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Making a Christmas Card: 4 Things to Consider

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! I consider it my absolute duty to make the Holidays a magical experience for my two boys (soon to be three come January). At first merging family traditions with my wife offered some challenges, but through the years we’ve successfully merged the best of both worlds, and established some of our own traditions along the way.

SEE ALSO: Check out lessons learned from last year!

One of my new favorites (which started two years ago) is the making of a ‘festive’ picture for the Holidays. Thanks to Digital Technology, it’s now easier than ever to turn this creation into the artwork for the family Holiday card.

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Through experience, I wanted to offer 4 things to consider when making a Christmas Card.

Making a Christmas Card: 4 Things to Consider

1 Know the Size: I make this mistake every year, but it’s helpful to know the size of the card prior to making the picture. Without this you might lose some parts of the image when it’s uploaded and scaled to fit the template.

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The first picture we produced for our Christmas card. It shows our tree and fireplace, and was a joint effort between Daddy and Son.

2. Pick the Right Time: I suggest that you identify a ‘good’ time to create the picture so that’s it’s not too rushed. Take sometime to let them know how it will be used, and ask them some questions about the picture that they plan to make.

One of the few times Arthur was engaged. This year wasn't the fun and magical experience I remember from last year.
One of the few times Arthur was engaged. You can see how we had to add a second piece of paper to accommodate the fireplace.

3. Leave Them Alone: If your little one is past three you probably need to give them the freedom to produce their own image. Last year I found my eldest to be particularly resistant to the activity when I offered too much in the way of direction. I recognize it’s difficult as we probably want the picture to demonstrate their best abilities, but unfortunately, the more we get involved, the more we risk diminishing the opportunity to engage Creative Thinking skills.

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This year’s card. I had hoped to move away from the Tree and Fireplace, but he was having none of that. The new addition was the flags of his family – which I thought offered a nice touch. It was also the first card that he produced by himself.

4. Involve them in the Upload: Involve them in the process afterwards, let them see how their image is being used on sites such as Shutterfly and Vistaprint. This is a great way to introduce them to Digital Technology, and it might even offer some reading and writing extensions, should you decide to seek their help in crafting the Holiday message.

I recently wrote an article that referenced the ‘Maker Movement’, which has offered new ways to engage young children in Creativity, through creating and making. Ultimately, this activity is another example of how Digital Technology, can take an original picture produced by a child, and turn it into something that can be enjoyed and cherished by others – there’s something ‘Christmasy’ in that concept. I hope you enjoy!

How to Make a Family Christmas Card

  1. Paint or draw the picture*
  2. Capture and crop finished picture using your smart phone
  3. Visit online printing company (I use Vista Print)
  4. Select a customized card option that best fits the size of your picture*
  5. Upload image and be sure to preview sample
  6. Confirm order

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Create A Last Minute Holiday Gift!

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If you’re still searching for Holiday presents and don’t want to deal with the crunch at the Malls – here is a gift idea you can create at home with your family. Put on some favorite music and it’s time to create a gift that captures the essence of the holiday spirit!

Create-a-Coupon:

This has to be one of the most fun activities we do as a family for each other and for relatives. It was my daughter’s idea several years ago and, as we soon discovered, the sky’s the limit on what you can create and how you create it:

-First decide who are you making a Coupon for?

For the holidays, my daughter and I decided to make a Coupon for Mom!

-What Should the Coupon be for?

Here’s the fun part – the coupon can be redeemable for something special you will do for the recipient. The coupon can be for anything! Natalie and I brainstormed about some things we could do for Mom that she’d enjoy – that might make her life a little easier – more joyful and best of all – something that she wouldn’t expect: cook a special meal for her, do the laundry for a week, or take over all dog-walking for a month.

 See also: Christmas Gift Ideas for Young Children

-Next Decide What Media You Want To Use To Create Your Coupon:

For a Video Coupon:

There are two options here: You can make the coupon/greeting in one take on your Android/iOS device. Or you can choose from the many free or less cost video editing apps available such as: Magisto (Android, iOS – Free), (Android, iOS – Free), Vee for Video (iOS – $1.99)

For a Digital Coupon/Card:

Make Coupons digitally at sites like Shutterfly (www.shutterfly.com/greetings/), or Smilebox (smilebox.com/greetings.html), or Canva (canva.com/create/cards/)

For a Hard Copy Coupon – Spread out whatever types of paper you have around along with crayons, pictures, crayolas, paints, , craft materials (small feathers etc).

And of course all these media can overlap! Create a digital image or use a digital photograph of someone – and incorporate that right onto your hard copy card.

-Finally – Create the Coupon

This is the best part: design a coupon that captures the essence of what you are offering to do for someone. Since Natalie and I decided to (try and) make a meal for Mom – we created the whimsical coupon at the top of this post.

The possibilities are endless & the Coupons Have No Expiration Date!

See also: Gift Ideas: 12 Books to Read Before You’re 12

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Another option is to pick a charity that is meaningful to someone.

-For an animal lover – make a card with a donation to an Animal Rescue Shelter

-Honor someone’s memory by creating a card with donation to help find a cure for Alzheimers, ALS, Cancer or another cause.

-For a musician friend we thought of making a small contribution to Musicians Without Borders https://www.musicianswithoutborders.org

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A quick follow-up to my post on Virtual Reality

See also: i-spy-with-my-little-eye-virtual-reality

I had great success with the free Google cardboard headsets (Verizon stores were giving them away free for a limited time – check your local store if some are still available). I had no problem aligning my iPhone with the double screens – and the virtual images I saw were crisp, focused and stunning!

For the fun of it, I purchased a Matel View-Master (plastic headset model) for $27 – it is compatible with all Google Cardboard Apps. The manufacturer promises you will “Experience the 3D world in a Whole New Way with our latest View-Master.” I was extremely disappointed with the product. The headset, despite a pretty cool looking design, felt clunky when I looked through it and there were issues aligning my iPhone on the mount inside the viewer. Images were not consistently clear. One thing I did enjoy was playing some of the free games (especially the traveling in space one) and using a virtual indicator to make choices during my space launch and travels. Not worth $27 though – and I returned the View-Master to the manufacturer. There are some higher price options available such as the Zeiss ZR ($129.00) – but for now I’d stick with the free Google cardboard headsets.

Happy Holidays to All!

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Gifts for the Holidays: 12 books to read before you’re 12!

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As a kid growing up, books took me to the most wondrous places. My imagination learned to soar and discover places not found on any map.

Here is a list of 12 books you should read before you’re 12. I had help assembling this list: a librarian who is passionate about children’s books, a math teacher who has taught across the globe and my eleven year-old daughter who shares her love of books with her father and two rescue dogs.

In no particular order:

  1. Wonder by R.J. Palacio. August, a 5th grader who has physical limitations just wants to be treated like an ordinary kid. The story is told from his point of view as well as his classmates, his sister and others. It is about people with differences who embrace each other. Ultimately it is about kindness.
  1. Bridge to Terebithia by Katherine Paterson. An element of fantasy in this book about friendship. A story of saving and rescuing. I asked our librarian, Cara McConnell why fantasy is important? She explained, “being creative and going off to different places is good – it is important to nurture going to new places…in your head.” In this case the character does it to escape bullying.
  1. Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. A dog book. A family gets a tramp – a story of the relationship that follows and what the dog does to rescue a family that didn’t want it.
  1. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. A family helping Jews in WWII. Told from the girl’s p.o.v. as a family supports each other in horrible times.
  1. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. Fascinating story of being a mentor: A guide helps people to understand themselves and discover their potential. On top of that – it’s a whodunit!
  1. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. A classic story about redemption. Seeing people for who they are. It’s about friendship & love & sacrifice.
  1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Ronald Dahl. A story about family, choices, &…consequences.

See Also: What if…Your Child’s Imagination Could Soar!

      8. Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Time travel and the story of a little boy who is different. A    great sci-fi read.

  1. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. A kid doesn’t like school & looks for places to go. He’s always bored & never happy….until he goes on the most fantastic adventure! With illustrations by Jules Feiffer.
  1. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. A jewel of a book about a seagull that doesn’t fit in with his flock. “The story,” Math teacher Jenny Carvalho said, “re-affirms a faith that each of us can find a way for ourselves.” With stunning photographs by Russell Munson.
  2. The Secrets We Keep by Trisha Leaver. My eleven year-old daughter Natalie loved this book. “It describes a deep love relationship between siblings,” she told me, “you connect with the characters – the character pretends to be someone she’s not – she runs into obstacles and realizes at end you have to be true to who you are.”

We should read books with each other and to each other,” Cara McConnell said as we discussed these books, “People should have shared experiences. Research shows that books help us – we read a narrative and as we stand in someone else’s shoes – we become more empathetic – we want to raise kids who can look passed their own noses and care about the world around them.”

  1. Old Turtle by Douglas Wood, Watercolor illustrations by Cheng-Khee Chee. My wife and I have given this book to more kids and adults than I can remember. It’s a guide book: A fable of the spiritual connectivity that exists between everyone and everything. Hopefully it instills in kids what Einstein called “a circle of compassion – to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” A lighthouse of a book for kids as they begin to discover and map out their own identities.

“We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel… is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.”

Ursula K. Le Guin

Coming in a future post: 7 Books to read before you’re 7!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3D Printing Gifts

Creativity at Christmas: 3D Printing gifts this Holiday Season

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A combination of digital technology, the World Wide Web, and Personal Computer has given rise to a new type of Maker Movement that is rapidly growing in popularity. Public organizations around the country have embraced the chance to create and make, with libraries, schools, and museums identifying rooms that they can transform into a Maker Space.

See Also: Gift Ideas that ignite Curiosity, Wonder, and Imagination

Until now I haven’t had the opportunity to engage in this type of space, but since gaining access to the 3D Printer I’ve been able to engage in the hype and I can say that I’m hooked. Having problem-solving my way through some of the technical challenges and learning curves that exist with 3D Printing, I’ve now been able to explore an idea I had last year – 3D Printing gifts for the children’s Christmas Stocking.

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While making an object that can be printed requires some patience and technical knowledge, there are ways for parents to explore this idea without getting into the weeds. For a start there might be public access to some type of Maker Space in your area that offers 3D Printing workshops. If this isn’t an option you could explore some of the online 3D Printing services. Shapeways appears to be one of the more popular options, but it looks like Staples have jumped on the bandwagon and also now offer some type of service.

The car was a free download to test out the printer. The cubes was my first attempt to create something I had made from scratch. The bottom is hollow so they can fit inside each other.
The car was a free download to test out the printer. The cubes was my first attempt to create something I had made from scratch. The bottom is hollow so they can fit inside each other.

Now, there’s a couple of options for 3D Printing gifts for the Christmas stocking. The first is to visit one of the many online libraries where you can download 3D printable object (Thingiverse is my favorite and they’ve already got a number of Christmas tree ornament options available). The other option is to create the model yourself, which I think is more in line with the whole making and creating concept – so in case you’re interested in this idea, which is kind of the main gist of this article, I’ve offered some suggestions below. I think you’ll need some comfort with digital technology, but you’ll be happy to hear that you don’t necessarily need to make a drastic purchase as the software is free and you can outsource the printing to one of many online 3D Printing companies.

3D Printing for Parents

LEARN HOW TO 3D MODEL – To model you need a 3D modeling program. Blender is a FREE 3D Modeling and Animation software.

  • In my opinion it’s one of the best open source applications on the planet (open source means that the software is available for anyone to use, modify, and share for FREE).
  • Blender comes with a steep learning curve, but comes with a fantastic online community that has created a variety of forums, websites, and video tutorials to support beginners.
  • If you don’t fancy Blender there’s a few other options such as Google SketchUp. Whatever you choose they’ll be some type of challenge to overcome, but it’s so worth it once you see your creation begin to print.

KEEP IT SIMPLE – As I’ve said there is a few learning curves to 3D Printing, so even if you’re super good at modeling in a 3D environment, my suggestion is to start by keeping the models simple and not too complex.

  • My first 3D Printed gift for the boys was a collection of different size cube objects that can stack up or fit inside one another. Nothing crazy!
  • The more complex the model the more likely it is to have problems in printing.

SEND OFF TO PRINT – Like Vista Printer, who I used to print our Holiday Cards, companies like Shapeways offer 3D printing service, so you don’t even need to purchase a printer.

  • The only thing to consider is that many of these companies charge by ‘volume’ of your shape so you need to spend a little more time learning how to size your objects and make sure they’re not bigger than they actually need to be.

BUY A 3D PRINTER – Yes, 3D Printers are no longer super expensive, though they’re still not as cheep as your standard HP Printer.

  • M3D is the model I’ve begun to explore and I absolutely love it (though it’s software is currently a little buggy with Macs).
  • M3D was funded through a KickStarter campaign and only costs $350. What I like most about this printer is the SMALL build area, which for most people is a negative, but I like it because it means I can’t be tempted to build something really big and spend lots and lots of money on filament (the 3D Printer equivalent of Ink).
  • In regard to this article it’s the perfect size to print small stocking fillers such as toy cars, planes, trains, etc. Also it doesn’t run on propriety software so you have the ability to model in the application you’re most comfortable using so long as it exports as an STL file (the most common 3D Print friendly file).
My research led me to the M3D Printer. Negative - buggy with Mac, and some tecky knowledge needed (though perhaps less than others). Positive - Affordable, Quick Prints, and cheap filament (equivalent to Ink), and ability to use any software that exports to STL file.
My research led me to the M3D Printer. Negative – buggy with Mac, and some tecky knowledge needed (though perhaps less than others). Positive – Affordable, Quick Prints, and cheap filament (equivalent to Ink), and ability to use any software that exports to STL file.

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