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

***

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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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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Making Christmas Cards

Creativity at Christmas: Making Christmas Cards – My lessons learned

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! I absolutely love the Holidays and consider it my duty to make it a magical experience for my two boys. At first merging family traditions with my wife was sometimes a challenge, but for the most part it’s been a fun experience and we’ve now been able to choose the best of both worlds, and more importantly establish some of our own along the way.

SEE ALSO: Five ways to engage Creativity at Christmas

One of my new favorites (which started last year) is the painting of a ‘festive’ picture for our family Christmas card, which also provides an opportunity for Creativity because it involves children in the making of a new and useful product that will be shared with friends and family.

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The picture for last year’s Christmas card. It shows our tree and fireplace.

Last year Arthur was three years old so I took the lead in sketching the picture with a pencil and gave him direction color selection and areas to paint. With the Christmas tunes playing in the background it was an enjoyable and extremely festive experience. I was pleased with the final outcome and wanted this year to be an even better experience, with Arthur taking more of a lead in the creation of the picture. However, because I wanted it better than last year, I unintentionally limited some of the opportunities for creativity because I had a predetermined vision of what the card should look like. This differed the experience from the spontaneity and ambiguity that existed last year.

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‘No let me do it’… Arthur said as I began to take the lead in sketching out the picture. Reluctantly I gave in, but told him to sketch the Christmas tree like a big triangle. He followed these instructions and the sketch wasn’t too bad. He then added some presents under the tree (all his he said), and an angel at the very top. Things had started off reasonably well, and he did a good job painting the tree with the green paint I had mixed. Feeling a little more confident I decided to offer suggestions as opposed to specific direction – this was when things started to go a little pear shaped. He took a BIG paintbrush and attempted to add some round ornaments, but the first was almost as big as the top of the tree. I showed him a little technique with the end of a pencil, which went ok at first, but then he got bored and wanted to paint snowflakes – WITH RED PAINT!!! No I said – Snowflakes aren’t Red. He said he liked the red, so I suggested he paint the presents red – he seemed ‘ok’ with this suggestion, but shortly afterwards realized we forgot the fireplace (which was in last year’s picture).

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.

‘Arthur we don’t need a fireplace in the picture this year, we can just have our tree’… ‘No we ‘need’ the fireplace’ he said. This was where I started to feel a little torn – I recognized that I wasn’t providing the type of freedom that he wanted, but at the same time I had my desire to produce a different and better picture from last year. My wants began to negatively impact the activity, and reluctantly I added an additional sheet of paper so Arthur could add the fireplace.

I forget to mention there was an additional element as well – Little Raymond, now 19 months caused a little more of a problem this year. By the time I had returned with the additional paper he was much covered in paint and I had to strip him down. This obviously changed the experience for me and I became tense and felt the pressure of time. Now having to distract Raymond, meant Arthur had less ‘suggestion’ and he had grabbed the BIG paintbrush again and started painting the flames for the fireplace – BIG FLAMES – bigger than the tree. Once finished he said ‘Daddy I’m done’ and walked away. I tried to get him back in engaged, but I knew that my input and direction had killed the activity and probably his creativity – I finished the card alone. Lessons Learned.

Man what a difference a year can make!

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

*it’s advisable to know in advance what size card you’re making the picture for


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bill Illustrating creatdad (2)

Drawing for Kids: Tips from Artist and Illustrator, Bill Dougal

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Lets talk about Drawing for Kids – Kids like to Draw! They start scribbling at around 18 months and don’t really care too much about the final product – the process of drawing and seeing marks appear on the page is enough for them to get hooked. Later most will begin to use shapes and color selection to represent objects and people. I still have some of Lucas’s early drawings, and you can see genuine attempts to represent characters from Thomas and Friends. I use the word ‘genuine attempt’ because often I would challenge him to draw a character, but sometimes our little ones might just be drawing at random, and only recognize meaning to their creation ‘after’ it appears in front of them. What I found is that it’s important to ask questions about their work and engage them in dialogue. ‘What’s this?’ or ‘Who do we know who is this color?’ are nice simple questions to get the conversation started with little ones.

See Also: 7 Easy Tips to Turn Kids Drawings into Movies

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I can’t remember Lucas’s age, but I made a note of what he said each item was. You can see clearly that he uses color to distinguish between shapes.

I’ve been really interested in how drawing has played into Lucas’s creative development. His imagination regularly plays out on the page and one of his favorite activities continues to be making stories. My wife sometimes shows him YouTube videos of how to draw an animal and I have found some cool drawing apps from the Apple App Store. One of my favorites is the Mastermind Kit from OSMO, which combines technology with traditional drawing styles on paper. This is important as Lucas is not a fan of drawing on the iPad itself and likes the feel (or perhaps freedom) of a pencil and paper.

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Observing Lucas I feel there are two parallels in play – one is the creation of a story and the other is the development of drawing skills. Last month I pumped into Artist and Illustrator Bill Dougal, who has over thirty years of experience as a professional artist, specializing in Caricature Drawing and Advertising for children’s books. I asked Bill to provide some advice on how parents might better cultivate drawing skills in our little ones.

Why do you think most children like to draw? For example, my boy loves to act out stories on paper. I’ve introduced him to some great apps on the iPad, but he keeps coming back to the crayon.

“Making a mark” in the world may be a basic human desire. Perhaps it proves ones’s existence, and a quality of uniqueness. Young kids want to try things out. A child thinking, “ Let’s see if I can draw a circle.”, is like he or she thinking, “Let’s see if I can jump from the chair to the sofa.”

How does the act of drawing engage Creative Thinking Skills in children? More importantly, is there a way to expand upon these skills?

Once you draw a line, you have to think how the next one should be. Options include placement, size, shape, style etc.

Are their any drawing techniques or styles that you think parents can introduce to their children at an early age?

Picture making skills can be advanced if the child understands the process. Steps include; idea, planning drawing, assessment, chances, and finishing. This may be advanced for the very young. A simpler version is; Draw something, think how it can be better, then draw it again.

Tots can explore examples of variety. For instance, different kinds of lines, i.e. scribbly, jaggedy, dashed etc. They could also try different kinds of compositions, i.e. sparse, busy, or weighted to various areas of the paper.

You can learn more about Bill’s website on his website dougalart.com/education


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