Last week, we shared five ideas on educational activities you could do as a family, after watching a movie. Given that we’re (still!) very much feeling the cold at the Sunshine Collective headquarters, we thought we’d extend the ‘movie’ theme this week.
When coming up with activities to keep my kids occupied inside on these cold, wet days, I tend to think back to the things I loved doing when I was a kid. Something I absolutely loved to do was to ‘create’ my own radio program or puppet show or stage show. Of course, my recollection is that my parents were astounded at my thespian brilliance, but that’s probably up for debate.
I’ve been in primary schools with fairly sophisticated set-ups for kids, including green screens and editing suites, but you don’t really need all of that. I used to work behind a sheet or talking into my casio tape deck. So, here’s five activities to spark your child’s creativity and practise performance skills:
Create a radio or television program
First, talk about all of the elements: a news segment, an advertorial or advertisements, a book or product review, an interview, the weather . . . whatever they’re interested in. Encourage them to write a script first and then think about costumes, the set and who else they’d like to have ‘on air’ with them. It’s so easy with camera phones now: all you need is one person to hit ‘start’ and ‘stop’. Of course, if you’re willing to get more involved, or have older siblings, you can make it quite slick with programs like iMovie or Windows Movie Maker – even adding credits and music.
Even without recording devices, this can be done ‘live’ to the family, after a few practise runs.
Create a puppet show
This is particularly great if you have a child who loves craft. My mum used to help my sew hand puppets. Sometimes it was a sock that we glued eyes and buttons on (mum was a master with superglue), but as I got older I used to cut out different shapes and sew them into a rough approximation of animals and other characters.
This is also a great opportunity to work in a bit of story writing practise – talk about the beginning, middle and end of the story, the main characters, the problem/s they encounter and how it will be solved at the end. The puppet theatre can be as basic as a bench or ironing board draped with a sheet, in front of a doorway. If you have a cubby house, the cubby house window is also perfect for this!
Make a movie
I once saw an interview with Steven Spielberg who described himself as a young child, constantly walking around with his Super 8 camera, making ‘movies’ by filming his toys. He’d create a ‘train wreck’ story with his trains, and so on. He’d add a bit of drama and music and add on further adventures with each filming. The key, he said, was that his family always encouraged him to do this.
So: if you have an avid movie fan, maybe let them use an old camera phone to create their own movies. Talk about how it could start, with toys, pets, adventures in the backyard or at the park. Sometimes it’s all about scale, so what might usually be a couple of trees next to the sand pit could, shot from the right angle, become dangerous quick sand amidst a jungle. Play it back, review it together and plan the next instalment.
Create instruments and sing songs
If you have a child who loves music, think about creating instruments at home. This is especially good for younger kids. My 5 year old loves this at the moment. Take a look at what you already have on hand at home. We’ve made rice shakers from cardboard rubes, ‘guitars’ with rubber bands over cut out tissue boxes, tambourines from bottle tops and drums with plastic containers. Part of the appeal is in the elaborate decorations of the instruments.
I had a grade 2 teacher who was really terrific at fostering a love of music in us. He encouraged us to talk about our favourite songs, to bring in the words and learn them together and to accompany ourselves with basic percussion instruments. He then he divided us up into groups and had some of us ‘be the drums’ some ‘be the strings’ and some ‘be the voices’. Move over Pitch Perfect! Of course, there were 25 of us, but this could be a fun activity if your kids have a few friends or cousins over. They can create their own ‘pop orchestra’.
One of our Sunshine Collective kids, in particular, loves singing and learning the words to her favourite songs. In fact, she’s pretty amazing at memorising songs. She’s an avid reader, but this is also a great activity for a reluctant reader – if there is a song they like, print out the lyrics for them to read and memorise.
Create a fashion line
Again, my mother was very good at improvising with whatever we had on hand. My sister and I created quite a few ‘fashion shows’, but there wasn’t a Disney costume in sight. We used butcher’s paper, tin foil, garbage bags, newspaper, leaves, flowers, tissue paper and lots of pencils and gluing to create our masterpieces.
With my own kids, I find the long rolls of paper from Kmart or Ikea (designed for blackboards) are great value for this. The kids can roll out at much as the like, draw and cut out shapes and then staple or glue the pieces together to create their outfits.
My kids currently love making ‘jewellery’ from paper – cutting strips and using my hold punches and stapler to create towers of bangles. Add in a bit of paint and a few sparkly ‘crystals’ from the $2 shop and they’re very happy with their creations. We also talk about the characters for whom they’re creating their jewellery and sometimes come up with a whole story.
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