I have lots of parenting ideas. Some of them (like my robo cry descrambler) fail to make it off the drawing board. Others (like my decision to bake a cake with my son) have mixed results. And others (like my toddler pleasing table games) are 100% Grade-A top drawer parenting dynamite.
I’m pleased to say this final category got another entry this weekend. And I’m even more delighted to tell you that I think it might be my best idea yet. Are you all ready for it? You are? Perfect, then settle down as I bring you the cheap parenting idea to end all cheap parenting ideas. Also known as… bringing a book to life.
Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. You said cheap and books cost money. This article is already a farce, a farce, a F.A.R.C.E. I hear you. But here’s the thing. In most towns and cities up and down the country, there are these building called libraries. And inside these libraries there are hundreds of books that children can take home for a short period of time FREE OF CHARGE. It sounds crazy, but it’s true.
Now, let’s get back to the story. Early last week, my wife and son went to our local library and took out three books. One was about a yellow digger that dug so far it ended up in Australia. One was a Julia Donaldson classic about Charlie Cook’s favourite books. And one was called Maisy Goes to London. Possibly because we live near London, my son took to this tale right away, which gave my wife and I an idea. On Easter Monday, we were going to head into London, take our son to all the places Maisy explored and generally bring the book to life.
Family Hood goes to London
So how did it go? Honestly? Forgetting to take the book with us was a bad start (late for train, unscheduled toilet break, rushing out of door, last-minute snack prep etc. etc). And leaving our umbrella at home was a big mistake. But aside from that? It was one of the best days out we’ve ever had. Here’s how it went down…
Stop 1: London St Pancras
London St Pancras is one of the stops on our train line, so it was easy to take the bubster to the site of the page’s opening spread. Happily, there were loads of buses, bikes and taxis for him to gawp at. Unhappily, there were no animals driving or riding on any of these vehicles. I blame the author for creating unrealistic expectations.
Quality of page recreation: 3
Stop 2: Piccadilly Circus
In the book, Maisy’s first stop is Piccadilly Circus, where she and her friends battle the rain, millions of tourists and a street dancing busker for a clear shot of the fountain and lights. Oh no, wait. That’s what happened to us. In Maisy’s world, her gang had the place to themselves (aside from the chicken driving the taxi, obvs). I prefer Maisy’s world, but I also heart my little man’s grin in the picture below.
Quality of page recreation: 5
Stop 3: Trafalgar Square
Given yesterday’s weather, there was hee-haw chance of getting a snap of ourselves or the little man straddling a lion. We did, however, manage to spot two motorcycles and capture this hammy point at the top of Nelson’s Column. Note: the bubster agreed with the book’s author. It is “very tall”.
Quality of page recreation: 6
Stop 4: The National Gallery
At this point, we were on a book-recreating roll. A quick stride round the side of the Trafalgar Square brought us to the door of the National Gallery. After opening it and going inside, my son had a brilliant time riding in the lift, clambering up the stairs, pulling the doors and eating cheese in the cafe (note: we brought the cheese from home, because the National Gallery Cafe is EX-PEN-SIVE). But what about the paintings – was he as excited about seeing Van Gogh’s Sunflowers as Maisy was? No. Uh-uh. Definitely not. Then again, he’s two and there was a tour group leader with colourful top and a microphone vying for his attention.
Quality of page recreation: 8
Stop 5: Buckingham Palace
Fans of Maisy Goes to London will be filled with rage right now. Why? Because in the book, Maisy goes to the park for a picnic lunch after visiting the National Gallery. We skipped this page for the following reasons:
- It was freezing
- It was pouring with rain
- It was freezing and pouring with rain
Thus we headed straight to see the head honcho. Mama Q. Queen E. Unfortunately, she wasn’t in. And so we had to make do with getting my son to point out the flag on the roof of Buckingham Palace, and watching the guard in the funny hat through the railings. Note: if you’re currently wondering how Maisy and her mates got so close to the guard without being tasered and arrested for trespass, you’re not the only one.
Quality of page recreation: 5
Stop 6: Busy tube train
Full disclosure: we didn’t have the time or energy to visit Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, go on a river boat and check out the Tower of London, so we skipped straight to the page that sees Maisy and her crew head underground and cram themselves onto a busy tube train. And I’ll tell you something for nothing. My son might have enjoyed seeing the people, the tube trains and the tunnels, but lugging a pram around the underground is about as much fun as eating tin foil. (P.S. Don’t try this, it’s ouchie).
Quality of page recreation: 2
A 50% success rate
We also skipped the Southbank and London Aquarium (been there, done that), meaning that when all was said and done we’d managed to bag six of Maisy’s 12 sightseeing spots. Still, as Meatloaf sort of sang six out of 12 ain’t bad. Plus, as I’ve mentioned several times already, it was pouring with rain.
All aboard the train home
With the clock edging ever closer to dinner time, we jumped on the bus to St Pancras. After this, a 20-minute train ride brought us to the end of our cheap parenting idea to end all cheap parenting ideas. But was it the climax of the adventure? Of course it wasn’t. For starters, there was a 5-year-old throwing the most epic fit I’ve ever seen on the platform of our local station (FYI: it was something to do with a tuna and cucumber baquette). And then there is the fact that my son now has a lived experience to talk about every time we read him Maisy Goes to London.
The financial nitty gritty
Some would say that being able to vividly bring your kid’s book to life is priceless. Others would say, yeah, yeah, enough hippy trippy claptrap, just tell us what the final bill was. To the former clan, I salute you. To the latter group, the answer is £25, which sounds like a lot, until you realise: a) that our only costs were the trains in and around London, b) that entry to any kind of London attraction that’s aimed at kids would easily double this amount, c) that this cost covers three of us for a whole day, d) that we could have easily picked a cheaper book to recreate and e) that we saw and did loads.
So, final question: would I do this kind of thing again? Yes, but with two caveats.
- I would check the weather forecast before we left the house.
- I would make sure that I had a better haircut.