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.

WS-My Shrinkray

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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.

black-egg

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.

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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:

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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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Door of the day: The final one!

Door of the day: The final one!

. . . well, at least for now!

Since tonight is my book launch for The Guardians of Zoone, I’m going to end my series of doors (and details) a day today. I’ve been posting for over fifty consecutive days!

Even though there are still many doors to choose from, I opted to go with this mischievous knocker from Shanghai because its personality seems to best represent my writing!  

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Thank you, everyone, for all the door love, these past two months!

You can find order links for the books of Zoone HERE.

Zoonebooks-Bookshelf-basement

Door of the Day: The door to happiness

Door of the Day: The door to happiness

This door is from the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo.  It is one of many beautiful doors and door details that I photographed during our exploration.

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This place holds a special memory for me. We visited Meiji Shrine when adopting our son in 2018; Hiro was only six weeks old at the time of our visit. Outside of the shrine, we stopped to get some takoyaki (a battered seafood ball—often octopus) for our lunch and the elderly man behind the stall scurried out front to see our new son cradled against Marcie’s chest in the baby carrier. He was so effusive: “Happy, happy, happy!” he cried, beaming ear to ear. We felt very welcomed!

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I’m posting my door inspirations from around the world to celebrate the release of The Guardians of Zoone! 🚪🗝️

You can find order links for the books of Zoone HERE.

Zoonebooks-Bookshelf-basement

Door of the Day: The spider’s haven

Door of the Day: The spider’s haven

This door knocker in Bath, England appears very stoic, despite the fact that it’s clearly the west wing of a spider’s haven.

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Bath celebrates its connection to Jane Austen, so if you travel there, you can visit many museums or sites related to her. For our part, we tracked down her old flat, then enjoyed tea and crumpets.

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I’m posting my door inspirations from around the world to celebrate the release of The Guardians of Zoone!

You can find order links for the books of Zoone HERE.

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Door of the Day: The one-sided conversation

Door of the Day: The one-sided conversation

Here’s a gnomish door knocker I had a conversation with in Florence, 2013. It was a one-sided conversation (his mouth was full).

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I’m posting my door inspirations from around the world to celebrate the release of The Guardians of Zoone!

There are plenty of door knockers in the nexus of Zoone, mumbling away because they are just like this fellow—clamping heavy metal rings between their teeth!

You can find order links for the books of Zoone HERE.

Guardians of Zoone - Galaxy

Door of the Day: Guardian snakes

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The doorway at the Quetzalcoatl pyramid in Chichen Itzá, Mexico, can only be reached by a stairway flanked by a pair of snakes.

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The snakes appear to undulate during sunset on the spring and fall equinoxes. In another pyramid at this site, I had a massive claustrophobic meltdown and had to make a quick exit (though it wasn’t as quick as I would have liked!)

I’m posting my door inspirations from around the world to celebrate the release of The Guardians of Zoone!

You can find order links for the books of Zoone HERE.

Zoonebooks-Bookshelf-basement