13 Apr 2012

Garden Crafts for Children


Regular readers here will know that, on occasion, my gardening efforts are besieged by a few mini-gardeners. They love to help out but, despite the magic of growing food from tiny seeds and the delights of watering, they'll soon be casting around for distractions. The promise of a crafting activity will sustain interest and this is where the two books I've received from Cico Books would come in very handy.

Garden Crafts for Children
The first is Dawn Isaac's new book Garden Crafts for Children. You may already know Dawn Isaac through her blog, Little Green Fingers (or through her writing in the Guardian), in which case you'll have seen some of her clever ideas woven through the gardening she does with her own children.

Dawn's book has 35 step-by-step ideas together with an introductory section on the basics of sowing and growing, choosing containers and essential kit. There's a lot that's very good about this book: visually appealing, clear instructions, engaging projects with results you'll want to keep, thus giving the kids a real sense of achievement. The activities aim to educate in a fun way, teaching skills that lead gently into a love for gardening - but don't be put off if you don't have a garden as many crafts are nature related and accessible to all. I particularly like that most of the activities are based both indoors and out, giving options for both good and bad weather, rather than being a book solely about crafting outdoors.  Projects are designed for a range of ages, assuming that adults will be working alongside the children. (Some projects need more supervision than others.)

I reviewed it with a fairly experienced eye as I've been crafting since childhood and used to teach a primary school arts club. For that reason, I would have liked to see a nod to health and safety in the garden as some of the book's audience may be new to this area of crafting. As gardeners, we're already aware (I hope) of the plants that sting, poison or cause nasty rashes and of the potential hazards of cat poo, garden canes without tops and behaving sensibly around beneficial bugs. Without wishing to be over cautious, teaching basic garden safety gets everyone off to a good start.

So, after all that, what's in the book?

~ Insect Hotel ... always a good idea
and fun to build ~
Stylish outdoor projects that will help to glam up your garden (or allotment) include an insect hotel, a sunflower walk, bean archways and - wish I'd thought of this - scented hopscotch. Expect to see some of these fab projects appearing in my veg patch over the summer months. Indoor projects include herbal bath bags, easy flower soaps, garden lights amongst many others. There are clear instructions for mini gardens that will provide hours of play long after the activity is finished.

~ Scented HopScotch ~
As expected, there's an emphasis on gorgeous props.  These help to style the book beautifully but may be inaccessible to folk on a budget; a few tips on recycled and cheaper alternatives would have been useful. An example of this: Planting herbs in a strawberry planter is a nice (but not new) idea; but, for those who can't afford the ceramic planter, a small note about the availability of polypropylene planters, especially in end-of-season sales, would be helpful. Likewise the mini window boxes; this project relies on being able to get hold of single wooden wine boxes, tools and good DIY skills. (Personally, I'd be able to make one out of thick cardboard, papier maché and varnish... and perhaps I will, as a future post.)

Two small (and very pedantic) niggles: Some of the ideas, such as planting into welly boots and growing cress caterpillars, have been around for a while and feel like page fillers. I appreciate that these are quick crafts for very little children but feel there's many more crafts that could have replaced these. Having said that, the dinosaur world is wonderful ... love the re-use of an old tyre.
Secondly, this UK book appears to be aimed at the American market. I'm aware that the interest in crafting is strong in the US but americanised phrases throughout became irritating. We're given rain boots, cookie cutters, Popsicle sticks, thrift stores, etc, with the Anglicised version in brackets. Call me patriotic, but I'm annoyed at being downgraded to second place especially as the author, and publisher, is British.

So would I recommend it? Unreservedly. Dawn Isaac is a trained garden designer and her children are given free reign in her family garden. This book draws on that experience and has a lot to offer. Even though many projects were familiar to me, there's still plenty to inspire.  Newcomers to crafting will easily be able to follow the projects and keep the kids amused over even the very long summer holidays.

My thanks to Cico Books for sending me a copy to review.


Green Crafts for Children
I've also been sent Green Crafts for Children, a book published last year but worth mentioning as there are several projects which, although not labelled as such, would be great in the garden.  My review will appear tomorrow.

6 comments:

  1. Good reviews! I would feel the same about using American phrases in an British book, and don't think that you're being pedantic in the least.
    Flighty xx

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    1. Flighty, thank you. It's good to know that you share my views! It's a small matter but I'm told that the publishers edit the text for the American market after the author has signed off the copy. I suppose that they have to make the book profitable and I'd rather have American phrases than no book at all!

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  2. Enjoyed both your reviews Caro and echo what Flighty says above. It sounds as if Dawn's book could provide some inspiration for us bigger gardeners too.

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    1. Thank you Anna. There are several ideas in the book which I can't wait to try, simply because they look rather pretty!

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  3. Looks like a lovely book. I'm going to ask my local kid's library to order it. I have worked as an illustrator and went to a talk by someone from Walker books, the big children's book publisher. She told us that if they were only relying on selling to the British market no books would be published. It's impossible to make any money from selling here alone. This may be the reason for the American terms and translations. Good reviews Caro!

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  4. Lorna I think you're right about the reasons for giving the book a more global appeal. I used to work for the Association of Illustrators and the portfolio consultant used to advice keeping a global outlook to any work done. We Brits apparently have a unique sense of humour that doesn't always translate!

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Comments on my posts are much appreciated and help to build an online community of blog friends. Everyone is welcome! I love to discover new blogs so please leave a comment to introduce yourself.
Caro x

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