“A Bing Thing”

bing bunny dvdBing, the toddling, pre-schooler bunny on CBeebies is the star of a new DVD hitting the shelves on March 30th. We were invited along for a screening in Central London last weekend.

It’s a CBeebies show for toddler and pre-school aged children and their families. Episodes are narrated and seen from the point of view of Bing, the bunny who seems between three and four years old and Flop, an orange sock body who seems to be Bing’s grown up. He’s smaller than Bing, which reinforces the idea that the show is really about and for the child. The point of view in the animation often pans to “Bing height.” I wonder if the kids really notice these things. . .

But since we grown ups will be watching also, the writers have given us lovely moments to keep us entertained. Bing’s grown-up, Flop, is very, very patient. Something we grown ups can certainly learn from. And, I have to admit, he uses some good parenting methods.

red Balloon

Photo from the “Balloony” entry of Disney Wikia.

  I was happy to see a thoughtful nod to established childrens’ stories: “Bye-Bye” reminded me of the red balloon in the film versions of A.A. Milne’s Classic Winnie the Pooh stories. Bing plays joyfully with a balloon in his living room until it pops and he has to then, with the guidance of the loving Flop, deal with the end of the fun. While I won’t be setting up a bye-bye box in our home for broken toys, I’ll admit it might not be a bad idea if a child has trouble coping with broken toys or giving something up.

For the children, Bing is a mirror of their lives, replete with the fun and frustrations of the toddler years. He’s got a few friends and two bunny cousins, one a little older (“Coco,” my girls’ favourite character) and Charlie, a younger crawling baby. He’s also got friends the same age–an elephant (your child’s sensible and calm friend) and a panda (your child’s friend who marches to his own beat and doesn’t like trousers). This cast helps to illustrate an array of scenes of sibling or playmate interaction within an early years group. A lesson is learned and retold by Bing in each episode. It’s good social and emotional learning fun. And the Banana song is awesome.

My three year old daughter loved the episode with Brenda the blender and has been singing the banana song since yesterday. This morning, she reminded me that the banana went poo into the Brenda and chuckled. It was one of those moments when you realise that they really were paying attention and making sense of what they’re seeing. My four year old daughter’s favourite was, predictably, the one with Bing and his cousins playing blocks. . . Obsessed, she is with rainbows and putting blocks in orderly lines and towers, usually right where I need to walk.


Meeting the Purple Pumpkin

Sometimes you meet some really lovely people on the Internet. This week, whilst preparing for this week’s newsletter, I made a terrific find: thepurplepumpkinblog.co.uk!

Blogger Michelle Ordever has an amazing photographic and writing talent, making the Purple Pumpkin lovely to look at and a worthwhile read.


We’ve used her beautiful, serene depiction of Fairlop Waters sailing lake for this month’s Redbridge home page. It’s part of her blog entry in which she woke up at the crack of dawn to watch the historic Olympic torch relay leg at Fairlop. Do have a mini-scroll down memory lane: The Olympic-Torch at Fairlop Waters park.

Thanks Michelle! And we’ll definitely be checking back in with you.

A Little Moomin Lovin’

Cherry-picking from the Guardian’s Culture section this morning reminded us of one of our favourite library finds.

moomin and the little ghost

Tove Jansson was born in Helsingfors, Finland, in 1914. Her mother was a caricaturist who designed 165 of Finland’s stamps and her father was a sculptor. She studied painting in Finland, Sweden and France, and subsequently became a book illustrator. Her extraordinary illustrative style is seen as a design classic the world over. Originally written in Swedish, the Moomintroll books have been translated into 34 languages and adapted for television, film, radio and opera. Tove Jansson lived alone on a small island in the gulf of Finland, where most of her books were written. She died in 2001. (from Amazon.co.uk)

. . . just remembering the joy of reading words like ‘Moomintroll’ and ‘Moominmama’ with my children.  And this one was useful as well since Moomin and his pal Snorkmaiden had to conquer their fear of ghosts during their holiday at the lighthouse–we’ve had discussions of crocodiles and monsters under the bed, so Moomin became a handly little hero for us.

Besides that, the illustrations are so very funny and endearing, odd but in a good way, as the Scandinavian imagination seems to produce. It’s good that trolls can be endearing, surely.

We were sad when Moomin finally went back to the library’s shelves and are searching for his further adventures!

Sadly, Chae Strathie did not choose any Moomin books in her “Top Ten Utterly Zingbobulous Nonsense Words in Childrens’ Books” list, but she found plenty of other goodies.

Making Time to Play

acting bugsCapturing the twinkle twinkles of childhood can sometimes seem a low priority in the grand scheme of parenting. But often, it’s that magical element of play, introduced at the right moment, that can elevate a sad or grumpy mood or stop a brewing tantrum, even encourage a penchant for creativity or a lifelong love of the arts. But we can forget all of that with the stress of parenting, working, living, and the many many other things that occupy our mental space. We grown ups can–and do–forget how to play.

I recall a moment in one of my favourite films, Finding Neverland. J.M. Barrie, played by the most wonderful Johnny Depp, sits in the theatre among the patrons watching the premiere of his latest play. They are displeased. And he reminds them that it is a play. It’s a profound moment in its simplicity: stop overthinking and overexpecting and just enjoy what’s in front of you.

The connection? Well, sometimes, I need to remind myself to play with my children or to let them play and not worry so much. Among the many many words of advice I received when I became a mother was the very simple “enjoy your children” from a dear friend. This week, I made the connection a literal one.

Enter Acting Bugs, run by actress Samantha Seager. Originally from Manchester, Sam has been a Wanstead local for many years now; she started Acting Bugs (for preschoolers) and Diddy Bugs (more sensory-based and for under threes) in 2012.

sam seagerSam has acted for grown-ups and for kids, most notably on Coronation Street and CBeebies. She created the classes to encourage active storytelling in family life: a worthy cause. During the class, parents and children are meant to interact, given the dramatic prompts by Sam. These include verbal prompts to imitate animals, or a runner bean, or play pat-a-cake. These also include physical prompts like puppets or a giant canopy / magic carpet. So there’s a lot of hopping, jumping, whisker-twitching, body hugging–playing, essentially, and acting, as Sam might say, like “silly sausages” for the better part of an hour. If you’re going to be reserved about it and not play along, you might miss the whole point. And all of the fun.

As this was a one-off for us, I asked a parent who’s been coming for a while. For Bella’s mum, Acting Bugs is helping her daughter to have confidence in herself, something we all wish for our children when entering the world. Though the class uses some props, Sam mainly relies on the parents and children to use their voices and bodies to express ideas. This focus on the body and all it can do is perfect for confidence-building in children. My outgoing three-year old engaged with the activities instantly and my very shy two-year old was happy to do a little here and there. I thought the Spring Chicken song and dance were really fun. Apparently, I was caught doing that in the garden this afternoon.

The class takes place in the hall of Wanstead’s beautiful Christ Church, which has a charming garden. The hall is roomy (lots of space to run around and play) and has loads of stimulating natural light. An amazing venue for an afternoon of imaginative fun.

In addition to the classes, which are offered in Redbridge as well as nearby in North and East London, Sam offers inspiring and imaginative nursery and library sessions and story-based parties for children aged 2-7.

Mumsnet Local – Redbridge is happy to provide further information about Acting Bugs. Click on the link or find it under Things To Do > Classes > Preschool Classes > Drama.

We also list drama club and acting classes for children of school age and by other providers, so please contact us if you can’t find what you’re looking for!

Let the Music Play!

Since last Autumn, my girls and I (now ages 2y and 3.5y) have attended a Mini Musicians class, run by the Redbridge Music Service. Each week, they sing, play instruments (simple percussion like drums or wood beaters, bells, and chimes), interact with classical, traditional, and modern music, and dance along. All the while, we learn to appreciate music, listen and follow along, and have some fun together.

And so I was delighted to attend the Redbridge Music Service’s 2014 Chorale Festival at The Royal Albert Hall onalbert hall Tuesday March 18th. RMS Director Eric Forder and Festival Coordinator Caroline Morris (our Mini Musicians teacher who also spearheads the RMS’s Early Years programme), along with a very dedicated and able team of music educators and musicians, shepherded some 1900 of Redbridge’s primary and secondary school students on a very creative, months-long-in-the-making musical journey. Attended by many proud family members and supporting friends, the event also was a fundraiser for the Redbridge-based charity, Hopes and Dreams, which grants wishes to very ill children.

Primary and secondary school choirs were accompanied by the Redbridge Music School Symphony Orchestra, taking the audience through centuries and continents of music. Classical and traditional favourites included selections from Holst’s “Jupiter,” from The Planets; George Butterworth’s “The Banks of Green Willow,” part of the evening’s World War 1 commemoration; Johann Strauss’s “The Radestsky March,” which was cheerily arranged with a bright pom-pom dance; Glenn Miller’s Big Band hit “In the Mood.”

red chorale festival flyerMusic was spoken, sung and signed and many of the world cultures living in our very diverse borough (the 4th most diverse in the country!) were represented. We heard a composition of two Gujarati songs, which was presented with a traditional Hindu dance, two soloists on recorder and tabla (drum); the primary school choirs also played recorder in this arrangement. And the second interval began with a rousing African drumming and dance number featuring children from four of the borough’s primary schools.

Contemporary music also were included in the programme, with Ashford and Simpson’s soul smash, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and Bob Chilcott’s popular children’s chorale composition, “Can you hear me?”

Notably, three original compositions, joyfully expressing the theme of ‘Hopes and Dreams’, were commissioned for the night’s performance. Written and conducted by Chris Wilcox (also a teacher, composer, conductor, performer), the pieces were entitled ‘What If’, ‘Be the Change’, and ‘My Dream’ and were inspired by the lives of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and ordinary children.

Artwork and words by children throughout the borough’s schools were presented on the screens as visual accompaniment to some of the pieces. The children were incredibly engaged in the performance, enjoying the spotlight and putting their hearts and voices into the effort.

It really is an immense accomplishment in this age of austerity, that the Redbridge Music Service and Redbridge Council is able to create such a night for our families. Redbridge’s Mayor, Felicity Banks, is very proud of her ability to support the music program, as she so warmly communicated in her personal remarks and in the Programme address:

Redbridge is the only Borough in the country that regularly fills this great hall with pupils from its schools and it is a wonderful demonstration of the musical tradition we have here in Redbridge.

I was fortunate to have been seated in a box with a family whose two children have been participating in the festival since primary school. Both now in secondary school, Lara plays the violin and James, the tuba. Their mum remembers how music was introduced to her children at Snaresbrook Primary school and how they chose their own instruments. They practice each Friday evening as the Redbridge Music School Symphony Orchestra at the John Savage Centre.These parents were simply beaming with pride at what has now become a lifelong commitment for their children.

It is absolutely evident that music unites families, fosters creativity and intellectual and emotional development in children, and can provide a basis for a strong community where diversity can be expressed and mutual values affirmed, a project that the London Borough of Redbridge is so obviously committed to doing.

There was so much happy and proud energy in the Hall; even Albert must have been smiling, surely. As our compère, Vivyan Ellacott, noted and thanked Albert for the loan of his beautiful hall, so do I, on behalf of all of the families in Redbridge.