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Can’t travel? Visit a new country with Atlas Crates

Can’t travel? Visit a new country with Atlas Crates

I don’t normally dedicate an entire post to any kind of product, but I’m making an exception for Atlas Crates and KiwiCo because it has saved my sanity over the past year in and out of lockdowns. The links in this post are affiliate links, but other than that I have received no compensation to write this post.

Here’s a bit more about what KiwiCo does, if you’ve never seen their crates

My son is now 11 and a half, and we have been subscribing to Kiwi Crates since he was about five. KiwiCo is a company that creates subscription boxes with projects for kids (and now adults) for learning and creating. I love these boxes because everything you need to do the project is in the box (except scissors). Glue, paint, sticky things, paper clips, bits of metal, pieces of lightweight balsa wood – it’s all in there. The instructions are clear and written for kids to follow, and they provide videos on their website if that’s easier. From about eight years old my son could follow the directions on his own. My son has never been a sit and do crafts kind of child, he’s not even been all that into building LEGO for hours or anything – but he will sit and work on a project from KiwiCo for a good 90 minutes. The crates come in different age ranges, and even different subject areas – from a slime volcano to sewing a plushie, there’s something for every kid.

Atlas Crate Explore Italy Geography Kit

New Atlas Crates

When KiwiCo launched their new Atlas Crates last year, I was really interested to try them because we travel so much, but everything had shut down at the beginning of the pandemic. The Atlas Crate is pitched for ages 6-11, and the aim is to learn more about and appreciate other cultures. So far we’ve made the projects in the Japan, Colombia, France, Greece, France and Madagascar crates. There is a project or two inside the box, as well as a booklet talking about the traditions, food (with recipes!), and geography of the country you’re learning about. Sometimes we come across a photo from one of those countries, and my son will point out a detail, ‘Look, it’s like the thing I made from my Atlas Crate!’ – just what I want to hear. I just asked him which was his favourite, he said, ‘Sweden! It had a cool game in it’. The game is Kubb, where you throw wooden sticks and large wooden blocks, trying to knock them over.

Atlas Crate Explore Greece Geography Kit

Finally, a project I don’t have to organize

I hear you, we’ve been online schooling at home for months now and we’re missing the hands-on aspect of in-person school. We also subscribe to Tinker Crates, aimed at ages 9-16. These are engineering/STEM projects where kids build something like a crane, a spirograph, or a model trebuchet from parts so they see how it works. What I really like about these projects is they are ambitious and impressive. It’s not a dinky little catapult, it’s a working trebuchet. It’s not a wobbly spirograph, but a motorized paint splatter art maker you’ve built from the circuit board up. My son is thrilled when he’s finished one of these, and really proud he’s made it work. The only downside of these projects is the storage space afterwards – after a year or two of these crates every month, we really have to prioritise which we keep and which we recycle.

My son reading about the continents, from his first Atlas Crate

Support for parents with kids learning at home

KiwiCo has stepped up their online resources for parents trying to help their kids learn at home during lockdowns. Check out this part of their site for free project plans, craft ideas, kitchen experiments, and more. From ‘how to draw a dinosaur’ to ‘the science of handwashing’, this is a bit of a lifesaver when your well of things to do has run dry.

Where does KiwiCo ship to?

KiwiCo is an American company, but we have received our crates in Canada and Germany, and they ship to most of Europe, Hong Kong, Turkey, Australia and New Zealand. We have not had to pay duty or any import fees on our crates in Canada or Germany. You can check the full list of places they ship to here. It’s worth noting that while their subscription boxes are available internationally, single projects from their store are only available in the US and Canada.

Atlas Crate Explore Australia Geography Kit

At a loss for a gift? Give a single crate or a subscription

I promise you, any parent would be glad to receive a box like this for their child – it’s an educational yet entertaining activity that they didn’t have to plan. You can check out their store for specific projects (single projects only available to ship to the US and Canada, but subscriptions can work internationally) and their matcher-upper will help you narrow down the right project for the right age group. You can supplement any crate with a book to go with it as well, which I think is great for a gift. We have also had crate subscriptions kindly gifted to us by family, which has been such a boon over this very long year spent at home. My son loves sharing his recent projects with family over FaceTime.

Just a reminder, the links in this post are affiliate links, but I have not been compensated in any way for writing this post. We have been using KiwiCo crates for years and years, and I recommend them to everyone I know.

First Month Free! Receive first month free with a 6 or 12-month subscription purchase from KiwiCo.

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Kids’ Travel Journal DIY

Kids’ Travel Journal DIY

{This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small commission, with no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog!}

I was doing some research about how to get kids interested in their surroundings when they travel, when I came across the idea of travel journals.

What I like about this concept is you can tailor it to your particular child, and what they like to do. My son likes to draw, but he loves taking photographs. He likes those smash a coin flat machines and terrible souvenir shops. So when I made his travel journal, I included lots of envelopes for storing the little bits and pieces he collects, and blank pages for pasting in photos afterwards. I was totally unprepared for how much he loves adding to and showing off his travel journal – it’s been such a big hit.

Travel journals don’t need to be expensive or complicated. You can certainly buy a ready-made one, like this [amazon_link id=”1441318143″ target=”_blank” ]Kids’ Travel Journal from Peter Pauper Press[/amazon_link]. But making one is really easy.

Putting little envelopes in the journal means you can capture little souvenirs.
Putting little envelopes in the journal means you can capture little souvenirs.

Things to consider before you start:

  • What does your child like to do? Do they take lots of photos, or draw, or prefer colouring in?
  • Will you be traveling to several different locations, or just one big trip?
  • How transportable does this have to be?

Gather some supplies

I bought a [amazon_link id=”B01KB7VETC” target=”_blank” ]sketchbook with medium-weight paper and a coil binding[/amazon_link] to accommodate all the extra stuff to be pasted inside.

You will need some of each of the following:

  • Small collection of pencils or pens, and a pouch [I use an old Ipsy cosmetic case with airplanes on it, but this is [amazon_link id=”B01EINGM38″ target=”_blank” ]cute colourful pencil case[/amazon_link]]
  • Selection of neat envelopes to be pasted in – [amazon_link id=”B00TOVXDGO” target=”_blank” ]I love glassine envelopes as you can see inside[/amazon_link]]
  • [amazon_link id=”B001IVZMBM” target=”_blank” ]Mini glue stick[/amazon_link]
  • Coloured card stock
  • [amazon_link id=”B01BULDSMO” target=”_blank” ]Washi tape[/amazon_link]
  • Travel-themed stickers [amazon_link id=”B007OLJJRS” target=”_blank” ]these stickers look like passport stamps [/amazon_link]]

I used the coloured card stock to make some section headers, as we do many little trips. I pasted the envelopes into random pages, leaving some blank for photos later.

This is a drawing of the Eiffel Tower – it has 1,000 bolts in it, my son learned on the tour bus.
This is a drawing of the Eiffel Tower – it has 1,000 bolts in it, my son learned on the tour bus.

Drawing and writing prompts

I wrote in a few drawing prompts, like:

  • What did you eat for breakfast?
  • What was the tallest thing you saw today?
  • What was your favourite sweet thing you ate?
  • Draw all the types of transportation you took
  • Did you see any animals?
  • What does the flag look like for the country you’re in?

Though these could easily be adapted to writing prompts, if that’s what your small people like to do.

Things you can suggest they store in their travel journal:

  • Public transportation tickets
  • Souvenir tokens
  • Tourist maps and brochures
  • Receipts from cafes and restaurants

Finally, a use for those little tourist booklets!
Finally, a use for those little tourist booklets!

Taking photos

You may not want your child using your DSLR, so consider letting them have an old smartphone not connected to a network (you can download the photos later, by attaching it to a computer), or get them to art direct your photos. When you get home, make a time to go through your photos and let them pick a specific number to get printed for their journal. I was really surprised at the ones my son chose – including one he took of my husband and I.

Travel journal pride

This travel journal has been much more of a hit than I ever expected. What started out as a way to get my son engaged with our travels has become a project he takes very seriously. When his grandparents came to stay with us recently, he sat them down to go through his travel journal. I love that it keeps these journeys alive in his mind, and he gets so much more out of it, not only as we’re on the road, but afterwards.

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A really good paper airplane book

A really good paper airplane book

This post contains affiliate links, this means when you click through and purchase, I receive a fee. This helps defray the cost of maintaining this blog. 

paper airplane book

If you’ve got a small child between 3 and, well, I’m not sure there’s an upper age limit here, paper airplane construction becomes a critical life skill. I wrote about a great online resource for paper airplane plans here, and it’s one of my most popular posts. As my son’s appetite for paper airplanes only grows, I decided to invest in an actual book. The [amazon_link id=”0761143831″ target=”_blank” ]World Record Paper Airplane Book[/amazon_link] is a pretty good one.

Along with plans for many different types of planes, there are pages to cut out that produces really cool looking planes, and a hangar to park them on. There is also many pages of seriously deep information into why each model flies and how, discussions of drag and lift. So if you have an older child who is into Knowing Everything, this is great. You can safely ignore those chapters otherwise.

I particularly liked the troubleshooting tips that go along with each plane model. After you’ve finished following along with the clear diagrams, they provide some help for diving planes, planes that go up quickly and then dive, or veer in a particular direction. This is handy when your child wails, ‘Mummy! This plane DOES NOT WORK.’

What are your best paper airplane resources?

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Bee-friendly Valentine’s card printable in English & French

Bee-friendly Valentine’s card printable in English & French

bee presentation
Getting ready for my presentation about beekeeping to the kindergarteners

 

Every year I try and come up with a non-candy option for the class Valentine’s Day cards. In the past we’ve made bath bombs and red sparkly play dough. This year, as Valentine’s Day is the beginning of the beekeeping year, I have bees (even more) on the brain.

The other week I also did a presentation about beekeeping to my son’s kindergarten class, which was sweetness itself. After hearing about every single time every child has been stung, or nearly been stung, or thought about being stung, by a bee, wasp, or mosquito, they asked great questions about honey extraction, where the dead bees go, what makes honey taste different, and how I make the smoker work.

So, as the time for planting wildflowers comes up in early March here in the temperate, if damp, west coast, I thought we could tape a little glassine envelope of bee-friendly wildflower seeds inside the valentine. If you’d like to do the same, I think the bees would be thrilled. Below you’ll find a printable in both English and French (my son goes to a French immersion school), to make your own. We’re gluing this image to the front of a blank card after my son does the tough work of printing his classmates’ names on them, and taping the little envelopes inside.

valentine's-day-card-2015-EN valentine's-day-card-2015-FR

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How to make this centrepiece for $15 from IKEA bits

How to make this centrepiece for $15 from IKEA bits

DSC_0065

Standing in the As-Is department of IKEA, I came up with the idea for this centrepiece. I am a sucker for fake flowers. Real ones are beautiful, obviously, but I try to stick to things grown close by and in the end of November in Canada, there isn’t much around. So when I spotted branches of less-than-perfect white ones for 59¢, I dug around the garish pink blossoms to come up with three nice stems. If your As-Is department comes up empty, the regular stems run about $1.29 – $2.99 each, I used three here.

DSC_0063

 

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The vase is the bigger of the two ENSIDIG vase sizes ($2.99), and I filled the centre of it with two strands of the SÄRDAL LED light strings with the battery pack attached ($3.99/each). Cramming the artificial flower stems inside and pressed along the outside edge disguises the battery packs. Just pull some of the lights around so you’ve got some poking out the top and some illuminating flowers from behind.

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