Monday, 30 January 2012

Story Telling - The Ancient Entertainment


It is National Storytelling Week every year for the first week of February and round the country there are hundreds of story telling events, competitions classes and gatherings of story tellers swapping tales. The UK’s First Laureate of Story was Taffy Thomas and he said that the best gift you can give to anybody is to give them a story. If you give them chocolates they eat them, if you give them wine they drink it, but if you give them a story they will have it for life and they can swap it for another story, and another. 

I love stories and spent a happy evening in London with a story telling group where we tell a story, either our own or one from other cultures, and give each other feedback. One ghost story was told in the dark, with only the light of a candle in the room. That reminded me of the days when I was small and lived in Kenya.

Every evening an old African watchman would come on duty and would light a small fire to heat his evening meal. In the darkness he would squat beside the fire and I would squat next to him listening to his stories. The sparks from the fire were swallowed up by the night and the old watchman’s face and crouching form were part illuminated by the red glow. When he spoke in Swahili I could understand, but when he became particularly involved in the story he would revert to his tribal language and I could only follow the gestures. He was brilliant at mimicking the actions and sounds of animals.

Do you enjoy cuddling up with your children reading stories, or telling ones of your own? The Story Museum has 1001 stories to listen to and download and is a rich source of free stories from all round the world.

A story game I used to play with our daughter was telling stories from a Story Bag if you go to our FaceBook video channel there are some short videos there with stories, and making a Story Bag. We keep adding videos so please come back and visit again.

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, 19 January 2012

Do You Rock?


Rocking is such a natural and soothing motion. From the very first days of cradling your new born babe and soothing them to sleep, comforting them when they cry, or rocking from one foot to the other as you hold them against your shoulder.
Cradles, traditionally, were mounted on rockers. In medieval times they were just a box on rockers. The rockers were placed across the foot and head of the box and the cradle was rocked from side to side. Some Scandinavian cradles had the rockers placed lengthwise along the box and the child was rocked with the head and foot rising and falling. I wonder which is the most soothing motion – gently from side to side or gently up and down?
Lying in a hammock and swinging gently, or sitting in a garden swing seat – both are pleasing and relaxing. Especially if you add the sound of sea gulls, warm sunshine and a cooling drink…… The pace of the swing, smooth, slow and rhythmic is what is so soothing; almost mesmeric. In fact hypnotists in dramas are often depicted using a swinging pendulum to lull their patient into a state of receptive somnolence.
Swings are a favourite part of playgrounds and a garden swing at home can amuse a child for hours. This time the swing can become not just soothing, but exhilarating as well. Standing on the swing instead of just sitting, swinging as high as possible or leaping off the swing at the height of the forward arc all add to the experience.
Another well known childhood favourite, the rocking horse, provides the same soothing motion. Rocking toys have never been in such abundance as now. Even tiny toddlers have rocking animals and rocking seats. I confess that I rode our rocking horse even more than my daughter and was so sad to see it leave us.
And so to rocking chairs. There have been rocking chairs in the UK since medieval times, but they have not become part of our culture as they have in America, and the tropics. Perhaps our climate has something to do with that. Here the chair was associated with the elderly sitting by the fire, and now as nursing chairs mounted on gliders rather than rockers. Yet if you search under “Rocking Chairs” and then click on “Images” in the top left hand section of the browser bar you will be shown pages and pages of innovative designs.
As adults it would seem that we are a sedentary, but still nation. We loll, lie, sprawl but not rock; either in the garden or the house. It is as children that we enjoy the rocking chair the most.

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