As parents know, it can be hard to get little kids to sit still and pay attention, but on this particular Saturday afternoon a roomful of youngsters sit completely focused, and surprisingly still, listening to a tale of undersea adventure.
The kids are attending the weekly “Krafty Hakawaty” event held Saturday afternoons at Hamra’s Krafty Kids – a new venue for children to learn art, music, theater and craft-making.
The colorful shop opened its doors in November of last year but began a variety of new kid’s programing, including the hakawaty events, in January, says the owner and manager of Krafty Kids, Rana Musallam Jabara.
Every Saturday at 4:30 p.m., a different Lebanese children’s author holds a reading, followed by a craft activity that corresponds to the theme of the book. This Saturday, author Caroline Hamadeh reads aloud to the group, acting out scenes with sea horse puppets and colorful fish on a kid-sized stage in front of cushioned stands for the children to sit.
After the reading, the kids flock to the upstairs craft area to make their own shark puppets out of paint, colored foam and a wooden spoon.
The readings are specifically conducted in Arabic, because, as Jabara explains, she wants to encourage multilingual kids in Lebanon, including her own, to appreciate the Arabic language.
“I see that the Arabic language, especially in Lebanon, is losing people’s interest. Many people, because they have different nationalities, are training their kids in other languages than Arabic,” says Jabara, acknowledging that she is even concerned about her own kids’ Arabic proficiency. “But that’s why I do this, I want them to keep hearing the language and so many of the stories in the language are really nice.”
Krafty Kids hosts a number of activities in addition to the reading events, and in various languages. Similar to the Krafty Hakawaty events, the studio hosts “Krafty Tales” Mondays – interactive storytelling sessions with dancing and playing, followed by a craft activity. They also host an interactive music session every Wednesday.
There are “Krafty Artists” classes for different age groups that follow a monthly theme. The theme for February was portraits, during which kids learned to paint portraits in the styles of famous artists – “their interpretations of Modigliani and Picasso,” Jabara says pointing to the examples adorning the walls. This month’s theme – already apparent from the newly hanged paintings of zebras and tigers – is animals.
Krafty Kids also has two theater classes – one conducted in French, the other in English. The French sessions, led by Maya Tabara, consist of 10 classes for eight students, maximum, where the kids learn to adapt a story, act it out, do all the preparation for the show (including making costumes and invitations) and put on a performance for their families.
The English sessions are taught by puppeteer and storyteller, Nayla Ejjeh, who conducts eight classes, which include craft and puppet-making, also culminating in a performance.
Jabara was inspired to open the space and create the various activities to keep her own 6-year-old twins involved with art.
“I wanted to do theater because I see my kids and they really love to entertain ... Especially through theater, they will learn how to communicate, how to give turns to others, to listen. They’ll learn how to make things, like costumes.”
“It’s something that I really wanted to do for my kids so I thought why not do it for more kids?”
Hamadeh who, in addition to being an author, works as an early years teaching at the American Community School in Beirut. She enjoys giving the readings at Krafty Kids because, like all their activities, it allows more opportunities for children to be interactive than in a school setting.
“When I go to schools I read as an author. In this setting I can go much further with puppets and music. Here I’m freer to let them explore my books and go into depth with the activities.”
Krafty Kids is located on Adonis Street in Hamra. For more information please contact 01-355-805.