Q&A with Steph Cooper from CBeebies Magazine
We ran a Q&A about activities to do with your children with Steph Cooper, editor of CBeebies Magazine. Steph suggested fun ways to help kids learn and keep their minds active and healthy when they don't have school.
For 11 years, Steph Cooper worked in education, specialising in the early years. She was a teacher before becoming Deputy Head at a large primary school in South London. Steph has been editor of CBeebies Magazine for three years.
Below are some examples of the kind of pages you can expect to find in CBeebies Magazine. You can print them out to use on rainy days stuck indoors, or during the school holidays.
Questions and answers
Q. Paintyfingers: I have a speech delayed son, aged two and a half, who loves crafting. I try to use all our activities to expand his language and would love some crafts suitable for his age and some relevant adjectives/verbs I could try to repeat to encourage language development. We've done the basic ones like cut and stick - maybe things like pressing, sprinkling etc?
A. Steph Cooper: Because craft is often so exciting, it's great for helping with communication and language skills. It also helps with physical development, too.
"Because craft is often so exciting, it's great for helping with communication and language skills. It also helps with physical development, too."
Try giving your son different things that will encourage him to press, rip, blob, dab, scrunch, twist, squeeze, scribble, join things together and construct. Use different types of paper, chunky wax crayons, paint - and use paints to colour mix. Keeping things fresh will keep it exciting for him.
Give your son some spots and dots in different colours and patterns for him to create a spotty dotty picture.
Make a 3D fluffy lamb by covering a loo roll with cotton wool, plus sticker eyes and nose and legs from rolled up card. Use cookie cutters and paint to create some printed pictures.
Cut some zig zags into card to make scrapers that your son can use for printing by dipping in paint.
If he likes working with paint, make some hand pictures. Put your hand on the paper and dab around it lightly with a paintbrush and repeat until the paper is full of colourful hand shapes.
Q. Kveta: Do you think that all craft activities should have a learning outcome? I ask as my children (20 months and four and a half years) have been busy making a doll's house out of shoeboxes this week. My son has stuck some pictures from the Argos catalogue in for furniture, and he wants to make furniture too. It's just for fun and there's no particular thing he's taking from it in terms of literacy or numeracy objectives.
I feel like he does so much at nursery that has learning outcomes attached, so I'm happy for him just to spend a happy hour or two playing with glue and paint, but should I be doing more with him?
A. Steph Cooper: Sounds like your children are being very creative to me, Kveta! I don't think it's always necessary to have an outcome. Art is always about either the process, the outcome or sometimes, both.
A lot of what they are doing is part of the Expressive Arts and Design aspect of the curriculum. But there's also some maths in there, too – working out the size of things to make for their house. Most importantly though, is that it's fun for them both. They're focused and staying with an idea – they're collaborating and I guess they're also talking to you about what they're doing and how they're doing it – which is Communication and Language. So although it may not seem like it, there is oodles of learning going on!
Q. RueDeWakening: I'd love to see some more sensorial play/craft ideas. When I had my daughter, I really had no clue what I could do with her - my local Surestart messy play was a lifesaver! But it'd be great to find ideas of things to do like making jelly with toys hidden in it, playing in shaving foam etc with clear instructions and ideas for learning outcomes, if you need to include them, that link into the EYFS curriculum. Is that something that you could see being incorporated into the CBeebies mag?
A. Steph Cooper: Play is vital as a way for young children to learn, and having fun with different textures is so enjoyable. We've recently brought back Tiny Tasks in the CBeebies Magazine, which are extra-quick and easy ideas on the page for parents to do with their children at home. We will definitely include some more messy play suggestions.
Q. tinypumpkin: What has been the most popular craft activity that you have ever run in a magazine? I am guessing feedback is tricky, but you must get lots of photos of children engaging with particular things.
A. Steph Cooper: We get lots of photos emailed and tweeted to us - especially popular seem to be anything with googly eye stickers. I can't imagine a magazine for young children with no stickers – they seem to love them! Also outfits to make are extremely popular. Octonauts hats went down well, and a Galahad the horse make with a Mike the Knight helmet to wear.
Q. TiredFeet: I find craft type activities with my son (three) really stressful, but he is keen to do more. I'm very academic and totally hopeless at art and just don't have a lot of confidence. We have enjoyed some of the activities in your magazines though, such as making an underwater Octonauts scene. Do you have any tips for easy craft activities that might help get us started?
A. Steph Cooper: We launched a spin off CBeebies magazine for children who love being creative, with the idea to make art as easy as possible for parents whilst being exciting and challenging for children. CBeebies Art is packed with things to draw, make and play with – and it covers all types of art. There are quick things for the children to do as well as bigger things to make if you have a bit more time. It's even got Tidy Tips to help children remember to tidy up.
It's quite handy to have an art box at home with a few things in it including an apron and a table cover. Also plasticene, scissors, stickers, different colours and types of paper, foil, card, clean bottle tops and yoghurt cartons, a glue stick and some card.
Q. petalsandstars: I'm not very crafty and would love ideas on basic things to do with my nearly three-year-old child. Decorating biscuits always goes down well as we eat the end result.
A. Steph Cooper: Cooking definitely counts as art – especially decorating biscuits and cakes. Mister Maker is a great CBeebies show which is packed with ideas for tonnes of things to make including some very simple things to make.
Don't forget that photography, constructing things with boxes, cardboard rolls and glue or sticky tape, drawing, dancing and listening to music are all art, too!
Q. lighteningmcmama: Can you give me some ideas on things to do with pipe cleaners? They were a staple part of Blue Peter when I was a kid, so I picked some up that I saw randomly in a shop, and then was stuck for what to do with them! So far we have just used them for bead threading. I also have coloured ones now as a gift so uses for those would be great too, so far we just used those to make letter shapes.
A. Steph Cooper: Use dough to create a monster body then add pipe cleaners to make them into aliens or moon monsters.
Shape the pipe cleaners into zig-zag, curly or straight hair, then colour black circles onto round stickers to make the eyes.
Paint a cat picture then add pipe cleaner whiskers. Make a pig picture and add a curly pink pipe cleaner tail. Make some flower shapes from bright card and pop them on the top of the pipe cleaner, then stand them in some plasticene to make a lovely bunch of flowers.