When is it lunchtime?

Poster for an after lunch show. I secured my VIP ticket with a strawberry from the allotment!

In my last blog post in January, 8 months ago, I was about to start a permanent post with Youth Options, after first volunteering, then working on a casual basis with them since October 2020. As a casual worker, a lot of my job was working at holiday club, so it’s fitting that my final sessions were there too. The first photo I’ve chosen was a poster drawn on my last day by one of the holiday club regulars I’ve known longest. Performances of various kinds are a common feature!

The title of this post is a familiar question when you’re working at holiday club (and even sometimes when you’re not, as I found when I was helping out at some summer events on Peartree Green that we called Play Wild!). It can mean that the young person is hungry, but it can also indicate they’re a bit bored or missing home, so it always needs a sensitive response.

Some holiday clubbers are happy to play in the mud play area, build dens or invent games. But holiday club also offers a chance to get creative in a more structured way, perhaps making things, such as by recycling materials. This kneeling mat woven from carrier bags is a good example, as it was one I introduced to Youth Options, having learned it on Forest School training with the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. I added my own twist by only using bags I’d found on litter picks – and letting the young people and my colleagues know that! It became one of my signature crafts.

Another popular activity making God’s eyes, something I also learned on Forest School training. God’s eyes originated in Mexico

For anyone with some manual dexterity, it’s fairly easy to do. Young people start by finding two straight sticks of a similar length, then choose their wool colours. I usually lash the sticks together to get them started. It doesn’t matter if you go wrong – as I have many times! – you can leave it as it is, or unwind it and start again. You can change colours, or use just one, and make it as big or small as you like.

A hidden benefit of making a God’s eye is that the repetitive motion of turning the cross and wrapping the wool is calming for many people, so it’s a lovely ‘time out’ quiet activity.

For holiday clubbers who haven’t developed their fine motor skills enough to manage a God’s eye, there’s always stick people. These are simple, and amazingly popular. I got the idea from my friend Gem, who writes the inspiring blog Childsplayabc which is full of ideas for engaging children with nature. For the stick person, peel a stick to make a flat surface for a face, draw on the face and add some wool as hair. Then add feathers, leaves and other found natural items. From there, the only limit is the holiday clubber’s imagination – I’ve seen them given names and characters, and used in all kinds of games! Painting pebbles to make bees and ladybirds, and lolly stick flowers was a popular activity this summer.

The third photo above shows some natural art. A young person collected pine cones, acorns, hazelnuts, sticks, stones and leaves, and arranged them on a tree stump. Much better than any of my efforts!

Obviously, one of the great things about working at holiday club is that we grown ups get the chance to play too! Someone’s got to show the young people how to make something, right? And you need an example so they know what they’re aiming for! I think you can see by my face that I’m quite pleased with my lolly stick flower! Holiday club isn’t just about crafts and games though. We also make time to discover nature, whether that’s though natural art or painting stones, or when a dragonfly zooms around above our heads like a drone. A walk in the woods is a great way to notice nature – more on that in the next post. And to answer the question, lunchtime is usually around 12 noon !

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