Anyone else remember Why Don’t you? from TV in the 80s? If you don’t, think Blue Peter – but hosted by children. Children that are armed with copious amounts of PVA glue and a penchant for papier maché.
As I recall, those programmes made the art of “making stuff with children” look easy. What child wouldn’t have the patience to painstakingly cut out every little nobule (not a word, but whatever) of a wholesale-sized egg box? What pre-schooler wouldn’t remain whinge-free long enough to apply the artistry of the Sistine Chapel to a replica of the Thunderbirds’ Tracy Island?
30-odd years later, and I’ll tell you what child wouldn’t follow these lovely ‘fun’ rules, shall I? Most children, quite possibly ALL children, that’s who.
My artistic debut as a Mum
In the run-up to Easter, Bear was given a hometask from playgroup to make an Easter bonnet. An Easter bonnet, you say? What could possibly go wrong? Well between my artistic skills and Bear’s attention span, quite a lot as it goes.
Some of the efforts from others looked like the kind of extravagant cakes I would expect to see at a wedding. Ours? It looked very sorry for itself. “Well at least your’s looks like Bear helped to make it,” said my Mum, politely. Ah yes, Mother. It does look that way doesn’t it? It would appear that my artistic talents failed even a ‘Make Your Own Easter Bonnet’ kit, which was designed for children.
Easter week rolled around, and Facebook was filled with lots of my friends’ children winning the Easter bonnet competition at their school/nursery, and rightly so – these objects of Eastery brilliance were worthy of the Turner Prize. Ours? Well, by the time we’d transported the precariously-assembled bonnet to playgroup, quite a bit of the decoration already needed some emergency Sellotape. As for the photos that made the playgroup’s Facebook page later that day, with each child showing off their hat in the annual Easter parade, so much of Bear’s decoration had bitten the dust that she was basically wearing a straw hat, with a bit of a ribbon hanging off.
The only silver lining to the bonnet being so bare by Easter Monday is that we can reuse it next year. And when I say “we”, I mean “someone else”.
And no, I’m not posting a picture of the end result because I am too ashamed.
Feeling the pressure
While part of your brain is still in memory lane mode, and you’re thinking about other junk you’d watch when Blue Peter and Why Don’t You? weren’t on (for me, it was Byker Grove and the odd episode of The Biz, but I digress), do you remember that feeling you’d get when your teacher dropped a homework bombshell on you? It was a piece of homework that you didn’t know how you’d even try and conquer, let alone conclude into something worthy of putting your name to. Well that’s kinda how I felt when I got the text from playgroup with instructions for the next hometask.
Panic set in. That anxious, “oh-God-why-me?” feeling hit me like a lump of cheese (sudden, out of the blue, and probably a bit of a shock). I was to sit down with Bear and make an animal that you’d find in the woods (they’re reading The Gruffalo at the moment, so it’s for a big forest display).
Man alive, what animal do we choose? Do we go big and get the glue out? Do we go mental and get the paints out? Do we stick to crayons? How do I make it up to Bear for the whole bonnet-gate fiasco? Why can’t I think of a woodland animal??? AAAAGGGGHHHHHH!!
Once the panic had subsided, and I’d acquired a job lot of cotton wool and some googly eyes, we sat down to attack our woodland animal (not literally, obvs). A rabbit. They live in the woods, right? Right. If Blue Peter can make Tracy Island out of some loo rolls and sticky-backed plastic, then Bear and I sure as hell can make a picture of a rabbit using cotton wool, glue and crayons.
If you’d like to try this at home, you can join in by following these simple steps:
- Get everything ready. An outline picture of a rabbit from t’internet (you didn’t think I’d draw it by hand, did you?), and all your decorating shizzle.
- Sit your 2-year old at the table, but not for long. This whole process is made all the more relaxing if they promptly fall off the chair and cry (progressing to fake-cry) for at least 10 minutes.
- Let your child loose with glue. What harm can that do? After all, PVA glue appears to stick bugger all anyway.
- Show your child how to roll cotton wool into little balls and stick them to the glue, then watch in awe despair as their hands/face/clothes and your dining room table get slowly coated in a gluey cotton woolly mush. Such fun.
- Prepare to finish the project yourself, because your child will have sat still for all of 4 minutes by now and they’ve got a sudden urge to put on your slippers and parade around the house with some shorts on their head. And that can’t wait.
We got there in the end. Bear helped with gluing and crayoning and sticking leaves to the finished masterpiece. Not staying in the lines has left Mr Bunny with a rather unfortunate skid mark, and the colour of the leaves might suggest that a chicken korma the night before has disagreed with him, but it’s better than the bonnet so we’re going with it.
As for “Why don’t you?”, I used to wonder what the end of that question might be. Age and an embarrassingly low artistic ability now brings to mind quite a few suggestions, none of which have anything to do with making stuff, and all of which aren’t very polite.
When it comes to homework, I will always be right there helping where I can, but as she grows up I have an inkling that my own art skills will hold Bear back. Unless of course her homework is to put on a straw hat or draw a rabbit with the shits, in which case I’m the woman to call…