Activities for kids: Thinking INSIDE the box

boxofwhispers-3dI’m posting my latest activity for all of us kids big and small stuck at home and trying to remain creative! I call this activity Thinking INSIDE the box.

I started delivering this activity to kids in my creative writing workshops after the publication of Kendra Kandlestar and the Box of Whispers, one of my most popular books. In that book, a young Een goes in search of a mystical container that holds something all-too precious to her societ

There are many wonderful myths and stories of enchanted vessels. One’s that pop to mind are Pandora’s box, Urashima Tarō’s box, and Aladdin’s lamp all come to mind, and can help provide extra inspiration to the young creators in your house.

What you will need:

  • Paper
  • Drawing supplies
  • The handouts (below)

Bonus:

  • Any kind of wooden are cardboard box
  • Paint and brushes

There are a few different ways to approach this activity. For younger kids, I like to use this very simple handout, which allows them to take a pre-drawn box and simply concentrate on the design, patterns, and colors.

WS-My box

Here are a few examples of student projects:

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A box holding all the magic of the sea.

 

For older students, I prefer this brainstorming sheet, which allows them to freeform doodles shapes and designs for boxes, and also prompts them to consider more deeply some of the story-telling aspects of their box.

WS-Think Inside the box - brainstorming

Here are some examples of past boxes designed

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Maker-space opportunities

If you have craft containers knocking about your house, wooden or even cardboard, then you can turn your box design into a three-dimensional model. The fun part of this, of course, is that you can FILL the magical container with items!

In my time as a creativity teacher, my students have made quite a few boxes . . .

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familystories2016-memorybox-casten

familystories2016-memorybox-fiona

familystories2016-memorybox-andrew

familystories2016-memorybox-avary

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And here is my model of a box . . . the Box of Whispers. It is pretty big and not only served as a great prop for when I was touring this book, but also as storage for same said books!

Een Museum - Box of Whispers

Writing prompt

In terms of writing, this project provides the platform for an epic tale—I’ve had many students take this prompt and dive into the telling of a character in search of a mythical box (perhaps after it has been stolen)!

However, I always tell teachers that a good bite-sized project is to have students write the single scene in which a character first discovers the box. This avoids students having to dwell or worry about what I call “plot paralysis”—becoming so consumed with a plot that they forget to think about character development and description. By removing overall story plot as a factor to consider, students can just focus on a character in the magical moment of discovery.

(Also, I’m just a little exhausted of trying to convince my students that they don’t have to start a story with the long boring sequence of invents that involves their characters waking up in the morning to the sun shining through the window, brushing their teeth, running downstairs to eat breakfast, running to the bus, running to school, running home after school . . . and THEN they actually something important to the plot starts! If you’re a teacher, you KNOW what I’m talking about!)

Have fun with this project. Stay safe, stay well, and stay tuned . . .

Activities for kids: Who is this mouse?

I’m posting my latest activity for all of us kids big and small stuck at home and trying to remain creative! I call this activity costume makes the character! Simply print out the handout below and imagine what this little mouse does in its life. Then decorate it accordingly!

WS-clothes make the character

Is it a knight?

A princess?

A cat keeper?

The possibilities are endless, of course, and I highly recommend printing out a few of the sheets to make as many jobs as you like! I’ve done this activity several times at schools in Canada, the US, Korea, and Thailand—no matter where I’ve been, kids love this story starter.

And it IS a story starter, because you can write a story about how this mouse achieved its dream job. Or, if you do multiple mice, you can write a story about how this mouse had to change its jobs throughout his life.

Here are some of the mice from the past occasions where I’ve led this activity at schools.

Costume a character

Mice.

mice03

Mice

Coffee Mouse

By the way, the one above is one of my all-time favorite mice: COFFEE MOUSE!

Have fun and, in the meantime, stay safe, stay well, and stay tuned . . .

Activities for kids: What will hatch out of these eggs?

I’m posting my latest activity for all of us kids big and small sticking around the house this weekend. Around here, we are busy painting eggs for our annual dragon egg hunt (and you can, too—see my post here), but this activity is a simple one to fill in some time!

It’s pretty self-explanatory! Just download the sheet here:

WS-What will hatch out of these eggs

Stay safe, stay well, and stay tuned for more activities!

Activities for kids: make a moto

I’m posting my latest activity for all of us kids big and small who are stuck at home. Today’s activity: making a moto!

What’s a moto, you ask? It’s a type of robot that wreaks havoc upon Ozzie and friends in my latest middle-grade book, The Guardians of Zoone.

guardiansofzoone_3d_spine

The motos didn’t make it to the cover, but rest assured they play a big part, as their world, Moton, is one where our characters spend a lot of time. Here’s a look at some motos, as depicted on the vintage-style travel sticker that I created for that treacherous realm:

moton

What you will need:

  • Paper to print out the template below.
  • Pencils and coloring supplies.
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Just download the template sheet and follow the instructions. Of course, I always encourage my students to make their own creations from scratch—but sometimes a little inspiration can go a long way, and maybe this sheet will help!

make_a_moto

These are pretty much the same pieces that I used to design the travel sticker above!

There is also a maker-space opportunity here. I love building things, so if you’re like me, and keep every lid and cap from your household products, then you will have a big store of switches and buttons. I recently used a lot of these to build my own moto probe. Admittedly, I also had to draw on some more specialized supplies from the craft store, such as brads, gears, clock hands—but otherwise, a lot of the pieces are just “junk” or bits and bobs such as thumbtacks, paperclips, and plastic lids. The “body” is just a styrofoam ball painted with metallic paint.

guardiansofzoone-moto

Have fun imagining and stay safe, stay well, and stay tuned . . .

Activities for kids: Design your own travel sticker

I’m posting my latest activity for all of us kids big and small who are stuck at home. Today’s activity: creating vintage-style travel stickers for imagined fantasy worlds!

In a recent post, I uploaded the activity to make a travel brochure. The activity I’m posting today is less ambitious, but just as fun (and, in fact, I used many of my own travel sticker designs to populate my travel brochure example).

What you will need:

  • Paper to print out the template below.
  • Pencils and coloring supplies.

Just download the template sheets, which are filled with various frames and shapes. This project is a great way to brainstorm ideas for different worlds, and distill a setting to its most important feature or essence.

Also, for those young writers who have already created a setting, this is a fun way to celebrate it!

You can download the template sheets here:

Zoone_travelsticker_templates-01

Zoone_travelsticker_templates-02

And here are some examples of vintage-style travel stickers that I designed for the worlds in my middle-grade books, The Secret of Zoone and The Guardians of Zoone.

zoone_multiversal_travel_stickers

 

There’s an add-on project here, of course. You can cut out your ideas and glue them to your own storage boxes or luggage. (It’s probably no surprise to people that I have Zoone stickers on my actual suitcase that I travel with.)

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

Activities for kids: Monster advertisement

I’m posting my latest activity for all of us kids big and small who are stuck at home. Today’s activity: Creating an advertisement for a monstrous product that can appear in a monster newspaper or magazine. What sort of thing does a monster horde want to hoard? This is your chance to imagine it!

I’ve done this activity many times with my creative writing students——it’s so much fun to see their imaginative ideas spring to life, not only in terms of the types of products and services they imagine that monsters need, but their slogans and pitches!

What you will need:

  • Paper to print out the template below.
  • Pencils and coloring supplies.

Just download the template and start imagining (of course, you can just draw your own frame)!

WS-Monster commercial

This project also provides a fun story prompt. What if the monster sees this ad, then goes to the story, only to find its favorite product out of stock? What will it do?

Have fun and, as always, stay safe, stay well, and stay tuned . . .

Activities for kids: the MONSTER fridge

Activities for kids: the MONSTER fridge

I’m posting my latest activity for all of us kids big and small who are stuck at home. Today’s activity: Stocking a monster’s fridge!

We’ve all found some pretty scary things in the back of the fridge! Well, time to embrace all the grime and gruesome grub and imagine the contents of a monster’s fridge.

I’ve done this activity many times with my creative writing students—I usually post photos of past projects, but I’ve decided NOT to post any of the monstrous fridges I’ve seen over the years because I think, in this case, it’s better not to provide any further influence or inspiration. (Just let me say, I’ve seen some pretty grim  fridges over the years!)

What you will need:

  • Paper to print out the template below.
  • Pencils and coloring supplies.
  • A strong stomach as you imagine all the gruesome grub!

Just download the template and start imagining (of course, you can just draw your own fridge)! By the way, I can easily start imagining what a human would think would be gross in a monster’s fridge. But what would be the grossest thing a monster would find in its fridge? Fresh produce? Hmm . . . .

WS-monster fridge

This project also serves as a great story prompt. What if the monster looks in its fridge and can’t find its favorite food? What happens next? Does it throw a tantrum? Eat the fridge? Decide to just go visit its favorite restaurant, like Burger Thing or Dairy Scream?

Have fun with this one! Stay safe, stay well, and stay tuned . . .

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

travelbrochure-template-folded-standing

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.

Travel Brochure.indd

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!

een_brochure-side01

een_brochure-side02

zoone_brochure-side01

zoone_brochure-side02

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

Foodlandia:

Betty-travelbrochure01

Betty-travelbrochure02

Rainbow Island:

Camille-travelbrochure01

Camille-travelbrochure02

Land of Cute:Jimmy-travelbrochure01Jimmy-travelbrochure02

Ocean Kingdom:

Linda-travelbrochure-01Linda-travelbrochure-02

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 solutions for BIG problems

elc2015_bigproblemsmallsolution04

I’m posting my latest activity for all us of kids big and small stuck at home. So far, I’ve posted an activity to build a shrink ray and peg figures, along with the handouts to map a miniature person’s trek across a room in the house. It’s my attempt to make us perceive our current confined settings as bigger than they actually are!

Continuing the theme, I’m introducing another angle to this set of activities.

Creature Attack!

Whenever I’ve asked my students to map out an epic journey across a single room in the house, I then surprise them by springing a new challenge upon their characters: an attack by a deadly creature!

Well, it’s not SO deadly if you are normal sized, but for miniature characters, beetles, centipedes, and frogs are quite perilous!

What you will need:

  • Paper and writing supplies
  • Plastic critters (available at any dollar store, or also in your nearby toybox!)—spiders, snakes, beetles, grasshoppers, frogs, cockroaches—you name it!
  • Small “tools”:
    • Buttons
    • Bottle caps
    • Coins
    • Drink umbrellas
    • Birthday candles
    • Plastic spoons
    • Popsicle sticks
    • Spools of thread
    • Toothpicks
    • Crayons
    • Clothespins
    • Elastic bands
    • Paperclips
    • In other words, anything you have lying around the home that a miniature character could “repurpose”

I like to begin this activity by putting all the critters in “Bag #1” then having the students picking one out “blindly.” This introduces an extra element of fun and surprise.

Then, I put all the “tools” into Bag #2 and ask the students to pick out two or three of them.

Now, we’ve got the problem (the critter) and the solution (the tool), and we just have to figure out how the character can use the tools to escape and survive. This is fun problem-solving!

If you’ve been following along with these activities and already mapped out the setting, then this confrontation with the critter can take place in that epic landscape (like in the middle of a shag-rug forest)!

At the very bottom, I’ve posted a handout so that kids can brainstorm some solutions. And here are some photos from some of the past classes where I’ve rolled out this project.

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And here is the Big Problem — Small Solution handout:

big-problem—small_solution

If you have writers in your family, this set of activities provides a lot of inspiration! But I have one other creative output that you can do with this set of projects, which I will post in the coming days. 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!

bigworld01bigworld02bigworld03bigworld04bigworld05bigworld06bigworld07bigworld08

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 . . .