REVIEW: The Gift of Winter: A Lyngo Play@Home (Oxford Playhouse)

It’s difficult enough entertaining small humans during the winter, when the cold weather and darkness conspire to prevent playing outside. With weekend plans also limited, we’ve been spending a lot more time at home than we would normally. And then we got the dreaded text from school informing us that Quaver’s class bubble was closing and she would be back on homeschooling once more. She’s not really one for worksheets (and neither is Mummy) so it was inevitable that we would look for something more creative to occupy her. As luck would have it, we had just been sent a review copy of Lyngo Theatre’s Play@Home show The Gift of Winter by the lovely people at Oxford Playhouse. And it turned out to be very aptly named!

The Gift of Winter is the tale of how winter and the Christmas tree got their colours, told via stop-motion animation, narration and original music. But it’s far more than a video you can just sit back and watch (although it does include one of these!) After watching the 30 minute video it’s time for you to create your own version. There are plenty of printable prop templates (and accompanying instructions) as well as backing tracks and song lyrics, allowing families to either attempt a faithful recreation of the video or inspire them to create something new.

In the beginning of years, when the world was so new, the four seasons lined up to get their colours and crowns, their toys and their moods. When it came time for Winter there was nothing left except a wet white blanket which made him so sad that he pulled it over his head and wouldn’t come out to play… until a child took him on a journey through a garden of delights, climbing the ladder of the trees up to a shining star…

It’s delivered via an online learning environment, which Mummy very much enjoyed (as creating content in this sort of online platform is what she does for a day job – although she creates boring stuff for grown ups!) It’s a great way of organising all the instructions and templates, and helping you keep track of your project. Mummy wasn’t sure how well it was going to go down with Quaver, who is not the biggest fan of anything that looks like it might be educational, and is generally more of a freestyle crafter. But if there’s one thing she does like it’s a video! And that was enough to get her hooked.

Watching The Gift of Winter in suitably festive surroundings

The show itself is a heartwarming story which tells of how the four seasons each got their colours. Left at the back of the queue, Winter ends up with nothing but a wet, white blanket. Too sad to come out to play, he hides away until a child comes along and changes everything. It’s really nicely told, using traditional storytelling accompanied by music and song, while the stop motion uses household objects and recycled props, all of which can be recreated at home.

When it comes to the crafts, there are a lot of them to have a go at and they need adult involvement. The project is designed to be a shared experience, not just an activity pack you can print out and get the kids to do on their own. There are some really clever ideas and the end-products are quite impressive (or would be if we had the same artistic skills as Lyngo director, Patrick Lynch!) This does mean that some elements are quite intricate and fiddly, with some tasks better suited to younger children than others. But it’s your show so adaptations and improvisation are all part of the fun.

We didn’t manage to do all of the activities, but we got through a decent number, and Quaver also added a few of her own! The Christmas Tree was probably her favourite and we got a lot of mileage out of, with lots of cutting, painting and decorating. The cardboard cut-out is designed so you can use it as an advent calendar, with little steps on the tree branches for placing sweets or other treats. Quaver loved this idea and very enthusiastically cut out the cardboard steps, but didn’t have quite enough patience to stick them all onto the tree, so we ended up with our own special version.

Another crafty creation that went down very well was a floating candle holder shaped like a lotus flower. This one was particularly fiddly for small fingers (and Mrs Mummy!) but it was well worth the effort. Here’s Quaver to tell you all about it:

With crafting spread out over several days, it took some time before Quaver was ready to actually perform her show. She had gone back to school by this point so we did wonder whether she might have lost interest, but as soon as she came home she chose to set up the scene and start telling the story. It was amazing to see just how much she had taken in when watching the Lyngo video and how engaged she was in the whole process. It was a real affirmation of our decision to keep things creative in the Family Stage homeschool. She may not have come out of isolation knowing what a conjunction is but she can definitely sell a story!

The opening scene

The Gift of Winter is a carefully curated experience which allows families to get creative together. For just £10 you get a show and an activity pack containing enough resources to keep you occupied for weeks. Aimed at ages 3-10, there are loads of ideas to spark the imaginations of little ones, and enough serious crafting to challenge the adults too! The festive theme makes it an ideal activity for families to enjoy together during the Christmas holidays. And if you’re not able to get together with all the family this Christmas, you could even use it to create them a very special video so that everyone can share in the magic.

Tickets: Find out more details and book tickets here:

Dates: Booking closes at Midnight on Friday 18 December 2020.

We received a complimentary ticket to The Gift of Winter in return for a review.