Monday, 28 November 2011

Is Imaginative Play Being Eroded?


Imaginative play is acknowledged to be a very important part of a child's development and there has been much written about it and how the pace of modern life is squeezing out the time for free play. A child will play with almost anything from simple found objects, the box a gift came in, or by making a den from chairs and a blanket.

It is so important for the free, unstructured imaginative play to be allowed to develop. Playing organised games, although of value for learning to play together, developing co-operation and physical and mental development as well as for enjoyment, does not leave a child's mind free to follow his own creativity; nor does the use of computer games.

Children enjoy all computer related objects from the mobile phone, now so full of beguiling applications, to the hand held games and TV. They have an uninhibited natural ability to work with them. However there have been some disturbing findings about the use of computers and the developing brain For example there are noticeable behavioural traits showing short attention span, impatience, superficial thought process, dislocation from reality, inability to emphasise, inability to articulate thoughts or emotions and isolation.

As a species with a fundamental need to communicate and the ability to communicate in so many, many ways via all our senses, we become insular and isolated, spending more and more time confronting one screen or another. When social communication is sought it is so often dysfunctional. Face to face communication is awkward. We are forgetting to talk with one another. It is easier to invent and re-invent ourselves on line.

A child's room may be a place they can withdraw to for quiet imaginative play, to read, draw and colour or play with friends. It is also a very personal space and children love their own special things, not just toys but things that capture their imagination - a bedside lamp, a rug they can play with, bookends, measuring charts. It is also a place where their toys are kept, played with and shared.

After the bed the chair is the most frequently used object. Why not make that a toy as well, not just a piece of furniture? Children are delighted by there own special furniture, although reduced sized adult furniture has a limited appeal. For example, watch a child's reaction to the small tables and chairs in a coffee shop or shop. They run towards it, pick it up (boys turn it over) and then they lose interest and move closer to be near their parents. Their imagination is not engaged by the furniture; it's just a chair.

Childhood is such a beautiful, fragile and wonderful time, never to be repeated. The child's fresh unstructured way of seeing things of reacting to objects and ideas is a joy to see. Their imagination is boundless, fresh and of immense importance to their development.

Isn't it delightful to see a child acting out their imaginative games? It makes lovely memories for us to store away as they grow up.

The founder of Fairy Tale Children's Furniture, Zandra Johnson is a passionate advocate of imaginative play for children. Studies reveal free time spent playing make-believe helps children develop critical cognitive skills. Fairytale Furniture helps build those skills through imaginative play. Download your free guide to Imaginative Play at FAIRYTALECHILDRENSFURNITURE.CO.UK


Friday, 16 September 2011

An Up and Down Month


Well, it's been an interesting month so far, full of ups and downs. My "horror-scope" did warn me that "this month it will be one step forward and two steps backwards" and so it has proved. On the wholesale side we have had orders placed and then cancelled and then, almost immediately a new order placed, much bigger, - and then reduced.

There have been days wasted dealing with an on-line scam which, this time, also involved a re-seller. Fortunately both the re-seller and I had "feminine intuition" warnings and so eventually there was no great loss. Coping with a scam always involves so much precious time because you can never be quite sure, with the clever ones, if they are genuine or not. If the order is genuine, in spite of the warning signs, you end up with an irate customer, a disappointed child and a some bad friends who are unlikely to recommend your company. Wikipedia has lots of information about on-line scams, so be aware.

It's great fun running a company where you wear many hats, two of mine are PR and Marketing. In keeping with this month's trend I had three articles accepted and then two refused and four interviews with journalists trying to pitch an idea to magazines. One was accepted, two refused and one is still waiting. See what I mean by one step forwards and two back? This has happened so many times I begin to feel like the Grand Old Duke of York.

However, it's fun and there is nothing that I would have done differently, even with knowledge of hindsight. If I could have changed anything? I'd be greedy and have all the steps forwards and none backwards. I wonder what next month will hold?

There was a lovely phone call from a customer who had bought the elephant chair for her granddaughter and she said "the elephant chair is the most beautiful chair I have ever seen."
Thank you so much. I hope the little girl loves it to bits and enjoys the story book that goes with the chair.

The founder of Fairy Tale Children's Furniture, Zandra Johnson is a passionate advocate of imaginative play for children. Studies reveal free time spent playing make-believe helps children develop critical cognitive skills. Fairytale Furniture helps build those skills through imaginative play. Download your free guide to Imaginative Play at FAIRYTALECHILDRENSFURNITURE.CO.UK

Friday, 19 August 2011

Does our Dog Rocking Chair have Something Special?


On-line selling can be a rather lonely occupation as you don't have the pleasure of meeting your customers face to face or watching the children react to and interact with the products you have created especially for them.

Watching children using the chairs, carrying them about, sitting or rocking, at first tentatively and then with enthusiasm, has always given me enormous pleasure. I love it when the child starts to play in their imagination and you can see them talking to the character on the chairs. It's a beautiful sight seeing children engrossed in their play and acting out their fantasies.

So it's especially nice when a customer goes to the trouble of giving you information about their purchase and whether they liked it and how the child likes it. I have recently been told by two customers how their sons reacted to the Dog Rocking Chair, or "Bumble The Dog" to his friends.

The first came from a man whose son of 3 years old had the dog rocking chair and he said an amazing thing had happened. The little boy was a typical active, restless, energetic boy who didn't care for reading or looking at books and didn't really like to be read to for long - too restless and too active he much preferred to run about.

There was a long and unusual silence from his bedroom and so, peeping through the door, they found him sitting in the rocking chair and "reading" (he was only 3) He was reading the Bumble the Dog story book out loud, and then he would get another book and return to the chair to rock and read out loud. His father said "We couldn't believe it, he was reading to the dog, reading book after book. Sometimes he rocked in the chair just talking and sometimes he sat on the carpet beside the chair and rocked the chair by hand and it seemed as though he was pretending to be the dog"

The other came from a customer, Jenny, who wrote on my website the following review.
"I bought Bumble the Dog chair for my (small)8 year old son who has additional learning difficulties. Ryan jumps and claps noisily in front of the TV, video or DVD which meets some unusual sensory need of his and drives me mad!! I had a feeling that the movement of the rocking chair might help to replace the clapping and be better for us both.

Ryan doesn't often rock Bumble, but he does understand that Bumble is the place to sit quietly and will sit in Bumble with a big soft toy to cuddle (which occupies and separates his hands) or a soft blanket wrapped round him. Which is different from the small wicker cane chair which he sits in to eat quite often.

Although it is difficult to know how much Ryan understands, he knows that Bumble is HIS special chair and it's for QUIET sitting. Thank you Zandra!"

Thank you, Jenny.

The founder of Fairy Tale Children's Furniture, Zandra Johnson is a passionate advocate of imaginative play for children. Studies reveal free time spent playing make-believe helps children develop critical cognitive skills. Fairytale Furniture helps build those skills through imaginative play. Download your free guide to Imaginative Play at FAIRYTALECHILDRENSFURNITURE.CO.UK

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Children's Rooms Ideas


Of all the rooms that should be filled with creativity and character, it has to be a child’s bedroom or playroom. Children spend a good amount of time in their own rooms and it should therefore be a fun, memorable space.
Children’s rooms should be safe, inspiring and functional. Creating a functional space involves an ideal solution for every activity carried out, i.e. sleeping, playing, reading or simply relaxing with friends.
Children are stimulated by bright colours. While painting the walls is a sure-fire way to introduce colour to a room, it is not the only way. Colour can be introduced via soft furnishings like bedding and window treatments and also via accent furniture and décor. This is a great way to reach a compromise on colour as children tend to prefer bright colours that may not necessarily go with your existing home interiors.
Creating a room that grows with your child allows you the freedom to add and remove accents as you see fit. For example not everyone likes the idea of themed wall paper, plus you may be looking at keeping your child in their room for a few years. If that is the case, plain walls with bright pieces like the Elephant Chair will strike the right balance. Brightly coloured and themed children’s furniture table & chairs are aesthetic, fun and functional. Accent children’s furniture like the one in the picture will be loved by your child as they’ll regard it as “their very own chair”, so choose one that they can identify with.
Colour can also be introduced through fun children’s rugs. Rugs should be non-slip and safe, options include acrylic rugs; hardwearing, soft and great for children with allergies and wool. Which is soft and natural.
Soft furnishings like window treatments and bedding can be made or purchased in coordinating fabrics. There is a plethora of choices out there from traditional ginghams and stripes, to plain white bedding with a coloured border. Where possible choose 100% cotton for your bedding as that allows the skin to breathe.
Toks Aruoture is an interior designer and the owner of
Punkin Patch Interiors, a boutique for fine children’s furnishings
www.punkinpatch.co.uk
Thank you to Toks Aruoture who has some lovely ideas for making children's rooms a delightful place to be. We wish we were young enough to have a Toks bedroom!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Fun in the Garden

Today there was a heated debate on Radio 4 about lawns, that much loved feature of British gardens. At least they were much loved - now it seems there are gardeners and garden designers who dislike them, describe them as "boring monocultures" and would much prefer us all to dig them up and plant shrubs, flower beds, areas of decking, paved areas and gravel paths.

Listening to the debate, and the opposing sides were very passionate about their views, I could not help but remember all the fun the lawn in our garden had provided for children. Happy memories of seeing them learn how to perfect handstands, head-over-heels races, rolling downhill races, and to run in and out of the sprinkler on hot sunny days, and even cool days when their shrieks became louder as they encountered the icy jets.

The lawn was not of the Wimbledon standard, far from it. It sprouted daisies which were picked and made into daisy chains to be worn by parents and dolls alike. Dandelions provided flowers to adorn dens and seed heads to blow and make wishes. Isn't it lovely how very small children pick you flowers and give them to you with pride? I love the way they pick just the head.

In shady areas the grass gave way to moss, soft and cool and wonderful to look at through a magnifying glass and see its strange feather like shapes.

There was enough room to set up a tent, make a den out of sticks and a blanket or two chairs a sheet. Picnics were served there, and games and fantasies played out. Often there was a request to "sleep in the den". After much preparation with bedding, flash lights, comfort toys, midnight feasts and water, and an initial trial, the brave occupants decided they would much rather be inside.

The lawn was also a rich source of wildlife, beetles, bumblebees, leather jackets and both kinds of worms. Again looking at them through a magnifying glass and then making up stories about them was something I loved. Also watching the squirrels bury nuts and the Jay finding them and watching the Green Woodpecker and Blackbirds searching for food for their young and then listening to the bird song as they defended "their" patch of green.

In all, I think I like lawns, do you?

The founder of Fairy Tale Children's Furniture, Zandra Johnson is a passionate advocate of imaginative play for children. Studies reveal free time spent playing make-believe helps children develop critical cognitive skills. Fairytale Furniture helps build those skills through imaginative play. Download your free guide to Imaginative Play at FAIRYTALECHILDRENSFURNITURE.CO.UK

Monday, 23 May 2011

Inspiring Designers

The Spring weather has been wonderful and the gardens and hedgerows have been full of blossom. We have been having our meals outside in the garden and my thoughts have turned again to designing garden furniture for children. Being Fairytale Children's Furniture(R) it would, of course, have to be something they can actively play with as well as sit in when needed. Children are so full of energy and love to play and the challenge is to find something they will be happy to play with again and again. I've been sketching and thinking and making quarter scale models. Do leave a comment and tell me what your children love to play in the garden.

I've also been looking at children's garden furniture and again have been concerned by the lack of safety in a couple of "perennial" outdoor chairs. Deck chairs and folding chairs with no spacers to prevent little fingers being nipped in the folding parts and lightweight metal and fabric chairs which would tip over backwards if the small child climbed in knee first before turning to sit, as so many little children do.

Recently I've been to two truly inspirational furniture events. The first was a solo exhibition of John Makepeace www.johnmakepeacefurniture.com one of our most talented and creative furniture makers. I was familiar with all the pieces in the exhibition through images of them in books, but to actually see them "in the round" was truly awe-inspiring. The imagination, flair and craftsmanship to produce each piece has no equal. John was at the exhibition and spoke to many visitors. I asked if I could ask him questions abut the way he made the furniture and how he achieved the sinuous, flowing shapes. With all his usual generosity and patience he answered my questions fully - heaven!

The second event also demonstrated the ingenuity and skill of the designer, also in making bespoke pieces, but this time for severely disabled children and adults. Demand, wwww.demand.org.uk also make equipment for para-olympians, Meeting the designers and the people working for Demand at their Open Day and seeing the work they do and the events they support was inspiring, humbling and heart-warming. There are some very talented designers out there.

The founder of Fairy Tale Children's Furniture, Zandra Johnson is a passionate advocate of imaginative play for children. Studies reveal free time spent playing make-believe helps children develop critical cognitive skills. Fairytale Furniture helps build those skills through imaginative play. Download your free guide to Imaginative Play at FAIRYTALECHILDRENSFURNITURE.CO.UK

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Spring Is Here - Almost

The days are getting longer, the birds are singing and some are even inspecting the bird boxes we put up in the garden. All around the signs of Spring are showing, almond blossom, early bulbs flowering and the hedgerows showing a dusting of green. Every year I am surprised by the perfume of some daffodil flowers though not as sweet and heady as narcissus and jonquils.

Even though the weather can still be capricious it is wonderful to be out doors. Wrap up warm, take a simple camera or paper and pencil and a large magnifying glass with you and become nature sleuths. Children have such sharp eyes and love to find new things. Look through the magnifying glass at the newly flourishing buds, look at the patterns in moss and lichen and watch how they change as the months get warmer. Using a simple camera you can get amazingly close to objects, insects and flowers and then use the zoom to magnify the picture.

I love to play games and tell stories whilst I'm out. (well, I'm a kidult!) There are lots of games to play in the park or garden which involve running, jumping, hiding and searching. What are your favourites? As for stories my favourite is to make up stories about the plants and trees. For example "Why the Snowdrop Hangs it's Head" or "Why the Snowdrop Has Three Petals and Three Hearts" or "The Fairies Who Live in The Sticky Bud Tree" (Horse Chestnut Tree)

Another game we loved was to pick three clues and then tell a story about them and take it in turns to tell a more convincing version. The clues can be three things you spot whilst walking; an abandoned shoe, a broken twig and a bunch of red berries; or you can make a Story Bag full of little clues. Each person can make their own bag and collect small objects to put inside. Perhaps a stone or fossil, paper clip, tiny doll, beads, hair clips, fabric, picture or small toy. Swap bags and draw out three objects at random and let your imagination flow.

There are ideas for "12 Games To Play" on the Articles page of my website which you might enjoy, and I give ideas for games in my monthly newsletter for children. Please share your own favourite childhood games. It would be lovely to hear about games from different times and different cultures.

"We do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing" Benjamin Franklin.

The founder of Fairy Tale Children's Furniture, Zandra Johnson is a passionate advocate of imaginative play for children. Studies reveal free time spent playing make-believe helps children develop critical cognitive skills. Fairytale Furniture helps build those skills through imaginative play. Download your free guide to Imaginative Play at FAIRYTALECHILDRENSFURNITURE.CO.UK


Monday, 14 February 2011

Observing Children play.

I have spent quite a bit of time recently in coffee shops - they make great meeting places for 1-2-1 business meetings- and often there is a little area set aside for children with children's table and chairs and some indestructible games. I always watch how the children react to their special area. It is invariable the same. They run to it, look around and then pick up a chair and move it. If its a boy child they always pick up the chair, turn it upside down and then lose interest. Girls will often sit at the table, or move the chair nearer to their mother. The chair does not immediately become part of their play.

When I was designing Fairytale Childrens Furniture(R) I wanted to add an element of imaginative play and tested the prototypes on children for some time before we went into production. It still surprises (and delights) me to see how quickly the children interact with the chairs; how quickly they begin to talk to the character on the chair.

Another thing which I noticed whilst watching children was how many of the small children climbed into a chair knee-first and then turned round to sit down. It is so easy for the chair to overbalance as the child leans on the chair back to turn and sit and for the child to crash face first onto the floor.

When choosing a child's chair make sure it feels stable. Legs which spread beyond the seat area are more stable. Chairs with arms should have arms which do not project wider than the seat area as children can often put their weight on an arm and lean over to reach something.

Rocking chairs should always have rockers with a shallow arc which projects beyond the seat and preferably has "Stops" at each end of the rockers. http://www.fairytalechildrensfurniture.co.uk

Its great fun designing furniture for children, but you have to design for use and foreseeable misuse. As we know children can possess a great talent for finding unusual ways to use things. Some have a greater capacity than others for finding ways to injure themselves, my daughter when young being one of them. But that's another story...

The founder of Fairy Tale Children's Furniture, Zandra Johnson is a passionate advocate of imaginative play for children. Studies reveal free time spent playing make-believe helps children develop critical cognitive skills. Fairytale Furniture helps build those skills through imaginative play. Download your free guide to Imaginative Play at FAIRYTALECHILDRENSFURNITURE.CO.UK

Friday, 4 February 2011

Looking Back On The Year

This is my first real blog, rather than the brief postings under "Fairytale News" on our website, which was supposed to be serious company related news. Well, for one thing I find it hard to be serious and for another the ethos of the company is about having fun.

I have had this blog spot for ages now and been too scared to put pen to paper (so to speak) "What do I write about? What can I say that will interest people? Fairytale Children's Furniture is about furniture and even I, who love furniture, can't talk about it every time."

So I have decided to blog about having fun with your children, finding things you can do together, play together and of course tell stories - and sometimes talk about furniture, just a little.

During the past year I have been doing just that on Twitter and Face Book. Every day I post a "Daily Fun Tip" at mid day and these are building up into quite a resource. Please join us and join in and "Like" our pages; it would be great to have you. http://twitter.com/FairytaleChairs http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fairytale-Childrens-Furniture/165908516755979

Still on the theme of having fun, our monthly newsletter for children has been going out and we now give away a free story book of your choice when you subscribe. These newsletters are for children and will never sell to you, market or advertise. They contain ideas for games, for having fun, simple cooking recipes, silly rhymes and nature notes. Finding all the ideas is great fun and if something makes me smile, or feel like a kid, I save it. I just love being a Kidult!

There, - done it - my first tiny blog. Phew, it wasn't as hard as I imagined.
Please join in and share our favourite childhood game or pastime.

The founder of Fairy Tale Children's Furniture, Zandra Johnson is a passionate advocate of imaginative play for children. Studies reveal free time spent playing make-believe helps children develop critical cognitive skills. Fairytale Furniture helps build those skills through imaginative play. Download your free guide to Imaginative Play at FAIRYTALECHILDRENSFURNITURE.CO.UK