Kung Hei Fat Choi!

Chinese New Year is one of the biggest events in the Chinese calendar and considered a major holiday for Chinese people around the world. The New Year festival is centuries old and comes about because of several Chinese myths and traditions. It was traditionally a time to honour the gods and ancestors. Chinese New Year celebrations last for 15 days, starting on the rising of the full moon between 21st Jan and 20th Feb and ending on the 15th night with the world famous Lantern Festival.

Do you know the story of Chinese New Year? According to tales and legends, the Chinese New Year started with a mythical monster called Nian, the dragon-like figure featured heavily in the celebrations, who would eat villagers, especially children. One year the villagers decided to hide from the monster, but a single older man decided to stay back and try to protect the village. He placed red papers in the windows and set up firecrackers in order to scare the monster. When the villagers returned to their homes the next day, they were still standing and no damage had been done at all. The man was declared a deity, a god, and it was thought he was sent to save them. From that moment on, the villagers thought that the Nian was afraid of the colour red and loud noises, which is where the fireworks and window displays come from. We can hear your brains saying ‘ahhhh I seeeee’ from here – interesting, isn’t it? There are loads more myths and monsters stories about; check your knowledge of them in the BrainBox Myths and Monsters game.

This year (2017), the first day of the Chinese New Year is on Saturday 28th January and we will be entering the Year of the Rooster. The Rooster? I know, not the type of animal you’d think was that interesting but this little fella is the only bird in the Chinese Zodiac so is very important. The Rooster is tenth in the Chinese Zodiac. Each year is related to an animal sign according to a 12-year cycle. Years of the Rooster include 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017 and 2029. To find out what Chinese Zodiac animal you are and what it means check out www.chinahighlights.com

How much do you know about China? Can you answer the questions on this card from the BrainBox The World game? Go on, test yourself and your family and see what you know.

Crafting is a huge part of celebrating this festival. Houses are decorated with traditional Chinese New Year decorations such as dragon (Nian) masks, homemade paper lanterns, puppets to reenact the story of the Nian and the windows and doors are often decorated with red paper cut outs representing Good Fortune, Happiness, Wealth and Longevity. The decorations are made with all generations getting involved, just like Christmas here.

Following with the crafty tradition, we have gathered some fun crafts to do with all the generations of your family, to celebrate Chinese New Year just like the Chinese do.

Red Ted Art, our go-to easy craft website, has kindly designed a FREE printable to help you create a quick and easy dragon (Nian) puppet to act out your Chinese New Year with.

Jen from Jennifer’s Little World has created some cute little Paper Cup Lanterns on her blog. They will hang beautifully from the tree outside or just in your windows.

Liz at Me and My Shadow has been creating Fire Cracker Junk Models with her little girl. Check out how they did it here.

Cat from Yellow Days has gathered her own list of her favourite Chinese New Year crafts over on her blog, 12 to be precise, so check them out too.

Don’t forget to show us your creations on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

World Book Day

In the UK and Ireland, World Book Day is on Thursday 2nd March 2017, however did you know that the rest of the world has it on a different date? The small independent charity who run World Book Day in the UK have to arrange the event around school term dates, religious and public holidays etc, so that everybody can get involved without it clashing. A great deal of thought and organisation goes into the day, from designing the packs they send out to schools, to getting the companies to finance the £1 book tokens they give to each child, and all for the love of books and getting our children to love books too.

Most schools across the UK will be taking part in World Book Day in one way or another. Many will be having the traditional fancy dress day, letting children dress up as their favourite characters. There are so many characters to pick from, and therefore parents all over the land will be doing a bit of DIY crafting, creating some masterpieces for their loved ones to wow their teachers and friends with.

We can hear your panic already! Luckily for you our friend Boo, Roo and Tigger Too is a super Book Day costume creator and has some amazing ideas to keep it fun and effective. Whether your children want to be Darth Vader or Little Miss Muffet, she’s done it. Check out all of her ideas on her site – www.boorooandtiggertoo.com

On the other hand, if they’re Roald Dahl fans, Mummy, Mummy… Mum has some great ideas by herself and others over on her site – www.mummymummymum.com.

Do your kids love books or do you have a reluctant reader? There are so many ways to get children reading and learning, even those who really don’t want to. For little people, books are all about fantasy, imagination and listening more than reading, so things like Story Cards will help them create their own stories. Older children can use the story cards too of course: try giving them a task of writing you a story based on the five shuffled cards they picked from the pack, then read it together before bed; you never know, you may have the next JK Rowling on your hands. Or you could make the Brainbox Once Upon a Time game a daily game within your household; it is so quick but such fun and gets everybody’s imagination flowing.

FYI:- your Book Tokens can only be used from Monday 27 February–Sunday 26th March 2017 (inclusive), so make sure you plan a trip to the book shop during those times.

Where to use your tokens –
Check out Booksellers Association; they have a list of participating book shops. All major supermarkets including Asda, Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s, most large bookshop chains such as WH Smith, Waterstones, Eason etc and many independent booksellers are participating, as are a number of school book clubs including Scholastic and Usborne Books At Home.

Eggcellent Easter!

Easter is just around the corner folks and with Easter brings Spring, the season of new beginnings. The weather gets warmer, the flowers begin to grow and sleeping animals awaken from their dens. Many people say that Spring is the ‘cutest’ season because many animals give birth during the Spring months and we get to see all the cute and fluffy animals in the fields.

Children love learning about animals, it’s one of the first things we teach them as babies, and that’s why we created our Brainbox First Animals game. Whether it’s asking questions and finding out about their favourite TV character, the likes of Peppa Pig or Bing Bunny for instance, or spotting the animals in the field, they are instinctively interested in wanting to know more.

Spring is the perfect time to embrace the warm weather and learn about animals as a family. There are lots of farms out there who do a hands-on lambing season in which you can go along and get involved in feeding the brand new lambs. However, Spring also means rainy days, but that doesn’t mean you can’t embrace the animal fever indoors too.

With that in mind, we have put together a few of our favourite Spring and Easter crafts to do with your little ones and some really fun games too.

These cute little egg box chicks from Typically Simple are quick and simple to do with the kids and they’re cute enough to hide a chocolate egg inside.

Our new Brainbox Animal Families game is designed for parents to play with their children and improve both their observation skills and their knowledge of animals from around the world. It is perfect for those days on which a trip to the farm is out of the question.

These bunny masks are a clear winner with kids and super simple to make. We love them – find out how to make them here.

Be sure to share your creations with us on our social media by tagging us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

I found life on Mars, but I ate it!

With the warmer months here to stay, well in theory anyway, less cloud and clearer skies mean we can embrace the science behind the moon and stars that are sparkling up above us. Children have always been interested in what’s beyond what we can see with the naked eye and it’s such a fun and amazing subject to learn about as a family.

The moon landing in 1969 created a generation of budding astronauts and, a generation or two later in 2016, Tim Peake hit the hearts of all UK space enthusiasts when he played out his time in space on our screens via satellite link from the International Space Station itself. To top it off, earlier this year it was revealed that in 2018 the first two ‘Space Tourists’ will be flown around the moon. OK, so the majority of us will never be able to afford to do this, but the fact that they can send people now gives hope that future generations might have the chance to experience space for themselves at a more affordable rate.

We love the idea of this generation being so enthusiastic about space and so we have been having a chat with science enthusiast and blogger Emma Vanstone from Science Sparks about how we can make space and science fun for children.

“Space is the perfect topic to inspire a lifelong love of science in children. Even something as simple as drawing how the moon looks each night or looking for constellations is a wonderful way to catch a child’s imagination and hopefully stimulate their natural curiosity about the world.”

Emma has created a whole series of fun experiments based on Space over at Science Sparks Space

This is our favourite by far, so simple and yet so fun. Why don’t you give it a go and show us how you got on on our social media channels; Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.