Guest Post: Mr Peek, Getting Silly – How to grow your children’s love of poetry

I love reading with my children. Watching them get lost inside a land filled only with words and their own amazing imagination, is just magical. Recently we’ve been exploring poetry too with Bits & Bobs: Mr Peek’s Poetry Fun Time, a book filled with gloriously silly rhymes that have my girls giggling like crazy before bedtime and pleading for just one more poem. My girls were instant fans, but how can parents encourage reluctant poetry readers to dive in?

I asked kid’s poet Mr Peek for his advice on how we can all grow our children’s love of poetry…

Mr PeekThere are many ways to encourage children to enjoy things, equally, there are many ways to put them off something for life. Reciting Shakespearean sonnets or The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam to a three-year-old might give them a sense of the glorious beauty of language, but it’s probably not the best way to plant in their minds the seed of poetic appreciation.

On the other hand, give them a poem in which the word ‘Loo’ appears, rhymed with ‘Poo’ and, without a doubt, you’ve got a winner. So the first thing you have to do when encouraging your child’s poetic appreciation is to shrug off your serious ‘parent cloak’ for a while and don a more fun and outlandish outfit. Yes, silliness is the order of the day so don’t be afraid to read or think up some crazy, kooky rhymes. Kids love to hear poems where adults act childishly, for example, teachers putting their knickers on their heads! Moments like this are bound to bring a smile to children’s faces and allow them to gradually enjoy poetry through a sense of innocent, anarchic fun.

Of course I’m sure you’ve all sat down and read the wonderful Julia Donaldson books with your child but how to encourage their own creativity with words? One way to start is to allow your child to finish the rhymes as they appear in the books you know well. So you read the book as normal and then allow them to say the last word…

“…I had an Anaconda he was a great big snake I loved all of the noises Anaconda used to make, He used to bang his tail, it sounded like a drum, But when I took him to my school he bit the teacher’s…” (This is where your child shouts ‘THUMB’ or perhaps something else!)

Now it’s time to let them think up their own rhymes. I often play rhyming games at bedtime with my children. It’s simple enough; we find a word e.g. ‘floor’ and then everyone has to think up as many words that rhyme with the word ‘floor’ as they can. Then try it with ‘sink’, ‘towel’, ‘head’ and, god forbid, ‘blue’!

Although it might sound strange, drawing can also be a key to enhancing children’s fun with words. So when I mention a monster to the children in my workshops, I’ll ask them to describe what it looks like, how many arms it has, how many eyes etc. And once they’ve described the monster it’s a natural step to ask them to draw if for me. Then Hey Presto! They’re off!

Another idea that I have found encourages creativity is to get your children to make their own little booklet. I often have children at workshops presenting me with little booklets they’ve made of poems and illustrations that they’ve written drawn and stapled together themselves. These are the Julia Donaldson’s and Michael Rosen’s of the future.

Once your child is used to thinking about rhyming, you can ask them to think up a simple four-line poem for a card e.g. Mother’s or Father’s day, a Christmas card for a teacher, a thank you card illustrated and written for a special friend. Encourage them to write about anything you feel they might enjoy and then display their work in a prominent place so they can see that there is a final result and it isn’t just shoved in a draw and forgotten about. Praise their creativity and endeavour and they will quickly start volunteering to make cards and poems themselves.

No matter how you get children to enjoy poetry and creativity remember that it should also be fun for you. The more fun you are having yourself the more fun you will give to them. There’s nothing worse than someone doing something they obviously can’t stand doing. Engagement and inspiration are primeval powers and if you’re having fun, your children will instinctively feel it and long to join in and have fun as well. When the children are writing something, why not write something yourself? Maybe even something fun that tickles your sense of humour. Then, perhaps when it’s late at night, try writing a poem about something that’s been troubling you or worrying you and see how much better getting things off your chest makes you feel.

Poetry isn’t all about monsters and poos and loos but these things can be the gateway to a child’s imagination and can open up a world that will be valued and appreciated by them for the rest of their lives.

To order Bits & Bobs: Mr Peek’s Poetry Fun Time for £5 or to find out more about Mr Peek’s Poetry workshops visit: 

Review: Much Ado About Nothing at Dundee Rep

MuchAdo-Artwork-650x450I’m going to start this review with a bit of a confession – until Saturday night I was kind of a Shakespeare virgin! While I have of course watched various adaptations of his work on the silver screen and read some of his plays (I went through a huge and somewhat depressing Romeo and Juliet phase during my teenage years) I have never seen any of his work brought to life on stage. Shocking I know.

So when I made my way to the Dundee Rep, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I didn’t know the story of Much Ado, and I was a bit worried. Would I know what was going on? Would it be really long and boring? Well the answers to those questions are yes and no, and thankfully in that order. The story is an age old one. It’s the tale of a man and a woman, who are both absolutely perfect for one and other, but are just too proud to admit their feelings.

When I discovered that Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare’s comedies, I’d hoped that there would be a few laughs, but I hadn’t expected to spend most of the performance collapsed in giggles. And it wasn’t just me, the entire theatre was filled with brilliant roars of laughter.

Emily Winter was fantastic as Beatrice, the lovable but stubborn heroine of the play, but it was Robert Jack who completely stole the show, and the audience’s heart, as the hilarious Benedick. His comedic facial expressions and slapstick performance made the play for me. Of course it wasn’t all laughs, every story needs a villain and this play is no different. The darker part of the play, featuring the downfall of Beatrice’s cousin Hero (Marli Siu) at the hands of Borachio (Ewan Donald) and Don John (Ali Watt), provided just the right amount of darkness to make the story gripping as well as funny.

I needn’t have worried about the performance dragging, in fact the evening flew in and by the end of it, I’d laughed more than I had in months, years even. When I left, I heard the woman in front of me tell her companion, that Much Ado About Nothing had been so good, that she would have to come and see it again. I think I might just have to join her.

Much Ado About Nothing is at Dundee Rep until the 26th of June.


Review: Tell Me On A Sunday, Caird Hall Dundee


I’ve seen a lot of musicals – Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, Guys & Dolls and Les Miserables – just to name a few, but I’d never seen a one woman musical before. So on Monday night when I made my way to the magnificent Caird Hall, a theatre that has been graced by everyone from Bowie to the Beatles, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Starring West End star and former I’d Do Anything winner, Jodie Prenger, Tell Me On A Sunday tells the story of a young English woman’s emotional journey to find perfect love in the big apple.

The show, written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black features some of the duos finest songs including Take That Look Off Your Face and Tell Me on A Sunday, both of which Jodie and her spectacular voice, performed superbly well.

But surprisingly it wasn’t the stunning musical score that was the highlight for me, it was Jodie’s superb acting skills. Her performance was captivating and she pulled off this one woman show with ease. I found one scene where the lead (and unnamed) character had her heart broken, particularly moving. Jodie’s eyes glittering in the darkness just about pushed me over edge but thankfully, she pulled me back up again before I officially slipped into emotional wreck mode! After the show, Jodie came back out with the musical producer of the show, to perform a few more songs and to answer questions from the audience. Out of character, Jodie was every bit as warm and funny as any leading lady and it was clear that she has all the talent and stage presence she needs, to be entertaining audiences for a very long time to come.

Tell Me On A Sunday is touring the UK until the 8th of June. Visit: for details.

Review: Funbox, Superheroes Show

super_centre_image1-730x453While I’d love to be all cool and pretend to be indifferent, I cannot lie – I am a huge Funbox fan. I love them because they are keeping all the traditional songs and silliness alive for my two girls. I love them because, when I tell my kids that we’re spending the afternoon in their company, they light up like little Christmas trees. But mostly I love Funbox because they are just really, really brilliant at what they do.

So it’s fair to say that we were all a little bit excited as we made our way to see their Superheroes show in Dundee’s Whitehall Theatre. When we arrived to a theatre packed with little superheroes, my little Supergirl and slightly bigger Animalgirl, were more than ready for the laughter and fun to commence. And it certainly did! As usual, the show included some new and very catchy tunes, some old classics like The Quartermasters Show and Little Bunny Fou Fou as well as lots and lots of laughs including a hilarious and slightly awkward incident when Kevin and Bonzo met for the first time!

As always the gang came offstage after the gig, ready to greet their fans. They are always so generous with their time posing for photographs and chatting with the kids, adding to the excitement of the day. As I watched my two girls cuddling Anya and giggling along with Gary and Kevin, I just knew that meeting the gang, was something that they’d always remember. Funbox have helped to create a special memory for my kids that will last a lifetime. And because of that, I’ll love them forever.

Find out more about Funbox and their current Scottish tour on their website:

Horrible Histories: Incredible Invaders – Theatre Review

Horrible Histories - Birmingham Stage CompanyWhen it comes to TV, there aren’t many programmes that all four of us enjoy, but the one programme I can always guarantee will entertain my three year old and seven year old, at the same time, is Horrible Histories. The fact that that my husband and I absolutely love it too is an added bonus! Filled with catchy songs and gruesomely horrid historical facts, it’s the one show I can let the kids watch without feeling guilty! So when we heard that the Horrible Histories theatre show, Incredible Invaders, was coming to Edinburgh Playhouse, we were all very excited to check it out.

Written by Terry Dreary, the bestselling author that penned the original Horrible Histories book series, Incredible Invaders tells the story of the UK. Lead character Mavis, played by Hannah Boyce, is a Briton who is desperately trying to avoid a life of slavery at the hands of dastardly interlopers. On her journey through time, Mavis meets everyone from the rotten Romans, the smashing Saxons to the vicious Vikings and finds how their invasions shaped the Britain, we know and love today.

In classic Horrible Histories style, Incredible Invaders is a fantastic mixture of history and hilarity. The small and extremely talented cast, from Birmingham Stage Company, had the audience on the edge of our seats throughout and we spent the hour and a half show, howling with laughter and joining in! The second half, which featured 3D special effects, had the whole audience screaming and ducking as bloody heads and rabid dogs came flying our way, which only added to the great excitement.

We had a splendidly horrid time at this wickedly funny and gruesomely educational show and would highly recommend it.

Horrible Histories is currently touring the UK with their two shows Groovy Greeks and Incredible Invaders. Please visit: Barmy Britain for more information.