Life is strange these days but amid the tears and tantrums, I’ve managed to find some positives.
One of these is spending a bit more time with Baby Bookworm and trying out new activities in a bid to fill the endless hours trapped (help me!) in our four walls.
StoryCraft Theatre is a York-based arts company who run weekly interactive storytelling classes for 2-5 year olds, along with special events and parties.
We first experienced their magic when a friend hired them for an underwater adventure-themed birthday party.
However, their sessions at York Theatre Royal fall on a nursery day for Baby Bookworm and his brother is too little to appreciate them.
With the closure of theatres and other public spaces because of coronavirus, StoryCraft supremos Cassie and Janet have put their creativity to good use – and now Crafty Tales sessions are coming straight to your personal prison, I mean, home!
Three days a week you can join them via Zoom for a book-themed craft activity, followed by an interactive storytelling performance and reading of the book. The 45-minute session costs just £3.50 per child.
As a bonus, they are also sharing free craft activities on their Instagram account on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
We signed up for an online Crafty Tales class based around the Judith Kerr classic The Tiger Who Came To Tea. Fee paid, we received an email in advance with the links, plus instructions and a list of materials for the craft activity – a tiger mask.
You will need access to basic craft supplies like cardboard, scissors and so on to take part, but I imagine most people would have these bits in the house.
Box of materials all ready, we hopped online at 10am and I initially wondered if I’d made a mistake. Baby Bookworm seemed a bit overwhelmed by seeing his friends on the computer and was refusing to give Cassie even a glance.
Thankfully, as she started the (very simple) Crafty Tales welcome song, he softened and threw himself into making the mask.
The craft activity was very accessible even for non-crafty parents and kids, but still looked extremely effective. It was lovely to create it together, guided by the ever patient Cassie.
It also built excitement for the performance, which had Baby Bookworm hooked. Cassie and Janet are trained actors and children’s theatre practitioners, as well as mums, so know just how to engage little people.
Cassie had a professional range of props, puppets and costumes, and used Zoom very effectively to give us the feeling of still being close to the action, both in terms of watching her but also sharing the experience with the other families.
She was able to focus the screen on what she was doing when needed, as well as mute and unmute our mics to suit.
I was impressed by the subtle educational elements the session incorporated, such a spelling out words like milk, asking children to collect orange objects and counting. But most of all, I loved the way it sparked baby Bookworm’s imagination.
Cassie also gave parents a few ideas on how to keep the fun going later on, like using the objects for a treasure hunt round the garden.
Baby Bookworm was pretty much putty in her hands and I had a huge amount of fun because he was enjoying it so much. We carried it through the day, printing off some Tiger Who Came To Tea activity sheets before watching the animated version on the telly.
Quite frankly, it was money well spent and we are already booked in for next week’s Easter-themed class – We’re Going On An Egg Hunt.
Now, if I could just persuade them to homeschool my son EVERY morning, that really would crafty.
StoryCraft Theatre Crafty Tales online sessions take place on Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday mornings, costing £3.50 per child. Go to the website to find out more about these sessions, plus one-off events, children’s parties and school sessions. storycrafttheatre.co.uk
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