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A really good paper airplane book

A really good paper airplane book

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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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Robotics and electronics for kids: where to start

Robotics and electronics for kids: where to start

robotics-text

Wouldn’t it be cool to ask your child: ’Do you want to build a robot that feeds your fish?’

The answer is clearly yes, but that’s going to take a degree in engineering and a large workshop full of tools you don’t have to sort out isn’t it? Actually, no.

There’s been a cool scene brewing out there, sometimes referred to as ‘maker culture’, all about getting down to brass tacks and building something cool. Parents have been at the forefront –  making neat stuff with and for their kids. I’m sure you’ve done the same, really, whether it’s involving your kids in baking cookies, feeding the chickens, gardening, crocheting, tie-dying, and whatever else you happen to know about. This particular corner of the maker universe is all about electronics, coding, robotics, and wearable technology.

What I find fascinating about this whole scene is the positivity. There are loads of companies focused on enabling everyone to build Cool Stuff. The sheer volume of creativity is stunning. Frozen cosplay? Totally, here are 27 tutorials on everything from Elsa’s tiara to using bits of glass to truly capture the idea of that glittery cape. Light up your shoes with flexible LEDs? Sure. Stitch lights and sensors into your skirt so it lights up when you move? Yep.

If you’re looking to get started in the world of electronic stuff, there are a couple routes to take. Key things to know here: as the supervising adult, you will have to help if your child is younger than about 8 or 9, but my 5 year old is perfectly able to get in there and do a project with adult assistance. You don’t need any previous electronics or coding experience to do these beginner steps. The documentation and videos that go with these kits are excellent and easy to follow.

There two main companies that make beginner kits for kids: Snap Circuits and littleBits.

Snap Circuits is electrical engineering for kids. You get a basic breadboard (that flat thing you attach wires and components to) and things like resistors, LEDs, and sound-producing components. The Snap Circuits Jr kit includes 100 different experiments to build, including a doorbell, flying saucer, and alarm. Everything is in plastic holders, and it requires no additional tools. Snap Circuits is all about the technical elements of electronics: how parallel circuits work, how resistors work, that kind of thing. The basic 100 experiments kit costs $30.

littleBits, however, is more like programming for kids. Each piece snaps to another, which you can attach to a person, a playdough sculpture, a LEGO car, a windmill made of craft sticks… really anything. The base kit includes things like a DC motor, a pressure sensor, a light sensor, and a bright LED. It’s much more 3D than the Snap Circuits, and would be a good entry point into robotics. However, it’s more expensive. The littleBits base kit is $100 US, and it’s a challenge to get in Canada without paying their (starting at) $37 shipping charges. It seems expensive when you think of it as a toy, but when viewed as a beginner robotics kit, it seems more reasonable.

If you have older children who are really keen, the world of Arduino is like peeking into Narnia through the wardrobe. This is where you get into the really cool wearable tech, complicated robotics, and, it should be said, requirements for more tools. Though all you really need to start out is a $10 wire stripper. Arduino is an open-source electronics platform that was designed to make building robots and things like that easier for hobbyists. There are countless books, blogs, instructions, and plans out there for incredible things you can build with Arduino components. Start with the Arduino site, then move on to Make: magazine, and adafruit to see what’s possible.

Electronics shops sell Arduino kits and components, and it’s easier to find in Canada than littleBits. The Official Arduino Starter Kit is about $125, and includes instructions (and all the bits) for projects like a light theremin, a lamp that responds to touch, a colour-mixing lamp, and a motorized pinwheel. It does require some basic coding, so this wouldn’t be very fun for kids much younger than 12. The sky’s the limit with additional components. You can find cheaper base kits at about $50, and if you know exactly what you want, you can buy the Arduino microprocessor itself for about $30. However, I can’t be held responsible if you’re pricing out 3D printers by next Christmas.

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Whistler Children’s Festival + Giveaway

Whistler Children’s Festival + Giveaway

Whistler is probably not top of mind for a summer holiday destination, but I can tell you from experience, it should be.

Stunningly beautiful lake beaches, paved bike paths, and a great playground surrounded by pedestrianized paths and many coffee shops. And on the 12th and 13th of July, there’s also the Whistler Children’s Festival.

The Children’s Festival is returning to the Whistler Olympic Plaza, right in the heart of Whistler Village, with performances by Will Stroet, Charlotte Diamond, Fresh Groove, and the Vancouver Circus School to name a few. There’s face-painting, a toddler free play tent, Vancouver Aquarium touch tanks, and balloon creatures. Keep an eye out for giveaways from Lovechild Organics and Yumm Brownies, as well popsicles and fruit leathers.

One of my favourite aspects of this festival are their creative workshops. Register online ahead of time, and your little one can make soap-stone carvings, bear-paw t-shirts, birdhouses, cereal box jet-packs, or learn circus skills. The creative workshops are all under $20 each, and many less than $10 – that’s impressive, as supplies are included.

And because I’d love for you to get a chance to go, enter the giveaway below to win this incredible package:

– 2 nights’ stay (nights of July 11 & 12) at Whistler Hilton hotel
– VIP family entrance pass to Whistler Children’s Festival
– $200 gift certificate to The Keg restaurant in Whistler
– Family trip for 4 on the River of Golden Dreams
– 4 hours of babysitting in Whistler for 1 to 2 kids
– $50 gift certificate to 21 Steps restaurant
– Pizza delivered to the Hilton for one meal

Now that would be fun, wouldn’t it?

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Camp stove charging station. Seriously.

Camp stove charging station. Seriously.

biolite campstove biolite campstove with grill

I don’t know if there’s a more Vancouveresque piece of camping kit than the BioLite CampStove System. What? You say it was developed in Brooklyn? Oh well. I think they all should move here, don’t you?

This sleek little unit is a portable wood-burning stove with optional kettle or folding grill, that can also charge your phone.

What I love about this whole project is it’s not just a neato 1% camping gadget, the people behind BioLite also develop the HomeStove, a properly useful stove for the half of the planet that still does most of their cooking over open fires. The HomeStove uses fuel more efficiently, reduces smoke and the related health problems, and allows for charging mobile phones and LED lights. This is critical in countries like Africa where the main access to the Internet services, and in some countries banking, is via mobile phones.

When we buy a CampStove (and we will), we’ll be helping BioLite build and refine HomeStoves.

And if you’re super quick, you can get one of their BaseCamp giant CampStoves through their Kickstarter campaign.

All images courtesy of BioLite.

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Our favourite homemade bubble mixture

Our favourite homemade bubble mixture

blowing bubbles

The internet is full of homemade bubble mixture recipes, and to be honest, they are all very similar. It irks me to pay for this stuff in a store, and I don’t want to be more annoyed when the container gets knocked over (because it always gets knocked over). So we make it at home.

This recipe is the most reliable I’ve found so far, but still requires some sitting time, so make it the night before you’d like to use it.

2 cups warm tap water
2 tbsp Dawn dishwashing soap
2 tbsp glycerin (available in the pharmacy, look for the shelf by the rubbing alcohol)
1 tbsp sugar

Mix gently, and then leave to sit in an open container overnight. Sugar makes the mixture a bit more robust, but also stickier. Our house is always vaguely sticky due to beekeeping activities, but if yours is cleaner, you might want to stick to outside bubble blowing with this one.

 

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