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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Nature play, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 6 of 6
1. Exploring outdoors and becoming a museum curator

Sticks are super… but how to broaden our horizons when we’re out exploring? What else could we and the kids look for? How do we learn to identify what we find? Today I’ve once again got one fiction picture book and one non-fiction book that go together really well, and which could help us answer these questions.

Lollipop and Grandpa’s Back Garden Safari by Penelope Harper and Cate James (@catetheartist) is a delightfully playful tale about a young girl and her grandfather exploring their backgarden.

Having packed a rucksack full of sandwiches they launch themselves into the sort of knowing pretend play that my girls adore, imagining that ordinary objects in the garden are actually terrifying and dangerous safari animals. There is the croco-logus emerging from the pond, the snake-pipe slithering across the lawn and the hippo-potta-compost at the end of the vegetable patch, and young and old delight in scaring and being scared by the fates that might befall them if they were to be captured by these wild animals.

The adrenalin filled safari is going thrillingly well until the clothes-lion roars and sends Lollipop and her grandfather rushing back to the safely of their home. With all the familiar, delicious relief that readers and listeners feel with We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury, Lollipop and her Grandfather do reach their house just in time, but then comes an unexpected twist – will they actually be safer inside?

Lollipop and Grandpa’s Back Garden Safari is great fun! All about entering into the spirit of things, relishing imaginative play, safely being frightened, and the sheer enjoyment that’s possible when playing outside, this book has become pretty popular in our home. This book really invites you to play the story, to play by the book. My kids think it’s such a hoot when they “see” threatening animals (the apple tree, the water butt, the bamboo sticks) and I act terrified. All powerful M and J have conjured up these creatures which have the power to scare me – the girls just can’t get enough of this!

Cate James‘ textured illustrations have a child-like quality to them, with lots of scribbles, and people with straight arms and legs rather like stick men. For a book which is all about really entering the mind of a young child, this style of illustration works really well.

Pretend safaris (also possible indoors!) are fab! And they complement “real” safaris too. Not, unfortunately to see lions and tigers, of which there are very few roaming the streets in central England, but to explore the animals and natural environments which are on our doorstep.

5 Comments on Exploring outdoors and becoming a museum curator, last added: 5/6/2012

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2. All you need is a stick

Things-I-have-learned-as-a-parent number 359: A walk for the sheer fun of it, in our local park or nature reserve, is never complete without a stick.

The sooner the girls can find one which meets their ideals for the day the happier they are. A big one to lean on, a little one to become a wand, a bendy one to be a flag: a stick is an essential acquisition on any sort of exploration.

Image: Daniel Baker

And so it was with some eagerness that I accepted The Stick Book by Jo Schofield and Fiona Danks for review. Would the girls and I get new ideas and be inspired in new ways? Would it encourage us out on those days we were suffering from inertia? Would it make me look with refreshed, delighted eyes at the pile of sticks by our back door that grows and grows and normally has me rolling my eyes in slight desperation?

The Stick Book contains 70 different ideas for using sticks in outdoor play. There are 8 themed chapters, for example one on “Stick games” (including pick up sticks, capture the flag, and tracking with stick), one on “Adventure sticks” (including building dens, swords, catapults and spear throwers) and on on “Watery sticks” (including pooh sticks, making a mini raft and measuring the depth of a stream). Each activity is accompanied by a photograph and tips or brief instructions on the activity in question.

Essentially, this is a craft book, not unlike those you might get from the library packed with Easter crafts or Egyptian crafts. It’s just that this time the unifying theme is outdoor play with sticks. And like many craft books, with the advent of the internet, and great sites like Let the Children Play, the ideas you find within the pages are probably available for free somewhere online, and many of them are so simple (such as playing pooh sticks) that you might wonder if this really is a book worth buying.

It’s definitely worth seeking out. By bringing all the ideas together in one place it IS stimulating. It has motivated the girls and me get our shoes on and go walking and looking for good sticks. M in particular has enjoyed reading the book herself, and choosing an activity she’d like to do. I particularly like the fact that all the people who feature in this book’s photographs are kids. There’s not an adult to be seen in this idyllic, natural landscape full of potential for adventure.

As children increasingly lose contact with outdoor play, and adults become less confident and comfortable with it (after all, isn’t it easier to put on a DVD?), this book will hopefully be a useful reminder of how simple and enjoyable it is to play outdoors. All you need is a stick and a little bit of inspiration.

4 Comments on All you need is a stick, last added: 4/30/2012
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3. Tomtebobarnen

As we continue Reading Round Europe my first offering from Sweden is by a classic, much loved (and widely translated) author/illustrator, Elsa Beskow.

Born in 1874 Elsa Beskow published 40 odd books in her lifetime, many featuring children exploring fairy tale worlds where respect for nature plays a major role. She is credited with having been the first author to bring Swedish children’s literature to an international readership and her books are nowadays particularly popular with followers of Steiner and Waldorf education methods.

Two of Elskow’s books feature in 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before you Grow Up, Peter in Blueberry Land and Children of the Forest (Tomtebobarnen in Swedish, a word I just love the look and sound of!) and it is the latter I bring you a review of today.

A family of forest people live under the curling roots of an old pine tree, deep in a forest. They go about their lives playing, exploring, observing nature and overcoming danger and the book follows their simple and happy lives through the course of the four seasons. They make friends with frogs, fight (and kill) a snake, collect mushrooms, harvest cotton grass and feed their animal friends when the snow comes. Their life is almost carefree and idyllic, in harmony with nature and their surroundings.

Children of the Forest

The original Swedish text was written in rhyme, but this has not been retained in the English version. Perhaps this was a wise decision, for the text certainly never feels like it is a translation. One of my favourite quotes is “They paddled and splashed in the stream, damming it to build a water mill. No one card how wet or muddy they were for no child of the forest can catch cold“. This made me think of the forest kindergarten movement, a type of preschool education which is held almost exclusively outdoors.

The illustrations will delight you if you like Beatrix Potter or Jill Barklem. They are the perfect mix of reality (in so many details, such as the mottling on the silver birch bark used as a shield by the father of the family) and fantasy (pint sized people, trolls and fairies). There is nothing modern, avant garde or unsettling about

3 Comments on Tomtebobarnen, last added: 1/23/2011
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4. Fantastic Fiction for Kids – Earth Day

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Today’s Fantastic Fiction for Kids comes from Andi who writes about sewing, gardening and cooking amongst other delights at Laundry on the Line. You may remember that Andi has already contributed to Fantastic Fiction for Kids, with this great list of books about sewing. Today, however, she’s come up with a wonderful selection of books to help us celebrate Earth Day.

Earth Day is a day designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s environment, and is held annually on April 22. Although it originated in the US, it’s now celebrated in many places across the globe. And to help you get involved with your kids, here’s Andi’s selection of exciting books and her reviews of them:

The Lorax by Dr. Suess

I consider this to be the classic environmental education fiction story and have read it to countless numbers of children of varying ages and all have found something that they like about it (would you expect anything else from Dr. Suess?) The story of the Lorax is told by the Once-ler, an unknown creature who lives in an old boarded-up house in the middle of a barren land. The story is about a beautiful landscape that is threatened when someone decides to use the tufts of the beautiful Truffula trees to make Thneeds (something that everyone needs) and the Lorax who “speaks for the trees” tries to stop the destruction of the forest and ponds and fields of his beautiful land. It is full of the rhyme typical of Suess books, and although the land is decimated at the hands of the Thneed creator, the last page is one of hope.

The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry

This story takes place in the rain forest, where the great Kapok trees rise high into the sky. The story is of a man who enters the forest with his axe, ready to cut down one of the giant trees. He soon grows tired, and is lulled to sleep by the heat of the forest. While he sleeps, the animals of the rainforest appear one by one and whisper in his ear, asking him to save their home. It is wonderfully illustrated with the bright plants and animals of the rainforest coming alive on each page.

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5. Trees, leaves and sandwich boards

Sometimes I love the books I read with my daughters because of the delightful, uninhibited play they inspire. Other times I love the books we read together because they engage us with something bigger; they cause us to reflect upon our actions and the world around us and encourage thoughtfulness and care. Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya by Donna Jo Napoli and Kadir Nelson is a recent find that has done both these things for us.

Photo: Charmainezoe

Mama Miti is an enduring story with fable-like quality about a woman who loves trees. She knows which trees are good to harvest for firewood, which trees are best for building with, which tree leaves have medicinal properties as well as the trees which provide food for both people or animals and she happily shares this knowledge with the women she meets. In doing so, these women, armed with knowledge (and saplings!) are able to build better homes and communities, to provide more for their families and to build a more sustainable future – in fact all the things I try to do in my own small way.

It’s a fantastic book for stimulating discussion with your kids about plants and trees around you and what uses they have, what you can harvest from them, and why we might want to ensure that we continue to have plenty of trees and plants around us.

It’s a brilliant book for encouraging you to keep faith in the idea that small changes will eventually add up to something substantial that makes a difference.

It’s an inspirational book for anyone, but particularly girls wanting to read about amazing, strong women – it is actually a biography of Wangari Muta Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. I left out this fact till now as Mama Miti is one of those non-fiction books which probably provide librarians with a puzzle – should it be shelved with literature, perhaps amongst picture books for slightly older children, or on the non fiction shelves (Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca which I reviewed here is another such dilemma posing book). Mama Miti is definitely a story that can be enjoyed for its writing and resonance first and foremost – the revelation that it is actually a true story about a real woman only further delighted M (and me!)

Kadir Nelson’s illustrations are amazing – yet another reason to love this book! He has created artwork primarily using scraps of African cloth, providing his illustrations with great visual texture which reward repeated, detailed observation. The use of African fabrics paradoxically really roots Napoli’s t

5 Comments on Trees, leaves and sandwich boards, last added: 8/12/2010
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6. Frost, birds and the countdown begins

With daytime temperatures in our neck of the woods barely making it above freezing this week, winter has surely arrived. We’ve had a flurry or two of snow, enough to get the kids excited but not enough for sledging… Of course, M and J are keeping their fingers crossed that all of that will soon change :-)

Photo: *clairity*

With the drop in temparture, and the sharp frosts both heralding the start of winter and the beginning of the countdown to Christmas, this week we’ve been reading Night Tree by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Ted Rand – one of the books that inspired me to start Playing by the book, when I first read about it two years ago over on The Crafty Crow.

Night Tree tells the story of one family’s Christmas custom to venture into a small wood near their home every 24th of December to decorate a tree with food for the birds and animals. Told in the present tense (a decision which brings an immediacy and vitality to this story perfect for helping children to imagine they too are going alongside for the adventure in the dark – though do read this great article by Philip Pullman on the overuse of the present tense), this gentle story is perfect for reading snuggled up on the sofa with frost outside.

Ted Rand’s illustrations of the mysterious and magical nature of the trees at night bring just the slightest suggestion of suspense, essential for later creating a feeling of magic and awe, especially successful in the spread showing the the beauty of the tree laden with gifts for the animals of the wood.

I also like the fact that whilst this is most definitely a Christmas book it is not full of snow and the usual wintry scenes. It’s also a children’s book that people who don’t celebrate the religious aspect of Christmas can still enjoy and incorporate into whatever seasonal celebration they may be having (there is one mention of the carol “O Come all ye faithful” but that’s the full extent of any mention of faith).

M and J immediately wanted to play out the story exactly as it happens in the book – surely a strong recommendation for any book. Given that Christmas isn’t quite upon us yet we did the next best thing and decorated two trees in our garden ready for hungry visitors. There’s a great round up of bird treats to make here at The Crafty Crow. We decided upon dried fruit necklaces, popcorn and peanut chains, orange swings, and yoghurt pot bells.

4 Comments on Frost, birds and the countdown begins, last added: 12/2/2010
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