Toilet Rolls, Easter Chicks & Bunnies

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Easter Nest” by suju is licensed under CC by 2.0

Weird-sounding title to my post, eh? Well, I’m into one of my ‘temporary phases’, as my wife likes to call it. This time it’s all to do with recycling. So in my daily reading time when I came across some ideas for crafts fashioned out of discarded toilet paper rolls, I jumped at the opportunity.

Here’s how it goes. You need pretty much the same supplies for both the chicks as well as the bunnies – toilet paper rolls (equal to the number of chicks/bunnies you want), buttons (if you can’t lay your hands on googly eyes), some paint or crayons, glue and orange/yellow colored cardboard along with a pair of scissors.

The first step is a messy one (and hence, your kids will love it). Ask them to paint the outer curved surface area of the rolls in the shade they want; yellow works for chicks but it is up to them. Once the paint is dry, stick on the buttons and an orange-colored triangular beak, stuff in some colored tissue/toilet paper haphazardly onto the open top of the roll as feathers and you’ll find your bright little cheerful chick staring back at you.

Easter bunnies are a bit more elaborate to work with. You need to cut out long, bunny rabbit ears to stick on to the top open end of the roll, black colored whiskers (three on either side should do) and a buttony nose, with eyes made of different colored buttons to differentiate. There’s your cuddly little bunny all done up!

Happy Easter, folks!

Three Useful Objects Kids Can Make Out Of Lego

‘Eat. Sleep. Build. Repeat.’

There was a time back as a kid when holidays from school were spent like this, with those little colorful plastic construction Lego blocks strewn all over the place, much to the chagrin of mother who, inadvertently, had to step on one of the pieces every now and then, leading to a never-ending tirade unleashed on us (to no avail, if I may add). We made houses and cars, animals and dinosaurs, but my all-time favorite was making firemen. Nothing could beat that thrill.

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Fireman” by HeyouRelax is licensed under CC by 2.0

Thankfully, Lego (like play dough) has turned out to be something that has not gone out of fashion, as my kids seem to love making things out of it till date. However, their ideas are very different and much more elaborate than what we made back then. We used to make things for fun; but kids today make things which can actually be used. Here are the last couple of things my kids (with a little bit of help from me, occasionally) fashioned from those evergreen building blocks.

A Phone/Tablet Stand

Okay, I admit I found this idea online last week and held on to it as my own in front of the kids. We designed a tablet holder for the study table, which is such that the tablet (or phone) can remain propped up in a standing position. It can be charged like that and the kids can even lie face down (their favorite position while playing virtual games on the internet) and play on it without the need to hold it aloft.

A Button/Jewelry/Key Box

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Building” by Efraimstochter is licensed under CC by 2.0

Albeit quite a small one, to store ear-rings or finger rings or keys or even buttons. It even has a lid made out of the Lego pieces which can be taken off and fitted on perfectly. My wife has one on her dressing table, I have one on the mantelpiece in the living room and from what I overheard last, the kids are hard at work making a ‘bigger’ box for their own use, to store I-know-not-what. Pretty handy and cheerful looking, these bright boxes.

A Sign Board

I guess the kids wanted to actually write ‘Enter at your own risk’ or something of that sort, but couldn’t find enough Lego pieces to go ahead with that plan. Hence, their Lego signboard now reads ‘Knock!’. Don’t miss the dangerous exclamation mark at the end of the sentence. This warning sign occupies pride of place on a small cabinet just next to the door of their room.

I did suggest a pen/pencil holder to them as a new project but it was turned down without further discussion – apparently they think it to be too simple a thing to be built. This made me do a wee bit of research online to discover the marvels that can be built out of Lego – and it surely did not disappoint. For instance, have a look at this video which talks about the ’10 Most Incredible Lego Creations’. Unbelievably creative. My idea of a pen/pencil holder seems more ridiculous than ever. Sigh.

Judge this book by its cover

They say, you can’t judge a book by its cover. Well, except perhaps in the case of this brand new, smartly jacketed first book of the Harry Potter series. Believe it or not, ‘The Boy Who Lived’ actually came into our lives a whopping twenty whole years ago (feel like a fossil, anyone? Because I definitely do)! And hence, to celebrate the never-ending success of Pottermania, Bloomsbury has decided to come out with four never seen before hardcover and paperback editions of the first book. Have a look.

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Image courtesy: Entertainment Weekly

Gryffindor signifying military strength, purity and courage in a vibrant red; Slytherin epitomizing glory, honor and endurance of sorts albeit in a slightly poisonous green hue; Ravenclaw all about brilliance in academics replete with owls, books and spheres in a brighter shade of azure; and the friendly, gentle Hufflepuffs in a soothing yellow.

Going by the news reports, the editions are slated to hit the shelves June 2017, to coincide with the completion of 20 years of Potter love in our lives. Why my immense love for the magical series? Well, because of thoughts like these, from the mighty Albus Dumbledore:

‘Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light.’

 

3 Interesting Handwriting Activities for Kids

‘I don’t have a bad handwriting. I have my own font’.

I was thrilled when I came across this piece of writing the other day. This was so me! Now I have this really witty one-liner to say to any random soul who goes so far as to comment on my own ‘font’ of writing. Not that people get a fair chance to do that too much in present times, thanks to us typing away on a computer keyboard rather than weaving magic with pen and paper, like the yesteryears gone by.

For those of you not in the know (I was also a part of this group until today), January 23 is observed as National Handwriting Day. There is something known as the WIMA, short for the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association, that was set up back in the year 1943. Its mission: ‘To bring together the voices of the pen, marker and mechanical pencil industries’. It is this WIMA which came up with the idea of what we know today as the ‘National Handwriting Day’.

Why not use the occasion as an excuse to introduce our kids to some interesting handwriting activities? Here goes.

Handmade Cards

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Day” by DWilliams is licensed under CC by 2.0

A clever way to get kids to do a bit of writing, sans writing worksheets or actual cursive writing practice – handmade cards. Simply ask the kids to do a bit of art corresponding to their ages – multicolored thumbprints or handprints for younger kids, or a paper pumpkin craft for an occasion like Halloween (our kids’ grandparents are absolutely ecstatic when it comes to anything handmade they receive from their grandchildren) for older kids who are adept enough to handle a pair of scissors. Now where does the handwriting part come in? In the messages that accompany or form a part of the art/drawing! Kids who are still learning their words can copy out messages whereas older ones can get to work composing their own greetings and wishes, making sure they write it out in neat cursive handwriting. We made handmade New Year kids this year and sent them out to loved ones.

Typing and Copying

Most young kids love tapping around on the keyboard and watching the characters appear on the computer screen. Ask them to copy out a fun short story word by word on a Word document. Then, after checking for any spelling errors, get a printout of the same and ask the kids to draw pictures alongside and copy out the typed story on a lined sheet of paper. This way, the little ones will get all of the below – computer keyboard typing practice, reading and drawing practice, as well as handwriting practice too.

A New Way to Write

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Office” by stux is licensed under CC by 2.0

The key here is to do something different from what your child usually does. For instance, if he generally uses a pencil to write, hand him a bright colored sketch pen; if she usually writes sitting down at a table on a lined sheet of paper, try handing her some post-it notes to be put up on the refrigerator for the menu for each day of the coming week; if she has always written in notebooks, hand her a spiral bound diary with speech bubbles (see how you can make them in a Word document here) drawn on pages to pen down her thoughts at the end of a day (I did that at home and now it has become my daughter’s prized possession). Try your hand at coming up with a handmade calendar with your kids, with the days of the week and the months of the year listed down in neat cursive letters with markers or sketch pens on each page of the calendar. The ultimate aim should be to get the kids to pen down text neatly, copied or otherwise, and eventually they’ll learn to form their alphabets the correct way with constant practice.

Do share your handwriting activity ideas too, would love to try them out as well.

The Great Outdoors

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Boy” by tookapic is licensed under CC by 2.0

It won’t be wrong to call our kids ‘robo-babies’. Robo-babies as in not exactly robot babies; more like a ‘multimedia generation’ that would prefer spending hours curled up indoors in some remote recess, glued to their tablets, laptops or iPods. My kids are no exception – in fact, they are very fine examples of this new ‘multimedia generation’ of sorts.  I know for a fact that I can’t wean them off from the gadgets which form a part and parcel of their daily life and neither do I wish to do so. But what I do wish is that they venture outdoors, even if it is for as little as a couple of minutes a day, away from their screens and video games. Even if it entails playing something like Pokemon Go. It would do for a start at least.

So, in the season and month of New Year resolutions, my sole resolution is this: I’m going to show them and not tell them. Show them the joy and exhilaration of jogging along a grassy track, cycling on cobbled paths and sitting on grass damp with dew in the early morning sunshine. It is easier said than done. But then, children learn from what they see. The key here lies in introducing the outdoors as a fun activity – be it a beach picnic coupled with a barefoot run in the sand, skate-boarding with helmets on in the evenings or just a daily ritual of a ten minute jog in the park, with their favorite music plugged in. My resolution is that I’m going to lead by example, and run alongside them. What’s more, I am quite sure that once these young, digitally controlled minds start, they will never want to stop. And that’ll hopefully be one resolution I won’t have to give up on as the New Year sets in!

Thanksgiving Travel Tips: Fun Road Trip Games for Kids

Our family will be traveling for a major portion of Thanksgiving week this year. The annual vacation was long overdue and thus we decided to make the most of this holiday and hit the road this November, before the New Year set in.

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Childhood” by venturaartist is licensed under CC by 2.0

When it comes to the kids, going on a road trip is a pretty dicey business. They are all excited while planning for the journey in the days leading up to the trip, getting their satchels ready, deciding what snacks to carry along with them and the like. But once they are actually seated in the car for long hours at a stretch, more often than not they end up getting cranky. Hence, I decided to look up some fun game ideas – which are not board games, not virtual games and not card games or jigsaw puzzles – that could do their bit in keeping them gainfully and happily occupied on the back seat. Here are a couple of them which seemed interesting.

Create a story

Making up a story can be very enjoyable, especially in a group. This is something each member of the family can participate in. Ask one of the kids to come up with an interesting start to a story in a single sentence. It could be any random thing they can think of, or you could give the entire game an interesting twist by using sights and sounds on your journey to make up the story. For instance, ‘Once upon a time four people set out in a car’ followed by ‘It was early morning and they were very excited’ or something along similar lines. As each person in the car adds their own perspective to the tale, this could be an entertaining activity which could go on for quite some time and probable elicit a few laughs along the way too.

Karaoke away to glory!

This is something that can literally never go wrong. Before you set out on your trip, jot down and get together each family member’s favorite songs (my personal favorites are Mr. Blue Sky by Electric Light Orchestra and Fast Car by Tracy Chapman). If you don’t know where to begin, have a look at this official road trip playlist, it has some good numbers. Have a surprise gift ready – like a chocolate – for the best singer of the lot. Singing your way along while feeling the wind in your hair can be a great stress buster and gives you that feel-good factor; know what I mean?

Make an ice-cream sundae

This one is simple – think up of all the colors that go in your favorite ice-cream sundae. For example, yellow for mango, pink for strawberry, white for vanilla, brown for chocolate and so on. Don’t forget to add the red cherry on the top! Now begin by looking out of the car window and trying to spot passing objects in the colors you’ve decided on. A white car for vanilla, the trunk of a tree for chocolate and red apples for cherries… this is how it goes. Whoever completes their sundae first wins. And of course, the perfect end to this game would be to stop and have an ice-cream on the way!

Here’s to happy memories, happy times and happy moments on your road trip… and Happy Thanksgiving too!

Pumpkin Carving Halloween Activity

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Pumpkin” by laurenhudgins is licensed under CC by 2.0

Carving pumpkins with my dad for Halloween and laying them out proudly on the front porch is one of the earliest memories of my childhood. This year, I’ve decided to do the same with my little ones. Our pumpkin would probably not be a very finely crafted one, but then, we could always do up the ‘scary’ quotient!

Here goes.

Step 1: Setting up a work area of old newspapers

This is the first step. The process is bound to be messy and the better half should find no reason to point fingers at dad and daughter.

Step 2: Removing the top of the pumpkin

I prefer spooning out a roughly square-shaped lid from the top of the pumpkin. Simply draw a square at the top and try scooping it out with your knife angled inwards.

Step 3: Scooping out the filling

A large plastic spoon should do the trick. The more you scrape the pumpkin clean from the inside, the brighter you jack-o’-lantern will turn out to be.

Step 4: Carving the design

Your little one will love drawing a hideous looking grin and big eyes on the pumpkin. Slow and steady here, one cut too deep and your carving will go kaput.

Step 5: Lighting up your jack-o’-lantern

Back then, we used lighted candles inside our pumpkins. Now, we have the option of using equally good (if not better) flickering LEDs. Choose one and you’re done!

Spooks galore,

Scary witches at your door,

Jack-o’-lanterns smiling bright,

Wishing you a haunting night!