Dragons and Damsels
Fire-breathing dragons may only exist in stories, but dragonflies are very real, and almost as impressive. They've been around for more than 300 million years, pre-dating the dinosaurs. They catch insects in mid-air, and some species can travel up to 30mph.
If you've been out walking anywhere near water this summer, chances are you'll have seen some of these beautiful creatures flitting about. There are 17 species of damselfly and 23 species of dragonfly in the UK. But how do you tell the difference?
Dragonflies usually rest with their wings open, whereas damselflies close theirs along their body. Dragonflies tend to have large eyes that are close together, whereas damselflies have smaller eyes that are more spaced out.
There's also a clue in the name: dragonflies tend to have thicker bodies (like stocky dragons), whereas damselflies are long and narrow like dainty princesses.
We've been lucky enough to spot common blue damselflies in our garden, despite our pond being less than a metre squared!
If your child prefers fact to fantasy they may also like to learn about the komodo dragon, the world's largest lizard.
Dainty Damsels in Distress?
The dragons of fairy tale and fantasy are no less important to our children, and a great topic for imaginative play.
Zog and the sequel Zog and the Flying Doctors by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler are brilliantly fun stories about a clumsy but caring dragon, who tries his hardest at everything.
He befriends Princess Pearl who is certainly not a dainty damsel in distress. She's a self-trained doctor who wants to help people, and hates sitting around 'sewing pretty cushions and arranging pretty flowers'.
If your child has a toy medical set, or some real bandages from the first aid kit, it can be fun to play doctors with toys or willing volunteers. Talk to your child about how they should never touch real medicines without a grown up, but help them to understand simple treatments for minor injuries. Princess Pearl uses plasters and bandages to treat Zog's bumps. He knows what to do when he burns himself - he crash lands in a pond! (Running a burn under cold water works even better!)
Make Your Own Shield
Zog and Pearl team up with Sir Gadabout, 'a real live Knight' turned surgeon.
A simple way to feel like a brave knight is to make your own shield out of a leftover cardboard box. Draw and cut out a shield shape from a piece of card at least A4 in size. Cut out a small strip of card and tape it to the back to make a handle. Decorate your shield however you like. Remember that shields and coats of arms usually include pictures that say something about a person or family, so your decoration is the perfect way to express your personality!
If you're feeling really creative you could add a cardboard sword or helmet to your outfit. If you're feeling sporty use your shield as a bat to swat a soft ball around outside.
Dragons may be fantasy creatures, but we can learn a lot about kindness and bravery from their stories, and it's always fun to ROOOOOAAAR!!