Interview with the expert

Steph Cooper is Editor of many pre-school magazines at Immediate Media including CBeebies Magazine, Mister Maker, CBeebies Art and CBeebies Magazine App. She's also a former Deputy Head teacher specialising in the early years. Here, she writes about the benefit of magazines for children under 7 and gives some ideas for keeping your little one entertained this weekend.

Why encourage your children to read magazines? 
Magazines for young children are quite unique. They offer a great way into reading as well as plenty of shared learning opportunities like stories to read together, sticker reward charts to do and activity workbooks with a maths and literacy focus to puzzle through. The content is varied giving children the opportunity to decide if they want to draw, colour, read, write, count, use the stickers, or share a story with a grown-up. Children can dip in and out, choosing which activity they want to do first. And because the activities feature much–loved characters these are highly engaging and motivating for young children to want to get stuck in. They're packed with humour to make sure that children enjoy themselves and want more. And this is the key – as long as children feel motivated and successful, they will want to engage with magazines. All of the characters featured in magazines are often on TV and so children are already very familiar with them.

Here are some fun activities to try at home, inspired by TV and magazine characters.

Children love pirates and Swashbuckle is all about 4 pirates who are shipwrecked on an island and their adventures together. On the show, real children are challenged to find sparkly jewels for one of the pirates who is aptly called Gem. This is an excellent opportunity for children to engage with literacy. Why not hide some 'gems' and give children written or verbal clues to find them? Give them verbal clues like 'hot' 'getting hotter' as they move nearer each jewel, or 'cold' 'getting colder' as they move further away. Alternatively, give them arrows to look for and follow in order to get to their jewels. You could add words to some of the arrows, like 'This Way' 'In Here' and 'Look in here'. Set your child the challenge of searching for one jewel or even four, just like in the programme.

The Furchester Hotel
This almost world class hotel is run by a close-knit family of cheerfully chaotic monsters including the familiar Elmo and Cookie Monster. The hotel has a special book which guests sign when they check in. Why not create a guest book at your house for a week or so? Adapt a scrapbook for the purpose. Draw a picture for the front cover or stick on a photograph that means something to you and your family. Encourage family and visitors to 'sign in' with a drawing and their name and to sign out when they leave. Encourage them to write a message too – for you to share later.

Mister Maker
Children love creating things and Mister Maker, along with the loveable Shapes, can make anything! This is a great opportunity for children to get creative at home and to express their ideas through art. As it's autumn, spend some time at the park looking for signs of autumn. Collect some leaves, pine cones, horse chestnuts, conkers, anything natural from the ground. Look around to see where they have come from. Look for signs of animals as well, robins and squirrels for example, and talk about what you notice they are doing. Squirrels are busy collecting and burying food for the winter at this time of year and robins are often on the look out for food to eat. Talk about the things you see – the colours, the animals, the objects. Talk too, about the things you have picked up – how they feel, what they look like, what they are. It's a real opportunity for children to talk, listen and to think about what they are seeing and what's happening in their world.

When you get home, use the things you have seen and collected to inspire an autumn picture. Encourage your child to draw a picture then add colour or, to paint one or more of the things that they saw.

Get some things ready first – drawing and colouring pencils, paints that you can mix together, paper to paint on and paintbrushes. Experiment mixing some autumn colours that you saw while you were outside. Talk about what you're both doing, all the time. It's fine if your child wants to paint, fingerprint, etc.

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