Make today the day you do something you’ve always secretly longed to do!

posted in: John Yeoman, Quentin Blake | 8
Photo: Crystl
Photo: Crystl

Don’t you just love it when having kids “allows” you to do something you’ve always wanted to do, but as a “sensible” adult you felt you couldn’t quite get away with? Well this week I finally got to indulge in something on my if-only-I-were-a- kid-again wishlist…

Thanks to my wonderful daughter M, the new Disney-Pixar film UP, and a funny and quirky book called Up with Birds! by John Yeoman and (for the second post running!) Quentin Blake, I got to play with lots of helium filled balloons and a variety of playmobil, lego and duplo people. Sometimes being a mum is hard work indeed ๐Ÿ˜‰

It all began with a trip to see the film UP. M has been going to the cinema for about a year now and adores the whole experience from the orange curtain which “opens like magic, mummy” to the dancing she always does in the aisles as the credits roll at the end (to say nothing of the maltesers which are her cinema munchies of choice). In UP one of the characters uses hundreds of helium filled balloons to make his house fly. This vision reminded me of Up with Birds! – a story of how birds originally learned to fly, recounted and illustrated with great wit.

It was a long, long time ago, several years before you were born, that birds first began to fly. I’ll tell you how it happened.

In the days when birds used to walk everywhere life was very difficult indeed. Especially for the Fflyte family who lived in a small town where there were lots of birds. Most of them were very nosy, and whenever they found an open door they would just walk in.

The Fflyte family eventually become rather exasperated by the birds under their feet and so Dad Fflyte sets to finding a way round this problem.

Mr Fflytes’ solution is to enable his family to take to the air, with Icarus-inspired flying bike machines. But the bikes being rather heavy need some extra lift – and that comes in the form of large bunches of gas filled balloons. The flying bikes are a success and great fun. When the birds see what’s going on they too want to get in on the act, and so launch themselves for the first time ever into the air, each holding the string of a balloon in its beak.

Everyone is happy. Indeed a small fat sparrow is so happy that he gives a chirp of pleasure and… without the balloon string to hold on to he starts falling at speed towards the ground… Is it all over for the sparrow?

Let me just say that as is reassuringly often the case, that great mother of invention, necessity, ensures that the poor sparrow’s accident leads the birds to discover their true calling – that of flight ๐Ÿ™‚

This original story from John Yeoman will make you laugh, a really enjoyable read, illustrated in classic Quentin Blake style. Although available in a format that makes it look like a picture book (and indeed it is packed with plenty of illustrations) this is probably going to be enjoyed most by children who are already reading or listening to longer stories such as Roald Dahl’s The Enormous Crocodile or The Giraffe, the Pelly and Me.

balloon_lifting_duploSo with the story playing in our heads we went off to get some helium filled balloons. Once home we investigate how many balloons were necessary to lift (a) a duplo person (b) a playmobil adult (c) a playmobil child and (d) a lego person.

This article from How Stuff Works has some useful background information on the science of lifting things with helium balloons (or you could try this from the Learning Network at the New York Times), which I won’t go into here. Instead I’ll cut to the chase: We needed 5 balloons to lift a duplo person, 4 for a playmobil adult and 2 for either a playmobil child or a lego person ๐Ÿ™‚ Now you have the knowledge, you really ought to try it out for yourselves with your kids!



We then wanted to try flying our balloons a little higher than the height of our ceilings indoors so we came up with a different object for the balloons to lift – some “birds” made of craft feathers stuffed into a selection of felt tip lids from our junk stockpile.


These “birds” were lovely and light so they each needed only one balloon to lift them. As it was our intention not to let the balloons float off into the sunset we attached some kite string to each balloon before we let it float out in the garden – we didn’t test how how they could go with the kite string guy rope attached, but certainly well above our house roof!


As the sun and temperature dropped, our balloons were not so successful at lifting their payloads, and so we became blase about attaching kite string. This was not a good idea as before we knew it a gust of wind took our remaining balloons and sent them off on an adventure of their own…




Oh well. Definitely a fun afternoon for all, and we’ve picked up extra litter in the street to make up for our balloon pollution.


Up with the Birds!: 2star

We’ve been having fun listening to Up in a Balloon by Alan Mills, It Only Takes One Night to Make a Balloon Your Friend by Lunch Money and bringing back memories of my childhood with 99 Red Balloons by Nena.

Balloon related craftiness that we want to get up to next includes:

  • these hot air balloons made from pipecleaners by Julie K in Taiwan
  • these stunning balloon lanterns from In These Hills, amazingly made for Saint Martin’s day – something we celebrate too!
  • So do you feel like sharing what’s on your if-only-I were-a-kid-again wishlist? I’d love to hear from you ๐Ÿ™‚

    8 Responses

    1. TheMadHouse

      I really like the idea of the helium balloons with the playpeople, I will file that away for later. We sent off magic lanterns for my newphew that died and the boys found it particularly magical.

    2. Zoe

      I’m so sorry to hear about your nephew. I’m thinking of him, and his parents. I remember seeing the magic lanterns lit in Thailand for victims of the Tsunami and finding it very moving.

    3. Sarah

      That sounds like a very fun activity! I looked at making sky lanterns, but was worried about sending a candle into the sky at this time of year. Maybe we’ll try it on Candlemas Day when there is snow on the ground.

    4. Kristine

      It’s amazing how enchanting helium balloon is for people of all ages. I thought about your ‘if only I were a kid again’ and I must say that I miss the care-free lack of self consiousness that kids have. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to jump up and down with excitement or throw yourself on the floor and howl with disappointment, with out fear of being judged.

    5. Zoe

      Hi Kristine,

      Oh yes… fortunately I want to jump up and down more often than howl – and sometimes I do it – but I just draw the curtains first!

    6. Ashley

      Love these photos, the little “people” hanging from the balloons made me laugh, yet another brilliant idea.
      If only I were a kid again, it would mean no housework!! Have to get back to it, haha ..

    7. Sarah N.

      This looks like great fun. I’m sure my girls would love it. Thanks for sharing! I’d love to be a kid again so I could spend these beautiful fall afternoons laying outside reading or making a fort without having to worry about all the grown up responsibilities that weren’t being taken care of.

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