Calling all budding entrepreneurs

You’re never too young to set up your first business, whether it’s the lemonade stand on the street or some fancy gaming app. My son has several business ventures up and running including break-time haircutting services for his friends at a bargain £3 (compared to £10 at the local barber shop). Sadly, the business plan collapsed as school were rather less than impressed by the resultant mullets and mohicans, but I was secretly quite chuffed with the initiative.

I’ve got a Creative Writing Workbook coming out in October, so I’ve been spending a lot of time in the non-fiction world recently and was excited to be offered a chance to review the Creative Genius Journal.

Creative Genius Journal cover

 

The blurb says

With 9 challenges that build the skills to help inform and develop a child’s resilience, imagination, improve their creativity, encourage drafting, sketching, reviewing and self-correcting of information and ideas. These are important, as alongside problem solving and working with others, they are the skills they will need for their futures.

But to my mind, it offers even more; it encourages those first steps towards launching a business. The activities include things like design a piece of apparatus for an adventure playground (the next Dyson?), or create a character to advertise a new drink (very Sir Alan Sugar/ The Apprentice). Each challenge draws in lots of aspects but they’re broken down into fun, manageable chunks.

GIVEAWAY TIME!

I want to have a go myself, but I’ve resisted and have a pristine copy to give away to one lucky reader (UK only, sorry).

You can enter here …

https://kingsumo.com/g/kd8d0c/creative-genius-journal

About the author

Susan O'Coonnor

Susan has taught for over thirty years in schools and colleges and has produced maths games and written several books for children and teenagers – ‘Mighty Memory Tricks’, ‘High Five Jive’, ‘Be Positive’ and ‘Creative Genius Journal’. These practical books are fun but have genuine educational benefit. Currently, she is writing for Bloomsbury Publishing.

 

Rocking the art

We’re well into the summer holidays now, so I thought it was time for some arts and crafts. Given the amazing weather, it had to be outdoorsy too, which means ROCK ART! My extended clan ranges from 5 to 15, so finding activities for all can be a challenge but this was a huge hit with everyone (including granny and grandpa).

We gathered the rocks on a hike (we’re currently up in Scotland and hiking daily, to some teenage mutterings). The 5 year old had ambitious plans that left his dad looking like Sisyphus pushing a boulder uphill in Greek mythology. The others had more modest sized selections. Back home, we decorated them using these

  • acrylic pens – I got a multipack plus silver and gold extra. The black ran out first, so next time I might get a spare as it was used to outline everything (I hadn’t realised that).
  • “>modge podge – we used the gloss finish but you can get matt if you prefer.

Several hours of painting and varnishing later, we had a large collection.

We then wrote the details of the local rock art FaceBook group on the back of each rock, to encourage people to share pics of when they found them, and hid them across the area (hike number two with absolutely no complaints from the teenagers). Just search for “rock art” to find the local group.

Here are some examples where we have hidden/ found rocks but there are loads of groups

Aboyne Pebbles & Rocks

Hidden Rocks Chichester

288a290f-3810-4643-9be3-d71a446b6f93

The next morning, I woke to demands of a repeat of the activity – result! More hiking, more art. Happy families 🙂

There was huge excitement as several rocks were spotted over the next few weeks and the finders very kindly shared pictures of their finds on FB, but sadly most of the rocks vanished without a trace. We consoled the kids with the fact that their art work was so good people wanted to take it home as treasure. If you do find any rock art, I would urge you to share a snap with the FB group as it really makes the kids’ day.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Traditional Bulgarian Easter egg painting

Happy Bulgarian Easter! Yes, it’s today – it’s celebrated at a different time to in the UK and is a very important date in the Orthodox calendar. We have several Bulgarian friends, and every year they bring us the most stunningly painted eggs. The tradition is you bash the top of each others eggs and the intact one is the winner and has a year of good luck. The winning egg is kept until the following year – seriously – I still have mine from last year. You can read more about the tradition here Traditional Bulgarian Easter eggs

400px-UkiePysanky2006

Attempt one: we tried dying them with food dye. Epic fail. Very pale and washed out. So for attempt two, we’ve bought proper egg paints, but there’s a slight technical hitch as the instructions are in Bulgarian. And the packet comes with plastic gloves, which is a rather worrying sign for a kids activity. A quick experiment with 3 to 4 drops doesn’t give enough colour intensity, so we decided to use the sachets neat.

Step 1: boil eggs for at least 10 minutes. I put kitchen paper in the bottom of the pan to stop the eggs from cracking.

Step 2: cut up an egg box to make a painting stand.

Step 3: cool eggs.

Step 4: warm the gel sachet paints to soften, if you’re using ones like I bought.

6A671BA5-6961-46F1-8868-EB165F79CA16

Step 5: dip brushes in the gel sachets and paint directly onto the eggs.

C817D258-DE23-4251-A6A9-D4FAEDCF0722

Step 5: use the gold paint as a final decorative layer. Our finished eggs

7E2AC1C0-BDA7-41D2-8916-3DC7F6998F12

Now for the competitive side as the siblings attack each others eggs …

 

 

Anyone for pom pom sushi?

Every time my nephews and nieces get together, we try a new craft activity. They range from 4 to 15 so it’s quite challenging to find something that they’ll all enjoy. Since I’m always searching for new ideas (I actually keep a whole Pinterest board just for this – its become a tradition and the pressure is on for each to be better than the previous one), Let’s Make Pom Poms caught my attention.

I didn’t realise there were so many things you could do with a pompom, although I’m not sure anyone will ever need sushi pom poms? My personal favourite was the key ring but the kids voted for the Easter chicks, and since that’s seasonal, and I had some left over yellow wool from another project, that was easy.

There are other seasonal projects too. The spiders would be a great Halloween project, but I’d use black wool. And the snowman is a must for Christmas.

The instructions in the book are clear and simple. My only criticism is that it could do with measurements so you can make your own cardboard rings (old school style, using a cereal box), rather than having to buy the plastic ones. Cheaper, and more environmentally friendly. And it’s not difficult. As I didn’t want to buy seven rings just for one afternoon activity, I guesstimated. Obviously I miscalculated a bit as our chicks are hens. It was great fun though.

I love a spot of crafting and happily recommend this as a family friendly activity.

Let’s Make Pom Poms

2B62E98B-B649-4AF2-A1DE-A56107954920

Fun and easy makes for all the family. Get crafty with pom poms with 15 easy to follow step by step guides. Make your own set of fluffy dice, sushi that looks good enough to eat and an everlasting Christmas tree as well as many other exciting projects

Purchase Links:

UK – https://amzn.to/2PdVBax

US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KZLCBPG

 

Author Bio – Katie Scott is a craft and book blogger who lives in the county of Kent, UK. Living at home with her husband and infant daughter, Katie loves nothing more than long evenings in with a good book, a pile of crafting goodies and a very large pot of tea.

Let’s Make Pom Poms is her first crafting book.

Find more work from Katie Scott on her blog: https://www.bloomingfiction.co.uk

Social Media Links –

Twitter – https://twitter.com/bloomingfiction

Facebook –  https://www.facebook.com/BloomingFiction/

Instagram- https://www.instagram.com/bloomingfiction/

Pinterest- https://www.pinterest.co.uk/bfbookblog/pins/

 

 

 

 

Easy guide to illustration apps for kids

Sometimes you meet people whose talent just blows your mind! So today I have the very great pleasure of introducing Charlotte who is going to share her illustration app tips. She’s already planning a career in art and I see a bright future for her.

2019-02-26 19.50.13

She entered my illustration competition, and not only were her drawings amazing, but she was the only computer based entry which really caught my attention. I asked her, via her Dad, if she would mind sharing her knowledge on computer based illustration to help other youngsters try it out. I’m delighted too share this blog from her, and being a super cool tech-savvy kid, she’s made us a YouTube video too!

So over to Charlotte …

Hi, I’m Charlotte and I am 11 years old. I love to draw; it’s one of the things that I like to do most in my free time and I hope to someday make a career out of it. 

I mostly draw on my an iPad using the Apple Pencil, which I prefer, but I also enjoy drawing on paper. The reason why I enjoy digital drawing more is that you can do so much with colours, shading, and layers. Layers are really useful as they can help you build up your artwork and allow you to experiment with your drawing without ruining it.

The app I draw with most is Autodesk SketchBook but I do have a few more, including: Adobe Sketch, Adobe Draw and MediBang Paint. Even though drawing is my speciality, I do like to animate as well. The FlipaClip app is a very good app to animate with, and so is Toonator (a website), but I would say FlipaClip is better.

I have an art style that the Japanese created called Manga. I feel Manga is probably easier than drawing realistic art. The reason why I like Manga so much is because it has that cute cartoony look to it but you can also make it realistic. So it’s like a mix between cartoony and real life. Also, I think eyes in Manga are just beautiful and there are so many ways to draw them.

If you are starting to draw on paper or on a digital tablet, here are some tips:

– Firstly, find out what your art style is first before you start doing anything. E.g. realistic, manga, cartoony, abstract (and lots more).

– Secondly, picture your drawing in your mind and then sketch it roughly.

– Thirdly, when you’re happy with the outline, start to build up the detail in your drawing.

This is how I draw step by step:

– Sketch the thing you want to draw (It can be messy).

IMG_0055

– Go over it in a black pen or press hard on a pencil – go for the pen it’s easier.

IMG_0054

 

– Colour it in or go for the monochrome look (Black and white).

IMG_0057

Once I’m happy with the colours, I start to shade in a deeper colour than the original colour that I started with. Also, a great way to record your artwork is to have a paper sketchbook. It could help you over the years until you fill it up with all sorts of things, then you can look through everything you created and see if you have improved. Then you could try and see if you could learn a different art style.

Going back to the drawing apps, the best thing about using a good digital pencil/stylus is that if you press harder when drawing it makes it darker and thicker and if you press softer it’s thinner and lighter. If you select the pencil tool in the app when using an Apple Pencil (or similar digital stylus), tilting the pencil slightly creates shading very similar to drawing with a real pencil on paper, but the app makes it easier to correct your mistakes and doesn’t leave any marks or traces of the pencil behind. You can also make your pencil thicker and thinner just by changing the settings of that tool and can adjust the opacity of it too (see-through).

I hope you find these tips useful, Charlotte.

Who will win the ultimate Halloween challenge?

Let’s get two seasonal heavy weights to go head to head for the ultimate Halloween battle … Pumpkins vs. Apples.

Challenge one: Halloween lanterns

 

IMG_2748

I grew up in Scotland where we carved our Halloween lanterns out of turnips, not pumpkins. Just to confuse things further, turnips are what the English (I now live down south) insist on calling swedes. Confused? Me too. If I do my groceries online I always end up with either 1 tiny swede/ turnip, or enough to feed a herd of cows. My dad, a farmer, considered turnips only fit for two things – cattle fodder (lucky cows, I love turnip) and Halloween lanterns.

I do like the lumpy shape of turnip lanterns, but they are way harder to carve, whilst the pumpkin arrives helpfully already hollowed out. One nil to the pumpkin.

IMG_2734

Challenge Two: the sweetness test

There’s only one way to do this properly. Pumpkin Pie vs. Toffee Apples. Turnip is not going to score highly in this category, unless you’re a cow of course. Both of these were a disaster. I’d share the recipes, but you wouldn’t thank me. My pumpkin pie (shop bought pastry and a tin of pumpkin puree) was pretty grim, and the toffee didn’t set on my apples, but in terms of a sweet, sticky, gooey mess, the toffee apples got the kids vote.

Does anyone actually know how to get the toffee to set all hard and shiny like when you buy them in a shop?

One all.

Challenge Three: other family activities

I’ve utterly failed to come up with any other fun activities involving pumpkins – any suggestions welcome! But who remembers bobbing for apples as a kid? Why did we think shoving our heads in a bucket of icy water was fun? I’m sure our parents thought it was HILARIOUS. Tried to get my kids to give it a go … “muuuuuuum, no waaaaay.”

That’s a no score draw.

But making apple juice is a great family activity. We are lucky enough to have a few apple trees in our garden. We bought a press a few years ago and make enough apple juice to freeze. Top tip – half a teaspoon of ascorbic acid powder in the bottle stops it going brown.

Apples just nudging ahead here.

So who wins the seasonal challenge?

It’s really no contest when you’ve seen the Trumpkin …

gDmiQb4(image from Reddit.com) 

Five reasons snakes make the best pets

I love animals. I grew up on a farm with Clydesdale horses in the garden (their grandparents used to be working horses, but these were just “field ornaments”), sheep,  Collies (best sheepdogs, of course), and cattle. My best ever party was when my entire class of 5 year olds tried to milk Daisy, the worlds most patient cow! Then when I got older, the cows became cats. This is my cheeky pony – he keeps me on my toes, and makes the worst days all better.
IMG_4060
So now we have a collection of animals.
But last week DS went for a sleepover at a friends house. Turns out he has a python in his bedroom. I thought this was a computer coding language. Nope. A snake. Not what you want to find out via whatsapp!
snake-pet
I used to have nightmares about giant snakes attacking the house. I’m pretty sure that scene in Harry Potter with Nagini is based on my dream.
Rest of conversation went like this …
Me: “I’m coming to rescue you!”
DS: “Don’t worry mum, it’s quite safe. It’s only little.”
Me: “30cm?”
DS: “About a metre.”
I asked his friend what having a pet snake was like, and he said it was mostly boring as it slept all day. Well in that case, surely it can party with the hamster in the kitchen at night then?
When DS got home, safely, the next day, we made a list of reasons why a snake is a great pet …
  1. You won’t have to look after the class hamster in the holidays, in case it gets eaten
  2. No barking, caterwauling or hamster wheel squeaking at 2am
  3. Cheaper than a horse. Trust me on this one!
  4. You can pretend you’re in Slytherin even if you got another house in Pottermore. You never know, parseltongue might be a GCSE in the future.
  5. Your mother will never come into your room.
Seriously, if you are considering a snake as a pet, please do lots of research. The RSPCA is a good starting point https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/other
But when I am getting rid of the hamster, dog and horse and setting up a reptile house?
No way. Never. No matter how convincing DS is, I know it’s still me who will need to clean the cage. See reason 5.
End of.