Showing posts with label Veg Patch Kids. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Veg Patch Kids. Show all posts

15 Apr 2012

Review: Green Crafts for Children

~ Gratuitous photo of cowslip on balcony; just to brighten up the day! ~
Today started by looking at clear blue skies with a good stiff breeze. Rubbish for taking photos (the above was taken yesterday) but perfect for pottering around the patch and sowing peas and beans as long as I'm quick!  The veg patch only gets sun until midday and there was quite a chill in the wind yesterday so this is a day to be getting on with things.

First though, I have a(nother) book to review. Following on from my review of Garden Crafts for Children, Green Crafts for Childrenis another good start for beginner crafters and I mention it here only because a few of the skills can be taken outside.  I'm thinking about the Gardening with Children group on UK Veg Gardeners - there's a running theme of how to keep the children occupied for a short while so that adults can complete some of the more mundane, but essential, tasks in the allotment or garden. Most children won't need much prompting to rush off den building or exploring but there will, inevitably, come a time when they've had enough but the adult hasn't (if you're anything like me... ).

By taking a small bag of non-fussy crafts with you, everyone's happy for a bit longer and this craft book may offer a few suggestions. Interested? Then pop over to my other blog Veg Patch Kids for the full lowdown. (That blog has been rather neglected for a long while but, as I'm helping out at a local primary school gardening club from this Friday, it may well be seeing a bit more action.)

I rather like this project from the book ... !
P.S.  I was right about the wind - it's been very nippy today as well and the early sunshine was quickly covered by clouds.  Hope it warms up soon!

13 Apr 2012

Garden Crafts for Children

Regular readers here will know that, on occasion, my gardening efforts are besieged by a few mini-gardeners. They love to help out but, despite the magic of growing food from tiny seeds and the delights of watering, they'll soon be casting around for distractions. The promise of a crafting activity will sustain interest and this is where the two books I've received from Cico Books would come in very handy.

Garden Crafts for Children
The first is Dawn Isaac's new book Garden Crafts for Children. You may already know Dawn Isaac through her blog, Little Green Fingers (or through her writing in the Guardian), in which case you'll have seen some of her clever ideas woven through the gardening she does with her own children.

Dawn's book has 35 step-by-step ideas together with an introductory section on the basics of sowing and growing, choosing containers and essential kit. There's a lot that's very good about this book: visually appealing, clear instructions, engaging projects with results you'll want to keep, thus giving the kids a real sense of achievement. The activities aim to educate in a fun way, teaching skills that lead gently into a love for gardening - but don't be put off if you don't have a garden as many crafts are nature related and accessible to all. I particularly like that most of the activities are based both indoors and out, giving options for both good and bad weather, rather than being a book solely about crafting outdoors.  Projects are designed for a range of ages, assuming that adults will be working alongside the children. (Some projects need more supervision than others.)

I reviewed it with a fairly experienced eye as I've been crafting since childhood and used to teach a primary school arts club. For that reason, I would have liked to see a nod to health and safety in the garden as some of the book's audience may be new to this area of crafting. As gardeners, we're already aware (I hope) of the plants that sting, poison or cause nasty rashes and of the potential hazards of cat poo, garden canes without tops and behaving sensibly around beneficial bugs. Without wishing to be over cautious, teaching basic garden safety gets everyone off to a good start.

So, after all that, what's in the book?

~ Insect Hotel ... always a good idea
and fun to build ~
Stylish outdoor projects that will help to glam up your garden (or allotment) include an insect hotel, a sunflower walk, bean archways and - wish I'd thought of this - scented hopscotch. Expect to see some of these fab projects appearing in my veg patch over the summer months. Indoor projects include herbal bath bags, easy flower soaps, garden lights amongst many others. There are clear instructions for mini gardens that will provide hours of play long after the activity is finished.

~ Scented HopScotch ~
As expected, there's an emphasis on gorgeous props.  These help to style the book beautifully but may be inaccessible to folk on a budget; a few tips on recycled and cheaper alternatives would have been useful. An example of this: Planting herbs in a strawberry planter is a nice (but not new) idea; but, for those who can't afford the ceramic planter, a small note about the availability of polypropylene planters, especially in end-of-season sales, would be helpful. Likewise the mini window boxes; this project relies on being able to get hold of single wooden wine boxes, tools and good DIY skills. (Personally, I'd be able to make one out of thick cardboard, papier maché and varnish... and perhaps I will, as a future post.)

Two small (and very pedantic) niggles: Some of the ideas, such as planting into welly boots and growing cress caterpillars, have been around for a while and feel like page fillers. I appreciate that these are quick crafts for very little children but feel there's many more crafts that could have replaced these. Having said that, the dinosaur world is wonderful ... love the re-use of an old tyre.
Secondly, this UK book appears to be aimed at the American market. I'm aware that the interest in crafting is strong in the US but americanised phrases throughout became irritating. We're given rain boots, cookie cutters, Popsicle sticks, thrift stores, etc, with the Anglicised version in brackets. Call me patriotic, but I'm annoyed at being downgraded to second place especially as the author, and publisher, is British.

So would I recommend it? Unreservedly. Dawn Isaac is a trained garden designer and her children are given free reign in her family garden. This book draws on that experience and has a lot to offer. Even though many projects were familiar to me, there's still plenty to inspire.  Newcomers to crafting will easily be able to follow the projects and keep the kids amused over even the very long summer holidays.

My thanks to Cico Books for sending me a copy to review.

Green Crafts for Children
I've also been sent Green Crafts for Children, a book published last year but worth mentioning as there are several projects which, although not labelled as such, would be great in the garden.  My review will appear tomorrow.

30 Jan 2012

A garden story for children

I shall apologise in advance to any readers who already know this book; I'm only very recently aware of it and delighted to have found it. I love both reading and gardening so, when I find a book that encompasses both of these loves, I want to share it.  I found this book, Rose's Garden, in the children's section of my local library.  It was the illustrations that caught my eye; they're reminiscent of Quentin Blake's work (a favourite illustrator) but, in fact, are the work of the author, Peter H Reynolds.  I would hope that all children love stories and being read to and I find it's a particularly nice way to start or finish a spot of gardening with children.  For one thing, it makes sure you have their attention, whether you want to tell them what's planned or whether it's time to stop, clear up and go.

I have a small collection of really nice children's books about gardening, some that I enjoyed reading to my son when he was younger ('Oliver's Vegetables', for example) and some more recent finds. This one is definitely a keeper (as in, I'll be buying it, not purloining it from the library - heaven forbid), if only because it reminds me of myself (in the sense that I have a vision of how colourful the garden here could be - but I don't travel in a fantastic teapot, more's the pity.)

The story is a simple one about Rose, who collects seeds on her travels. When her teapot is full up, it's time to plant her garden and she finds herself in a busy city.

"This little patch needs some colour."
She chooses a forgotten stretch of earth and gets to work, imagining what a colourful place it could be. On returning to the teapot to get her seeds, she finds the birds have eaten them, leaving just a small handful behind. She sows these seeds and patiently waits through the seasons but to no avail.

"A girl approached with a present. It was a paper flower."
Word spreads of Rose's faith in her garden and children of many cultures bring paper flowers that they've made for her garden. Gradually the garden fills with glorious colour from thousands of paper flowers.  Then, one day, Rose hears a bee buzzing and realises that her seeds have grown and real flowers are blooming among the paper ones.

"Her faith had gathered a garden – and the stories of a city."

Lovely, isn't it?

I like to think everyone who gardens is doing exactly this: making friends, building communities and having faith that their work will result in colour and beauty. I'd love to believe that this story will continue to be read to children and inspire a future generation of gardeners.

27 Apr 2010

Veg Patch Kids!

I have to confess that, for a few years, I ran the after school Art Club when my son was at primary school.  My background is in illustration, design and crafting and yesterday evening I mentioned, briefly, to one of my friends that I'd quite like some drawn labels for my raised beds.

In no time, I had three eager faces ready for action and, fifteen minutes later, armed with crayons and home-made sketchbooks, I was sitting by the Veg Patch talking to the kids about what we were going to draw.  (This was completely impromptu, I'd meant to be sowing carrots!)  The kids were completely absorbed, asking questions and talking about the veg (and the colours!).  Even the youngest wild child, a boy aged just 7, sat calmly drawing and colouring and was the last to leave.  Not bad, huh?

Not only that but they then wanted to help me plant some more seeds, which we managed just before they were called in to their respective suppers. 

I was going to give you my (rave) review of 'Organic Gardening, the no dig way' today but have spent the morning scanning the drawings, laminating them and painting wood to attach them to in the Veg Patch.  Children place such importance on their work, I think it's vital that adults respond to this.  Thus, the drawings will be ready for the kids to put up in the Veg Patch when they return from school today.

As I have a wealth of craft ideas for kids in the garden, the other thing that I've started work on is another blog which I've called 'Veg Patch Kids'.  I'll let you know when it's up (gotta make it look snazzy first!)
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