MonthNovember 2013

Outdoor Kids Activity Books

As I have said before, I really enjoy making kids’ activities. I had the pleasure of working with one of our site superintendents on two kids activity books related to a state park and a historic site.

The purpose of these is two fold. One is, of course, to help kids understand the space that they are visiting, and two is help entertain them while they’re there. These have become a great resource for school visits, particularly the scavenger hunts on the last page.

For each book, the superintendent bought me a stack of activity ideas all related to the site. It was a really great starting point! My job was to create a cohesive look throughout the activities and backfill with facts, tips or other activities as needed. I loved doing this research. To make things more cohesive, it often involved recreating mazes, word searches, etc. It could be tedious, but the consistent results were worth the time.

Here are some of the tools I used:
Word Scramble:
Word Search:
Turn a photo into a line drawing:
We used some free coloring page artwork that is out there. And I’ll own up; I used some clipart, too (but some is my own):

Here are select pages from the two booklets we created.

Seminoe State Park Activity Book

Fort Fred Steele State Historic Site Activity Book

My designer takeaway: There are some great kids activity development tools available online. Just search.

Wendy’s Tray Liners

This is not a design project that ever crossed my mind (probably since I don’t work in the food industry). You know, one of those throw away things that you never even realize you noticed. At my office, we partnered with Wendys Restaurants for a few years to produce Wyoming State Park themed tray liners (the paper on the tray where your food is placed and then gets pitched at the end of your meal) for the summer months. This was an amazing advertising opportunity for our state parks with a statewide reach. And, it was timed during our popular summer season. What more could you ask for!

I loved making these because I got a lot of freedom. Running with a pre-selected theme, I dug through our images, wrote some text and came up with kids’ activity ideas. It was a fun challenge. I realized that I really enjoy coming up with the kids activities. As a parent, I now really appreciate activity pages that can help buy me enough time to finish my meal. 🙂

Here are some examples (front and back).

My designer takeaway: Having a little freedom and getting to do content research can make you much more interested and invested in a project.

A Birding Brochure

I find myself very taken with people who are extremely passionate about a hobby or a certain topic. It’s not that I necessarily care (or grow to care) about the subject, but rather I love that they love it so much. It’s somehow charming to me. This is especially true when I’m working on a design project with someone like that. They’ll give you amazing information and research from the get-go. They’ll talk about all the little aspects and what truly matters and why. They’ll really see it through. And, while they may make a million changes along the way, you know that the final product is outstanding because of their passion.

I did this really simple birding brochure for one of our state parks, and it was one of these projects. A couple, who is deeply into identifying birds, approached us about doing a birding brochure. They did research on birds in the area and went out birding in the park several times to create the initial bird list, complete with likelihood of seeing and in what seasons.

They brought in examples of birding brochures from their travels. They sat with us and talked about what works with the grids, even down to the simplest details. They said it’s nice to have a little blank space on the front or back to scribble notes. You don’t want the brochure to be too large because people typically fold them and stick them in a shirt or pants pocket. Their insight made this simple black and white brochure a treat to work on. In the right hands, the effort they put into this brochure would be very obvious.

My designer takeaway: Ride on the coat tails of someone’s enthusiasm for a project whenever you can. It’s a great way to learn, and it makes it more fun.

Third Annual Halloween Party

Having two Halloween parties under my belt, I’m starting to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Of course I learned even more this year. Here is a rundown on this year’s event:

Decorations: This was a little lower-keyed this year. I used things from previous years like the spider webs, the wild wreath my mother made last year, a couple signs (Boo and Spooky), tablecloths, and my bats (though I changed the bat cave location this year).

I had a few new additions, like my amazing bat bowl, a couple strings of purple lights, and of course lots of pumpkins. Once you add several people in their costumes, the room decor is really secondary. Speaking of costumes, I went as Flo from Progressive, and my hubby was a Price is Right contestant … fun and easy costumes!

Activities: I think this is becoming my favorite part of party planning. This year, we kept the mummy wrap contest (though I almost forgot about it until my five year old reminded me). Several people had left, but we still had a blast wrapping our kids, getting wrapped by our kids, and throwing the leftover mess around like a pile of leaves.

On the new front, I added a spider web craft that I thought was very age appropriate (most kids were 3-5), but I was wrong. For these you cut slits in the edge of a paper plate and the kids just wind yarn around, catching it in the slits to make the spider webs. Then we had a plastic spider to hook on. We ended up having to help all the kids, but that was okay.

Then my third activity (because I always feel like three is a good number) was a ghost hunt. For this, I wrapped a bunch of different treats as well as chapsticks in white tissue paper, and tied them with ribbon, like little ghosts. Right before the party, I spread these in the front yard. After it started to get a little dark, we gathered the kids, gave them a foam glow stick and a bag. Then we sent them out to “hunt for ghosts”. This, of course, was a big hit. It went fast, but then they enjoyed a nice foam glow stick sword fight. I’m learning that the more active games turn out better.

Food: Of course the food is important. Last year, the potato bar worked out very well. Along those lines, this year I did a nacho and/or taco salad bar. This also went over well. I kepted with the hot apple cider as well as apples and caramel dip. Those just feel like fall staples, and we don’t mind leftovers.

In addition, I made the mandarin orange pumpkins and chocolate chip banana ghosts that are all over Pinterest this year. Those were pretty popular with the kids. Also from Pinterest, I made the Frankenstein pudding cups (vanilla pudding tinted green with crushed oreos on top) and witch hats (striped cookies upside down with a hershey’s kiss attached with icing). Those were easy and tasty! Every year I make witch and skeleton finger dipped pretzels (using pretzel rod molds). Those are always popular. I think it’s the sweet and salty combo.

I enjoyed it all, the process and the party. I’m already looking forward to next year’s party!

My designer takeaway: This year, my motto was “keep it simple,” but that doesn’t mean you can’t find simple new ideas to try!

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