Activities for kids: Let’s get out of this place

zoone_brochure_inside_mockup

I’m posting my latest activity for all of us kids big and small who are stuck at home. Today’s activity: Designing a brochure for an imagined world.

The truth is that when I was a kid, we didn’t go on a lot of vacations. A big reason for this is that I grew up on a family farm and the summer—when most people go on vacation—was the time for us to work really hard and earn the income that would sustain us for the rest of the year.

So, most of my “vacations” were taken through books—either by reading them or writing them.

Of course, reading or writing are great ways to escape NOW, during our world COVID-19 pandemic, but I want to provide a bit more focus with this activity. Who knows, it might turn into a book—or, if you have already written a book or story, this project can be a fun way to view your “world” from a different perspective.

I’ve delivered this activity several times with students at schools or programs I’ve worked at in Canada and Korea, and it’s proven to be a lot of fun.

The imaginary travel brochure

What you will need:

  • Paper — you can use either blank paper or use the template I’ve provided
  • Drawing supplies: Pens, pencils, colored pencils, fine-liners, markers—your preference!
  • Optional: glue

The goal of this project is to make a three-panel tri-fold brochure, which you can do simply by folding a letter-sized piece of paper into thirds. That gives you three panels on one side of the brochure, and three on the other. You can do your brochure double-sided on a single sheet of paper, or if you are worried about your paper being too thin, and markers bleeding through, then just do this project on two separate pieces of paper, which you could always glue together afterward.

travelbrochure-template-folded-flat

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There are no real rules to how to fill out the pages, but I recommend:

SIDE 1

  • Panel 1 (the cover): Cover art and title, such as “Come Visit . . .”
  • Panel 6 (the back cover): Contact information.
  • Panel 5: More information about the world the brochure is advertising—I like doing a “did you know” section here.

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SIDE 2

  • Panel 2: General information about the world, showcasing key points of interest.
  • Panels 3&4: A bigger piece of artwork, such as a landscape of the world, or a map.

Travel Brochure.indd

Of course, I highly recommend brainstorming the content and working on some rough copies before worrying about the final version. You can use your own blank paper folded into thirds, though if you want some content blocks to work with, then you can download my template HERE. You can also download and print out the template with the instructions, just in case you want something sitting in front of you to look at.

If you do print out my template double-sided, you may have to experiment with how your printer works—certain devices seem to flip the second page the wrong way!

Come visit these imaginary worlds:

I always have this rule in my creativity classes: If I ask YOU to do it, then I’ve also done it. So, here are two brochures that I’ve made! One is for The Land of Een, which is featured in my Kendra Kandlestar book series. The other is for the multiverse that appears in my Zoone series–because Zoone features so many different worlds, I decided to do that brochure a little bit differently!

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Finally, here are some brochure examples done by past students.

Foodlandia:

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Rainbow Island:

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Land of Cute:Jimmy-travelbrochure01Jimmy-travelbrochure02

Ocean Kingdom:

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I’d love to see what kids come up with! If you post them on social media, please hashtag #imaginarytravelbrochure and tag me (I’m @leefodi on Instagram and twitter).

In the meantime, stay safe, stay well, and stay tuned . . .

 

Activities for kids: Small room—BIG world

bigworld09It sure feels like our world is shrinking with the covid-19 crisis. We’re stuck at home, can’t gather, can’t visit.

Personally, I’m reverting to my age-old survival tactic: Disappearing as much as possible into my imagination.

As a children’s author and specialized arts and creative writing teacher, I’d like to help kids do the same, so I’m presenting some of my favorite activities.

Recently, I posted about building a shrink ray with household items. The bonus project was to imagine that every member of the family was shrunk by the device by building peg-figure versions of everyone!

Well, if you can imagine you’ve an inch or two high, then your world is now suddenly BIGGER. So, I invite you take the next (tiny) step . . .

Map your GIANT world

I’ve done this project with schools I’ve worked with in Canada, Korea, and Thailand, and will be posting some examples of my students’ past projects.

What you will need:

  • Paper
  • Drawing supplies: pencils, colored pencils, markers, crayons, fine-liners—whatever you like to use.
  • Hey, I’m not going to stop you from using stickers or glitter either . . . but you know: the CLEAN-UP!
  • A BIG imagination!

In this activity, you’re asked to imagine a single room in your house as an epic landscape that you have to cross as a miniaturized person. So, for example, a pile of dirty laundry might become “Mount Clothes” or a tipped-over soda can might become “Fizzy Falls.”

This is a fun way to think about perspective—and, also, to just imagine a bigger, vaster world.

Here are some examples of past maps—and at the bottom of this post, I’ve posted links to handouts that you can use to help with this project. I always find a bit of brainstorming helps at the beginning of every project!

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Handouts

First of all, here is a map template.

WS-Map Template

Of course, you can do it on blank paper, but a whimsical frame makes everything more fun, if you ask me. (Also, I want to point out that this is the exact same frame I used for the map in Kendra Kandlestar and the Box of Whispers, which, by the way, is also about tiny people).

Here is a “Small Room — Big World” brainstorming sheet to help get you thinking about the types of items and pieces of furniture you might want to include in your map, and how to convert them into landscape items.

Small_room—big_world

If you’re looking to add a writing project to do this—NO problem! Just imagine you have to navigate your way across this vast—and possibly dangerous—landscape! (Also, I’ll post a nice little wrinkle for you in a couple of days to make this epic journey even MORE fun!)

Stay safe, stay well, and stay tuned . . .

Activities for kids: Shrink Rays!

Activities for kids: Shrink Rays!

Does your family feel like the world is shrinking with all the shut-downs and closures due to covid-19? My family sure does! My wife has implemented a mandatory dance party each night to help keep our morale up—but there is still the rest of the day to fill up for us and our rambunctious son.

Thankfully, as a creative writing and specialized arts teacher, I’ve got a lot of “stuff” kicking around in the closet for various projects—and I want to share some of these activities.

In truth, of the stuff I build with my kids in my classes uses “junk”. I tend to save up all the lids and plastic bits that comes with various household items. They make for excellent building supplies.

I’ve done this project with classes in Canada, Korea, and Thailand—it’s a universal project that everyone can connect with.

So, for this project, you probably have most of what you need already in your house! So, if you want to make your world a little BIGGER, try building a shrink ray and imagine what it would be like to live in your house as a mouse-sized person!

The Shrink Ray Project

What you will need:

  • Plastic bottles, soda cans, or any kind of container—even toilet paper rolls will do (and people have been hoarding toilet paper, so you might have a TON of those at your disposal).
  • A low-temperature hot glue gun and/or white glue.
  • Marker pens.
  • Aluminum foil and scrap cardboard.
  • Scissors.
  • Bits and bobs—lids and snaps from various household items. Some containers (like glass milk bottles or the squeeze-fruit-paste my son eats) have the kind of lids that make for fantastic dials and switches.
  • Brads (if you’re a scrapbooker, you might have these)—but otherwise you might be able to use thumbtacks, pushpins, or even screws.

Step 1: Gather all the supplies

In a formal class situation, I find it helpful for my kids to pick over all the supplies, choose what they want to use, then design what they want to build on a piece of paper.

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Step 2: Draw

I always think it’s more fun—and successful—to have my kids draw what they want to build once they see what pieces that have to use. This can be done on just a plain piece of paper, or you can use the brainstorming sheet that I’ve prepared here.

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Step 3: Build

Once the design is figured out, it’s just a matter of attaching all the pieces. I love building my props so that the button and switches move, but this requires a bit more patience and fiddling. Using a pushpin, you can push a hole through your average plastic lid, then attach it to the shrink ray base with a brad.

Otherwise, you can just attach all the buttons by using glue. You can use either a hot glue glue, which attaches items very quickly, but isn’t as durable, or white glue, which requires a lot more patience to allow for drying—but is more durable.

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Bonus:

You can build miniature versions of your family using wooden pegs, scraps of cloth and felt, and buttons! That way, you can really visualize what it was like after the peskiest member of your family left the shrink ray ON and shrunk you all.

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Another bonus:

If you have kids who love to write, well the shrink ray offers you a ready-made story starter! However, I often get my students to write a poem about what life is like as a miniature person, which is a good way to prompt imagination and perspective.

You can download my sheet!

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Activities for Kids: Dragon egg building 201

Everyone is looking for fun home-based projects so I’m going to post some of the fun activities I roll out with my own family and the students in my creative writing and art programs.

I’ve already posted Dragon egg building 101, which involved a simple way to craft your own magical creature egg. This second approach is also pretty simple, but is better for older kids.

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Dragon Eggs: The Hot Glue Gun approach

Obviously, it’s the hot glue that makes this a poor fit for toddlers! It also requires more patience, since it requires waiting for the hot glue to dry. This is the method that I’ve rolled out at many schools and programs in Canada, Korea, and Thailand—I’ve probably overseen hundreds of these eggs being made!

What you will need:

  • Eggs (real, plastic, or cardboard)
  • A low-temperature hot glue gun
  • Black paint
  • Metallic or glitter paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Mod podge

I’ll repeat here what I said about eggs using the sticker approach. You can use plastic or cardboard ones, which are highly available at this time of year from your local dollar or art craft store.

You can also use real eggs. In this case, you need to poke a hole in both ends, blow out the yolk, rinse the insides with hot water, then bake them at 325 degrees for twenty minutes to “cure” them. Real eggs are obviously more delicate than using the plastic forms, but they will work.

Once you have the eggs prepared, follow these steps . . .

Step 1: Paint the egg black

After a lot of experimentation, I have found this produces the best final result. By painting the eggs a base color of black, you provide a rich base and makes whatever colors you apply over top to be more vivid and vibrant. Because I have often done projects at schools where we needed to build a hundred eggs over a week, I often mass spray-paint a batch in advance, but black acrylic paint works just as well.

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Step 2: Apply the hot glue

Once the egg has been given a base color, and the paint has dried, heat up the low-temperature glue gun and start applying it to the egg. You can almost paint it on with the nozzle of the gun, making different patterns and designs. I’ve tried swirls and wavy lines, but, honestly, you can apply it all kinds of random patterns because what you’re really trying to accomplish is make the egg look like it came from anything other than a normal bird!

You can see many of the different styles created by me and my students on this post. If you allow the glue to dry, you can start adding additional layers and build up certain features. I’ve even had students build horns and wings with the hot glue!

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Step 3: Paint with metallic paint

Once the black paint is dry, apply your chosen final colors. I find that metallic paints are the best, because they provide the eggs with a magical appearance.

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My main recommendation here is to paint lightly or to dry-brush the metallic paint on. This technique works especially well if you have pre-painted the base shell black (though, sometimes, my students apply so much glue, that there is no evidence of the original shell—which is okay, of course!).

You can also dry-brush on different layers or section of colors. If you don’t like the look of something, just paint over it and start again!

Step 4: Paint with mod podge

You can stop after Step 3, but I often like to seal the egg with a layer of mod podge, because it helps protect the paint and makes the egg more durable—which is important if, like my family, you want to plant them around your house or garden for a dragon egg hunt!

If you want your egg to be purely for display, you can always mount it on a base, such as a half-sphere styrofoam ball or, as one of my industrious students did, a cut plastic cup.

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If you’re looking for something extra to add to this project, well then there is plenty of storytelling and writing you can do. In my creative writing classes, I often ask my students to write care instructions. You can download the project sheet here.

WS-My Hatchling's Care Instructions

Activities for kids: Dragon egg building 101

Well, here we are, in the midst of the covid-19 crisis and my family is facing the same reality as everyone else—being stuck at home, climbing the walls, with no work or school. I work a lot at home (that’s the life of a writer), but I’ve also had many of my creative writing classes cancelled, which means all my students are stuck at home, too.

There is only so much Netflix to watch, so many books to read, so many games to play—so I want to introduce some fun hands-on activities to help keep hands and minds busy.

The first one is building dragon eggs (or, if you prefer, magical creature eggs). I’ve built tons of eggs over the years, ranging from very simple and small ones to ones that are giant and complicated. I build them as props to help me imagine key elements in my books, to help my creative writing kids to be inspired, or as for treasures to use in my family’s annual dragon egg hunt.

dragonegghunt

I’ve also helped hundreds of kids build them as part of my creative writing classes, my art therapy classes for at-risk teens, and in my writer/artist residences in Canada, Korea, and Thailand.

There are two simple approaches to making dragon eggs that you can roll out with your kids, and, in this post, I’ll introduce the first one . . .

Dragon Eggs: The Sticker Approach

This is the style that you can use with the youngest of kids. My two-year-old, Hiro, even made one of these—admittedly, I did the painting, but he did do all the sticking.

What you will need:

  • Eggs (real, plastic, or cardboard)
  • Black paint
  • Gemstone stickers
  • Metallic or glitter paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Mod podge

First, let’s talk about the eggs. You can use plastic ones from your local dollar store (at this time of year, they are highly available), or cardboard ones (usually found at a higher end art supply or craft store), or actual eggs.

In the case of real eggs, you need to poke a hole in both ends, blow out the yolk, rinse the insides with hot water, then bake them at 325 degrees for twenty minutes to “cure” them. Real eggs are obviously more delicate than using the plastic forms, but they will work.

Once you have eggs sorted, follow these steps . . .

Step 1: Apply the stickers

Once the egg has been given a base color, apply the gemstone stickers. The only issue here is that if you apply the stickers, then change your mind and peel them off, they won’t stick as well upon reapplication, and you may need to use white glue to keep them down.

The great thing about the sticker application is that you can do it really randomly (like my two-year-old) and still produce an interesting pattern that makes the egg feel more magical.

hirobuilding

dragonegg-bejewelling-green

skarmegg-bejewelled

bejewelledstickereggs

Step 2: Paint with mod podge

In truth, you can just paint the egg at this point with your metallic or glitter paint, but a coat of mod podge will really bind the gemstones to the egg form and ensure its durability.

Also, the mod podge works its way into all the cracks and crevices, filling them in and making the surface just a little less bumpy. Don’t worry, it will dry completely clear!

skarmegg-paintedwithmodpodge

Step 3: Paint black

After a lot of experimentation, I have found this produces the best final result. By painting the eggs black, you provide a rich base and makes whatever colors you apply over top to be more vivid and vibrant.

Step 4: Paint with your chosen colours

Once the black paint is dry, apply your chosen final colors. I find that metallic paints are the best, because they really make the eggs look distinctive or interesting—in other words, magical.

I often like to dry-brush the metallic paint on rather than glop it on because, once again, it allows a vibrant and interesting finish. But there are no rules here! Some students like to leave the acrylic gemstones gleaming through.

From our recent hatchling workshop at the kitchen table, this is Hiro’s egg:

hirosegg

And this is mine:

bejewelled-redeg

I actually think Hiro’s looks better, with the dispersion of bumps and shapes!

Step 5: Seal

This step is optional, but I usually like to add another coat of mod podge, just to ensure the paint or jewels don’t chip off. You can also simply spray with a finisher (you can buy these at any art store), but I find mod lodge does the job just as well.

What’s next?

If you’re looking for something extra to add to this project, well then there is plenty of storytelling and writing you can do. In my creative writing classes, I often ask my students to write care instructions. You can download the project sheet here.

WS-My Hatchling's Care Instructions

 

 

 

The Guardians of Zoone takes flight!

The Guardians of Zoone takes flight!

Planning a book launch isn’t all that different from planning a wedding—there are invitations, food to organize, giveaways, speeches . . . and all the stress to go with it.

Which is all to say how grateful I am that the launch for my latest book, The Guardians of Zoone, was such an overwhelming success. A big thank you to the Main Street Book Warehouse in Vancouver for hosting. The store was packed wall to wall and we sold out every book in the store emblazoned with the word “Zoone” on the cover!

I am blessed to have friends and family in many talented areas, who helped out with the event. My wife, Marcie, and our friend Stacey made delicious skyger cookies with melted turquoise chocolate. My friend, Jeff, took my drawing of the key to Zoone and turned it into a template to 3D print keys for prizes (by the way, that template is loaded up on my website, so that anyone can print their own key—the template is here). My friend, Jina, took all the amazing photographs you see below (you can check out her Instagram at @jinakimphotography).

I dressed as a portal pirate for the occasion (since they play a big part in the book) and had plenty of freebies to hand out—including keys and stickers. The prizes included the 3D-printed Zoone keys, and some props handmade by me: a dragon egg and a “moto” probe (a robotic spy that flies about the multiverse, gathering information on worlds to “motonize”).

A big thanks to everyone who came out! And, of course, you can check out the order links for the Book of Zoone here.

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Our magical creature camp in Korea

Our magical creature camp in Korea

I’m just catching up on organizing photos after our whirlwind trip to Korea and Japan this past summer—which means I’m finally getting around to blogging about the Magical Creatures creative writing camp that I taught along with my actor/playwright wife Marcie Nestman and fellow children’s author Kallie George.

Marcie and I are used to spending time in Asia—personally, I’ve been there over thirty times, most of it to teach creative writing camps or workshops. What WAS new this time was that we took our one-year-old son, Hiro, with us. So, seasoned travelers that we are, we had a very different type of adventure!

A magical theme

Since Kallie and I both recently released books featuring magical creatures—Kallie’s Wings of Olympus and my The Secret of Zoone—we thought that would make the best theme for our camp.

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Of course, there are plenty of books and films featuring magical creatures, so this was a great way to connect with and inspire our students.

 

The magical menagerie art exhibit

In The Secret of Zoone, one of the characters references the “Multiversal Menagerie,” an art exhibit featuring paintings of different creatures from across the multiverse. I thought I would take a cue from that and have my students do a creative writing project in which they produced artwork of a creature then wrote the information card that goes with it.

You see, I have this belief that not every writing assignment has to be a proper story. I worry that my students get so focused on plot, that they forget other elements of writing—such as description, setting, character development and BEING CREATIVE. I call this “plot paralysis” because students get so caught up in that ONE part of writing that they start ignoring everything else.

Projects like the multiverses menagerie are meant to help the students wriggle free of the shackles of plot and just have fun.

Our project started with brainstorming creatures  . . .

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Afterwards, the students turned their attention to final artwork. Some students chose to draw, some students chose to sculpt, and others chose to do both.

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The Eye of the Dragon

Another project I rolled out at camp involved writing a scene in which a character finds or steals a magical gem that gives that character the power of connecting with a creature. The students got to choose the aspect of that connection—it could be transforming into the creature, controlling it, or even seeing through its eyes.

Step one, however, was painting the gem of power!

I really love this project because it is relatively simple, but produces stunning results. In fact, many of my students end up wearing their jewelry afterwards (it’s easy enough to glue the gems to a metal ring or amulet).

The gems themselves are glass cabochons, which you can get in different shapes (such as oval or round) and the paint is simple nail polish. This project is very forgiving—even those students who don’t consider themselves artistic can create abstract designs. Also, if you make a mistake, a little nail polish remover helps you start over!

Here are some of the gorgeous designs produced by my students:

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The magical market

We delivered many other projects at the camp, but there is one other event I wanted to blog about—and that is our magical market night. Our camps our long—often six or seven days, and we find we need some sort of event in the middle to help break it up and provide a “boost.”

We usually host a tournament or some other team-building exercises; this time, Marcie had the brilliant idea of putting on a magical market. This was brilliant for a few reasons—not the least of which was that we could do it outdoors and avoid the intense summer heat and humidity. Also, we corralled our older students into coming up with the ideas for the stalls, and then running them during the event itself.

So, we ended up having all sorts of fun stations consisting of games, face painting, fortune telling, and—my favorite—food! We invented a new fizzy drink by combining soda water and pop rocks and also had glow-in-the-dark cotton candy. We gave the students fake jewels to use as currency, so they got to stroll our market and decide how to spend their loot.

Marcie had led a project in which the students designed their own lanterns for a made-up magical creature holiday, so we already had some decorations ready to go.

It was a HUGE success!

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