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 ISSUE 16   •   29  OCTOBER 2006  
   This week's theme: food


1. Editorial: Improvisation and pretend play
2. MAKE: squishy sushi rolls
3. MAKE: simple sweets
4. MAKE: fancy iced biscuits
MAKE: a portable ice cream stand
6. MAKE: a pretend snack bar
7. More food ideas
8. This week's featured subscriber's blog

1. Editorial: Improvisation and pretend play

I hate to admit it but I have always found myself daunted at the prospect of playing make believe.

As soon as my daughter invites me to step into the spaceship with her or come to the toy's tea party I find myself groaning internally and racking my brains for excuses as to why I can't possibly get involved. Eventually I do participate and inevitably get into the swing of it and have a good time, but there is no denying my initial negative reaction.

I have a strong suspicion that I am not the first parent to experience this reluctance to play pretend, so for a while now I have been having a look around for any helpful suggestions from other adults who are similarly afflicted.

Quite by accident I came across an interesting article about applying improvisational techniques in an educational setting. The background to the paper refers to the three fundamental tenets of improvisation and as soon as I had read them I realised that I had unwittingly stumbled upon the very advice I needed to celebrate the spontaneity of pretend play.

"1. Serve the narrative – play in real time. Listen carefully to what is being presented, then add to it. Build upon what is offered and improve upon it, rather than change to a different end.

2. Be fun to play with – be good-natured and give others the benefit of the doubt.

3. Make your partner look good – focus on the person you are working with and ways to make them appear brilliant."

When I consider that pretend play, like improvisation, is bigger than any individual it helps me to open myself up to the experience. It pleases me to think that playing make believe is a way that the kids and I can practise listening to and responding to each other.

And with that I'd better head off – I have a fairy's tea party to attend.

Happy crafting and see you next week!

Amber Carvan

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2. MAKE: squishy sushi rolls

This is one of those exquisitely simple crafts that has the potential to delight your child beyond expectation. Ella was completely taken with this activity and enjoyed rolling, unrolling and re-rolling the 'sushi' all afternoon.

You will need

• some thin dish sponges
small rubber bands

1. Cut the dish sponges into strips. Dampen them, squeeze any water out, then roll them up and fix with a rubber band.

2. Keep going until you have enough sushi rolls to arrange on a plate.

3. MAKE: simple sweets

These pretend sweets are quick to make and look great when they're arranged in a small bowl.

You will need

something to wrap – we used small cotton reels

1. Cut cellophane into squares. Place cotton reel in the centre of the square, roll it up and twist each end.

2. Use prudently as inducements for recalcitrant teddy bears.

4. MAKE: fancy iced biscuits

Use bright colours and interesting textures to make a plate of biscuits fit for a king or queen. Older children will be able to direct this project from start to finish – younger ones will need some help along the way.

You will need

egg ring
thick cardboard
tissue paper
kids pvc glue

1. Use the egg ring to draw a series of circles on the cardboard.

2. Cut out the circles and colour them with a crayon.

3. Cut tissue paper into small squares. Then scrunch each square and glue to the cardboard. We ran out of tissue paper half way through so we started dipping gluey biscuits into a bowl of small plastic beads.

4. Arrange on a plate and serve with your finest blend of pretend tea.

5. MAKE: a portable ice cream stand

All of this week's activities captured Ella's imagination, but none more than the ice cream stand. A good hour was spent arranging the various flavours and toppings and making ice creams for toys and family members alike.

You will need

for the ice creams

several pieces of thin cardboard
sticky tape
tissue paper
old dish sponges

for the ice cream stand

small cardboard box
toilet paper rolls
length of ribbon

1. Roll cardboard to form a cone. Use tape to fasten, then cut across the cone at the top until it's an appropriate length.

2. Scrunch half sheets of tissue paper and stuff them into the cone. We added wafers (made from dish sponges) and cherries (made from wooden beads).

3. Our portable ice cream stand was created by stapling a length of ribbon to the sides of a shallow cardboard box. We taped toilet rolls to the inside of the box for the ice cream cones to stand in and included a small container full of cherries, wafers and other accoutrements.

6. MAKE: a pretend snack bar

We used all the foods from this week's issue as merchandise for 'Ella's Snack Shack'. All that you need to set up your own snack bar is a pair of tongs, some plastic take-away containers, a cardboard box cash register and some pretend money.

The snack shack has been doing a roaring trade since it opened it's doors earlier this week!

7. More food ideas

•  Create some colourful cupcakes from play dough
•  Cook up some pizzas using cardboard and buttons
•  Make a poster of your favourite foods using pictures cut from magazines
•  Organise a teddy bear's picnic and invite some friends
•  Construct a toy oven from a cardboard box

For more ideas read my article on how to get great mileage from a weekly theme.

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8. This week's featured subscriber's blog

Preggers in Honkers

"I'm Karen, and as the domain name would indicate, I'm a pregnant person living in Hong Kong. I'm a freelance journalist too. I have another blog which is more personal, but have decided to post here about all my pregnancy issues, both as a way of making them more interesting to those who don't know me personally, and as a way of retaining readers of my normal blog who probably aren't interested at all."

To have your blog featured in this section just send in your web address – there are no hidden catches!


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