Children’s Activities

Apps We Love: Telling Stores + Making Movies

Apps and activities we love: Ideas for engaging your children in the art of narrating stories

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. I’ve started to look at ways he can explore his ability to tell stories, beyond putting pencil to paper. At first, I started researching apps – and found 2 great ones – but then our monthly Tinker Crate subscription arrived. The enclosed project included all of the materials and instructions for creating a zoetrope, a device for creating the illusion of motion through a series of drawings. Jason and Jenna absolutely loved this, and seeing their reaction got me thinking in more creative ways about stories and play.

Today I’m sharing a couple of story-making apps and activities we’ve enjoyed over the past few weeks. If you find this topic interesting, I hope you’ll follow along in my new Kids & Technology series on this blog and follow my KidTech Pinterest board for more ideas and resources.

Lego Movie Maker App

Apps and activities we love: Ideas for engaging your children in the art of narrating stories

By far our favorite story and movie-related app is Lego Movie Maker. This likely has a lot to do with how much my son LOVES Legos. The Lego Movie Maker iPad app allows you to create stop motion videos using your own Lego collection – and it’s super easy to use.  You set up a Lego scene (or a single figure or two) and then snap a series of photos, each with a slight change in the position of the figure/s. After your images are captured, you can add sound effects, visuals, music and even filters to enhance your movie. The app animates it all together in a video that you can play (over and over again) or share.

Apps and activities we love: Ideas for engaging your children in the art of narrating stories

The Lego Movie Maker app for iPad can be downloaded for free.

 Drawing Activities: Flipbooks, Storyboards and Zoetropes

Apps and activities we love: Ideas for engaging your children in the art of narrating stories

Apps aren’t the only way we’ve tried to encourage the creation of stories. Tinker Crate is a subscription service that sends technology and science focused projects on a monthly basis. We’ve been pretty amazed by the projects showing up on our doorstep each month, and last month’s zoetrope was no exception. After building our own zoetrope, we explored the enclosed filmstrips which included a couple of “movies” – galloping horses, bouncing ball, a moving robot, etc. – and we used the blank templates to create our own films.

Apps and activities we love: Ideas for engaging your children in the art of narrating stories

Apps and activities we love: Ideas for engaging your children in the art of narrating stories

Each Tinker Crate also includes a magazine featuring activities related to the current month’s project. The flipbook activity turned out to be a favorite of both Jason and Jenna. Flipbooks are very simple to make, and even young children can get the hang of making basic drawings, attaching them together in a sequence and flipping through the book to watch the sense of motion as the pages turn.

Several days after creating our flipbooks, I tried another idea with my daughter. She has been talking about “making her own app” for awhile, so I decided to talk to her about how to get started. I drew a quick grid on a piece of paper and then told her to draw the screens that someone using her app would see. She immediately created a couple of storyboards for her app ideas.

As a UX designer, I have to admire her use of feedback (“good job!”) and system indicators (“loding”). She’s already making my job look easy.

TeleStory App

Apps and activities we love: Ideas for engaging your children in the art of narrating stories

The TeleStory app is another fun way to engage kids in telling stories and making movies. The app includes a series of templates for types of videos, including music videos, news stories, weather reports and spy transmissions. After selecting a template, you can record either yourself or someone else and, of course, narrate the entire thing. You can write your story in advance, use the cue cards in the app or just wing it.

Apps and activities we love: Ideas for engaging your children in the art of narrating stories

TeleStory is available for iPhone and iPad and can be downloaded for free.

Apps and activities we love: Ideas for engaging your children in the art of narrating stories

Follow my KidTech Pinterest board for more great ideas on Kids and Technology.

Follow Julee Dyer’s board Kid Tech on Pinterest.

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DIY iPhone Case

So awesome to have a series of iPhone case 'skins' that I can swap out on a whim. 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…)

5 Reasons to Love Disney Imagicademy


Disney Imagicademy just released a new app and we love it: Mickey's Magical Arts World

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…)

Valentine’s Stationery

Make-your-own Valentine's craft activity: this is a great, open-ended activity for children. Just gather a bunch of craft supplies, leftover paper, etc. and get creative.

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…)

Surprise, We’re Going to Disneyworld!

How to surprise your children with a trip to Disney: tips and a boarding pass template.

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…)

Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Leaf and Tomodachi Life


Nintendo DS3 Animal Crossing New Leaf and Tomodachi Life reviewed by a six-year-old.

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?

We received two Nintendo 3DS games: Animal Crossing™: New Leaf and Tomodachi Life. Both can be played on the 2DS as well. (more…)

Weekend Snapshot

weekend-gingerbread1

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…)

Flower Shop: Floral Arranging with Kids

Ideas and tips for letting your children create floral centerpieces for holiday meals and other family gatherings. Such a great way to get young children involved in holiday gatherings.

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…)

Countdown to Christmas: Teaching Kids to Give

Instead of an advent calendar, I'm sending my kids secret letters that will encourage them to give back this holiday season.

Now that Thanksgiving is a wrap, we’re turning our attention to Christmas, which immediately brings to mind the subject of advent calendars. While I love the way advent calendars weave holiday excitement into the month of December, I’ve never been a big fan of giving our children extra gifts leading up to a day full of even more gifts.

This year, I’m trying a new way of counting down to the big day – one that I hope will place more emphasis on giving than receiving. I’ll share the details of the plan on the Tiny Prints blog next week. In the meantime, I’ve posted a free editable Photoshop template here and be sure to check out the Tiny Prints holiday collection

Update 12/1/2014

Check out the Tiny Prints blog for more details on our approach to counting down to Christmas this year, including top ideas for getting your children involved in charitable giving. (more…)

Thanksgiving Table: Last-Minute Name Card Ideas

Simple last-minute place card ideas for your Thanksgiving table.

When I wrapped up this project for my recent guest post on Modern Parents, Messy Kids, I was feeling well ahead of the Thanksgiving curve. Our linens were hand-stamped, our turkey napkin holders were created, and we still had several weeks to wrap up any outstanding details.

Now we’re less than 2 days from Thanksgiving, and the possibility of my daughter creating place cards using post-it notes is becoming more likely. Sadly, it wouldn’t be the first time she made impromptu name cards with post-it notes.

To avoid this fate, I’ve assembled a few ideas for super simple place cards, all of which use easy-to-find materials. Now I just have to choose a favorite.

Sources: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8

 

Technology and Tinkering

Some thoughts on kids, technology and the new Tinker Crates from Kiwi Crate.

I read quite a bit about children and technology. As someone who works in the tech industry, the contradiction between being a designer who is constantly seeking out ‘the latest’ and being a parent who is simultaneously sheltering my kids from this same tendency is something I think about almost daily.

While we have boundaries in place like most parents (though I’ve read that parents in the tech industry tend to be stricter about screen time and device usage), we still struggle with creating a balance between ‘real’ and digital experiences. And as my kids made me realize last weekend when I looked out my window and saw the scene above, they don’t seem aware of a difference between real and digital.  (more…)

A Pokemon Party

A Pokemon Birthday Party: Great Ideas for Party Activities and non-sugary foods to serve.

Last weekend we hosted Jason’s Pokemon Birthday Party. Prior to planning this party, I knew very little about Pokemon, but I think my research paid off and I pulled together the theme pretty well. Based solely on the fact that my daughter is now requesting a Pokemon party for her next birthday, I’m concluding that the party was a success by the kids’ measures as well. But that might have been the pinata envy talking. (more…)

Slime Specimens for Halloween

Make this simple, all-natural slime. A perfect classroom activity or gift for kids this Halloween.

 

Last weekend we made slime – slippery, stretchy, silky slime. Jason and Jenna loved it, and I realized it would make a great classroom gift or party activity for Halloween. I was thinking about packaging small samples into bags or clear jars and using Halloween labels like these or these. What child wouldn’t want some chopped bat brain or fresh rat heart specimens for Halloween?  (more…)