A bit of advance preparation before a museum, gallery or city vist can make all the difference to how your kids react. Just turning up at an art gallery and walking through rooms of paintings is not the best way to do it. Take 3 famous paintings that are on show at your local gallery. Pin them on the kitchen wall. Find out about the artist who painted them and tell your kids the story.
We do this with our short educational movies about Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Goya, Leonardo da Vinci and Gainsborough. Rembrandt actually went to see the doctors cutting open a dead body to prepare his picture and your kids can imagine the sight, the smell and the sound of that gory business.
Darwin’s fossils? B-O-R-I-N-G, your kids might think. But no! Not if you’ve watched our movie about Darwin’s life, his huge trip on the Beagle, riding on giant turtles and getting seasick. He found lots of interesting stuff in the countries he visited and he carefully sent them all home to England – where you can see them. Amazing! And those fossils are part of what led him to his theory of evolution.
All this stuff is interesting – you’ve just got to deliver it in a fun and appealing way.
Where I am, sunflowers are turning their faces to the sun as they grow ever taller. It was this bright, strong flower that first triggered the idea of making a simple, colourful film about the life of Vincent Van Gogh. Not a book, a film – requiring minimum effort to sit back and enjoy but giving maximum quality in terms of mind-broadening general knowledge.
If you are 8 or 10 and you’ve never had an art lesson on Van Gogh, how can you know about his wonderful ‘Sunflowers’? For parents or teachers, our ten-minute film on Vincent’s rollercoaster life – highs and lows all the way – tells you all you need to know about this fascinating man and the great legacy he left behind.
This summer, grab a sunflower and draw it at the kitchen table with your kids. Then tell them about the man who is famous for painting a bunch of these. Show them NowYouKnowAbout Vincent Van Gogh from our series on artists, and your children will for evermore remember his name, what he did and, even better, that he painted that lovely picture for his best mate, Paul Gauguin. Nice guy, that Vincent.
Vasco da Gama? Who he? I can hear you asking. Today in 1497, this Portuguese ultra-daring explorer set off on an epic journey to be the first man to sail from Portugal round the tip of Africa and on up to India. What’s the big deal? Until he did this, no-one knew you could do this journey by sea. Instead, everyone trudged via Constantinople and overland to India, loaded up with spices and precious stones and then had to make it back – alive and without being robbed. So da Gama opened up the sea route and changed the way trade developed – and made Portugal very rich in the process.
Now we can go everywhere, of course, so the immensity of this journey is lost on us. But back then, it was ground-breaking and he is still regarded as one of the great explorers, up there with Columbus and Magellan and Cook. The fact that he was a nasty SOB is neither here nor there at this stage in history – he is still famous for his seafaring exploits.
Parents, grandparents, teachers and the generally curious can learn and find out more in ten little minutes with our jolly film which tells you Vasc0 da Gama’s biography and why he is well-known even today. Just check out our film – NowYouKnowAbout Vasco da Gama.
The big news out of CERN, the nuclear research lab is that they’re pretty sure they’ve nailed the Higgs Boson – aka the God particle. I can barely understand a word they’re saying and conceptually I am completely lost (never any good at physics). But all of us can recognise that this is a big deal for science.
With nanotechnology, stem cell research and particle physics zooming ahead, there’s no more exciting time that now to get your young children into the wonders of science. But how? Not by trying to explain sub-atomic particles – even with oranges and apples to demonstrate, that’s just too tough!
Why not get inspired by this news to have a science-y kind of week at home this holidays. Start in the kitchen, every mum’s very own lab, and examine water: it’s liquid – drink it. It’s solid – smash it into pieces. It’s gas – watch it billow up out of the kettle. Simple but that’s the 3 states of matter all wrapped up in a flash.
Follow that up with a bedtime watch of the fun biography films of famous scientists like Isaac Newton, Galileo, Marie Curie or Louis Pasteur and you may just sow a science seed in your preschooler’s young brain.
And they might just begin to look more closely at things around them and ask questions. I think that’s the first step on the road to CERN.
D’you remember the poster or picture that hung on your bedroom wall when you were a kid? The chances are you’ll have spent several hours over the years contemplating that image – whatever it was (even the girl in the tennis dress scratching her bum).
So now the holidays are here, if you’re into a bit of lite culture for your family, think about this simple and effortless learning tool for children – one that slides a bit of culture right under your children’s noses, without them even noticing.
Take 5 of the world’s most famous paintings – or just your favourites ( my bunch included the Mona Lisa, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, The Toilet of Venus, Leonardo’s The Last Supper and Caravaggio’s Supper At Emmaus) and stick them (A5 size is best) on the wall at eye height in your kitchen, right next to the table where your children have breakfast, lunch and supper every day.
After a few months of looking at them, liking or hating them, discussing what’s going on in them, those images will be ingrained in their minds. Better than looking at kitchen tiles. Or a daily dose of cartoons. Interesting, too.
Don’t forget: you can find out more about artists in our movie biographies of Leonardo da Vinci, Van Gogh, Goya, Gainsborough and Rembrandt. www.nowyouknowabout.com