts! You can adapt these ideas for indoor or outdoor play, and for the garden or a park.
Set up an obstacle course in the garden by taking a variety of items, such as balls, plastic toys (kids' garden tools or some basic toys from inside), string or rope, flower pots and anything else that might be found in the garden. Create obstacles where your children have to balance, weave in and out of hurdles placed on the ground, jump over and climb under things. Create a 'river' with two sticks placed a couple of feet apart and have your toddlers avoid the crocodiles in it by jumping over them. Place a stepping stone in the middle that they must step on. Have them weave in and out of flower pots to avoid a bear that's chasing them! Make up different imaginary obstacles and your children will soon run riot with their own thinking!
If you're stuck inside, you won't have so much space but you can still create snake pits to jump over, furniture to manouvre around and other creative problems to tackle!
Create a treasure hunt by taking stones and wrapping them in foil. Hide them around the garden or indoors and have your children search for them. Keep your obstacles in place, so they still have to take care crossing the river, avoid the bears and so on!
You only need to invent a few different obstructions and imaginary scenes and your children will be happy running around for ages!
Papier mache craft is one of the cheapest and easiest activities to undertake with the kids - it might be messy, but make your own paste and it is perfectly safe! It's also a great activity to bear in mind if you suddenly get caught out on a rainy day with a depleted craft cupboard; you'll probably have the resources required in the home.
Make a child-safe paste by mixing one part flour to five parts water. Place it in a saucepan, bring it to the boil and then simmer for 3 minutes. Allow it to cool and you have your paste.
For paper, simply use old newspaper. Cut it into strips, dip it in your homemade paste, then stick it onto your surface. To apply, take each strip of paper, dip it in the paste to cover it completely then apply it to your mould or over the previous layers. Add about three layers at a time then allow to dry - of you add too many layers at once it will take much longer to dry. Build up to as many layers as you need to give the required thickness.
So, what to make? If you have a balloon then use this as a mould. Cover the balloon all over with papier mache, when all your layers are dry burst the balloon and you're left with a terrific head to paint and add features to. To make a mask, just cover one half of the balloon and remove the balloon when your paste has dried.
Why not make a scene? Take a large piece of cardboard, create some texture by scrunching up bits of paper and laying them onto your surface, then apply your papier mache. When the paste has dried, paint it and add other features. Use leaves and twigs from the garden or park to create a country scene, paint it blue and add plasticine ships to make a turbulent sea!
Try making a monster, or an elephant? ...build a park, with a pond, for children or a treasure island?! The possibilities are limitless; enjoy craft at its easiest and your kids will love to create!
Most classic fairy tales have origins in the oral tradition when stories were passed from generation to generation by word of mouth, but the fact that many survive today is down to the efforts of a few individuals. Whilst some well known tales can be dated back to Greek and Roman times, we have to be thankful to the people that retold the stories over the generations and especially to those that later wrote and published the works when printing evolved.
Amongst the earliest published works of children's stories was a book written by Frenchman Charles Perrault (1628 - 1703), Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals which is today still widely known today by its subtitle Tales of Mother Goose. Published in 1697 it records the earliest known written accounts of such classics as Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Puss in Boots and Sleeping Beauty.
These and many more tales were later collected and republished by two German academics who had devoted their studies to linguistics but also collected and published children's stories. Jacob (1785 - 1863) and Wilhelm Grimm (1786 - 1859) are better known as the Brothers Grimm. They retold many of the tales of Perrault, and more. Their stories include Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretal, Snow White and Rumpelstiltskin.
Unlike Perrault and the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson (1805 - 1875) originated many of the tales with which he is fondly remembered. Amongst Anderson's works are The Litle Mermaid, The Princess and the Pea, The Emperor's New Clothes, Thumbelina and The Ugly Duckling. Anderson admired the works of Charles Dickens and met him on several occasions, at one time making an extended visit for several weeks at Dickens' home. Dickens alledgedly found the Dane to be a bore and based the character Uriah Heap in David Copperfield on him!
Regardless of character, we have much to thank these and many other early story collectors and tellers for. They have gone on to inspire not only generations of children and learning, but also great artists such as Gustav Doré, Tchaikovsky, Rossini, Rodgers and Hammerstein and Walt Disney.
Should you be concerned if your child has an imaginary friend? Absolutely not! Many children foster imaginary friends at various stages of their childhood, sometimes the same friend will persist for years. Research suggests that imaginary friends are created by intellectually and intelligently superior children, although not all bright kids will create them. There is speculation that imaginary friends assist with the adoption of language and help to develop social skills because children will interact with their imaginary friends more than they might interact with their peers.
Imaginary friends will most usually be given a name and be attributed personality traits that may be quite different from those of your own children. Hollywood indulged in the behaviour of imaginary friends in Drop Dead Fred (1991), currently being remade for release in 2011, and even more famously, Harvey (1950), where the friend took the form of a giant 6-foot rabbit imagined by Elwood P. Dowd in the film and stage play of the same name.
Listening to your child interact with an imaginary friend can offer a wonderful insight into their feelings, concerns and interpretation of the world. Your children will allude to people, places and events in ways that they may not talk about openly with you. This could be the closest exposure you will have to their mind.
Make sure that imaginary friends don't form a barrier to your children socialising with other children and don't let your children use imaginary friends as an excuse to do things that they know are wrong but think they can get away with by apportioning blame onto their friend.
Now if you still have an imaginary friend, that could be a different matter...!
When you were a teenager, you probably had no idea what career you wanted to pursue, yet ask your toddlers, and they know already...nurse, train driver, pilot, doctor, police officer, spaceman?! Your local toy shops undoubtedly stock a great range of dressing up outfits, and toddlers love nothing more than dressing up as superheroes, fairies, princesses or professionals. You don't have to go to the expense of buying expensive clothes for your kids to enjoy dressing up in. Tucked away in your wardrobe, you probably have some clothes that you haven't worn in a long time, and most likely have no intention of wearing again?! Why not turn these into some fun dressing up outfits for your children. Some of them may not resemble any outfit that they might want to wear, but they'll simply love that it's a garment that you used to wear - it's not important that it isn't a superhero costume or fairy outfit, all that matters is that they can dress up like mommy and daddy!
Some garments that you're willing to pass down to the next generation might be adapted into fun outfits with just a small amount of work. Do you have brightly coloured clothes that could might be turned into a pirate outfit? Old white T-shirts that could be turned into a doctor or nurse outfit with just a few accessories drawn on with fabric pen? ...or maybe some garments that could literally be cut into shreds and sewn onto a T-shirt to create Peter Pan, Robinson Crusoe or even a fairy costume? Just a small amount of talent and a little bit of imagination can go a long way, and your kids will simply adore a good box of clothes to dress in and take on new personalities!
Babies grow through an established pattern of play as they become toddlers: can you identify the different stages in your children? There are five stages that children grow through as they develop:-
Solitary play: The youngest toddlers play very much on their own ignoring other children playing around them. They can be totally caught up in their world and oblivious to what else is goin on in their immediate surroundings.
Observer: At this stage, children are looking at other children playing around them. This is a fascinating stage because if you watch your child, you can see them looking at and taking in what other children are doing. You can almost hear their thought processes as they analyse what others are doing so that they might learn from the experience of others.
Parallel play: During this stage children play amongst a group of children but without direct interaction. They may share their toys, swapping colouring pens, different trucks or dolls, but they are not playing together. Children at this stage are aware of each other but they are not interacting together.
Associative play: At this stage, children begin to play together but in a loose sense rather than by organising games together. They interact but they don't have an overall game plan. You'll see children chasing around a playground following each other but in a disorganised way. It doesn't spoil the game if children drop out because there's no overall structure to their play.
Cooperative play: The final development stage emerges between 3 - 4 years and sees children playing together, creating organised make-believe games such as doctors and nurses, mommy's and daddy's or teachers. They take on different roles and play out full scenarios.
The ages at which children pass through the different stages varies according to the way that they develop. The pattern can be changed by their surroundings - for example, children with older siblings will be introduced to cooperative play sooner than their cohorts at nursery, and single children will have less opportunity to experience play with other children unless they attend nursery.
Little ones love water and love making a mess, so why not enliven one of your household tasks, by inviting the children to join in! Take a small bucket of clean water along with your bucket of car wash water and get the little ones cleaning with a sponge or cloth. They can splash around the bottom of the car while you clean the rest. And, once they get a bit bored, suggest they sit in the front of the car and play "driving". They can turn the wheel, pretend to drive and generally have a fun, make-believe time while you soap the outside. You could even let them have the music on!
Then its the fun bit! If you have a hose, spray the car all over to get rid of the soap and watch the delight on the kids faces as you spray the windows where they sit! They'll love it!
Here are some fresh ideas to keep your kids occupied in the garden. Get the little ones helping with some unusual tasks like picking fruit (if you have some!) or pulling the heads off dandelions and other weeds. Build a camp by draping an old sheet over a bush or some garden furniture. You're young ones will love to hide from you, and have their own 'house' to play in! Fill some buckets with water, grab some big decorating paint brushes and get them painting the (outside!) walls of your house, garden shed, garage or patio! Older children could try painting letters or numbers or shapes on the wall. Doing tasks like this - and using grown-up tools - is great fun for little ones and getting wet is always appealing for them too!
Find some exciting new books at the library and go somewhere exciting to read them! Find a big, big tree in the park and sit underneath the branches. Or, find some books about ducks and head to the local duck pond. Organize a book festival in your local park with your friends. Invite a few other mom's, ask them to bring a book each, and take turns to read their book to the assembled kids. Once you've finished the stories, have the children act out one of them, have them all choose a character to play (and to avoid conflict, if two or more children choose the same character, just have two 'Mummy bears', or two Princes, it really won't matter to them if you sell the idea!).
Toddlers love stories, and they love make-believe; encourage them to combine the two by putting on a show for you! Ask them to choose their favorite story book and then talk with them about who the characters are. Make up some simple puppets to represent the characters and go through the story with your kids. You can make simple puppets really easily out of things you'll have in the house, here are some examples:
Children have such great imagination that you don't need a theater or anything, but if you're feeling really creative, why not contruct them a theater too from some boxes, sheets, furniture or anything else you have in the house?!
Research suggests that babies who blow bubbles develop language sooner than babies that don't! Blowing bubbles, licking lips and other complex mouth movements help to develop essential control required for language. Making hand gestures, waving or making shapes in the air, is another sign that your baby will develop strong language skills. Language development is not linked with the ability to walk, and surprisingly, strong mental skills such as the ability to do puzzles also do not appear to be linked to the development of language. However, the ability to pretend, such as pretending that a cardboard box is a car, is another hint of strong language development. Babies develop language at different times, so don't worry if your's is late in developing - it does not necessarily mean that your child will have problems in learning.
Have you noticed that when your baby receives a wrapped gift, they are often more enthralled by the giftwrap than by the present itself?! A piece of paper can keep a baby entertained for ages, exploring the texture and sound that crinkling it can make. As your baby grows older, you should keep all sorts of discarded packaging to hand to use for 'craft'. Plastic tubs, drink bottles, different types of paper and cardboard can all be turned into playthings for toddlers and children. You'll find all sorts of 'Making' projects in ToucanLearn. Give your rubbish a new lease of life and give the kids a treasure chest of craft materials!
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