26 April 2008

Birthday Party: Just Monkeying Around

Spud's 3rd birthday was all about the jungle. He was particularly smitten with Curious George then, and as always, in an attempt to not have the party revolve completely around a commercial theme ... we went jungle. This is some of the fun we had with it:

I downloaded a bunch of rainforest and jungle sounds songs that played in the background. I collected little jungle-themed stuffies [monkeys, frogs, snakes etc] from Spud's room and put them on the table for the kids to play with. Frankly we included savanna animals too ... I didn't want to split hairs.

For decorations we made vines out of recycled paper and stapled cutout leaves to them. We also made the invites from these cutout leaves.

· Jungle Juice
· Jungle Trail Mix [Animal Crackers, Marshmallow bananas, Banana Chips, pretzels].
· Tropical fruit salad
· Ham + Pineapple Pizza

We also made the drinking cups into monkeys [construction paper and googlie eyes] and cut the green napkins into a leaf shape. Oh, and Curious George Cake.


Each expedition supply pack included jungle snacks, monkey poop [chocolate covered raisins], stickers, jungle themed crafty bits and other bobs.

Jungle Party Planning Links

UPDATE: Download 3 leaf templates from wee printables

24 April 2008

Vancouver Art Gallery


Super Sundays, the third Sunday of every month at the Art Gallery, is where it's at [UPDATE: it's even better now ... see below]. It's geared toward families with kids 12 and under. The Gallery becomes a vibrant, interactive space with workshops and art hunts and drop in art sessions. Aside from the obvious fun of creating mini masterpieces, I love how each activity is so carefully tied to the current exhibitions and installations. It's about learning art through doing it. And the staff are top notch.

This last weekend, we really enjoyed the tree exhibition which was an entire floor of works of art from dozens of artists. There was photography, collage, sculpture, large scale installations, paintings etc and it all related to trees in some way. With a mini clue book in hand we found each of the featured pieces of art. After answering thought provoking questions like "if you were inside that painting and you looked up, what would you see?" a volunteer would give us a piece for our collage. We collected 6 or so pieces and then found our way to the Tree Collage workshop.

This is my straw painting from the workshop. It includes a little nest using the collage items we'd collected:

What used to be on one Sunday per month is now 2 Sundays per month. In addition they have Saturday programming as well, which we have yet to check out ... but are dying to! All the info you need is on their website.

Another thing I like about the Art Gallery is the Gallery Cafe upstairs. I love this place because it's very white-table-cloth-classical-music and a yet reasonably priced, self-serve [cafeteria-style] restaurant. That means no waiting around for the waiter to bring your bill when your precious little bundle is about to have a meltdown. The patio is glorious in the warmer months and great for the kids to roam about a bit. As for food, my standby is the seared tuna niçoise salad.

23 April 2008

Tree Note Cards

Inspired by our fun at the art gallery, I played with these little note cards and had just too much fun.

Brown, watered down paint
Straw + strong lungs to blow the paint around

This activity lends itself well to a vertical and large format which makes the format of these little note cards a little challenging.

22 April 2008

Straw Painting

At the art gallery last weekend, we took part in a super fun workshop for the whole family. All you need is some watered down paint, pastels, a straw, some good healthy lungs to blow the paint around on your page and some scraps for collaging.

Start with painting the trunk. Next, pool a small puddle of watery paint at the top of your trunk and then start blowing. Try different techniques as you follow the stream of paint up your paper. Try following it steadily. Then try whirling the straw around a bit wildly. Repeat. And don't get too dizzy!

My auntie's beautiful cherry blossom creation:

My son's wintery tree silhouette:

Here are some tips for explaining the idea to your little ones.

21 April 2008

More Marble Mayhem


Simple and fun; everyone in your extended family is going to want one. Click here for some tips and a couple of other examples.

20 April 2008

The Cupcake Train is Coming

I'm pretty shy about my baking. Which is why I have gone to the Uncommon Cake for help with Spud's last 4 birthday parties. When he turned two, we had a simple train-themed get together with a few friends and all delighted in the cupcake train of goodness.

One day I'll try my hand at the birthday cake. One day. In the meantime, I'm leaving it to the professionals.

19 April 2008

Train Engine Prints


This is a little project I did for Spud's second birthday party, which was train-themed. He was [and is] a big Thomas and Friends fan but I didn't want his birthday to be so commercial. I made invites with the print and also T-shirts for Spud and his wee guests.

These fantastic Speedball blocks are nothing like the lino we used in high school art class. I can remember cutting myself many times as I tried to cut through the tough and slippery smooth tiles. This product is a dream in comparison, and is like cutting through butter.

The image will be a reverse of what you carve on the block; an important note to remember when carving type.

I used fabric paint for the T-shirt prints.

16 April 2008

BC Sports Hall of Fame


It's tucked inside BC Place Stadium at Gate A.

And it's way bigger and way cooler than I ever expected. Even if you're not from BC or you are not familiar with any individual athletes, the exhibits are really well done and enjoyable. Spud zoomed through each one with much glee. Some of it was a blur for me, while chasing him, but I caught some cleverly designed spaces. And no matter who you are or where you're from, you're bound to find at least some inspiration from the stories of these local heroes...

There is also a substantial amount of Olympic paraphernalia, for the Olympic buffs.
Other reasons to go:
· Air + box hockey
· Giant B-ball
· HD racing simulator
· Virtual sports simulator
· Rock climbing wall, kid sized
· Time your start in a 100 metre dash
· Scavenger Hunt and History Hunt [for the older ones]
· Take a peak into what's happening inside the Stadium
This may be the most underrated kid-friendly museum in the city. For a map and its hours of operation, click here.

14 April 2008

"Can We Play Doors?"


Based on the old "Let's Make a Deal" game show, we made up a version of the game to help pass the time in line ups or when the car ride is feeling too long. It goes like this:
"Pick to see what's behind door number 1, 2 or 3."

Let's say Spud picks number 2. Then I say "Well, behind door number 1 is a trip to Paris! ... too bad you didn't pick that one". He usually plays along and acts as though he cares about Paris or whatever other swanky item I put out there.

"And behind door number 3 is a bag of old leaves! Aren't you glad you didn't pick door number 3?!".

Then, behind the door he DID pick is something he was going to get anyway, like a snack or something but it could also be a nickle or a hug or a song or some random thing I find in my purse.

It's also fun to have him tell me to pick a door. I win the craziest things!

13 April 2008

Birthday Thanks


I got a few prints done of the artwork that all the kids contributed to at the Paint Splatter Party last weekend. I cut them into strips and double-sided taped [I love that stuff!] them to blank cards. Finally, I hand wrote Thank You on the front and included a personal message inside each one.

12 April 2008

Praising Too Much?

At first, this was a bizarre concept to me. I spent at least the first two years of my son's life squealing praise at every opportunity. I thought that by showing my approval, my son would know how much I love him. I spent a good portion of my university years studying child development, motivation, learning etc. I thought I had a pretty good handle on things. I thought I was paving the path of a well-behaved child by carefully pointing out all his behaviours I liked.

Then some friends lent us a video of Alfie Kohn speaking on the topic, Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason. He explains that whether you punish your child for being bad, or reward them for being good, you are giving the same message: you only love them when they are behaving the way you want them to (and vice versa). I was familiar with the notion of avoiding good boy/bad boy messages; focusing on his behaviour rather than him as a person. Kohn's notion takes it further though and there was something about his points that rang true for me.

Essentially, the way I understand it, or at least one part of it, is that while praise can modify behaviour, studies show it's for short-term gain only. For the long haul, you want your child's motivation to come from within, without need for external approval. If you praise your child repeatedly for doing his homework, at what point does he just do it for your approval? And never learn to do it because he gets a sense of personal satisfaction from it.

More reading on the topic ... Food for thought:
· Alfie Kohn

· CBS did a story on him and his book Unconditional Parenting

· A NY Times story sparked some intelligent discussion on the topic, spanning the political gamut from left to right

11 April 2008

One Laptop Per Child


We ordered one of these a few months back, taking advantage of the limited offer "Give one. Get one." One went to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. How cool is that?! And one just arrived here a few days ago. Apparently the demand took OLPC by surprise, and as a result it took quite awhile for ours to show up. But it arrived 2 days before the big birthday, so it worked out perfectly in the end.

Spud is in love with having his very own little laptop. It comes with a variety of sweet little applications [called activities]. If he had other little friends with one too, they would be able to network with each other. I'm especially in love with its design; it's beautiful and smart. A rare combination. Here's a 6 minute video about the thought and detail that went into this little gem.

I'm also in love with the mission of this non-profit organization.
"OLPC is a non-profit organization providing a means to an end—an end that sees children in even the most remote regions of the globe being given the opportunity to tap into their own potential, to be exposed to a whole world of ideas, and to contribute to a more productive and saner world community."

Check out the OLPC site to learn more.

09 April 2008

Party Food

Completely inspired by my colleague/buddy Chloé-o, I decided to treat the snack bowls like pots of paint by filling each of them with food in their respective colour.

And of course the cake ... from Uncommon Cake.

08 April 2008

Birthday Party: Jackson Pollock Theme


The 4 Cats Arts Academy actually has 7 locations on Vancouver Island and around Vancouver. I've just been to one and it is such a cool space. They have loads of courses, summer art camps, and themed birthday parties.

Thanks to KR for taking all these gorgeous shots!

Jackson Pollack Birthday Party Invite
Party Food
Thank You Cards
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