This week we visited Think, an exhibit originally appearing in the Innoventions exhibit hall at Disneyworld’s Epcot and currently on display at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. The exhibit highlights the top 100 icons of progress over the past century – the science, technology and inventions that have resulted in advancements in our world. Organized around themes such as Seeing, Mapping and Understanding, the exhibit features a giant gesture wall (shown above), an immersive film and a series of touchscreen displays.
I took J+J to the exhibit with the hope that it would draw connections between the technology that is so pervasive in their world (wifi, bluetooth and near field communication to name a few) and advancements in the past century that made them possible. I’m always on the lookout for activities that draw lines between technology and the things that interest my children (robots, video games, watching movies, etc. ). But the focus was more on the history of progress, rather than current applications of said progress. When connections to present-world technology were drawn, they were in relation to making the world a better place … and not in relation to video games and youtube viewing. So much for learning over the holidays! But we loved interacting with the gesture wall and a visit to the Fort Worth Museum always makes for a fun day.
Jenna received a sewing machine for Christmas this year, and she’s been stitching and stitching ever since. I had no idea how well this gift would be received. She’s already made a pillow, a coin purse and a small pouch for taking her Shopkins on the go. For anyone else considering a similar gift, here are some recommendations for a child’s starter sewing kit that is likely to inspire confidence and creativity. (more…)
We aren’t the most original when it comes to gift-giving to teachers during the holidays. I think I’ve given a coffee mug and Starbucks gift card to my children’s teachers for both Christmas and Valentine’s day every year since they started school. This year isn’t entirely different; however, I did deviate from my night-before-the-classroom-party run to Starbucks by planning a week in advance AND organizing a mug decorating craft so that my children could create a personalized cup for each of their teachers. (more…)
This weekend marked our annual gingerbread decorating day. It’s become a Christmas tradition, and I’m surprised by how much J + J continue to love this activity, even as they get older and the latest wave of popular obsessions (Star Wars, Minecraft, etc.) seem to dominate their time. This year’s gingerbread decorating, however, didn’t exactly escape the hold of popular culture. In fact, Jenna’s Shopkins toys were the focus of her gingerbread endeavor this year.
For those who aren’t familiar with Shopkins, they are are tiny plastic toys that personify everyday consumer products – things like eggs, notebooks and shoes. Truth be told, they are pretty cute, and their names further their appeal. Mary Mobile is a mobile phone, Kooky Cookie is, of course, a cookie and there’s even Ginger Fred, a gingerbread house. Jenna has amassed quite a collection of these adorable characters over the past couple of months.
Jenna not only used her gingerbread house as the site of a Shopkins character party, she also filmed a video in which she narrated a story of the little figures as they gather around the house to celebrate Christmas and mostly comment on the decorations of the house.
In the past two months or so, Shopkins have become huge at our house. They’ve even become inspiration for the art Jenna creates. Meet Snow Crush, a season one special edition that Jenna painted in watercolors:
And even Jason is willing to play Shopkins alongside his sister. Shopkins are perfectly scaled to his Minecraft minifigures, so Minecraft/Shopkins mash-ups games have become part of their daily routine.
I recently spoke at my children’s school for Career Day. As a User Experience Designer in the web and mobile technology industry, I figured I had some skills that would resonate with young children’s love of devices. That was an understatement, and I wish I had been given more time to hang out and listen to their ideas about design. I have a feeling it wouldn’t take long before I would have learned just as much from them as they had from me.
For anyone considering a similar school presentation, or if you just want to get children interested in the field of design and technology, here are the materials and activities I used in my presentation. These were presented to 1st and 2nd graders, in 30-40 minute sessions, with approximately 18 children in each session. But the approach could be adapted to older audiences and longer sessions. (more…)
Happy Easter! Did anyone else dye Easter eggs yesterday? I waited until the last minute to buy supplies and showed up at the store surprised to find that all of the kits were sold out. I later came across this idea for using packets of Kool-aid to dye eggs and was completely won over by the notion of our kitchen smelling like a candy factory. One more trip to the grocery store resulted in only a couple of available Kool-aid colors: red, purple and purplish red.
In the end, watercolor paint saved the day. We mixed lots of colors and then painted the pigment onto the eggs. I’m not sure which was more fun, mixing or painting. Regardless, our watercolor eggs turned out awesome. (more…)
I love discovering something new in our hometown, and since our “hometown” is the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, there is quite a bit of ground to cover. In 7 years, we’ve yet to exhaust the list of great things to do with children. This weekend, we visited the Farmers Branch Historical Park for the first time. The 27-acre park is an outdoor museum of Texas heritage, with 12 historic structures dating from the 1860s to 1940s, including a school house, several log cabins, a general store and a caboose. (more…)
Like many parents, we are trying to embrace technology in a way that encourages our children to think, play, explore and create. While watching movies and playing videos games are some of the ways we incorporate technology into our lives, hopefully, these won’t be the only ways. Now that our children have their own ‘personal devices,’ the goal of finding a healthy balance between passive pursuits and more engaging play seems even more critical.
Our children are natural storytellers. For my daughter, this means writing elaborate letters and essays filled with “text evidence” – a fancy phrase she learned in the first grade that means “details.” For my son, it means a similar string of highly imaginative details flowing from his mouth at a pace too quick to possibly capture on paper. I say that in a somewhat positive manner (who doesn’t want an imaginative child?), but, in reality, it can be a frustrating experience. While his imagination seems boundless, his ability to harness it remains a challenge.
And that’s where technology may be able to help. (more…)
I started out this project thinking it would be something fun to do with my daughter, who recently received an iPhone 4 after a series of family phone updates and hand-me-downs left us with an extra phone. Now that she has her own phone, she’s become very quick to ask for a new case each time she sees one she likes. When I saw the clear plastic cases on Amazon recently, I realized that it would be easy and very inexpensive to make her a series of ‘skins’ that she can change on a whim. And once I went to the craft store to pick out paper, I decided I wanted to make one or two for myself as well. (more…)
It’s no secret that we’re huge Disney fans in our household, so when we were invited to try out the latest app in the Disney Imagicademy series of learning and creativity apps, I was thrilled. The Disney name is synonymous with imagination, so my expectations for Mickey’s Magical Arts World were high. Over the past week, we explored all 5 sections of the creative learning app, and it’s clear, the experience does not disappoint.(more…)
My daughter often leaves me notes at night wishing me a good night’s sleep, telling me what a great day she’s had or planting an idea in my mind for something we can do the following day. Sometimes she gets more inventive, like the time I opened my bathroom drawer to find a note that simply said “you are going to be pritty!” How awesome is that? Now I return the favor with lunchbox letters and bedside good morning notes.
With Valentine’s Day coming up, I thought it would be fun to have a stash of Valentine’s cards on hand for our daily love notes, so last weekend I set up a make-you-own-Valentine’s craft table. (more…)
As I hinted in this post at the end of the year, we had a big surprise in the works for our children’s Christmas present. It was a crazy hard secret to keep over the 6+ months of planning. In the end, our pet fish nearly caused an unintended reveal on Christmas Eve. My daughter spotted my husband leaving the house to take the fish to a friend’s. I’m not sure how well his story about Jeremy wanting to “practice having a fish before buying one” covered our secret, but it was all he could think of at the moment. (more…)
My children’s school recently introduced a program into their curriculum that teaches the basics of programming in a fun, video-game-like manner. While the coding curriculum hasn’t reached Jason or Jenna’s classroom yet, I’m super excited for when it does. Like most kids their age, my children LOVE video games, especially with our recent purchase of the Nintendo 2DS. But they also talk at times of becoming game designers. I secretly love this idea, probably because I’m biased toward technology (a field in which my husband and I are both employed).
So when I was invited by Clever Girls Collective to review two new Nintendo games with my daughter, I jumped at the chance. It was the perfect opportunity to talk to her about game design – what makes a game fun, what makes her continue to play, how would she design it to make it even better?
Decorating gingerbread houses is an annual holiday tradition in our family. This year’s two-house event was definitely scaled down compared to last year’s village creation, but we still had a messy fun time and Jason’s house definitely achieved a new record of colorfulness. Before we began, I separated all of the green, red and white Jelly Bellies from the rainbow of colors … to maintain a common palette, of course. Somewhere along the way, however, Jason discovered the banned colors and covered his roof in them. And I have to admit, his house is my favorite one yet. (more…)
Last year, we visited relatives for Thanksgiving and my aunt had a perfect activity to involve my then-five-year-old daughter in the preparation of the Thanksgiving meal: making flower arrangements for the table. My first thought was, scissors, glass, water? Been around young children much? But then I watched my daughter carefully pour, cut, and arrange to her heart’s content. She loved creating the centerpieces, and it turned out to be a simple and easy way to involve her in what is often a hectic day of kitchen mayhem.
This Thanksgiving, I brought back the tradition of Jenna-created floral centerpieces. And it was such a hit, I think she’s officially in charge of all future floral arrangements chez Dyer. (more…)