Tag Archives: toddlers

Free books for your baby!

Bookstart logoIf you have a baby under the age of one year old, did you know that you can receive a free book bag from Bookstart?

It’s never too early to introduce your child to books – it’s about more than learning to read, the sound of your voice is the best thing.

Sharing books with young children can help very new babies with focusing; reaching and grabbing the flaps and pages in board books helps develop motor skills; and stories are great to use at bed time or at any time of the day, for a quiet few moments together. Books are a good way to share one-to-one time between a child and their parent. It only takes a few minutes a day and it’s free.

Above all, it’s about having fun!

Bookstart Baby PackBookstart Treasure Pack

The pack content varies, but will include two board books,rhyme sheet and a booklet of tips and ideas for sharing books. You should receive a Bookstart pack from your health visitor sometime in your baby’s first year. If you haven’t received one by the time your child is one, you can ask for a pack at your local library. While you are there, why not see what the library has to offer babies and toddlers – rhyme times, events and of course lots more books for little ones!

For more information on the scheme, visit www.bookstart.org.uk



Afternoon in a Meadow

As our Behind the Lines* project is coming to an end, the penultimate family workshop took us on a musical journey out of the city to a sunny field as we learned about Ivor Gurney and his piece ‘Severn Meadow’.

BTL Early Years workshop on Ivor Gurney, Westminster Music Library May 2014A very enthusiastic group of 2-5 year olds came to Westminster Music Library this month, despite the beautiful weather outside. But they weren’t disappointed as they were transported to the sunny countryside with the music of Ivor Gurney.

The workshop leader was Sam, who was wonderful and energetic and had everyone ready and excited for playing some music. The day’s RPO musicians were Russell on violin, Helen on flute and Andy on French horn. These three instruments contributed to the calm pastoral scene the group was creating, influenced by Gurney’s Severn Meadow.

BTL Early Years workshop on Ivor Gurney, Westminster Music Library May 2014

Ivor himself was inspired by a particular meadow to write this piece of music but we created our own countryside scene with long swaying grass, daisies, poppies and bluebells, and creepy crawlies. Everyone put their creative thinking caps on to try and imagine what all these things would sound like on musical instruments but with a huge variety to choose from the ideas were flowing quickly. Soon the library was transformed into a summer meadow with a blue sky and fluffy clouds, and there were even grasshoppers, caterpillars and butterflies! Everyone left feeling very sleepy and relaxed!

BTL Primary workshop on Ivor Gurney, Westminster Music Library May 2014

The next group of 5-11 year olds was even sleepier though, and needed an intense and vigorous warm up to wake up a bit for their music session! But soon they were imagining lying in a green grassy meadow too as they listened to the RPO play the relaxing music once more.

As everyone was lying down and dreaming of making shapes out of the clouds, they imagined being surrounded by rabbits, butterflies, grasshoppers and beautiful summer flowers. Ivor Gurney himself was using his imagination in this music too as he wrote it. In fact, he wrote it whilst in the dirty, wet, horrible trenches during WW1 but was thinking about his homeland of Gloucester, England and reflecting on his thoughts and memories of it – he obviously had a great imagination!

BTL Primary workshop on Ivor Gurney, Westminster Music Library May 2014The group was then turned into an orchestra (to replace most of the RPO who were off on holiday for the Bank Holiday weekend!) and created their own pastoral scene full of ideas and imagination. After everyone chose an instrument, the group set the scene with a calm drone and steady rhythm. The scene came to life with a variety of dynamics and sounds, then the group split into instrument families to experiment on music influenced by Severn Meadow with an oompah pattern and a variety of rhythmic and melodic ideas. Some lucky people even had a solo or two! There was a great team effort by the group as they all decided together how the music would sound. Adding some of the original music from Ivor Gurney’s piece, the orchestra played a brilliant finale with their creation of a country meadow in the summer.

[Jane McConnell]

Behind the Lines: The music and composers of the First World War*Behind the Lines is a year-long programme of participatory events run by Westminster Music Library in partnership with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, to encourage local communities from across Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea to engage with the Library and its collections.

The programme uses the centenary of the First World War as inspiration for a series of interactive workshops and creative projects designed for adult, family and school participants.

There are plenty of music workshops to come for all ages and abilities, check out our website: http://www.musicbehindthelines.org/ to find out more.

A walk in the countryside – Vaughan Williams Family Workshops

Early Years

It’s a sunny spring morning in London and the young crowd gather for the very exciting music workshop at Westminster Music Library.  There are lots of sleepy faces, but not for long…

BTL Early Years workshop on Vaughan Williams, Westminster Music Library March 2014

Everyone gets their wake-up call with a very lively and energetic warm up; lots of wobbling, shaking, clapping and moving! Workshop leader Detta then introduces the very talented Royal Philharmonic Orchestra musicians on violin, cello and vibraphone, who then introduce us all to excerpts of Vaughan Williams’ Pastoral Symphony.  ‘Pastoral’ relates to rural scenery and the countryside so we decided to let the music take us on some journeys through different rural settings:

Tthe first musical journey takes us for a walk up a steep, snowy mountain.  It’s hard work so we have to stop at the top for a rest before making our way back down the other side.  The second musical journey then takes us into the park where a squirrel is climbing a tree; it’s autumn so the leaves are lovely and red.  Finally we take a trip to the countryside and the beach where there are lots of sheep and cows.  We’re lucky it’s such a sunny day outside!

Primary Years

Another sleepy, shy group of children, but they are soon full of beans and ready for active music making after a movement, rhythm and vocal warm up. Looking again at Vaughan William’s Pastoral Symphony, the group learn to sing a fragment of the melody from the first movement.

BTL Primary Years workshop on Vaughan Williams, Westminster Music Library March 2014

Following that, the group decide on a new rhythmic idea and pat it out along with the music played by the RPO musicians.  The workshop leader decided it would be a good idea to create music based on different landscapes in memory of Vaughan Williams, who was very much influenced by different places in the world.  The first group stayed in London and portrayed the image of Big Ben in the morning mist with the birds twittering.  Group two took us to the hot Sahara desert, and as they looked across the sand dunes they saw some shepherds with their camels.  Group three took us further south to Antarctica where they played music to represent the enormous glaciers and melting ice.

We were fortunate to have a Vaughan Williams expert join us expert during this session; Ceri has just completed her PhD on Vaughan Williams at Oxford University and was able to answer some questions on his life.  He lived from 1872-1958, and spent a number of years living very near to Westminster Music Library; in Cheyne Walk on the Chelsea Embankment, London.

Ceri was able to answer one of the children’s questions “why did he fight in the war?”, explaining that he felt it was his duty to be a soldier in World War I, but he was too old to fight on the front line. Instead, he was part of the ambulance services, helping other injured soldiers, and he also looked after horses in the war (which may have influenced his Riders to the Sea opera).  He came up with the ideas for the Pastoral Symphony during WW1 whilst in France, and started writing them down when he returned to England. Ceri told us that he was inspired by the landscapes and scenery in France, such as the sunsets.  He also took influences from the military bugle music. So this pastoral symphony actually painted the picture of a dark, ruined, war-zone France instead of pastoral England.  Ceri also explained that Vaughan Williams was very eager to draw attention to the folksongs of England; eliminating the idea that there were none.  In fact, some of the motifs in the Pastoral Symphony were based on English folksongs.

Other questions about the life of Ralph Vaughan Williams included:

  • What did he do in his spare time?
    He liked walking, community music and conducting choirs.
  • What did he play?
    He was organist at a church in Stockwell but he wasn’t very good, he also played the violin.
  • Was he only popular in England?
    He also became famous overseas, particularly in America and Finland (after Sibelius!).
  • Was he a family man?
    His first wife died in 1951, his second died in 2007 and was 30 years younger than him.

As we discovered through these workshops, Vaughan Williams loved to travel and experience different places; much of his music reflected his interest in landscapes and scenery.  We also discovered that he loved his home country – England, as well as France, the New York skyline, Antarctica, and many other places around the world.

[Jane McConnell]

Bouncing with Health!

Bouncing with Health 'party' at Queen's Park Library - Oral and dental health teamBouncing with Health parties are a way of bringing health information (resources and practioners) to families with young and early years children in a relaxed and enjoyable session with songs, rhymes and physical activities.

At the first trial session at Queen’s Park Library we had:

  • healthy food samples as prizes in the Duck Duck game – this was run by Mytimeactive who are promoting their Boost programmes for new mothers and healthy eating for toddlers
  • information from the Kickstart Team, who run healthy eating workshops for parents and children
  • advice from the Oral and Dental Health Team, who brought big models of teeth for the children to brush!  They also advised parents on visiting the dentist as early as possible
  • songs from the Speech and Language therapist who spoke to parents about ways about interactive reading with their child.

Bouncing with Health 'party' at Queen's Park LibraryWe are putting more parties in the diary for the Easter holidays, summer half term break and over the summer too – keep an eye on the Health Events page for more information, and do come along and join in!


The Tate goes Big and Small at Pimlico Library

Tate 'Big and Small' event at Pimlico Library, July 2013
Our bumper summer of children’s events kicked off on Monday, when the Early Years and Families Team from Tate Britain visited Pimlico Library to entertain the under fives’ group and their grown-ups. These events for pre-school children, called ‘Big and Small’, are designed to encourage interaction between parents/carers and their children, foster imagination and creativity and bring gallery experiences to new audiences.

Tate 'Big and Small' event at Pimlico Library, July 2013
The toddlers had great fun exploring mazes, building structures out of boxes and re-designing the space using pegs to clip the materials into different shapes. Young children enjoyed the different textures of corrugated cardboard, smooth boxes and rustle-y tissue paper.

Tate 'Big and Small' event at Pimlico Library, July 2013If you think this looks like fun, there is another ‘Big and Small’ event on Friday at the Tate.

For more great events in Westminster Libraries, take a look at our Big Calendar, download the leaflet for your local library and sign up for the Creepy House Summer Reading Challenge!