Ten Charlie and the Chocolate Factory activities for younger children

This post was originally published in November 2015. It reappears here in collaboration with million eyez.

We’ve just finished a happy romp through the wonderfully bizarre world of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Having realised from page one that this chapter book was going to be a hit, I gathered a few ideas for activities we could try alongside it. For my four-year-old, it was delightful to dig deeper into the experience of the story. For my 21-month-old, it meant she didn’t keep trying to pull the book out of my hand or take me some place else.

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Make a family tree
The book opens by orderly naming the people in Charlie Bucket’s family. I’d been wanting to do a family tree for a while so we took the opportunity to print out photos, cut and stick them and draw lines to show relationships. I helped Talitha with ours but she went on later on to draw Charlie Bucket’s family tree on her own.

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Sweetie Swoop game
We’ve been having fun with the whole sweetie theme by playing a board game called Sweetie Swoop which Talitha got for her birthday this year. It nicely accompanies chapter 11 where he goes into the sweet shop. It’s such fun. In general board games and card games are a brilliantly easy way to develop maths skills while doing something together that we both enjoy.

Drink hot chocolate
When you finally make it inside the chocolate factory, meeting the chocolate river calls for a drink. Preferably one offered in a cup by Mr Willy Wonka and not risking falling in!

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Make playdough sweets
Most of the time we read, we got out the playdough. Talitha made playdough sweets and both girls generally had fun squishing and making while listening to the story.

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The Inventing Room
This was an idea I came across on The Imagination Tree when looking for birthday party ideas. I put together an “inventing room” the night before which was the source of much excitement and creativity. I wish I’d taken more pictures because she got the stapler out and put together some 3D sweets later in the day.

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Make real sweets
Of course, who can read about all these amazing sweets and not want to munch something sweet. Better yet, make some! We tied this in with learning about Diwali by making coconut barfi. They were too sweet for the girls, though, so I wonder if we should have gone for biscuits in sweetie shapes instead.

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Play with fizz
All the experimentation you observe in the Mr Willy Wonka’s factory certainly tickles the imagination. The science fiction elements of this book are the bits that shine brightest. Talitha was quite taken with the fizzy lifting drinks that make you float upwards unless you burp to come down again. Inspired by this fizzy fun experiment, we got the muffin tin out and had a messy go (should have put a tray underneath as suggested in that post, mind!).

Here are few more ideas I came across but we didn’t get around to:

Make lickable wallpaper
Pipe cleaner lollipop craft
Chocolate play dough recipe

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I’d love if we could share our ideas on how to help kids get into books and this million eyez Photobox offers the perfect medium. With million eyez you can start a photo box in a topic to receive authentic photos you can’t find, just as I’m hoping to do here, curating, communicating and organising to cleverly crowd source what you need. Just upload your photo of your literary kids activity, whether it’s a dress up, craft, baking, creative writing prompt or invitation to play. Let’s inspire each other!

via million eyez

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The sweary verse strikes again

We annoyed each other last night as we sometimes do. The better you know each other, the easier it is to hit those pressure points. Granted, the subjects of our argument were little things blown out of proportion but anger seethed through the darkness palpably.

Eventually we did talk it through and this morning we were able to take everything before God for renewal. Prayer is a helluva thing.

But last night, I lay awake thinking about our need to learn to handle conflict in healthy ways that don’t affect the baby. It’s all well and good to “have it out” when it’s just the two of us but when there’s a little person absorbing everything and looking to you for stability it’s a bit more complicated.

Then out of nowhere, Philip Larkin’s poem, This Be the Verse jumped into memory. It goes like so:

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

One of my English courses at university began with this poem. I think the idea was to help us get turned on for “Aspects of Literary History” by a sweary verse or two.

At the time, I found it unbelievably depressing. Actually, to an extent I still do, especially the outcome. But it would take an optimist of clinical proportions not to see that there is some truth in what Larkin is saying.

We are all profoundly shaped by our families of origin (this is a term I get from my father – he loves it). It’s where some of our deepest hurts lie. But it’s not a case of pointing the finger at your parents. We’re all products of the human condition. We’re not perfect.

Remembering this poem, I now find it a bit affirming, even in spite of its ending. It’s not saying that you might mess up. It’s assuring you that you will. That’s not a “get out free” card from doing the best we can with this parenting thing. It’s also not a reason to avoid taking responsibility for the people we become and the direction of our lives.

Reading this again now, I feel more strongly that we must do our best, minus the frightening pressure for perfection.

The image is of Philip Larkin. Doesn’t he look cheerful?


There are no books I must read before I die

We’ve been massively sorting out the house (and the garden, thanks to my in-laws) this weekend. It’s about time, I suppose, considering that we moved in a month and a half ago and once the baby’s here (nine weeks to the due date now), it will probably be a while before we care about where those picture frames should hang.

Also, we’re hoping for a mass invasion this Saturday with friends coming over for the event we have dubbed The JK BabyBash. No doubt, I’ll tell you more about that later as much excitement surrounds it and I’ll be getting well into it once this stupid cold is gone.

So, um, yes. My mind is wandering. Fever does that. I was saying that we were tidying the house. Well, that’s meant I’ve found all the bags of stuff we’ve been planning to take to the charity shop or the library for…literally years. Including these:

I recently wrote in a guest post that will appear on Tasha Goddard’s blog WAHM-BAM later this week for her Book Week that Laurence has a penchant for hoarding books while I’m very much a read ’em and donate ’em kinda gal. If it’s good, it’s worth sharing, I say. These, however, are his books.

I have an ongoing battle in my mind over what I should read and what I do. It’s probably a hang up from my days as an English Literature undergrad.

By the time I was on to my Masters, I was rather comfortable with my new philosophy that although “experts” will expound on what you must read before you die, life really is too short to be reading things that you downright don’t enjoy.

It’s like my in-laws insisting on watching every one of the Coen Brothers’ films, knowing full-well that they probably won’t enjoy them because they never do (except True Grit. This is the one Coen Brothers’ film they like).

I’m a hedonist when it comes to reading. Irvine Welsh is a genius, to be sure, but that doesn’t mean I feel compelled to read his work and certainly not to re-read it. I forced my way through Ecstasy past rape, bestiality, necrophilia and beyond and felt more than a little sick, which is likely what you’re meant to experience. I also gave Porno a go but soon trailed off, wondering why I was bothering to do this to myself. It’s sadistic.

Laurence agrees he likely won’t read them again so off they go to the library today to some other reader who’ll get more out of it than I.

That said, I have begun reading Crime and Punishment again, having used to describe it as a punishment in itself for those who struggled through it. Yes, this Lit graduate is a smidge Philistine.

One of my housemates in my second year at university forced her way through it so I gave it a quick go. But I had too much on my mind at the time and a reading list that was already daunting so after a few chapters, I put it aside with: “Ah well.”

But since Mama – and more suggested that I should make the most of reading in response to my post about things I should do before the baby comes, I looked through our shelves and thought, I’ll give you another go.

So far, I don’t understand what was blocking me with this book. I’ll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, I’m curious to know whether there’s anything you wouldn’t read. Or whether you think that we should at least attempt to read everything touted as “valuable” that’s out there?