“CERES is wonderful for my soul,” declares Giulia Cardamone, mother hen at Cheeky Chooks. This free event for kids runs on the first Wednesday of every month during market hours at the Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies – aka CERES. And your little chicklets will be in excellent hands as you shop. “My family has had a long association with CERES. Since his retirement my dad has spent every Tuesday there as a volunteer. He also has a community garden patch there. I worked as a casual Enviro Ed teacher at CERES and this was the time Cheeky Chooks was formed. The staff and volunteers form a lovely community and I love being a part of it. Being able to 'smell the roses' quite literally certainly completes the package! ”
In a previous life Cardamone was a flight attendant, before living in Hong Kong for five years, then becoming an early childhood music program presenter. She’s now mum to nine-year-old Annabel and when she’s not hosting Cheeky Chooks she teaches Kiddie Art at the Art Factory in Essendon. “I love to say that I cut and paste for a living!
A Cheeky Chooks session always has a theme, an art and craft activity, stories relating to the theme, and the much loved ‘bubble time’. Last month the theme was spring – with kids making flowers from recycled paper and learning about the various components – and November will be Pirate’s Day, which means eye patches, bandanas, painted beards and a treasure map to create.
“I love to share my enthusiasm,” says Cardamone. “It's one of the greatest gifts you can give a child. Being well paced is also important. An unhurried child is a happy child. There are certainly plenty of opportunities to rush when they are older. Let children be children and allow them to learn from taking their time with activities rather than concentrating on quickly finishing a project.”
Cardamone’s favourite childhood books were The Man Who Didn't Wash His Dishes by Phillys Krasilovsky and The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr (“I adored humour from an early age and these two books certainly made me giggle”), but her Chooks are likely to get read modern classics like Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox, The Potato People by Pamela Allen and The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. “Children adore stories, read to them or created, as they truly feed their creativity and imagination. I delight in the seeing the children sitting in the cardboard fruit boxes at the Ceres' Market, wide eyed and excited, eagerly anticipating the morning's book selection.”
While there’s a danger that kids could neglect their imagination in this digital age, Cardamone is a firm believer of ‘everything in moderation’. “My own daughter’s education is already predominantly computer based, so we mix board games and apps, read books and Kindles, write and type. Give kids a cardboard box and some pencils and they'll play for hours, yet digital-based play and education can also hold its own. Google Earth, for example, takes us to places we could only dream of visiting. I've flown over the pyramids of Egypt and the aircraft graveyards in Arizona, hovered over the Hamptons and peered into the Grand Canyon. Who'd deny their children such adventures? Not me!”
Giulia’s three tips for entertaining kids:
1. Keep it simple! Fun and interesting, but simple. They're only little.
2. Smile. Who doesn't enjoy a happy person? A smile is returned by a smile.
3. Mix it up. Surprise them! Routine works well but variety is essential.
Oh, and 4. a bit of glitter is always a hit!