Post Tagged with: "projects/crafts for children"

A book full of book bites

Breakfast On A Dragon'sTailIf you’re looking for an activity that will get your kid writing, Breakfast on a Dragon’s Tail, by Martin Springett, is a new and interesting concept book.

Dragon’s Tail gives you the beginning of a story, and your kid writes the rest.

There are 13 book bites in all, each one an intriguing start, whimsically illustrated, to a story that your child will finish.

Here’s my favourite:

Dracula and Son

“Wake up, son! It’s time to terrify the neighbourhood!”

Papa Drac stretched and yawned, flexing his long, white hands and testing his bright, white fangs with a handy fork.

Ping! They were solid and scary–ready for all the terrifying stuff he had planned for the surrounding countryside, the lonely farmhouses, and the craggy castles.

“Nah, I’m tired,” said Drac Junior. “I wanna sleep in.”Dracula And Son

“You’ve already slept in for nine months! It’s Hallowe’en–time to sharpen those pearly whites and to practise blood-curdling screeches, climbing down walls, and flapping about in a creepy way!”

It goes on, but you get the idea.

Dragon’s Tail would be great for homeschooling, for teachers and for parents with kids who are keen to write but need a bit of inspiration.

And best of all, kids can go to the book publisher’s website and upload the endings they’ve written for any of the stories. Fun!


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Draw a stickman.comYour kid will love this.

You draw a stick figure, and the website brings it to life.

There is a literacy component, because the site takes the stickman through a plotline. You’re given instructions like, “draw a key in my hand” before he can open a locked box.

Kids have to read and understand the instructions, and then figure out how to fulfill them.

(So like life.)

There’s plenty of action to keep kids interested in the story. I won’t spoil it for you, but think dragon, fire, flood… cartoony, though, not scary.

And throughout it all is a very quirky sense of silliness. For instance, at some point the site itself catches on fire and detritus drops on the dragon’s head. Stuff that kids love.

After you’ve finished the scenario – a couple of times, likely – take a look at the gallery. People have done some pretty incredible “stickmen,” like Steve Jobs, Gandolf, anime and other really inventive characters.



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TDSB writing contest – win a laptop!

TDSB Prize pack for writing contest 2011.It’s time to get writing again – and here’s a wonderful incentive for kids in the Toronto District School Board (TDSB).

Write 150 to 250 words about what you’re most looking forward to this school year.

And you could win a Dell Inspiron Duo Laptop (value $550) or a backpack full of back-to-school stuff including a Kobo reader and a digital camera (value: $400).

Here’s the link to the contest where you’ll find all the details.

The contest is open to TDSB students, kindergarten to Grade 12. Four winners will be chosen (two elementary and two secondary). Winners will be judged on originality, style and overall impression.

Email your entry to before Friday, Sept. 16, 2011.
Include your full name, student ID number, grade and school.

So… get writing, and good luck!



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One-sentence journal is perfect for kids

Kid Zombie journal from guess the idea of a one-sentence journal isn’t new. But I’d never heard of it before I read about it on Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project blog.

She started a one-sentence journal because she wanted to jot down happy memories but knows she could never sustain keeping a normal journal for any length of time.

I thought: What a great idea for kids. Every day, all you have to write is one sentence. (Or draw a picture – or even take a photograph, for that matter).

That’s it – just one sentence. You put the date, and under it your write whatever comes to your mind when you think back on your day. Maybe it was something that made you happy (or sad or excited). Or maybe it was someone you saw or talked to, or something you did that was a little different.

Or maybe something you learned. A life lesson! Imagine being 30 or 40 years old and being able to look back at your top-of-mind thoughts from when you were a kid, all the things you learned? That would be pretty cool.

Kids would get lots out of keeping a one-sentence journal. For one thing, boys especially often don’t get enough opportunities to express their emotions and a one-sentence journal is a great place to do that. And if your kid is like mine maybe his or her fine motor skills aren’t great, so writing is sometimes a chore. But they can write one sentence a day.

Or, they can type their journal on the computer. My son doesn’t get weekday video or computer time, but I’d make this an exception each evening. He’d like that.

Since I read Gretchen Rubin’s post, I’ve been keeping my own one-sentence journal. So far I’ve got some pretty fun stuff — and we’re only on day two (but to be fair, one of the days was April Fool’s Day so that’s automatically going to be a juicy one). I can’t wait until I can look back at a month’s worth of one-sentencing.

I’m also going to start my son on a one-sentence journal. And we won’t wait too long before we go back and read the entries, so he’ll have some supporting gratification right away, for having done it.

And you know, it occurs to me now that not only is one sentence a day a “doable” amount to write–but it’ll also be a reasonable amount for kids to read, as well. A one-sentence journal is a great way to get your kid writing – and reading.

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Fun new, brain-challenging jigsaw puzzle

Ji Ga Zo puzzleThey’ve finally come up with a new, addictive, fun and brain-saving type of jigsaw puzzle that kids will actually enjoy.

It’s difficult – if not downright impossible – to explain exactly how Ji Ga Zo works. You have to try it for yourself, and you’ll understand. (Which is why I asked Hasbro to send me one – I couldn’t figure it out from the literature and now I know why.)

Here’s what Ji Ga Zo (worst. product. name. ever.) is:

1) A puzzle that you create from your own photo.

2) A game in which you (or your kids) have to find pieces with specific icons on them and locate where they go using a grid (the “acorn” goes on A-15).

3) A game that teaches “orientation” since every piece can be fitted into the puzzle rightside-up, upside-down or sideways—and only one of those options is correct for each piece.

Ji Ga Zo puzzle, icon board

This is the icon board. Kids have to find the pieces that match up to these icons, and put them in place.

4) A puzzle that can be reused over and over again, with any picture you choose.

It’s a little hard to believe, isn’t it? I’ll try to explain it.

First, you choose a photo you’d like the puzzle to be. It can’t be just any photo—faces work best, and even they need to be close up and high-contrast. You put the Ji Ga Zo (how I hate that name!) in your computer and follow the very simple instructions to create an “icon board” for your specific photo.

You print out the icon board, which is a grid containing 300 one-centimetre squares. Each square contains an icon: it could be a house, a duck, an exclamation mark.

Then, you create the puzzle by finding the appropriate icons and fitting them onto your puzzle space according to the icon board… this sounds ridiculously difficult. In fact, it’s very easy—it’s just really, really hard to explain.

Ji Ga Zo (seriously, Hasbro, you couldn’t have called it Re-puzzler because it’s reusable or Griddle because it’s a puzzle with an icon grid? And these are just off the top of my head!) is very addictive and quite soothing. Harkens you back to those days when you and your mom would sit in the kitchen doing a puzzle, something we rarely take the time to do these days. And because it’s a puzzle of your child’s face, you’re more likely to want to continue making it until it’s done. And so is your kid.

The puzzle pieces are very sturdy and fit nicely together. There’s none of the wiggle-wobbling and coming apart so common to cheaper puzzles.

And you can make it easier for younger kids by sorting the puzzle pieces according to colour. Really young kids can simply help you find the pieces, which they’d find really fun. Slightly older kids can find pieces that are sorted by colour and try to find them on the grid. Older kids can do the whole thing, with or without your help.

The image itself is going to be sort of abstract. It’s not going to be a great representation of your child’s face, because it’s actually made up of shadow and light. Again, you have to see it to understand. And if you don’t have a photo you want to use, the game comes with a few including the Mona Lisa.

So here’s what I recommend. Don’t hesitate to buy Ji Ga-whatsit. It would be good for a birthday present for a party your child’s going to, or a present from gramma for your own kid. And it’s definitely got some great learning components. And it’s fun.

Once I find out from Hasbro how much it costs and where to buy it, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I’m thinking of offering a contest to rename this thing…

Update: Hasbro got  back to me… $24.99. Name’s staying.

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No time for literacy activities? Harness the power of two

Literacy game - "crumple"

What kid can resist a game of "Crumple"? Crumpled up pages reveal silly riddles.

If you aren’t able to find time to read to your child or offer him literacy activities—use the power of two—you and another parent.

You know that kids who are read to every day are more likely to develop a love of reading. But that’s 15 minutes that tends to slip right by and before you know it, your child is asleep and you haven’t managed to read together like you’d hoped.

Here’s what you can do—team up with another parent and schedule time to do some literacy activities with your child and their child.

If you’ve got a toddler or an infant, chances are you regularly get together for coffee with another parent. Next time, plan to build a five-minute literacy component into something you’d be doing anyway. Use the first five minutes you’re in that café to prop your friend’s child on your lap and read her a couple of books. At the same time, she’ll be doing the same for your child. (Or each read to your own children—whatever works.)

Then, the rest of the coffee break can be about other things. But the point is, you’ve read with your child and she has read with hers. And better still, the kids saw each other reading, which will reinforce that this is a nice thing to do.

If your child is older, use the power of two to motivate you and remind you to do some literacy activities. Schedule regular weekly playdates—one at your house and the next week, one at their house. Talk to the other parent and brainstorm a simple literacy game, craft, activity that the kids can do—if only for 15 minutes—right at the beginning of the playdate. When they come to your house, the kids will find a craft or a game set out on a table. Let them find it themselves and it’s pretty likely they’ll start doing it. (I don’t know many kids who can resist stuff set out on a table, especially if the parent is just leaving them to it.)

Here are some suggestions:

* Put some crayons and blank paper on the table. Pre-make a paper airplane with a message inside it, “Hi Scott!” and explain that these are “message planes” that fly back and forth across the room with messages to the other person.

* Put a sentence on the table that is all mixed up. When they piece the words together, they’ll discover a secret message: “Your playdate snack is under your bed!”

* Play “Crumple.” Put a bunch of crumpled-up pieces of paper on the table. As they unravel each one, they’ll find a joke—on the back of the paper is the answer. (“What kind of hair do oceans have? Wavy!”) Here are lots more silly kids’ jokes.

It takes a bit of planning, but with the power of two, you’ll have a day off the next week as the other parent puts together a fun activity for the kids at her house.

For other fun literacy crafts or activities, search this blog or click on the tags for five-minute ideas or 15-minute ideas. There’s lots of stuff you can do that is fun, quick and easy and costs nothing to put together.

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Valentine’s Day literacy activities

Book heart Image: Valentine’s Day as an excuse to do some fun literacy activities. (From ABC Canada.)

1. Think of words that rhyme and write a poem for a loved one.

 2. Create personalized Valentine’s Day cards and write each other loving messages. Cut out words and letters from magazines to make them extra unique.

 3. Bake Valentine’s Day cupcakes and use candy heart notes or icing to write a sweet message.

 4. Play a “Valentine’s Day edition” game of Scrabble and score double points when you spell a word about love.

 5. Show your kids you love them by reading a love-themed book together, like Clifford’s Valentine’s Day.

6. Research the meaning behind Valentine’s Day.

Holidays provide a great opportunity to incorporate creativity and imagination with fun literacy-related activities to be enjoyed individually or as a family. Benefit from literacy by spending 15 minutes a day reading, writing, playing a game or following a recipe.

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Save the Words

Won’t you adopt a word?

You don’t normally think of the Oxford English Dictionary people as silly, but they’ve developed a project that’s pretty goofy, and it’s something you can do with your kid to get her thinking about language.

They’ve rounded up hundreds of words that don’t get used much any more. Words like gumfiate (to swell), lambition (licking) and vellicle (something that pinches or holds fast).

They’ve taken all of these nearly extinct words and knitted them into a virtual quilt, which you’ll find here.

When you move your mouse over the words, they’ll call out to you: “Pick me! Pick me!” They want you to adopt them.

You can find a word or two that you like and click on them. That will bring up its definition, and a form that allows you to “adopt” it. (Like all adoptions, you first have to register. Unlike human adoptions, it’s free.)

Adopting a word means pledging that you’ll try to bring it back into the mainstream. You’ll use it in conversation and in writing, and you’ll explain it to people.

Save a Word is meant to be a fun concept to get people thinking about words. It’s a great resource to use to talk to your child about the fact that words evolve and how our language has changed.

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Winner of PictureIt Contest

Thank you to everyone who entered our contest for free PictureIt books.

We have a winner! We put all of the names in a (virtual) hat and randomly chose a winner. Congratulations to Maria Butcher, who should be receiving the books right… about… now.

Maria mentioned in her comment that her son has Asperger’s – these books, in which the child draws his own illustrations, may be an excellent resource for him. I hope Maria will let us know if he enjoys the books (or not – either way, we wanna know!).

Now, for all of you who entered but didn’t win
I can’t bear to see anyone walk away empty-handed! So I went back to PictureIt and asked if they could offer some small discount to anyone who entered but didn’t win.

They’re not set up to offer discounts, but here’s what they generously offered to do: If you entered the contest, they will give you free shipping if you purchase the books through their website directly.

So if you entered the contest and want to buy the books and take advantage of this offer, you’ll need to e-mail Alicia and Leanne (the creators) directly and mention Getting Kids Reading. They can be reached at creators at pictureitpicturebooks dot com.

Thank you to PictureIt for supplying the six free books. And congratulations on having recently been picked up by Chapters/Indigo!

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here are the links to our contest (which, as I say, is now over). Thanks everyone!
PictureIt book giveaway
Win free PictureIt books

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Mother-Son bookclub part II

Our mother-son book club met again this week.

It’s a great example of parents taking their children’s literacy into their own hands. And anyone can do it – you can do it.

The boys drew, read, wrote, ate,
chatted, answered quiz questions
and had an amazing time.

Once again, the evening was total chaos… and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. There were boys writing, boys reading, boys drawing maps of faerie sightings in their neighbourhood, boys eating cupcakes, boys talking (in very loud voices—ok, shouting) about books, boys presenting at the front of the room, boys running around and overall, boys enjoying and sharing their experiences with books.

There were about half a dozen moms wondering what the heck was going on. (The one dad remained very calm, taking it all in stride.) The moms all had the same expression on our faces. It said: “This is chaos!”

Yes, it was chaos. It was wonderful chaos.

It was the way boys often need to learn, to connect, to delve into books, to share. Touching things and doing things and running around occasionally and eating snacks—while they were learning.

Every boy there walked away knowing that for a month, while they were living in “The Spiderwick” world—there were a dozen other boys in exactly the same world. And that’s the whole point of the bookclub.

Our itinerary:
Amongst the chaos, quite a lot was accomplished.

The book this month was The Spiderwick Chronicles (Book I), about three siblings who move into an old house and discover a secret world of faeries and goblins.

Two families hosted; their boys created a quiz about the book and its characters. They called out questions and the audience members answered.

They also gave out hand-outs: one asked kids to draw a map of their neighbourhood, showing where faeries and goblins could be found; another had kids draw their own “field guide” book cover; another gave the first three lines of a poem and had the child create the final line; still another taught “deductive reasoning.” So there was something at both ends of the spectrum, for kids who prefer drawing and kids who prefer writing.

Joulie handed out our special shrinky-dink I.D. badges that we’d created last month. They looked fantastic and the kids were excited to see their creations turn out so well.

And then Joulie created special I.D. cards for each child, which she’s brought home to laminate. (Yes, Joulie is our neighbourhood supermom who not only has a shrinky-dink machine, but apparently a laminator as well!) Each card has a photo of the child, which Joulie must have taken last month, wearing a fake moustache. I completely missed that she did that – when does she do these things?!

We read out a couple of the stories the kids started last month. Remember the envelopes, on which each child wrote the beginning of a story – we each took one home to continue the story. They were handed out yet again, for the kids to develop the story a bit further at home.

There was a lot going on, all the time. The boys could draw or read or write or eat or answer trivia questions—sometimes all at once. It was so great, I can’t even tell you.

You’ve got to start up a kids’ book club in your neighbourhood. (Just don’t ask to borrow Joulie, ’cause you can’t have her.)

Next month:

Our book selection for next month is Big Nate: In a Class by Himself.

In December, we’re doing The Red Pyramid, which is a really big book so we’re giving two months’ notice. We’re also suggesting that parents check the audio version of the book out of the library (you can get the CDs or download an MP3) because the book will be a bit too ambitious for some kids to read.

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