Thursday, 4 July 2013

Magazines and Mystery Boxes

Recently I saved up a bit of money and decided to order some trial monthly subscriptions that I had had my eye on for a while.  The boys love it when they get post, which isn't often, so I thought I would order a few 'educational' surprises.  For Eldest I ordered the 'Aquila' magazine (£20 for 4 issues), which I had been hemming and hawing about for ages.  For Middle, the National Geographic Kids magazine (£28 for 12 months), and for Youngest, 'Octonauts' (£24 for 6 months).  I almost ordered 'Horrible Histories' for Eldest as he enjoys it a lot, but wanted to satisfy my curiosity about Aquila first.

Well, Eldest and Youngest had theirs turn up first, and Middle had to wait over a month before his arrived - so I did tell him there was one on the way, but he didn't know what it would be.  Currently, Eldest has received three issues of a monthly magazine (they seemed to send him the previous month's issue when we subscribed), Middle one issue, and Youngest two.

So anyway, here is what we think of the respective contents:

From my point of view, Eldest seemed a bit uninterested in Aquila at first - the magazine is more packed with stuff than normal comics, and it took him a while to familiarise himself with the format (more articles, less cartoon strips).  Also, his first one being largely sport-focused probably didn't help (not his thing).  However, he got increasingly more interested with each successive arrival.  I don't know how much he gets out of them, but he says he enjoys getting them. Eldest on Aquila: "I especially like the ones that have animals in it; I like the stories and the creating things".  I like the cross-section of subjects that the magazine covers, and it is always interesting - but I have to say the text is a bit small and might be offputting for someone with low confidence/ motivation when it comes to reading.

National Geographic Kids was a big success for Middle.  The only problem is that his brothers are desperate to read it too, so I have to make sure he gets time to read it all first before one of the others grabs it.  He's only had one edition so far, because of the delay in starting, but he especially loves the posters, and I think the articles etc are perfectly pitched for him.  There are a lot of adverts and promotional competitions though, which is a bit irritating from an adult point of view.  Middle doesn't seem to care.  He says "I like the back cos it has Yoohoo and friends" (a full-page advert for a toy he wants - great...) and I like all the lots of funny pictures"

Octonauts for Youngest was a no-brainer.  He's a big fan of the CBeebies TV programme!  I find anything produced by the BBC is usually good quality, and their preschool magazines can mostly be relied on for sound educational content. He likes the stories (we read them together).  I won't quote him because what he said took some deciphering and went into quite a lot of detail on the intricacies of a particular storyline - but suffice it to say that he gets fully engrossed in every part of the magazine - the arty 'makes', the stories, the puzzles... it really is perfect for him.

Other than the magazines, the other subscription that we took out was to the fabulous "My Little Atelier" boxes from Woodland Children Natural Toys and Games.  It's a monthly price of £15, for which you are sent a 'mystery box' once a month, containing a mini art studio - everything you need to  create an art project based on the work of a famous artist.  Well our first box arrived today - slightly late for June, but I think there was a new courier service involved, so apparently July's box will arrive a bit sooner.  It worked well for us anyway, having been away last week, so we wouldn't have got it had it been posted earlier.  Anyway,  the box was lovely: sturdy & thoughtful packaging, with information sheets about My Little Atelier and this month's artist (Georgia O'Keefe) and an outline of the project.  Also included were 4 good-sized jars of paint granules with instructions of how to mix it (easy), 2 paintbrushes, a palette to mix colours on, a colour wheel to help with blending colours, several sheets of good quality paper (looked like watercolour paper), and photos of flowers, taken close-up.  It was really good value.

The boys loved the idea of a mystery box.  There was much excitement all round when we opened it.  Once it was opened, they were't 100% keen on the idea of painting flowers, especially Eldest, but I told them it was like a secret challenge, and they soon came round once we started looking at the details of the photos.  The only thing that I felt might be lacking from the box were some pictures of O'Keefe's work to show the boys, which we had to look up for ourselves on the internet - but that wasn't a big problem.  So then I talked to the boys about how the artist and her flower pictures, and then looked at the given photos, and some other photos from our own collection, and some flowers from a vase in the front room - and then we got to work.  I mixed the paint, and they enjoyed shaking the jars.  They drew pencil outlines of the petals, as I felt that would help Middle and Youngest in particular to control where the paint went.  We talked a lot about the flower details and the variations on shade of colour etc - and I think they all concentrated well on spotting the differences.  Once Eldest got into it, his objections to the subject were forgotten, and he produced a lovely piece of art.  Middle struggled a little with painting what was actually in front of him - he had an idea in his head that he wanted to do, but I encouraged him to look closely at the flower head and different colours etc, and he was fine. I thought he might do his own version afterwards, but he seemed happy with his finished painting, and ran off playing.  Youngest did really well, considering patience in art isn't his forte.  He looked closely at the photo and pointed out the different colours and shades to me - and then focused well on his picture.  I had a go too (choosing a different flower so as not to put them off with comparing their work to mine) & it was hard!  I hadn't used that paint before and found it a bit grainy, but once we got used to it, it was fine.  I'm not an Artist-with-a-capital-A, as you know - so it was a good learning experience for me too.  All-in-all, it was a lovely experience, and we're already looking forward to July's box - they are so well thought out, and really good quality.

For now though, here they are - our 'Little Atelier' pieces of art...





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