I usually have my parenting educator hat on but today I wanted to share a project I did with my boys that served many wonderful purposes. We had fun, got closer, were creative together, provided a personalized gift for many people, and saved money!
I am sharing this now because it is a wonderful holiday gift idea, but depending how involved you want to make it, you will need lots of time to go through all the steps. It took us two months from start to printed product in our hands. (Although you could do it faster than us)
The project is to create your own children's book!
I do have many of years of writing under my belt but anyone can do this project. You can decide how far you would like to take it from a simple story that has short sentences to a lengthier chapter book, depending on the age of your children.
This is what we did:
One day my son started talking about all the animals that either lived or passed through our backyard one summer: a skunk, squirrels, cats, groundhogs, racoons (a family of four at the time), a chipmunk, and a family of cardinals. We do actually live in the middle of a city!
We started making stories about all the animals and early one evening, I spotted the racoon babies splayed out on our neighbour's roof while I was walking around with the hose. I decided to spray them--it was a scorcher of a day in the middle of a dry spell. My boys and I talked about how the racoons must have been confused about where the water came from. A story was born!
We got out paper and made a list of all the characters we wanted in the story, then I let the boys who were five and three at the time name them all. "Avaseeya" the skunk is our favourite!
I said, "Okay, we need to come up with some plot points--that means we need to decide what is going to happen in this story." The boys came up with wonderful ideas: that they would fall in our little wading pool, that the skunk would "poof" his friends by accident, that the animals would see the "people" (us) dancing around in the kitchen, as we do, and try to imitate us.
We also talked about the type of story they wanted--they picked a mystery. Then I asked them to describe where the animals live and what they eat to establish the setting. After the book skeleton was formed with characters, plot and setting, we played around with words to describe how they would look, walk and talk. FUN!
Once a chapter was written, I would read it out loud to the kids and they would offer suggestions. The changes my boys wanted always made the story funnier! After five chapters, we decided our mystery of the falling water on a cloud-less day was complete. We felt other kids would like to read this book so we decided to format the pages and have it printed. I just measured a book size that I liked and entered those amounts into the "Size" tab of "Page Layout" in Microsoft Word.
I tried to make a cover but decided to enlist the services of an illustrator that I know. You could easily use photographs, have the kids draw pictures and scan them, or find a graphic designer student/ professional to help.
I called a print company and found out it would cost $5 to print each one so we decided to invest in 100 copies. We have since given them to all the cousins at Christmas and every single friend of each of my sons has received one over the last two school years at birthday parties. That's 100 people we would have spent $20-25 on so instead of spending $2,500 (WOW--those birthdays add up!), we have spent $500.
My sons are very pleased to "sign" the books and address them to their friends, and we have heard from the book recipients that they were very happy to receive the book and loved the story. We also donated a copy to the school library.
This project was a little bit of work on my part, and a lot of fun for my children and I. When I see how excited the boys are to show their teachers or friends the book, I feel glad to have made the effort. (I also really like saving $2,000!)
Please do let me know if you have any questions by posting them in the comments or on my facebook page. The photo above is a picture of our book.