Friday, April 17, 2015

2015 CBCA Children's Book Awards Shortlist

The Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA) has recently announced the shortlist for the 2015 CBCA Children's Literature awards. There are a couple things worthy of note. First there are many books about war and conflict. This might not be surprising in this year that marks 100 years since the Gallipoli landing that is such a significant part of Australian, New Zealand and British history. Second, there are some wonderful non-fiction books on the list, a number developed by very small presses.

The winners and honour books will be announced in Book Week (16-22 August, 2015). I have already reviewed some of these books in recent posts on children's literature HERE. I will review all the winners when the awards are finally announced in August. CBCA also publishes a list of about 100 'Notable' books each year which can be found HERE.
 

1. Older Readers

'Nona & Me', by Clare Atkins (Black Inc.)

'Intruder', by Christine Bongers (Random House Australia)

'Are You Seeing Me?' by Darren Groth (Random House Australia)

'The Minnow' by Diana Sweeney (Text Publishing)

'The Protected' by Claire Zorn (University of Queensland Press)

'The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl' by Melissa Keil (Hardie Grant Egmont)

2. Younger Readers

'Two Wolves' by Tristan Bancks (Random House Australia)

'The Simple Things' by Bill Condon, Illustrator Beth Norling (Allen & Unwin)


'The Cleo Stories The Necklace and the Present', by Libby Gleeson, Illustrator Freya Blackwood (Allen & Unwin)

'Bleakboy and Hunter Stand out in the Rain', by Steven Herrick (University of Queensland Press)

'Figgy in the World', by Tamsin Janu (Omnibus Books, Scholastic Australia)

'Withering-by-Sea: a Stella Montgomery Intrigue', by Judith Rossell, Judith (ABC Books, Harper Collins Publishers)


3. Early Childhood

'Pig the Pug', by Aaron Blabey (Scholastic Press, Scholastic Australia)

'Scary Night' by Lesley Gibbes, illustrator Stephen Michael King (Working Title Press)

'Go to Sleep, Jessie!', by Libby Gleeson, illustrator Freya Blackwood (Little Hare, Hardie Grant Egmont)

'A House of Her Own', by Jenny Hughes, illustrator Jonathan Bentley (Hardie Grant Egmont)

'Snail and Turtle are Friends', written and illustrated by Stephen Michael King 
(Scholastic Press, Scholastic Australia)

'Noni the Pony goes to the Beach', written and illustrated by Alison Lester (Allen & Unwin)

4. Picture Book of the Year

'Rivertime' written & illustrated by Trace Balla (Allen & Unwin)


'My two Blankets', illustrator Freya Blackwood, text by Irena Kobald (Little Hare, Hardie Grant Egmont)

'One Minute's Silence', illustrator Michael Camilleri, text David Metzenthen (Allen & Unwin)

'The Duck and the Darklings', illustrator Stephen Michael King, text Glenda Millard (llen & Unwin)

'The Stone Lion', illustrator Ritva Voutila, text Margaret Wild (Little Hare, Hardie Grant Egmont)

'Fire', illustrator Bruce Whatley, text Jackie French (Scholastic Press, Scholastic Australia).

5. Eve Pownall Award for Information Books

'A-Z of Convicts in Van Diemen's Land', author/illustrator Simon Barnard (Text Publishing)

'Coming of Age: Growing up Muslim in Australia', Demet Divaroren & Amra Pajalic (editors), (Allen & Unwin)

'Mary's Australia: How Mary Mackillop Changed Australia', by Pamela
Freeman (Black Dog Books, Walker Books Australia)

'Tea and Sugar Christmas', by Jane Jolly, illustrator Robert Ingpen (National Library of Australia)

'Emu', by Claire Saxby, illustrator Graham Byrne (Walker Books Australia)


'Audacity: Stories of Heroic Australians in Wartime', by Carlie Walker, illustrator Brett Hatherly (Department of Veterans' Affairs)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

29 Great Examples of Children's Books that Feature Birds

Above: One of the Ospreys observed at Tuncurry
I wrote a post about birds in books and have just had the joy of observing osprey while on holidays. So here's a refrain of my previous post. I want to encourage parents and teachers to share some children's literature that feature birds. I had fun brainstorming this list with daughter, son-in-law and 3 of my grandchildren. Why not celebrate the wonder of birds with some great literature.  Here are some examples that teachers might consider using.

Young Readers (0-7 years)

The following books are varied in age range from first books like 'Boo to a Goose' to more demanding picture books like 'How to heal a Broken Wing'.


1. 'Are You my Mother' by P.D. Eastman

A baby bird is hatched while his mother is away. Fallen from his nest, he sets out to look for her and asks everyone he meets -- including a dog, a cow, and a plane -- "Are you my mother?"



2. 'Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus' by Mo Willems

When a bus driver takes a break from his route, a very unlikely volunteer springs up to take his place - a pigeon! But you've never met one like this before. As he pleads, wheedles, and begs his way through the book, children will love being able to answer back and decide his fate. In his hilarious picture book debut, popular cartoonist Mo Willems perfectly captures a preschooler's temper tantrum.

'Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus' was a Caldecott Honour Book in 2004. Other books in this delightful series include 'Don't let the Pigeon Stay up Late!' and 'The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog'.

3. 'The Lighthouse Keeper's Lunch' by Rhonda Armitage and illustrated by David Armitage. Other books in the series include 'The Lighthouse Keeper's Rescue' and 'The Lighthouse Keeper's Picnic'.

My children and grandchildren have all loved these books about Mr Grinling's adventures.

4. 'Waddle, Giggle, Gargle!' by Pamela Allen

Sitting in a tree outside Jonathan's house is a black and white magpie. 'Waddle Giggle Gargle!' the magpie shouts. A delightful story about a boisterous, swooping, waddling, giggling, gargling bird!

This book is worth a read for the language alone. A great read aloud book.



5. A bunch of books about ducks & geese. Some of my favourites:

a) 'Alexander's Outing' by Pamela Allen
b) 'Fix it Duck' , 'Duck in the Truck' and others in the same series by Jez Alborough
c) 'I Went walking' by Sue Williams and illustrated by Julie Vivas
d) 'Make Way for Ducklings' by Robert McCloskey (Caldecott Medal winner 1942).
e) 'The Story About Ping' by Marjorie Flack and illustrated by Kurt Wiese
f) 'Boo to a Goose' by Mem Fox and illustrated by David Miller
g) 'Stickybeak' by Hazel Edwards and illustrated by Rosemary Wilson
h) 'Duck and Goose' series by Tad Hills
i) 'The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck' by Beatrix Potter














6. 'Edward the Emu' by Sheena Knowles and illustrated by Rod Clement and of course 'Edwina the Emu' and by the same duo.
Edward the emu was sick of the zoo,
There was nowhere to go, there was nothing to do,
And compared to the seals that lived right next door,
Well being an emu was frankly a bore.
Tired of his life as an emu, Edward decides to try being something else for a change. He tries swimming with the seals. He spends a day lounging with the lions. He even does a stint slithering with the snakes. But Edward soon discovers that being an emu may be the best thing after all. And so he returns to his pen, only to find a big surprise awaiting him. . . .

7. 'Feathers for Phoebe' by Rod Clements

Phoebe doesn′t want to be ordinary. She wants to turn heads and be noticed - she wants to be fabulous! But when she seeks the help of the outrageous and beautiful Zelda, her transformation leads to some unexpected results.

8. Three great books about penguins

a) 'Tacky the Penguin' by Helen Lester and illustrated by Kim Munsinger
b) 'That's Not my Penguin' by Usborne Children's Books. A great first book for babies.
c) 'The Truth About Penguins' by Meg McKinlay, illustrated by Mark Jackson,


9. 'Slinky Malinki, Open the Door' by Lynley Dodd

"Slinky Malinki and Stickybeak Syd were a troublesome pair; do you know what they did? Alone in the house one mischievous day, they opened a door and they started to play." Room by room, the terrible twosome wreak havoc...until they decide to see what's behind that last door. Slinky Malinki's curiosity finally gets the best of him. Collect all the Slinky Malinki books!
This is a funny book that children love from a great New Zealand author.

10. 'Owl Babies' by Martin Waddell and illustrated by Patrick Benson
The bay owls came out of their house,
and they sat on the tree and waited.
A big branch for Sarah, a small branch for Percy,
and an old piece of ivy for Bill.
A gorgeous book. Wonderful illustrations and delightful text.


11. 'Puffling' by Margaret Wild

Puffling is a baby—small, white, and very hungry. Every day he waits in the burrow while his parents, Big Stripy Beak and Long Black Feather hunt for food. As he grows, Puffling dreams of the day when he will leave his nest and fly away—but he isn’t ready yet, not until he’s tall and brave enough to fend for himself. Every day Puffling asks his parents, but every day they say he must wait until he has grown bigger. Will he ever be ready to head out into the world on his own?

12. 'How to Heal a Broken Wing' by Bob Graham

'How to Heal a Broken Wing' is a delightful story about a little boy who finds a bird with an injured wing. He takes the bird home and with his parents help, and some rest, time and a dash of hope will the bird will fly again? The book has all the usual Bob Graham trademarks, simple and engaging illustrations and an economy of words that are well crafted. It was the winner of the Australian Children's Book Council award in 2009 for best book in the Early Childhood category.



13. 'Cat and Canary' by Michael Foreman

I just love English author illustrator Michael Foreman. This is a favourite around our place.

Cat’s best friend is the canary in his apartment. Once their owner has gone out, Cat lets Canary out of his cage and they go up onto the roof together. Cat wishes he could fly, like all the birds around him, and when he finds a kite tangled in an aerial, it is too much of a temptation. But the kite carries him much too high and much too far, and Canary needs to marshall a crowd of feathered friends to tow the kite home. But Cat isn’t the least bit deterred: “Tomorrow, we can go to the land beyond the river, and still be back for tea!”


14. 'Olga the Brolga' by Rod Clement

Olga is in a terrible mood. She desperately wants to dance, but know one will dance with her. Her parents have other things to do. So, Olga decides to dance by herself, and something wonderful happens.

This great book about the famous Australian Brolga bird is ideal for kids aged 3-7 years.

15. 'There's a Bird on Your Head' by Mo Willems

If your children loved 'Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus' they will also love 'There's a Bird on Your Head'. It is one of a series of very funny tales for beginner readers from this award-winning writer and illustrator.

16. 'The Last Egret: The Adventures of Charlie Pierce' by Harvey E. Oyer III

This is the second book in the series 'The Adventures of Charlie Pierce' and was inspired by the teenaged adventures of his great grand-uncle. It is an illustrated novel for grade schoolers

The experiences of his uncle were of the late 19th century Florida Everglades, when the vast South Florida wilderness was twice the size of today. In those days it was alive with snowy egrets green herons,  roseate spoonbills and many wading birds. But the birds were the target of plume hunters, shooting them simply for their feathers to use in ladies’ hats.  A great read for children aged 6-10 years.


17. 'The Bush Concert' by Helga Visser

There has been a terrible drought and the birds put on a gala concert to cheer themselves up. There is singing and dancing and magic tricks, but the final performance is the perfect end to a wonderful bush concert.





Independent readers (8-12)

18. 'Storm Boy' by Colin Thiele

Storm Boy likes to wander alone along the fierce deserted coast among the dunes that face out into the Southern Ocean off the coast of South Australia near the Coorong. A pelican mother is shot and Storm Boy rescues the three chicks, and brings them back to health. He names them Mr Proud, Mr Ponder and Mr Percival. He finally lets them go, but Mr Percival returns. The story follows the struggle to let Mr Percival go and has a memorable ending. A classic story from one of Australia's great writers.

19. 'The Landing: A Night of Birds' by Katherine Scholes and illustrated by David Wong

One stormy night at her grandfather's place on the windswept coast, Annie enters a boathouse occupied by injured sea birds and finds herself able to understand their speech.

This is a wonderful book that isn't known very well by children today. Check it out.



20. 'Mr Popper's Penguins'  by Richard Atwater and illustrated by Florence Atwater (Newberry Medal winner 1939).

A classic of American humour, the adventures of a house painter and his brood of high-stepping penguins have delighted children for generations. "Here is a book to read aloud in groups of all ages. There is not an extra or misplaced word in the whole story."--The Horn Book. Newbery Honour Book.

21. 'Sticky Beak' by Morris Gleitzman.

Rowena Batts has enough problems in her life without adopting a crazy cockatoo. She's just splattered two hundred grown-ups with jelly and custard, and her dad's getting married to her teacher. But Sticky the cockatoo turns out to be just the friend she needs . . .

22. 'A Kestrel for a Knave' by Barry Hines

Barry Hines's acclaimed novel continues to reach new generations of teenagers and adults with its powerful story of survival in a tough, joyless world. Billy Casper is a troubled teenager growing up in a Yorkshire mining town. Treated as a failure at school and unhappy at home, Billy discovers a new passion in life when he finds Kes, a kestrel hawk. Billy identifies with her silent strength and she inspires in him the trust and love that nothing else can. Ken Loach's well-known film adaptation, Kes, has achieved cult status and in his new afterword Barry Hines discusses working on the screen version (he adapted the novel) and reappraises a book that has become a popular classic.

This is a classic book for older readers.



23. 'Coot Club' by Arthur Ransome

It all started with a coot's nest. Dorothy and Dick meet Tom Dodgeon, Port and Starboard, and three pirate salvagers all members of the Coot Club Bird Protection Society. When one of the coot's nests is disturbed by a shipful of Hullabaloos-rude holiday boaters - trouble begins. Frantic chases, calamitous boat collisions, and near drownings fill the pages of this exciting fifth addition to Ransome's classic children's series.

You don't have to like birds to enjoy this wonderful book from one of England's most famous and awarded children's authors.

24. 'Wheel on the School' by Meindert DeJong

This 1955 Newbery Medal winner is one of my favourite books. Suitable for childrens aged 10-12. A story about how the children at a small Dutch school set out to get storks back to their village.

"Six school children bring the storks (harbingers of good luck) back to their little Dutch village. (A story) written with dramatic power and a deep insight into the minds and hearts of children".--Booklist. Newbery Medal; ALA Notable Children's Book.

25. 'The Phoenix and the Carpet' by E. Nesbitt


This wonderful novel for older readers deals with the Phoenix bird from Greek mythology that has the ability to come back to life after death. It does this by rising from the ashes after the burning of the egg from its predecessor.

The Phoenix and the Carpet is E. Nesbit's second fantasy novel and is the sequel to Five Children and It. From Robert, Anthea, Jane and Cyril's new nursery carpet there falls a mysterious egg which is hatched in the fire to reveal a benevolent, resourceful and ingenious Phoenix who explains that the carpet is possessed of magic qualities. And so begins a series of fantastic and bizarre adventures as the carpet transports the children and the Phoenix to places as diverse as a chilling French castle, a desert island and even the Phoenix Fire Insurance Company's offices, which the Phoenix believes to be a shrine for his followers.

26. 'Silly Birds' by Gregg Dreise (Magabala Books)


This is a charming and humorous morality tale published by an independent Aboriginal Company that aims to restore, preserve and maintain Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. In this story, Maliyan, a proud eagle meets a turkey, Wagun, who is a silly bird. Together these two begin to do silly-bird things. The Elders and Maliyan’s parents are very disappointed, warning Maliyan that it’s hard to soar like an eagle when you are surrounded by turkeys. Maliyan sees the error of his ways and together with the other animals, works to clean up the mess wrought by too many silly birds. But some birds will always be silly.

27. 'Guardians of Ga'Hoole' by Kathryn Lasky (Scholastic)

These wonderful fantasy books have been written by Kathryn Lasky the Newbery Honour author of over one hundred fiction and nonfiction books. The series has a total of 18 books. It was intended to end in 2008 with the publication of The War of the Ember until a prequel The Rise of a Legend was published in 2013. There have now been a total of sixteen books. The first three books of the series were adapted into the animated 3D film Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole, directed by Zack Snyder.





28. 'Cockatoos' by Quentin Blake  (Red Fox Picture Books)

Ten very cleaver cockatoos take an absent minded Professor through a crazy adventure, through every room of the house. Readers will have fun looking for birds hiding in unlikely and unusual places. They will also count the elusive cockatoos. As always, Blake's illustrations are brilliant!

29. 'One Cool Friend' by Toni Buzzeo & illustrated by David Small (Penguin)

When well-mannered Elliot reluctantly visits the aquarium with his distractible father, he politely asks whether he can have a penguin, and then removes one from the penguin pool and places it in his backpack. The fun of caring for a penguin in a New England Victorian house is followed by a surprise revelation by Elliot's father. This is a Caldecott Honour Book


Summing up

I would love to hear from you about some of your favourite 'bird' books. Send me a comment with your ideas.

If you're interested in some non-fiction books on birds for children check out this great post from the 'Delightful Children's Books' blog (here).


Updated 12th April 2015

Friday, March 27, 2015

16 Holiday Activities that Stimulate Creativity & Learning

This is a revised version of a post I wrote a few years ago. As Australian schools prepare for the Easter holidays I thought I'd remind you of some well known activities that can reduce screen time and boredom when your kids have more time on their hand.

Parents who have children to care for might try some of the fifteen easy activities. All are fun, simple and can be done at home. Of course, while it's a post about holiday activities any of the ideas can also be used at other times.

For many parents holidays mean more hours to fill each day with activities that will keep your children occupied, stimulated and happy. I've written a number of posts in the past about things to do in the holidays with kids (here) and simple travel games to fill the time on trips with your children (here). There is also an excellent post on Planning With Kids that offers '10 Activities to Do With Kids at Home'.

I thought I'd offer my top 16 activities that can work inside and outside, in pretty much any type of weather. My criteria for choosing them are that the activities should:
  • Stimulate creativity
  • Encourage exploration and discovery
  • Involve using their hands as well as their minds
  • Encourage interaction between you and your children
  • Foster literacy development
  • Increase their knowledge
  • Keep them interested

Encourage your children to make a film


1. Use a simple animation app to get them started - This sounds a big deal but its not with the write app. I wrote a post about some wonderful apps for digital story telling a year or so ago (HERE). One of my favourites is 'Puppet Pals, for one thing, it's VERY easy to use. Your children will work it out in minutes. Puppet Pals is available as a free app for the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad. It is essentially a simple way to create an animated movie using 'cut-out' themed characters and a variety of backdrops and scenes to create an animated 'puppet' play.

There is a free version that comes with Wild West backgrounds and actors.  However, you can also purchase different themes for $US0.99 or the 'Director's Cut' in which you can access all the themes for $US2.99. These allow you to obtain a range of additional scenarios and characters based on themes such as monsters, space, pirates, arthropod armada, Christmas and so on. You can even make your backdrops and characters.

This is a very simple to use app that provides very easy storyboarding. You can record dialogue, move characters around, create some simple effects, change backdrops and settings and characters. Below is an example that my eight year old grandson produced with little instruction and next to no preparation at his second attempt using the app. While ideally, before creating the animation, the writer/producer prepares plot summaries and story ideas, Jacob made this excellent animation as a first take. He used the 'Arthropod Armada' theme from 'Director's Cut'.

Puppet Pals is a wonderful resource for supporting story telling, writing, language development, creativity, and problem solving, while at the same time introducing them to film making and animation. I could see myself using a smartboard to collaboratively develop a story with my class before introducing individuals and groups to this smart little app.

Books with a difference

2. Pick some special books they haven't seen - try to borrow or buy at least 2 books for each child that you think they'll enjoy. Op shops, book exchanges and libraries are the place to start. See my post on book exchanges, op shops and web exchange sites here. Take your children with you to the op shop or library to choose them.

3. Books as a creative stimulus - While the shear joy of the book is usually enough, sometimes books can stimulate many wonderful creative activities. For example:

After reading Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things are" go outside and dramatise it. Let one child be Max and let others take turns at being the wild things. Make a boat out of bits of wood, or even have a go at making one out of a large cardboard box (or several).

After reading Jeannie Baker's book "Where the Forest Meets the Sea" (a book about the Daintree Rainforest in which all the pictures are collage) encourage them to make a collage out of natural materials (and maybe some wool, straws etc to supplement) in response to Baker's pictures. Or read a second book and have them use collage in response.

After reading Graeme Base's "The Waterhole" get them to paint the waterhole (they can draw the animals, cut them out and paste them around the waterhole).

4. Dramatisation - Dramatisation is an excellent way to respond to a book. If you have a dress-up box all the better. Let your children either re-tell the story through dramatisation or improvise. Get involved to help set the pattern for turn taking etc. I play a mean wolf, and an even better Grandma!

Writing

5. Diaries and journals - Introduce older children to diaries or holiday journals. Make this fun, not a school activity. If they just want to make it a scrapbook by pasting in tickets, leaves they collect, food wrappers etc, then let them. But you can also show them how to create a travel diary.

6. A holiday blog - Tech savvy mums and dads might encourage their children to write online. Why not set up a family blog that can be read by friends and relatives (even if only for two weeks). You could use this as part of a trip away, or just use it at home. Older children could set up the blog themselves and all family members could contribute. Let them have access to a digital camera and a scanner and the sky is the limit. See my recent post on 'Children as bloggers' (here).

7. Start a family joke or riddle book - give them some jokes as models ("Knock, knock", "Why did the centipede cross the road"....)

Craft

8. Structured Craft ideas - simple beadwork, noodle craft, mask making, making plaster moulds (and painting them), anything for young children that requires paper tearing, gluing, glitter, stickers.

9. Unstructured creative craft - Stock up when you go to the supermarket with simple materials like paper plates (good for masks), brown paper bags, sticky tape, glue, cotton balls, tooth picks, paper cupcake holders, straws (cutting up and threading), noodles (for threading).

Creative Play

I've written a number of previous posts on play (here) but planning for play is important. While you can say to your children go outside and 'play', doing some simple planning at times will lead to more stimulating play times.

10. Dress-up box - If you don't have one take the kids to an Op shop to start one. You might even pick up some gems like old helmets, hats, belts (you can cut them down), handbags etc.

11. Water play - This is hard in cold weather, but maybe you could make bath-time special for littlies with extra bubbles, different stuff to take into it . In warmer weather give them a bucket of water and some things to scoop, sieve etc - obviously only UNDER SUPERVISION.

12. Play dough - You can buy cheap coloured modelling clay but home-made playdough works well. My wife 'Carmen's can't fail' recipe is 1 tablespoon of oil, 1 cup of plain flour, 0.5 cup of cooking salt, 2 tablespoons Cream of Tartar, 1 cup of water, colouring. Mix together and put in a saucepan on medium heat until it binds together, stirring all the time. Fold together by hand. If you keep it in a sealed plastic bag it will last for ages in or outside the fridge.

There are endless things to do with play dough. Try to move beyond just cutting out shapes (which kids still love). Encourage them to make a house, a farmyard, a bed, and an aquarium. Use some plastic animals with the play dough or small plastic people. If you don't mind tossing the play dough out you can let them use sticks, plants etc to make simple dioramas. Kids will create complex stories as they manipulate the play dough.

The blanket cubby!
13. Build a cubby house - No not with wood, just use a table, some chairs, wardrobes (hitch the blankets into the top of the doors, some pegs and sheets and blankets. By draping them over other objects you should be able to create a special space (about 2x2 metres is enough for three small kids). Try to get at least 1.5 metres of height. Have the kids 'help' and then get them to collect some special things to have in the cubby. Use a toy box for a table, some cushions to sit on. I always let my grandchildren have my cheap transistor radio from my shed (lots of fun). Girls might like a tea set; boys will collect animals and toys, both will like books. If you're up to it, climb in as well and read some stories. They'll like the edges tucked in to cut out light so you might need a torch. I've seen a cubby of this kind amuse kids for half a day. Then of course for the adventurous you can share some snack food as well. You can even build a cubby inside! See my post on cubbies (here).

Above: Jacob in a 'house' that he made (with help) from a box we saved

Indoor and back yard fun

14. Treasure hunts - Write the clues on paper using words and pictures depending on ages and make the treasure worthwhile (chocolate, a coupon for an ice cream in the kitchen etc). For something a little more challenging why not try a map with grid references (see picture opposite).

15. Cooking - Kids love cooking with their mothers or fathers. Do simple stuff. Nicole (Planning With Kids) has lots of great ideas for cooking with kids on her site. Don't forget to make it a language activity as well by getting them to follow the recipes.

16. Insect scavenger hunt - Try an insect scavenger hunt (one of my grandchildren's favourite activities). You'll be surprised just how many you can find. You'll to be careful turning rocks over and digging around, but even in Australia it's low risk if you supervise. Place a pile of bricks in a damp place and then let the kids help you to uncover them a few days later - watch the critters scurry. We always enjoy a good snail race afterwards!

A few basics hints
  • Have a strategy for the holidays - map out a timetable (post it on the wall) and try to plan a few significant events and think through the general structure of each day.
  • If you have younger children still at home, being joined by school kids on holidays, try to think about how you will cope with all their interests and think about varying daily routines a little.
  • Pace yourself - don't use all your best ideas in the first few days (you'll wear them and yourself out and you'll struggle to keep up the variation later).
  • Expect bad weather - think about some ideas that will work in rainy weather as well. It's called the "Law of Holidays" - expect lots of wet weather and a day or two of sick kids.