How to mummify a chicken in a primary classroom-NO SMELL RECIPE

Here’s the chicken about three quarters mummified so after 5 weeks

Having been challenged to write instructions on how to make a mummy the year three teachers invited all 90 year 3 children to take part in a chicken mummification ‘ceremony’ inspired by the 3000 year old Ancient Egyptian process.

Whilst smelling the sweet aroma of frankincense the children heard the live story-telling of an Ancient Egyptian myth of the first mummification involving the envious Seth, god of evil; tricking, killing and cutting his brother King Osiris’s body into 14 pieces and hurling them across the Nile. And of Isis, beloved wife of Osiris crying in sorrow at her husbands death, thus flooding the Nile. Then journeying to find the bits and put them back together so mummifying Osiris’s mutilated body with the help of the god Anubis. Read the story here.

Volunteers took turns to help in the mummification process as the others looked on enthralled listening to the parallels made to the mummification of a human body by ancient Egyptians. More about how ancient Egyptians mummified their dead herehere, and here.

What you need: 

  1. Small baby chicken gutted (I used a halal one because there is less blood in halal chicken as it’s drained out during the slaughtering process- perhaps this might make the mummifying process less smelly)
  2. Dishwasher salt -3 x kg bags
  3. Rock or sea salt (with no iodine added)
  4. Bicarbonate of soda -2 containers approx
  5. White wine vinegar-1 cup full
  6. Optional- dried lavender flowers or rosemary leaves
  7. 3kg seal tight plastic container
  8. Kitchen towel
  9. Gloves
  10. Antibacterial wipes
  11. Bin with bin bags
  12. Incense (optional)
  13. A table
  14. A large bowl


  • With gloves on Wash chicken with white wine vinegar, inside and out thoroughly ( this kills germs)
  • Dab chicken dry with kitchen towel
  • Mix in large bowl the rock salt, 1 bag dishwasher salt, half container of bicarbonate of soda (approximate measurements given)
  • Create a ‘bed’ of the salt mixture in the base of the plastic container and add some dried herbs if using
  • Place washed and dried chicken on bed of salt mixture
  • Stuff salt mixture in every nook cranny and crevice of the chicken as well as the inside ( if using a chicken that isn’t gutted you could take these out and also preserve them in salt in home made canopic jars.
  • Then pour rest of salt mixture over top of stuffed chicken
  • Sprinkle on some more bicarbonate of soda (keeps away any bad odours)
  • Leave in covered plastic container for 6 weeks or until mummification process is completed.
  • Check on it every two weeks and replace all the salt mixture once at around 3-4 week point

NB of course whilst demonstrating and involving children, health and safety must be adhered to. Incense can be burned as Ancient Egyptians would have done. The chicken can be weighed before, during and after the mummification process for scientific purposes.

I’ve kept the mummifying chicken in the classroom, closed and out of the way of nosey children for some time and it’s been so easy to keep, bring out and show as well as maintain throughout the process.

Below are photos of the chicken 5 weeks into its mummification. I’d like to add that not at any time during this process has there ever been any unpleasant smell. In fact there is a slight smell of soap (probably from the dishwasher salt) as well as the gorgeous smell of lavender and perhaps just a whiff of old leather shoes. 

  Above I am squeezing the leg, it’s become quite firm and stiff but is still slightly too pink to be fully completed yet. But you can see how the skin has dried out and is now tightly following the shape of the bone beneath.

  Above I’m pointing to the inside of the leg that has been face down on the salt bed is beginning to turn brown. A good sign meaning it is nearer to full mummification.

Above the chicken is beginning to take on a squashed appearance as the salt draws out the water and begins to dry it out.  

Here you can see that the fleshy breast is far less mummified than other parts. My finger can press into the flesh still and leave an impression. This part needs much more time in the salt. The colour is also still pinkish. 

I shall post more photos when it has completely mummified. We also hope to embalm it (wrap it in bandages) so these pictures will follow.

I hope this post helps make this really exciting activity accessible to your classroom thus bringing to life this strange and ancient art. (NB although we have parents of vegetarian/vegan children in our classes I’d like to add that no one made any complaint or comment about the process and all the children have been fully engaged throughout.)


Traditional Tales – beautiful illustrations by children

Traditional Tales Illustration

Traditional Tales Illustration

TRADITIONAL TALES Traditional tales are fascinating! Full of strange apparitions, flying carpets, talking trees, wishes, dreams and morals. Many wonderful illustrators from around the world have brought these characters and events to life. So what better way to introduce this topic to my 60 young artists than to show them some illustrations and photos. NB Useful links below if you are using this lesson. Please note many of these images are copyright so use them as inspiration only. Indian illustrations/Art: Micha Archer, Mithila, Mithila, MithilaPaisley. Moroccan illustrations/Art: Arch, Kilim, Birdcage, Mint tea, Moorish henna patterns, Pomegranate tree Japanese Illustrations/Art: Hokusai-wave, Girl & Almond blossoms, Japanese lady 1 & 2, Wave patterns. Nigerian Illustrations/Art: Girl & boy, Patterned boy, Nigerian patterns, Fish, Fish & people. Equador Illustration/Art: Kapok tree & flower, traditional dress, Painting-people, Patterns. CROSS CURRICULAR LINKs In literacy the children were exploring and retelling traditional tales using the book A forest of stories Magical Tree Tales from Around the World by Rina Singh and illustrated by Helen Cann. So I thought this was a perfect opportunity to bring in their Pattern, Illustration and Calligraphy skills. Science also linked in with the traditional tales because the topic was woodland. We collected leaves berries from local trees. Measured them in maths, investigated how to measure a tree without using a measuring tape. Researched woodland habitat and identified types of trees and their seeds/flowers. THE TASK The task I set, was to create either a book cover illustration or an illustrated page from the traditional tale they were retelling in literacy. They could choose weather they used writing or just illustration alone. The illustration must represent a character/event/tree in the story. Each class of thirty was divided up into five groups and each group took a tale from a different country. We had tales from Morocco, India, Japan, Nigeria, Equador. The children were retelling the stories orally in literacy and had not seen the illustrations in the original book which was ideal. THEORY The children looked at traditional illustrations by artists from each of the countries that their stories were from (See links above). They did this as a class. I asked them Questions which stimulated a class discussion:

  • What stands out about each style of illustration? What similarities are there in the use of colour?
  • How are people represented?
  • Can you see anything that is interesting about the composition of the pictures?
  • What about the writing, is it in another language, another style or font?
  • Is there anything around the edge of the illustration like a border? What is in the border? Pattern, objects, faces?

HOW TO BEGIN Thumb nails in sketch books are a good way to start. Thumb nails are several very quick sketches that allow you to work out options. Where something is going in a picture, what will go in it, weather it should have a border or not, and so on. Spend ten minutes maximum on this. Some children are sure and confident to draw straight onto paper using pencil, however others may do well to listen to some good advice and work it out first. Borders should be done using a ruler unless it is free hand. Children need to be reminded to consider where the writing will go if there is any, to draw lines for it in feint pencil. The children all got on very independently and I just reminded them every now and again about composition, dividing up their paper, balance and using their country illustrations as inspiration. Only one child out of 60 found the illustration difficult, but with a little encouragement I managed to get him to add something to his Kapok flower plonked in the middle of his page! I also encouraged them to write in Arabic for the Moroccan tale (some clever kids knew how to), Others I asked to adapt their font to imitate the language of that country if they could. I demonstrated this on the board. You can see clearly the one below has used Sanskrit as font inspiration for the Indian Tale. IMG_0407 IMG_0394 IMG_0397 IMG_0399 IMG_0400 IMG_0401 IMG_0403 IMG_0404 IMG_0405 IMG_0409 IMG_0430 IMG_0431 IMG_0432 SAM_0475 IMG_0434 IMG_0436 IMG_0439 And a closer look at the detail on that tree… SAM_0494 IMG_0440 IMG_0441 Let’s look at that fabulous tree in more detail! IMG_0442 IMG_0446   Once the children had planned out in pencil the illustration and written the calligraphy, they then used felt tip pens to colour in the work. Often they worked over the pen with black hand writing pens to enhance areas or add more details. The felt tips give the illustrations the flat colour that book covers have once they are printed. Here are a few more. SAM_0472 SAM_0473 SAM_0476 SAM_0483 SAM_0484 SAM_0489 SAM_0492I was so pleased with the work the children produced and am so chuffed to be able to share it with you. If this post was helpful or you do anything similar with your class please do contact me and send me pictures. Perhaps I can put them here too!!!

AMAZING LINK For Teachers: Lynne Cherry’s blog-includes The Great Kapok Tree as a play for children to perform!!!

Ten year old ‘s view of art-Amazing!

At the end of last term I received a hand made card from one of my Yr 5 pupils thanking me for teaching them.

The card said ‘Thank you for giving me a new perspective on art’, I was intrigued and found the young lady who wrote it to enquire as to what this new perspective was. She elaborated in great detail so I asked her to write it down for me, and this is what she wrote.

I used to think of art as just a drawing but now I can see it in a new perspective. It is not just a drawing, there are things and facts behind the painting and the artists, art is both a skill and a way of life. I have learnt to see and experience art in a new way and enjoy looking at it and seeing the story behind it.

 Yasmin, aged 10.

I was blown away by her eloquence and deep thinking. Art is definitely a way of life, a way of seeing the world and a way of capturing that experience in an art form. I could definitely see this in her approach to her own art and in our art history lessons.

It confirmed to me that no one is too young for art history, in fact it is essential for the growth of a young artist to learn to appreciate and critique the art of others. What is important is that it is presented to the young artist just one step ahead of them so that their interest and ability is pushed and stimulated.

When I was in school I was only taught to learn facts about an artist’s life, or copy their painting technique. But it was only at degree level that I was taught to look for symbols, patterns, meaning, trends, habits, and the psychology within an artist’s work. It was such a shame that I had to wait so long to actually be exposed to this critical and searching approach to art. I think if I had been shown this earlier it would have enhanced my own creative process as well as sparked more interest in the art of others.

Here is some of Yasmin’s work.

The orchid below was worked on by Yasmin and Grace. You can see the development of colour and vibrance from day one (below) to day two (below that). These two girls made a great team, Grace had a particular concept which she communicated to Yasmin who then put it into action on the mural. Grace wanted Yasmin to paint the dying, crumpled flower on the left to show how the rain forest is full of life and death. That things dye and new things are born.

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Here you can see the finished orchid within the context of the whole mural.

What I would like to emphasize is that Grace and Yasmin used the dying flower as a symbol for a very grown up concept, the natural cycle of living and dying. Very often children like to show nature in its perfection, and I expected them to omit the dying flower and show the orchid in its full living glory.

I believe that the study of art history, and the analysis of other artist’s work has influenced how Yasmin and Grace approach their own work and whetted their appetite for deeper, thought provoking art.

You might argue that too much analyzing and critical thinking will spoil the natural innocence of a child’s approach. And I agree with that on some levels, however it’s all about the natural disposition of the child and about the way the critical thinking is introduced.

It is natural to see an image and want to know more about it and yet so often we look at a painting and just accept it for its face value.

For example if you present a year five class with The Scream by Edvard Munch it might be quite inappropriate, they would be less able to empathize with the emotion and desperation intertwined with it. However if you presented the class with the painting below by historical artist Graham Turner you could bring in relevant historical, conceptual, compositional and symbolic analysis. Children could compare the bright use of colour here with this older etching. You could ask why it is effective today to use these colours (Turner’s) and his style of depiction rather than those used in the earlier etching. Or ask which one the children feel is most effective, take a vote and ask them why.

The Battle of Bosworth – King Richard III’s Charge Painted by Graham Turner

Questions such as why did Graham Turner portray this particular moment in the battle and not another are interesting. The children could compare other depictions of the Battle of Bosworth and ask why it is that none of the artist  focus on Henry Tudor in the same way that they feature King Richard III?  (Richard is the last plantagenet king, the last King of England to be killed in battle, a king who was never given the burial of a King but was instead stripped naked and paraded over the back of a donkey to the people of Leicester.)

You can ask why is it significant that Turner has depicted Henry Tudor’s Herald and flag bearer (William Brandon) falling so dramatically? What do they think happened to Brandon after he fell? What is the symbol of a flag and therefore the flag bearer? (Just after K. Richard blasts into Brandon and kills him, the flag nearly falls but at the last minute is restored by one of Henry’s body guards).

Ask why Turner has angled the two flags in the way they are? What do they do to Richard? (they create a frame for him, so making him stand out, clever composition). Ask who they think the men are in the distance behind the rearing horse of Henry Tudor. This question can then open up the story telling of The wealthy Stanley brothers, the corruption, hostage taking and deceit that went on during Tudor times.

The Stanley brothers were a very wealthy family that commanded an army of 6000 men. They were loyal to King Richard III but decided not to commit to either side at the Battle of Bosworth. Needless to say both Henry Tudor and King Richard wanted them on their side. Richard went to meet Sir William Stanley and ask for his loyalty, but Stanley (who is married to Henry Tudor’s mother by the way) would not promise his loyalty. To help persuade him Richard kidnaps William’s son but apparently William replies to the news of his son’s kidnap by saying: ‘I have many more sons’. William Stanley and his army spent a large part of the battle of Bosworth waiting to see which side they would join. However they made their important decision just after the moment depicted in Turner’s painting. The Brothers chose Henry Tudor’s side and attack just after William Brandon’s death so sealing King Richard’s Fate and Henry Tudor’s succession to the throne.

Well chosen and fascinating, art history, with relevant analysis and critique is essential to the artistic creative process. It not only whets the appetite of the young artist but is essential for all of us to experience because it informs and assists us in reconsidering our own art. This is what I have discovered through teaching and as an artist myself and Yasmin’s card has reconfirmed this for me.

Second steps to painting a rain forest mural with kids

Here is the second of the promised posts describing the step by step, week by week progression of art work that built up to the mural. Please note that each weekly session was generally one and a half hours long. This post covers the second and third sessions with a focus on: insects and bugs, birds and frogs.

To read The first steps to painting a rain forest mural with kids, click here.

My Learning objectives.

I rarely tell the children what they are learning in a formal way such as a LO because I like to avoid too much teacher talking time during art. I feel that the more of an art lesson that is spent in right brain activities the better. A formal LO also implies that someone must be successful at it, in order to achieve that LO. This is inappropriate for creative flow and confidence building.  However, I’m always  very clear of pupil learning targets, and often share these with pupils in order to help them improve.  I find it is very important to clearly explain what is required of them and why, as this sets the scene for the lesson.

Learning objectives: Session 1

  1. To use mixed media to create informative sketches of insects and similar creatures.
  2. To understand the difference between information sketches and a finished painting/drawing, and to begin to decide when to use each technique.
  3. To use observation skills to perceive small details and to choose suitable materials to capture that information quickly.
  4. To be able to objectively observe own work and begin to assess the areas that need improvement.
  5. To adapt, change, adjust the areas that need improvement incorporating any advice given by adult.
  6. To begin to use descriptive language to describe a colour in more detail. e.g. olive green, lemon yellow, warm red etc.

Session 1: Drawing insects/bugs from dead specimens-large scale

I contacted our local Natural History Museum and asked if they had any rainforest samples for us to borrow. They were marvelous and provided us with a box of goodies which consisted of: a very long python snake skin, lots of trays of butterflies, a tarantula, a black scorpion, a small monkey skull, a centipede and a couple of beetles. I am ashamed to say that I never actually took any photos of the samples, we were loaned them for a week free of charge.

The lesson began with ‘scribble’ drawings in pen for the first five minutes, to warm up. I then encouraged them to use the insect specimens to create accurate but large scale, sketches on A3 paper using chalks, water colour, charcoal and pen. I demonstrated the technique of drawing with charcoal first (as any inaccuracies could easily be rubbed away), then using chalks to put in some colours and adding water colour paint to other areas.

Here are a few examples I did before the lesson which I pinned up on the white board to  give a clear idea of what I was after. Below is a ‘scribble’ butterfly, done be holding a handwriting pen at the end and without resting your wrist on the paper/table. I then worked over this one with chalks.



The one above is black chalk pastel (over charcoal sketch). Water colour for the orangey brown parts and yellow-white for the spots.


The one above is all chalk pastels over a charcoal sketch.

I noticed that some children did insist on drawing a butterfly from their heads, even though there was the most beautiful butterfly in front of them. These children just needed encouragement to actually look at what they saw and use some proportional measurement techniques to assess how long the legs were, or how fat the body was. Children who were naturally confident with drawing the insects were then asked to look very closely at a leg, or the colour of a wing. Often they would notice a tiny detail/colour that they hadn’t seen before. Here are some of their sketches.


           IMG_1397 IMG_1404 IMG_1405 IMG_1406 IMG_1407 IMG_1408IMG_1230 IMG_1227

Every child had a piece of work good enough to be put up on the wall. Every one engaged with the insects in an amazing way and produced what I would describe as very mature work. ( 9-11 year olds produced this.) I managed to display it in such a way that one person’s success could cover up another person’s less successful area, leaving the especially good bits exposed.

If you have no museum from which to borrow samples then why not book a trip to a natural history museum and make a day of it? Or even a zoo? Alternatively collect creatures from the school gardens, or borrow pets maybe? As a last resort you could work from photos and pictures but there really isn’t anything to be compared with working from real insects.

Session 2: Birds and frogs-from photos (unfortunately)

Unfortunately I was not able to borrow a pet parrot or any live creatures. However I did get my hands on 30 feathers. Fifteen were the large quill feathers from plain birds, the others were those colourful packets of craft feathers that you can buy in craft shops. So we began the lesson by observing and drawing feathers. The children were quite accustomed to the mixed media techniques from the last lesson so I invited them to choose what ever medium and technique they felt they were good at and was appropriate for the feather they were observing. Here are just a few sketches they did.


I reminded the children that birds are covered in feathers ( an obvious point, but actually an important link when drawing birds). We then looked at a quick power point about toucans. I chose toucans because they feature in Tim Viner’s book The Tree and because they are typically inspiring rain forest birds. I then chose a picture, printed out and laminated several resource pictures of toucans and asked the children to begin sketching in charcoal, pen, pencil chalk pastels and water colour (their choice) the toucans.

In all my art lessons I encourage the children to think of ‘mistakes’ in their work as not mistakes but areas that need adjustment. They even use that term now too. It shows them that there is no real thing as a mistake but rather something that just needs a little more work or observation. I strongly encourage the children not to cross out their work but rather to write a little comment about what it is that needs adjusting in that particular sketch. This process allows them an opportunity to: self assess, to show me their improvements in observation, and show their friends that they realize that something isn’t right yet and gives them a chance to correct it. Here are some of their toucan sketches, the first one is a perfect example of a child who is self assessing in a positive way as they draw.

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As children began to improve and practice their weak areas on the toucan I then allowed some of them to branch out and try a tree frog. These were entirely independent with no help from me. Others continued to try a toucan on sugar paper with chalk pastels. Here is a display we put together.

IMG_1238 IMG_1239The chalk drawing below is one of my favourite. I love this boy’s sense of colour, the bird looks like an edible sweetie and I just love his comment next to the bird on the right…’needs to go on a diet’.


I hope this post is helpful in giving some ideas about painting and drawing birds. I found that giving clear instructions, demonstrating techniques and reminding the children of skills they learnt in previous lessons worked really well. This lesson set them up fantastically for painting their actual mural which featured a toucan. Do contact me with any questions, comments or if you need any further help with lesson plans.

Exciting ways to get creative with your children-for the tentative parent.

Sketching upon waking

There are many research articles suggesting that spending positive, quality time with our children at home (especially at primary age) directly impacts their attitudes and beliefs in their own capabilities at school. If you’re interested in reading more about this then here are a few articles.

Article 1 Parental involvement in children’s education. Why does it make a difference?

Article 2 Parental involvement in their children’s learning

Quality time put in by fathers, mothers or any other important family member gives  children the opportunity to see, copy and integrate skills that are important on a social, practical and emotional level. Creative activities are a fantastic way to begin some quality interactions with your child and is often an irresistible distraction from the addictive pull of PSP’s, Nintendo, T.V , etc.

In this article I will share some of my ideas (all tried and tested), some useful places to visit, some tips along with great links to online resources.

Get Creative: No 1

  1. Choose a book
  2. Pick a related topic
  3. Choose your focus and skill
  4. Get Creative

Choose an exciting, well written story book suitable to your children’s level of understanding and find a family time where this book gets read everyday (its bed time in our house). Now you’re probably thinking, How’s this creative? Well I’ll explain.

Let’s take The Iron Man and The Iron Woman by Ted Hughes, or The jungle book by Rudyard Kipling. Both books contain excellent language, and vocabulary as well as perfect subject matter to stimulate fantastic art, drama or creative writing.  What I often do with my children is to pick a topic that links in with the current book I’m reading, so for example you could choose topics like recycling, wildlife, pollution, save the planet, reduce, reuse, junk,for The Iron Man/Woman. And for the Jungle book you might choose topics such as forests, jungle animals, India, tigers, traditional peoples.

Once your book and topic are chosen (either by you or by the kids) then you need to decide what you want to get out of this. For me, there are some occasions where I know precious little about our chosen topic so its a chance for the kids and I to learn together. Other times I know that I have a skill, or a particular idea in mind that I want to pass onto the children. And yet other times it is simply another ploy to distract them from the t.v. or from bickering with each other.

Lets imagine that you’ve chosen The Iron Man/Iron Woman, your topic is recycling and your aim is to improve skills in art, creating from imagination, sculpting, painting, cutting and such like. You could then collect all the house hold recyclable junk like cereal boxes, toilet/kitchen rolls, tin cans, milk bottles and lids etc. and build the Iron man out of them and paint him metallic colours. You could make ‘space bat angel dragon’ wings using old black plastic bags, or Iron Woman masks out of old cd’s, wire and cardboard. You could make papier mache half men half fish, or air dry clay painted models of fish and hang them from the ceiling. Go and visit a fish farm and draw the fish there, if you’re in Oxford then here’s a great place to visit. Go and take photos of pollution in a lock, canal or river near you, then make a piece or art work or poster persuading locals not to dump rubbish into it. I know a few local children near me who made posters, laminated them and tied them with string to the fence along my local stream. Also show them this.

All this can be done with any good book at any level and ability. I will suggest some more fantastic books at the end of this article. Just to add one more example for a lower age group lets take a fantastic book like The snail and the whale by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. (a book appropriate to pre school and foundation year children pictured above). You have topics such as the sea, seaside, whales, snails, sea wildlife, and from these topics can stem all sorts of wonderful art such as painting shells, collecting empty garden snail shells and decorating them with acrylic paint and then varnishing them. Visiting the seaside and collecting objects that can later be put together into a piece or art, or stuck onto a cardboard frame for a picture, making a sand sculpture of sea creatures (remember to photograph them and you can make them in any sand pit), look at Hokusai’s The Great Wave and make your own painting inspired by it. Play them this, a beautiful composition of John Masefield’s Sea Fever.

Get Creative: No 2.

  1. History, Art, Music Drama (and a bit of science too)
  2. Chose the topic
  3. Bring it to life-visits, online links/games, references
  4. Get creative

I did three history topics with my children that worked really well and will share one of them. Although this idea can work with any historical topic of your choice it is obviously most effective if it is adapted to the children’s age, ability and preferences.

My three topics were Castles, the Vikings, and Ancient Egyptians.

Castles hold a fascination for children so it needs little persuasion to capture their interest. I connected it to the battle of Hastings but there are many castles that can be used and many kings, queens and historical events that you could connect to your topic for even more drama. I ‘story told’ ( this is my special term for dramatically retelling a story in an animated way) the battle of Hastings cutting it down to the key events, Of course the most dramatic being that King Harold of England gets an arrow shot in his eye. Naturally here you’ve immediately got the perfect situation for some drama, one child is the Normans, the other child acts out the Saxon army and they have a great big battle using pencil swords and Harold can then rather dramatically die a slow and grueling death upon the living room carpet. Need I mention that your arts and craft’s session is already organized as you will need to make some helmets out of cardboard for your little solders to wear, some cardboard swords wrapped in kitchen foil, some shields with coats of arms for each army, and naturally bows and arrows out of string, garden canes and cardboard. Oh and what about milk-carton horse faces, with knitting wool mane and brown paint.

If you’ve got girls who are far too sensible to launch into full battle with pencils and garden cane bows then take a look at the Bayeux tapestry and try some easy weaving at home using cardboard and knitting wool. Then you can collect some large and small boxes along with cardboard tubes and first design on paper and then make your own cardboard castle. Make sure you all know the important parts of the castle such as the turrets, draw bridge portcullis etc. Why not make a draw bridge that actually works. Maybe make some actual knights that can defend the Queen/King of the castle. Go and visit a castle first to see all the things you need to make. Here is a fantastic cardboard castle . A good blog too. And don’t forget all castles have a well designed flag to tell everyone who’s castle it is.

Here’s a lovely blog all about homemade castles.

Here’s where bit of science comes in. Make a catapult out of lolly sticks and plastic spoons and make the ammunition out of clay, wet tissue and other objects and see which catapult works best with which object. Then investigate what it is that makes the ammunition go further or not and discover the forces behind what makes the catapult work. Here you could challenge older children to actually make a catapult that works using house hold objects or junk such as old spoons/ladle, rubber bands, old picture frame imagination.

Lastly I worked with a class of thirty children last year and we made musical instruments out of junk which we then used to create a series of soundscapes of the battle of Hastings. We made the shakers out of bottles with beans in, tissue boxes with rubber bands round, tins and old cooking pots with pencils and sticks to beat with, bunches of old keys strung together and more. I then set them off with each group working on one bit of the essential part of the story to create a sound scape which they then performed to each other at the end of every session and then to key stage one at the end of term. You can decide together what sort of noises they would hear at each part of the story and then find the instrument that lends itself best to that particular sound. Then put the sounds together in the right order to tell the story.

Places to visit linked with castles, Jousting day at Blenheim Palace, Warwick Castle, town of Battle, Castles of Great Britain and Ireland.

Web links for castles suitable for children, Castles for kids, Castle interactive learning, Crush the castle game, Bayeux tapestry comes to life

Further ideas. Dragons, George and the Dragon, Mythical castles, Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast all have castles in (NOT the Disney version-the proper traditional tales), Jane and the dragon (CBB’s program-well made and beautiful animations), tower of London.

Get Creative: No 3.

  1. Fun and Funky quick ideas-choose one
  2. Acquire your materials
  3. Get creative

For some quick and easy projects requiring less thought than No’s 1 and 2.

  • Get two very large boxes (from super markets, recycling centers), carve an arch in the ends of the boxes with a craft knife so that they become a tunnel through which a child could crawl (you could leave one end un-carved so it becomes a den). Decorate the outside of the boxes. We made ours into a dragon tunnel, we attached cardboard wings using holes and garden wire, a neck and head and toilet paper roll ‘spikes’ along its back. Once painted it served as hours of fun for all the children in our neighborhood from toddlers to eight year olds.
  • Get air dry clay, roll it out flat to about half a cm thick. Impress into the surface found leaves, flowers, twigs, and other interesting textures and then cut sections of the clay and create a clay sculpture. Let it dry and then paint it using acrylic paints. Once the paints are dry you can then varnish it. Mix a little clay with water to make clay ‘glue’, it should be the consistency of soft cheese. When attaching one piece of clay to the other roughen the surfaces a little, apply the ‘glue’ and then press together. This ‘glue’ is properly named slip.

Air dry clay sculpture


  • Get ceramic paints and a black ceramic/glass pen along with some old tiles you’re no longer using for DIY and draw and paint on them. Plan it on paper first just to be sure of what you’re doing. There are oven bake paints that makes your ceramic piece dishwasher safe and there are other ones that are air dry only. Here’s some we did inspired by William de Morgan.Boat
  • Collect some bottles with lids, some rubber bands and an old empty frame, and make your own musical instruments. Decorate them with paper and glue, sequins, threads etc. Have a family jamming session.
  • Try body percussion. Create a rhythm using sounds made with your body. experiment with how many interesting sounds you can make with your body and have a jamming session with them. Have a look at this for some inspiration. And this.
  • Lastly, start a sketch book with your kids. Stress to them that the sketch book is for drawings that they are going to take care over.(anything else can be done on scrap paper) Keep an eye on what they do in there, praise them, point out things that could be improved next time. Make sure that they colour pictures done in outline and stress the importance of finishing one picture before moving on to the next. If they cross out a ‘mistake’ then point out that there’s plenty of space next to it to try again and have another go-no need to cross it out. Remember to write the date when you got the sketch book, it may be a treasured memory later on.

I hope this article provides a place to start for some and a little inspiration for others. Please let me know if you have any useful suggestions or resources you know of that I can add.

A few more book suggestions:

Matilda by Roald Dahl, The clever boy and terrible dangerous animal by Idries Shah, The gingerbread man, Goldilocks and the three bears, The rainbow fish by Marcus Pfister, The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein, Alice in Wonderland by CS Lewis, The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, Charley and the Chocolate factory by Roald Dahl, Grimms’ fairy tales, Beatrix Potter, Friend or Foe by Michael Morpurgo, The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson.