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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Dollars and Sense and A Holiday Club To Boot

It was crunch time as the sound of a hundred and twenty seven children aged from six to twelve years filled the hall with exuberance and excitement. This holiday club had been eagerly anticipated by the children. The leaders had worked extremely hard to make it a memorable occasion. Jungle decorations and artwork filled the stage and surrounding walls.Net like structures hung from the ceiling and housed a rainbow of balloons. The musicians leapt to the stage and the children lustily sang their repertoire of new and favourite songs.

Beaming parents and friends watched from the sidelines as the children answered questions, competed in quizzes or volunteered their assistance. When the winning team was announced the roar was deafening. The question,

"Would they like another club in the next holidays?" received a resounding, "Yes".

So, what made this event so successful? When it comes to children's work, the answer is always the same, planning and organisation. The budget was very limited as, irrespective of their financial situation, the aim was to provide a positive outcome for every child attending at a minimal cost. The organisers were aware that some invited families could not afford to pay even a nominal fee.

How to Create the Right Atmosphere?

Individual creativity shone in this arena. Off to the white goods stores the team headed, where they pleaded for boxes from display refrigerators, washing machines and kitchen appliances. Palm trees and ferns, trees and animals were all drawn onto the boxes, painted with acrylic paint and then cut out. The tree trunks interlocked so were free standing as were the palms and ferns. In the main, only the animal faces were visible, peeping out from behind the exotic foliage. Birds appeared to be flying through the air, but they were strung on old fishing lines. By the time the team had finished you could almost feel the steam of the jungle heat rising. CDs of jungle sounds and bird songs were playing in the background and enhanced the atmosphere.

What Crafts to do?

With such a wide age group to cater for, was craft to be individual pieces or a team effort? A combination of both was chosen. Paper plates(not laminated ones) of all sizes were the preferred medium.

For the tiny children, lines were pre drawn in towards the centre of the plate, but only just beyond the rim. The children's task was to cut the lines and an older person lapped the cut areas over one another forming a bowl shape which they stapled into place. The younger children then gathered leaves, pieces of string and anything else that was available to make a,' nest' on the inside of the, 'bowl' and glued some of their,' finds' onto the outside as well. They then coloured simple bird templates using shading powders, cut them out and popped them in the nest.

The older children were encouraged to decide which animal face they would like to make. Their choice influenced the size of plate used. By drawing a pear shape, most animal faces can be made. Some 'pears' need to be inverted while others require elongating or making the bulb of the,' pear' a little plumper. (This principle works for monkeys, lions, giraffes, donkeys, and even cats and dogs.)

Once the desired shape is achieved, it is helpful to slightly fold the plate in half and cut through the two pieces to make the face symmetrical. The off-cuts can then be used to make ears or horns. Sometimes an extra plate is required and definitely so, for an elephant. Staple or glue the ears or horns in place. Try it for yourself. You will be as surprised as the children were by the fabulous faces they were able to create.

Three children's jumpers, (grey, brown and a tawny colour) purchased from a thrift shop were unravelled. The crinkled wool was pre-cut to enable the children to make fur or manes to add to the faces. Piles of wool and glue were placed on the tables to be shared. Eyes were made simply from crumpled up cellophane in tones of green and yellow and glued in place. They were then outlined in pen. Mouths were drawn on with pencil or pen and coloured or painted with the shading powders turned into water colour with a spray of water.

Group Work

A jungle scene had been pre-drawn on a roll of white paper (off-cut from the local newspaper) and as children finished their craft they were invited to work on the mural. Some shaded, while others daubed paint (They used daubers to do this and the effect is similar to Australian indigenous art work). The end result was a magical scene with a minimum of fuss and the other children were free to spend extra time on their animal faces or bird nests.

Musical Instruments:

No Holiday Club is complete without music. Tiny pine off-cuts were given to the team and the children decorated them with coloured paper turning them into castanets, old horse shoes were spray painted, strung with ribbon and struck with an old spoon, small plastic bottles were filled with rice and sealed tightly before being given a spray of paint and large tins with their labels removed were decorated with ribbon and became the drums. Note: All spray painting was done by adults beforehand.


These were age appropriate and the children were divided into teams. Every child was issued with one of four different jungle motifs to pin on their shirts with their name tag, making it very simple for the leaders to identify both individuals and teams. Well known games and some new ones were adapted to fit in with the jungle theme. Prizes were kept to a minimum with the end score being the important team goal. Stickers for encouragement were as popular as ever.

Story Telling:

Puppetry, sketch and tell and drama ensured that the children's interest and concentration were held during story telling times. They were also involved in making the, 'sounds' or clapping etc as required by the leader. Variety was the key.


The leaders knew the songs well and played and sung enthusiastically making it fun for all. The use of action songs employed excess energy in a positive fashion.


'Duty of Care' courses had been completed by all leaders and police checks done, health and safety guidelines were in place, registration forms recorded allergies and emergency phone numbers and where possible, were completed before the club began, enabling name tags etc to be ready on arrival. Leaders were responsible for accepting and returning children to and from their parent or guardian.

Dollars and Sense:

To keep over one hundred and twenty children happy and entertained for a total of six hours over two days for less than two dollars a child makes dollars and sense in today's economy! It can be done as long as you have volunteers who are well trained and in tune with the needs of children. Bring some 'Dollars and Sense' to your community and enjoy the creativity you will have with your friends or colleagues.

Interacting with children helps keep you young in mind and spirit and provides a safe and positive atmosphere for children. The people who were on the team mentioned in the article were aged from eighteen to eighty three.For Creative ideas for your club or children's group follow the link:

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