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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elc-box32

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 . . .

cbis_box02

familystories2016-memorybox-casten

familystories2016-memorybox-fiona

familystories2016-memorybox-andrew

familystories2016-memorybox-avary

montgomerybox-23

box_eyes

cwc_circus_box05

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 BIG film of tiny things

minimovie-mrwizatsink

I’m posting my latest activity for all of us kids big and small stuck who are stuck at home. So far, I’ve posted an activity to build a shrink ray and peg figures, handouts to map a miniature person’s journey across a room in the house, and the idea to survive a critter attack!

I’m going to finish off the theme by introducing one more idea connected to this set of activities: Making a mini-movie!

With all of the activities I’ve introduced, there is the opportunity for writing, but also other kinds of storytelling—because if you have been building and/or collecting all the props (shrink rays, peg figures, miniature tools, plastic critters), then you have pretty much everything to go to film your own miniature movie.

When I was a kid, I LOVED making movies . . . but all those thousands of years ago, we didn’t have the technology we do now! These days, it’s simple to film a few scenes and edit them in a program like iMovie.

However, what I always tell my students, is that filming and editing are the LAST parts of the process. Even though my kids so often want to jump into filming right away, I encourage them to sit down and consider STORY and what they want to tell.

It’s just like writing a book! My students have tons of energy when they sit down to write, but without a plan, they often get stuck and frustrated, then give up. My advice is to do some simple planning!

To be clear, I am NOT a filmmaker. But I have filmmaker friends and I have dabbled with making my own book trailers. Even for a thirty-second trailer, I spend a long time creating scripts and storyboards. So, if you’re going to take on this project, that’s what I really encourage you to do, too!

The Mini-Movie project

What you will need:

  • Things to film (like shrink ray guns, peg figures, action figures, plastic bugs, and any number of household items!)
  • A script and a storyboard
  • A camera to film video
  • A program to edit the video (like iMovie—but there are all kinds of apps available).
  • One BIG imagination!

Here is the storyboard template that you can download:

WS-Storyboard & Script Template

And here is an example project! Several years ago, there was the “ice bucket” challenge to promote awareness for ALS. Everyone seemed to be making a movie—and harassing me to make one, too! I did want to support, but I am always loathe to just follow the crowd, so I decided to make a different sort of movie using the peg-figure version of myself and the various action figures in my studio.

Here is the storyboard I created first. This was helpful, because in some cases, I needed my wife to help with the filming. By looking at the storyboard, she knew what I wanted to achieve.

Icebucketstoryboard01Icebucketstoryboard02Icebucketstoryboard03Icebucketstoryboard04Icebucketstoryboard05Icebucketstoryboard06

 

And here is the video itself . . . All the effects were practical—just tricks of perspective and angle to achieve the desired shot.

Have fun, everyone. I’ll post some other activities in the coming days. Stay safe, stay well, and stay tuned . . .