Learn about the Rule of Thirds (a fun snack activity for kids!)

posted in: Learning | 0

Learning is fun, but when you combine learning with snacktime, that’s even better!  This week, we’re talking about the Rule of Thirds (another stop on our trip through the alphabet with our Photography ABCs series).  What is the rule of thirds?  It’s a photography concept for creating visually interesting images — we’ll get into that shortly.

Read on to see how we’ll be using crackers to recreate the rule of thirds!

Learn About the Rule of Thirds... your kids will love this fun snack based learning activity! - BPhotoArt.com

The Rule of Thirds

First, let’s talk about the rule of thirds.  Here’s a definition I found at Cambridge in Colour:

The rule of thirds states than an image is most pleasing when its subjects or regions are composed along imaginary lines which divide the image into thirds — both vertically and horizontally.

Basically, you take an image, and divide it into thirds, both ways.  Where the lines cross, those are the places that you should try to have visual interest.  So, if you took a picture of your dog running at the park, you would want to make sure that it was at one of those spots when you look through the camera.

It’s a little bit easier to see than to explain.  Take a peek at this picture below (used with permission from Pixabay.com).  The image is deliberately composed so that both the bird and the wire are following the rule of thirds.  I’ve included a second image which illustrates this, as the blue lines divide the image into thirds both horizontally and vertically.

The wire is running horizontally across the image, placed at the lower third of the image.  You might notice that the bird is slightly to the right of the vertical blue line — but look at its eye.  That eye has been placed at the spot where two blue lines intersect.  Those intersections are points of visual interest.

pexels-bird-rule-of-thirds-no-grid
This image has been composed according to the Rule of Thirds. Image used with permission from Pixabay.com.
pexels-bird-rule-of-thirds-with-grid
With the addition of these blue lines to illustrate the Rule of Thirds, you can see that the points of interest lie along the lines, and at the intersections of the lines. Image used with permission from Pixabay.com.

 

Okay, now onto the fun snack activity!  This will help your kids visualize the concept of the Rule of Thirds.  You probably have everything you need in your snack cabinet.

Supplies You’ll Need:

  • 9 square crackers
  • 9 rectangular crackers
  • 4+ smaller snack items
  • snack tray or cookie sheet

We used saltines, graham crackers (broken into the smaller sections), and goldfish crackers.  But you could use any snack items that are square and rectangular.  The goldfish could be replaced by any similarly sized snack item: raisins, nuts, or bite-sized candies.  And, of course, you’ll need some sort of flat work surface.  My kids love using cookie sheets, but if you have a small serving tray, that could work well too. It just has to be big enough for all the crackers to be spread out flat.

First, you need some edible supplies for this activity. We used goldfish and saltines to learn about the rule of thirds
First, you need some edible supplies for this activity. We used goldfish and saltines to learn about the rule of thirds
Zack, my two year old, had fun moving the crackers around on our activity tray.
Zack, my two year old, had fun moving the crackers around on our activity tray.
set up the crackers in a 3x3 grid (3 across, 3 down). You can probably see the grid lines already...
set up the crackers in a 3×3 grid (3 across, 3 down). You can probably see the grid lines already…
Now add goldfish to the intersection points on the grid. Those are the key points of visual interest, per the rule of thirds!
Now add goldfish to the intersection points on the grid. Those are the key points of visual interest, per the rule of thirds!
Zack obviously could have used a little help getting everything "perfectly" lined up, but if you're okay with imperfection, it's best to let them run with it!
Zack obviously could have used a little help getting everything “perfectly” lined up, but if you’re okay with imperfection, it’s best to let them run with it!
Here Zack is showing me where he'll put his next goldfish for our rule of thirds activity.
Here Zack is showing me where he’ll put his next goldfish for our rule of thirds activity.
Graham crackers, when used to make a 3x3 grid, create a rectangle rather than a square. You can see how the rule of thirds adapts to this change!
Graham crackers, when used to make a 3×3 grid, create a rectangle rather than a square. You can see how the rule of thirds adapts to this change!

 

Rule of Thirds Activity Extension (for older kids)

Isn’t that cool?  You can also extend this activity by having older kids draw lines through photos in magazines, creating the rule of thirds grid.  Discuss whether the images adhere to the rule of thirds, if the most visually interesting things are found along either the grid lines or the intersections!

 


The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

Sign up for emails to get each week’s blog update delivered to your inbox, which will include future posts in this series.

 

Learn about Perspective (hands on camera activity for kids)

posted in: Learning | 1

Today in our ABCs of Photography series, we’re going to learn about perspective!  As always, I’ll be using simplified explanations that kids can understand (hooray!).

Learn About Perspective with these kid friendly photo activities! | BPhotoArt.comPerspective is how you look at things.  We see the world in three dimensions, but a photograph captures life and compresses it down into two dimensions.  I like this definition I found on B&H Photo (read more about their explanation of perspective):

Perspective has several different meanings—several applicable in some way to photography. For the photographer, perspective is a summation of the relationship between objects in a photograph.

This definition from School of Digital photography is nice too (what is perspective and how can we use it to improve the composition of our photographs):

Perspective refers to the relationships between objects in a photograph, the relative distance, size and space etc. perspective could be used to define a subject’s shape and form and also to convey to the viewer a sense of volume, space, depth and distance.

Okay, so let’s try and simplify that further.  Because simpler is better, right?

For photographers, perspective is how the different things in a picture appear, where they are in the photo compared to each other. Because you can’t walk into a photo (it’s flat, after all), your perspective is chosen by the photographer — they decide how things will look, where to get you to look, by how they take the picture.

 

Perspective Photo Experiment

Now, here’s an easy way to experiment with perspective!  (This one is really a fun activity, if your kids like taking pictures, like mine do).

Put some objects on your kitchen table, or a surface of any sort, really. Maybe some legos, or some fruit, it doesn’t matter what, so long as they are similar in size.  Try to put an object at each end of the table, and one in the middle too.  Maybe you put an toy truck in the middle, a toy car at one end, and a toy train at the other end.

Then, try walking around the table, looking at it from different angles.  When you take a picture from one side, the toy car will look bigger than the toy train.  When you walk around to the other end, the photo will show the toy train as being bigger.  When you take a picture from above, all three vehicles will look equally large.

Talk about these differences in perspective with your child, maybe prompting them to experiment with different angles of view as needed.  You can discuss the change in perspective during the photo taking part of the activity, or if you’d rather wait until it’s time to look at the pictures, that’s ok too.

Smartphone Panorama Perspective Experiment

Another way to see the the concept of perspective is to create a panorama with your phone — and have your kids run from one spot in the image to another while you are panning your camera phone across the room.

Yours might turn out a little mashed together, like my first attempt at this did, but your kids will undoubtedly have fun running back and forth across the room multiple times while you figure things out!

bphotoart-smartphone-pano-experiment

Your kids will be able to see how they look bigger or smaller, depending on how close to the camera they were!

Talking Points

You can make something look really really big by getting up close and below it when you take the picture.

You can make something look very small by taking the picture from above, or from far away.

Now, some people think photography isn’t an art.

But it is… photography is all about finding the right perspective, choosing the way to have the image look the way you want.  Obviously perspective is a much more complex topic than this, but you get the idea.

And by trying this exercise on perspective, I bet you’ll see it too.


The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

Sign up for emails to get each week’s blog update delivered to your inbox, which will include future posts in this series.

 

Learn about Overexposure (activity for kids)

posted in: Learning | 3

It’s time to start back up our Photography ABCs as we learn about overexposure!  I know some of you have been very excited for this… as am I!  Thanks for your patience while we got my oldest used to the routine of full day school… he actually adjusted very well aside from being really tired.  Which we’re still working on.  Okay, so anyways, this week we’ll be talking about overexposure.

Simply put, overexposure is when there is too much light.  It’s kind of like when you walk outside into the bright sunlight after having been inside all day.  Your eyes take a few moments to adjust, and until that occurs, you can’t really see much around you — it’s just too bright.  That’s because your eyes haven’t closed down yet — the irises are still very much dilated and all of a sudden, a ton of light hits your retina.

That’s why doctors shine a bright light in your eyes at well visits. They want to make sure your eyes are working properly (check out our learn about aperture activity, which is the camera’s way to close out light).  And if you’ve bump your head really hard, one sign of a concussion is that your eyes don’t adjust like they’re supposed to.

Okay, well hopefully you’ve got the general idea!

Learn About Overexposure, including activities you can try on your camera phone! (Image used with permission from Pixabay.com)

Now, this is a really easy camera phone experiment that will help your kids understand the concept of overexposure.  You can do this one of several ways.

Learn about overexposure by recording a video.  

Make sure to start recording your video in a dimmer area, and then move the camera to point at a brightly lit lamp, the sky, or something else much brighter.  Depending on your camera phone’s capabilities, it will do one of two things.  Your camera might adjust the exposure in a moment, thus being only briefly overexposed, or it will stay overexposed for the duration of the video. Either way, you’ll definitely be able to see how the camera was exposing the video for the darker area, and got overexposed when you switched to the brighter spot.

Learn about overexposure by taking a picture.

With your camera phone, you might be able to tap and hold on a spot to “lock” the exposure.  If so, lock the exposure for a darker (shadowed) area, and then move the camera phone to point at something bright.  It should be very white and overexposed.

For my camera phone, when I hold down on a focus point for an extended length of time, it locks the exposure value and the focus point. Do this, then move your camera to aim at something bright to see an overexposed image.
For my camera phone, when I hold down on a focus point for an extended length of time, it locks the exposure value and the focus point. Do this, then move your camera to aim at something bright to see an overexposed image.

 

Learn about overexposure by using the over/under exposure adjustment in your camera.

Whether you’re using your camera phone or your digital camera, there is probably a setting that will allow you to manually overexpose or underexpose your image.  On my camera, I have to tap the three little dots button in the corner of the camera screen, which expands a bunch of options.  One of those options is “EV” – this is the exposure value.  It should be at +0 or something like that, meaning your image is properly exposed.  To experience overexposure, change it to +2.  That will make it two stops brighter than the camera wants to make it.

On my camera phone, I can change the exposure value to intentional overexpose or underexpose an image. Yours can probably do something like this too.
On my camera phone, I can change the exposure value to intentional overexpose or underexpose an image. Yours can probably do something like this too.

Did you notice how the image changed in that last screenshot, by the way?  My black keyboard looks light gray, the keys are even completely blown out (meaning, they have no tonal detail, it is just pure white (to learn about the tonal ranges, check out my learn about grayscale activity, complete with printable coloring page).  But to make a long story short, the lighter the tone, the quicker it will “disappear” when something gets overexposed.  So, a yellow smiley face would “disappear” into white before a dark brown horse.

Pretty cool, huh?

I bet you can come up with some other ways to learn about overexposure.  Let me know your creative ideas in the comments below!  You might also be interested in my post where we learned about exposure (both over and underexposure). Make sure to check back next week for the next post, where I’ll share an activity for the letter P. You might also enjoy revisiting our previous activity where we learned about negatives.


The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

Sign up for emails to get each week’s blog update delivered to your inbox, which will include future posts in this series.

Our Experience With Online Piano Lessons

posted in: Parenting | 0

bphotoart-busy-kids-piano-lessons-2I love music. And my kids do too. But that’s not news to you, since I’ve blogged about raising kids who love music in the past, as well as why you shouldn’t give up piano.   Now, my boys haven’t really had formal lessons, as they haven’t been old enough.  But this summer, Toby, now in kindergarten, asked if he could take piano lessons.

Perfect timing!

So, I went digging through my music cabinet to see what books might be suitable for a younger piano student. I have quite a wide span of material, not surprisingly (my grandmother was an organist and a piano teacher, and I took piano lessons in grades K-12). When I inherited my grandmother’s upright piano, my mom gave me even more piano lesson books.

I found some books by Faber and Faber that I thought would be helpful (you can find lots of Faber and Faber piano books on Amazon #afflink). But I wondered if there was something else out there for the beginning pianist.  Something more modern and interactive.

busy-kids-do-piano

That’s when I discovered Busy Kids Do Piano (#afflink). When I saw this review opportunity grace my inbox, I was really excited! Busy Kids Do Piano is a complete system that includes online lesson videos and printable worksheets. Like any quality program, it’s not free.  The Busy Kids Do Piano course is $49.95, which works out to a more than reasonable fee of $2.50/lesson.

Let me digress for just a moment. You may know that learning music isn’t just about learning to play the notes. It’s also about understanding rhythm. So when you research a learning method, it’s important to evaluate how well it teaches rhythm, note length, and other basic concepts… because these are the building blocks you need to make a strong foundation for later understanding of music.

So, for me, it was important to ask myself, does Busy Moms Do Piano teach these concepts?

The answer is yes.

For the first lesson, she doesn’t even have kids use the piano — because they are learning about rhythm. Toby had fun choosing a percussion instrument from our musical instrument box — he selected two, actually.

With a tambourine and a rhythm stick in hand, Toby listened intently as he learned about the different notes, what they looked like, and how long their counts are. He practiced tapping along for the different notes, and I made sure he understood the concept of “holding” the note.

After playing the video through a couple times so that Toby could play along as instructed, he was ready to work on his worksheet.

I’m not one to force too much learning in one sitting, but when my kids are interested in a concept, I’m all for continuing!

So I pulled out the first worksheet and Toby worked his way through it. He learned how to draw a whole note, a half note, and a quarter note. We played the rhythm that was written on the page together.

Toby had fun completing the printable worksheets!
Toby had fun completing the printable worksheets!

Over the next days, Toby continued to be excited about piano, and repeatedly asked me when he could do another piano lesson.  Specifically, “the one with the video.”  Score!  I love it when my kids stay interested in something.

Looking back at our experience, I would say my child enjoyed Busy Kids Do Piano, and I did too.  The materials were clear and I was able to walk Toby through the activities without any trouble.  While I would have been comfortable teaching a more traditional lesson to my child, I think Busy Kids Do Piano is a great program for anyone who wants to familiarize their children with piano.  It’s an easy way to try out piano lessons, with the benefits of being able to go at your own pace, and being able to do the lessons anytime, anywhere.  And, as I mentioned, the fee for the material is more than economical when you consider a typical in-person music lesson might cost more like $30 for a half hour.

Can the Busy Kids Do Piano (#afflink) method replace a traditional teacher?  I think that’s hard to say…it depends on what you’re looking for, honestly.  For beginning musicians, or children you want to acclimate to music?  Sure.  For more advanced students?  Nope.  But it’s definitely a starting point for entry into the wonderful world of music!   I grew up taking music lessons, and a number of my relatives are musicians.  I think music lessons with a live teacher play an important role in shaping the musical experiences of children.  The instant feedback, the communication — you just don’t get that with a video lesson.  But these lessons are a good way to set the stage for learning music in the more traditional way, later on.

bphotoart-busy-kids-piano-lessons

Note: I received this product free in exchange for an honest evaluation and review.  The opinions and thoughts expressed are 100% my own.

Engineering Fun!

posted in: Learning | 0

Engineering Fun!We somehow ended up with a few extra PVC frame laundry hampers in our home.  So, as is usually the case, my creative toddler discovered a way to repurpose it.  Toby asked me about taking it apart.  I thought, “sure, why not?”

So, for the next hour, our kitchen became an engineering construction site.  Toby gleefully pulled apart the PVC pipes and connector pieces, reconfigured them in various arrangements.

The hamper became a car, a boat, among other things.  We rebuilt it into its original form, and then draped our play fort fabrics over it (see how we made our own fabric play fort kit from old sheets).

I ended up keeping the hamper, as it inspired so much creative play.

A few days later, I noticed Toby’s little brother using the hamper for a different purpose — Zack was pushing it around the floor happily.  The hamper was also a DIY baby walker!  It definitely came in handy during those few transition weeks as my not-quite-a-baby-anymore learned to walk on his own.

Take a peek at some of the pictures below…

bphotoart-engineering-fun-pvc-pipe-2251
Toby disassembling and reassembling the PVC parts.
bphotoart-engineering-fun-pvc-pipe-2248
Some of the parts were trickier than others to connect and pull apart.
bphotoart-engineering-fun-pvc-pipe-2247
Toby would have taken the whole assembly apart multiple times if there had been time before bed.
bphotoart-engineering-fun-pvc-pipe-2244
And then it was time to put things back together…
bphotoart-engineering-fun-pvc-pipe-2252
Toby was able to manage most of the connections himself.

So, overall, I’d say this activity was a success.  Toby got to use some problem-solving skills and have fun constructing.  We didn’t spend a time, and in the end I still had my PVC hamper available for use (although I have to say, it’s been officially repurposed as a kid toy by now).

Cultivating Water Kefir

posted in: Learning | 0

bphotoart-water-kefir-experiment-Over the past few years, I’ve learned how to cultivate different fermented foods — sauerkraut, sourdough starter (for bread), kombucha, milk kefir, and now water kefir.  My toddler, Toby, has enjoyed helping with these processes.

I’ve found milk kefir to be the easiest of the fermented beverages to maintain, followed by kombucha.  Water kefir, thought, I found more tricky.  I think the original water kefir grains (not really grains, but that’s what the lumpy starter is called) weren’t hardy enough — but as is usually the case, the third time proved to be the charm.

After “killing” two sets of water kefir grains, I gave my water kefir making attempts a break.  Then my mom went off dairy and mentioned to me she would miss having milk kefir every morning.  So, for Christmas last year, I acquired a third set of water kefir grains.  Since they came a bit early, I ended up cultivating them myself, and giving her a whole starter of her own (plus some water kefir ready to drink!).

And that’s where this activity comes into play.

I had a learning curve with water kefir, because it was different than milk kefir.  With milk kefir grains, you just dump them in fresh milk, let the concoction sit for about 24 hours, and then strain out the grains from the milk-turned-kefir, and start again.

But with water kefir, you need to use sugar water.  The water kefir grains digest the sugar and turn it into probiotic goodness (similar to what the milk kefir grains do with the lactose in milk).  But the trick is this.  Water kefir grains like minerals too (which is the opposite of my kombucha starter — it dislikes minerals).  So, through trial and error, I discovered that my water kefir grains thrived in brown sugar water more than in white sugar water.

And I was curious how much of a difference it made.

So Toby and I performed an experiment.

Over the course of a week or two, we fed several different types of sugars to water kefir grains, and observed how quickly the water kefir grains multiplied (that’s one of the benefits of this, once you have your own starter, you’ll have plenty of new to share with your friends and family!).

We weighed out equal amounts of water kefir grains, and put them into four different mason jars (pint size).

Our control group was given nothing but plain filtered water from our fridge.  The remaining three groups each got white sugar, brown sugar, or unrefined turbinado sugar — dissolved in the same amount of filtered water as our control received.

After four days, we checked on the water kefir grains.

We did taste test the different water kefirs (though not the control group).  The molasses flavor was most pronounced in the turbinado, followed by the brown sugar.  We also strained out and weighed the water kefir grains from each of our mason jars.  It was interesting to see which had grown the most.  Those that we fed turbinado sugar grew the most, followed by brown sugar, then white sugar.  And our control group in water?  Those grains actually withered and shrunk (aka “died”).

We repeated the process for another four days, but unfortunately my kitchen elf must have run off with the sticky note containing the final weights of each set of kefir grains.  So I can’t share the number with you — but I can tell you that the trend continued.

So, based on our experiment, I can tell you that our water kefir grains were happiest with the most unrefined sugar.  Water killed them.  They survived with white sugar, and even multiplied, but to really boost their numbers I’d definitely use brown sugar or unrefined sugar.

Here are some pictures from our experiment…

Here's what water kefir grains look like.  Kind of like cottage cheese clumps...
Here’s what water kefir grains look like. Kind of like cottage cheese clumps…
Toby scooping sugar.
Toby scooping sugar.
Toby was excited to do this experiment!
Toby was excited to do this experiment!
We labelled each of the mason jars with the type of sugar the water kefir grains would get.
We labelled each of the mason jars with the type of sugar the water kefir grains would get.
Toby thought about which one would grow best.
Toby thought about which one would grow best.
I let Toby do the measuring and dumping...
I let Toby do the measuring and dumping…
We used different spoons to dissolve the sugars into their respective waters.
We used different spoons to dissolve the sugars into their respective waters.
Toby added water and stirred everything equally.
Toby added water and stirred everything equally.
The water kefir was put into mason jars and labeled for our experiment..
The water kefir was put into mason jars and labeled for our experiment..
bphotoart-water-kefir-experiment-2125
Finished water kefir, ready to drink!
Here are the visual results of the first four days' fermentation.
Here are the visual results of the first four days’ fermentation.
We weighed the water kefir grains...
We weighed the water kefir grains…
Like good scientists, we recorded our findings...
Like good scientists, we recorded our findings…

I’m sure we could have been a little more efficient in our experiment, but the whole point of this was to get my toddler thinking about what might happen.  He enjoyed checking on our experiment, and was excited to help weigh the water kefir grains.

Rooting + Dividing African Violets

posted in: Learning | 0

Rooting + Dividing African VioletsAround here, we love finding ways to bring nature indoors.  And one of those ways is to have houseplants.  For the longest time, my mother has had African Violets basking in the Northern windows of her home.

So, several years back I mentioned to her that I wanted to have some African Violets of my own for our house.  My mom made me a generous offer…

Her African Violets were ready to divide, so if I was willing to split them I could have some African Violets of my own to take home within the week!

I did a little research online about how to best divide African Violets, because all I’d ever done up to that point was root African Violet leaves.

It turns out either method is pretty simple.

Well, rooting the leaves is simplest. So let’s start with that.

Rooting African Violets

You get a few African Violet clippings from a friend with a healthy African Violet plant.

Take those clippings, and stick them in fresh water.

Leave them on your windowsill until the clippings start to grow roots.

I found it best to change the water out every couple days, so that things didn’t get slimy or gross.

Once you have roots, simply put into dirt and enjoy! I have always used “African Violet Potting Mix” — because that’s what my mom uses, but if you want to try general potting soil, that’s your prerogative!

Okay, now onto the trickier project… dividing African Violets.

Dividing African Violets

There are a lot of detailed tutorials, and even YouTube videos, about dividing African Violets.  So I’ll spare you that.  Take a quick search and you’ll find something that explains it in minute detail.

The basic premise of dividing African Violets?

The plant’s leaves usually all originate from one central location. So, when you see a plant that has two central points where leaves are stemming from, that means you can split the plant into two.

To do this, I gently eased the African Violet (and dirt) from the pot.  Then, I loosened the dirt from the roots so I could see the structure.  After trying to find which roots go with which portion of the plant, I used a sharp knife to gently slice through those intertwined roots.

We then put the plants into fresh soil, in new pots.   Well, actually, the plants soaked in water jars for a few days while I got around to locating my stash of ceramic self-watering African Violet pots.

But that’s it!  One key thing to remember?  As my mother told me — don’t get water on top of the leaves.  It’s not good for the plants.

bphotoart-african-violets-2269
Two African Violets, ready to be potted, and three African Violet leaves, ready to root!
bphotoart-african-violets-2262
Toby had fun digging in the potting soil to get the plants’ new homes ready.
bphotoart-african-violets-2260
We filled the pots carefully with new potting soil for the African Violets (before Mommy put in the plants).

Practicing Scissor Skills with Family Photos

posted in: Parenting | 0

Practicing Scissor Skills with Family PhotosaThis is a fun little activity that I created on the fly for my four year old.  He wanted to cut things with his scissors… And I just happened to have some photos on hand.

Now, I’m not advocating you hand photographic prints to your child to have them practice their cutting skills, because we all know where that could lead.

(Yikes! It could be worse than “mom, I cut my bangs!!”)

But most printers can print out average quality photos, even on normal printer paper.  I used my color laserjet printer to print out some photos on standard printer paper — 9 images to a sheet.  This created some nice straight lines between the images, which I hoped Toby would try to follow when cutting.

It seems like I didn’t explain my idea quite well enough (or Toby had his own activity in mind) — the activity became a series of snips and cuts in seemingly random array.

Oh well.

In the very least, I provided my child with something of interest to cut.

The simple actions of cutting — scissor skills — were still being practiced:

  • holding the paper with your helping hand
  • proper scissors grip (thumb in the hole on top, fingers in the hole on bottom)
  • safety skills for using and carrying scissors

So, even though our activity didn’t turn out exactly as intended, I’m still calling it a win.

Toby got to practice his scissor skills using printouts of family pictures.

And, the icing on the cake?

My toddler got out the hand broom and dustpan, and swept up all the paper scraps …on his own accord.

Hooray for self-sufficiency!

bphotoart-scissor-skills-pictures-2170 bphotoart-scissor-skills-pictures-2163 bphotoart-scissor-skills-pictures-2160 bphotoart-scissor-skills-pictures-2172

Learn About Overexposure (and Underexposure)

posted in: Learning | 5

Today we’re talking about exposure — overexposure (and underexposure)  As relates to cameras.  I’ll be simplifying it for kids, as has been the norm with my Photography ABCs series.  Make sure to read through to the end, because I’m sharing three activity ideas to help kids learn about overexposure and underexposure.  So, let’s get started.  What’s exposure?  Or, more specifically, what are overexposure and underexposure?

Learn About Overexposure ...and Underexposure (includes 3 activities for kids!)

Underexposed, as defined by Dictionary.com:

1. inadequate exposure, as of photographic film.

2. a photographic negative or print that is imperfect because of insufficient exposure.

Dictionary.com defines overexposure as follows:

1. excessive exposure, especially of photographic film or a sensitized plate to light rays.

2. the condition of having been seen, heard, or advertised so frequently or for so long that freshness or appeal is diminished.

You’d probably recognize overexposed images if you saw them.  They tend to be overly bright, with loss of detail.  Want a simplified definition of overexposure?  Too much light.  You know how you can’t see anything when you first go outside into the bright sunlight?  You’re blinded.  Blinded because your eyes are adjusted to the dim indoor light, and when the brighter light from the sun reaches your eyes they are overwhelmed — it takes a few moments for them to adjust and compensate.  Remember the lesson on aperture, and the one where we made a camera obscura?  These are related to the concept of exposure. And overexposure.

Light enters the camera.

The right amount of light, and you can create a stunning image.

Too much light, and you end up with an overexposed image — if taken to the extreme, it would be a white rectangle.  Too little light, and you get an underexposed image — taken to the extreme, it would be an unexposed black rectangle.  But we’ll get to that later.

To simplify this concept — If you take a picture of your yard during nighttime, it will likely be very dim and dark. Possibly underexposed, if you use your camera’s auto settings (and no flash).  The camera tells the flash to fire so that it will be the correct exposure, so that it will have enough light in the picture.  If you take a picture of your yard during the daytime, the camera usually tells the flash not to fire — because then it would have more light than it needs, and the image could be overexposed.

Cameras aren’t all that smart, though.  If you take a picture of a person with the sunset behind them, it might underexpose the scene (and render the person a silhouette) in order to properly expose for the sunset.  If it exposes the image for the person, the sunset portion of the image would be overexposed.  That’s where the flash comes in (yet again) — it adds more light to the person, so they will not be underexposed.  Of course, the flash has no effect on the sunset, because that is WAY too far away.

Over/Under Exposure Camera Activity

For today’s activity, you’re going to need a camera.

Turn off the on-camera flash, and try taking pictures of different things around the house.  Notice how when you take a picture of your sofa next to the window, that the camera tries to expose for one of two things — the sofa (dimmer inside light) or the yard (brighter outside light).  Take a couple pictures, and see how the camera either overexposes the outside or underexposes the inside, depending on the image.

Now, turn on the flash and see if it makes a difference.

Exposure Coloring

This activity is really simplified.  Have your kids draw a picture of a tree at night, or their bedroom with the lights off.

Tell them to use their imagination and draw something that is not shown clearly because there is not enough light (underexposed). Suggest they use dark colors if they need prompting.  A candle in a bedroom, for example, might be a paper colored completely black, with just a little orange glow.  You can’t see the bed, or more than a shadow of it, but you know it’s there.

On the flip side, have them draw something that is so bright it can’t be seen clearly (overexposed).  Ideas you could prompt them with include a car with its headlights on, a polar bear in the snow (e.g. three dots, a nose and two eyes).

It will be interesting to see how your kids interpret this, and will vary depending on their ages.

Exposure Experience

You don’t need anything except your eyes for this activity.  Take your kids from a brightly lit room into a dark room.  Tell them to pay attention to how their eyes adapt, how nothingness becomes dark shadows, which in turn becomes identifiable objects.

Then, return to a bright area.  The opposite happens.

If you wanted to, I guess you could let them shine a flashlight into their eyes for this portion too.  Not condoning that, but it definitely would illustrate the concept of overexposure.  Way too much light to see what anything is.

Have more ideas?

I’d love to hear your ideas, if you have any more thoughts on activities for overexposure and underexposure, in the comments below.  Or, if you try these activities I’ve mentioned, I definitely want to know how things go for you!

Make sure to check back next week for the next post, where I’ll share an activity for the letter P. You might also enjoy revisiting last week’s activity where we learned about negative.


The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

Sign up for emails to get each week’s blog update delivered to your inbox, which will include future posts in this series.

Learn About Macro

posted in: Learning | 3

Learn About MacroAnd it’s time for one of my favorite terms in the ABCs of Photography series – M is for Macro! I have enjoyed macro photography for a long time.  Plants, bugs, and other small items can be really neat to see larger than life.  Or, if you’re a kid at heart, legos.

That’s why I picked this stock image for today’s post — I have always loved building with legos, and thought it was neat that they made a camera lego piece for the lego people (saving you the trouble of looking — find it on Amazon.com as black camera #3 lego piece #afflink).  While I was sidetracked getting that link for you, I also remembered that someone made a (working) 8MB Lego Camera #afflink — it actually will take about 80 pictures. Somewhat impractical, but fun for any Lego geeks to contemplate getting for their kids.

Macro can be used as a noun (type of lens) and an adjective (style of photography).  Dictionary.com defines each as follows:

n. a lens used to bring into focus objects very close to the camera.

adj. very large in scale, scope, or capability.

The British dictionary is even more specific, stating that the macro lens is used for photographing things 2–10 cm away.  Interesting tidbit of knowledge, there.

Basically, you use the term macro when referring to something small that has been made much larger than life.  The photographs taken with a macro lens are often abstract in nature, because they are so close up you can’t tell what they are.  

On the flip side, macro lenses can also enlarge tiny objects so we can actually see all the detail — like the multi-faceted eyes on a bug. Here’s a macro image I created of a katydid (see more macro bug pictures, including a praying mantis)

Close Up Bug Photography (12)

If you have a point and shoot camera, you’ll probably recognize the macro setting as the little flower that vaguely resembles the Super Mario fire flower.  Turn on that setting, and your camera will try to focus on things that are really close up to create macro pictures.

Macro photographs don’t have to be identifiable, either.  You can make them as abstract as you like. Here’s one I created a while back (find out what I photographed).

black and white abstraction - fine art photography

Okay, now that the term macro has been explained, let’s move onto how to incorporate macro into an activity.  The concept of Macro can be taught to kids in several ways.  Since my four year old prefers hands-on activities, I’m not providing any printables or such.  Instead, consider these two options:

  1. Macro Scavenger Hunt
  2. Macro Matching Game

Macro Scavenger Hunt

Depending on the age of your kids, you can either hand them a camera and turn them loose to find things.  This is basically a more specialized version of my photo scavenger hunt — you’ll be looking for anything that you can photograph up close and personal.  Bugs, plants, rocks …might be subjects for an outdoor macro scavenger hunt, whereas colanders,, seat cushions, staplers, and bobby pins could be photographed indoors.

Take this a step further by playing a game afterwards with the abstract pictures.  Try to guess what each is; you’d be surprised how difficult some things are (check of these fine art abstractions).

Macro Matching Game

Again, you’ll want the camera handy.  Or some existing pictures.  Photograph a number of objects both normally and macro.  Then, print them out, and try to pair the macro images with their proper pictures.  Or, you could just print out the macro pictures, and have the items you photographed laid out on the counter — let the kids play detective and try to figure out which picture goes with which object.

The possibilities are endless.

Do you have any ideas for helping kids learn about macro?  I’d love to hear them in the comments below.  Also, Make sure to check back next week for the next post, where I’ll share an activity for the letter N. You might also enjoy revisiting last week’s activity where we learned about how lenses work.


The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

Sign up for emails to get each week’s blog update delivered to your inbox, which will include future posts in this series.

Dwarf Lake Iris – Michigan’s Official Wildflower (A Craft!)

posted in: Learning | 5

Iris Lacustris - Michigan's State Wildflower - Dwarf Lake Iris - CraftLately I’ve become interested in adding native plants to our gardens and wooded area.  Sure, non-native flowers can be gorgeous, but there are so many native options to choose from that are better suited for the environment (and therefore easier to grow).

So today we’re going to learn about Michigan’s official wildflower.  And a brief summary of how it came to be the Dwarf Lake Iris.

Long story short, the popular vote was for Trillium (another native wildflower) to be named Michigan’s state wildflower.  Politicians decided to proceed with the second place wildflower, the Dwarf Lake Iris, due to its threatened status.  Maybe they thought the additional awareness about the unique and threatened habitat of the Dwarf Lake Iris could help preserve the species.

I’ve never seen one of these beauties in person.  But thanks to the internet, I was able to find a number of blog posts and photos featuring the Dwarf Lake Iris.

Here’s one that was taken by Joshua Mayer in Wisconsin (see below).  The Dwarf Lake Iris may look familiar, but that’s because it’s part of the Iris family.  This particular flower is miniature — about 1.5″ flowers, with 2″ stems and 6″ leaves.

The Dwarf Lake Iris is unique to the Great Lakes; its scientific name, Iris Lacustris, means “rainbow of the lakes.”

Dwarf Lake Iris (Iris lacustris)
Photo by Joshua Mayer

Online Learning

Here are some resources I found if you want to learn more about the Dwarf Lake Iris:

  • Iris Lacustris – Center For Plant Conservation – I learned that 95% of the existing Dwarf Lake Iris plants exist in Michigan, and that its primary threats include loss of habitat, increasing human disturbance, and Iris Lacustris is very similar to the related (and more common) Iris Cristata.
  • Iris Lacustris – Michigan DNR – this has a nice map depicting where the Dwarf Lake Iris is distributed in Michigan.  There are some interesting tidbits, including that “of the lakes” meaning I mentioned earlier.
  • Iris Lacustris – Flora of Wisconsin – here’s a brief summary of the plant and how to identify it (including pictures).
  • Iris Lacustris – Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center – another brief summary of the Dwarf Lake Iris and pictures of the flowers, including a rare white blossom.
  • Michigan State Wildflower – Netstate – If you’re interested in how the Michigan Wildflower Association sponsored an informal public poll for the state wildflower, and how the runner up was nominated in 1997 by House Representative Liz Brater (supported by the Michigan Botanical Club, the Michigan Nature Association, the Michigan Natural Areas Council, the Michigan Environmental Council, and the University of Michigan Herbarium)…. this site has the political aspect covered.
  • Dwarf Lake Iris – Michigan Sea Grant – another brief summary of the Dwarf Lake Iris’ habitat, characteristics, the fact that its scientific name means “rainbow of the lakes” …plus more pictures
  • Dwarf Lake Iris – U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services Endangered Species – facts about the Dwarf Lake Iris (including printable fact sheet), why it is listed as a threatened species, what is being done to protect it, and how to hopefully prevent its extinction.

Books + Activities

I found some additional craft and activity resources for learning about state flowers and native plants, which you might enjoy (Amazon #afflinks used below):

Dwarf Lake Iris Craft

orchidNow for a fun craft to help facilitate discussion about Michigan’s official wildflower.  I kept this pretty simple, as I wanted to go with an artistic abstraction that would encourage my son, Toby, to think and visualize pictures of the Dwarf Lake Iris in terms of simplified shapes.

For this activity, we used some origami paper that I received for review purposes (Orchid Origami Paper – 500 sheet pack #afflink).  I have to say, the paper totally lives up to my standards so far as origami paper goes.  The surface of the paper is smooth, they are easy to fold and get sharply creased, and the colors are really bright.

And before you say anything, yes, I know… cutting is kind of a no-no when forming origami creations.  But, I couldn’t help but be drawn to all the bright colors when I was trying to decide on a craft to go along with our discussion of Michigan’s official wildflower.

I gathered up some origami paper and some art paper, plus a pair of scissors.
I gathered up some origami paper and some art paper, plus a pair of scissors.
I cut the different colors of paper into different simplified shapes - petals (blue and yellow) and leaves (green).
I cut the different colors of paper into different simplified shapes – petals (blue and yellow) and leaves (green).
Here's my take on the Dwarf Lake Iris - some leaves, the stem, and the base color of the leaves have been laid out on the white paper.
Here’s my take on the Dwarf Lake Iris – some leaves, the stem, and the base color of the leaves have been laid out on the white paper.

 

Next I added the color contrast on the leaves -- yellow and white (the white was the backside of the yellow paper).
Next I added the color contrast on the leaves — yellow and white (the white was the backside of the yellow paper).

 

And here's the final craft.
And here’s the final craft.

 

Be forewarned, the paper bits can make a big mess.  We had to put baby brother in the exersaucer during this craft.
Be forewarned, the paper bits can make a big mess. We had to put baby brother in the exersaucer during this craft.

So that’s all there is to it!  This could be more of a sensory experience, if you let the paper pieces be loose and transient like we did, or you could use a glue stick to permanently adhere the abstracted pieces to the paper.  Your call. I went with simpler and more experimental.  Because that’s what works for us!


tour-the-world-by-flowerTour the World By Flower

This post is part of the Tour the World By Flower blog hop.   Every state and country (and as we’ve discovered, province, county or territory) has an official flower. A number of bloggers have collaborated to Tour the World by Flower with crafts to learn about various official flowers!  Make sure to check out Suzy Homeschooler’s Michigan Apple Blossom craft, which is the official state flower for Michigan.

Disclaimer: I received one or more products gratis in exchange for an honest evaluation — the opinions expressed are 100% my own.

How Lenses Work – Kid Friendly Activities!

posted in: Learning | 4

Learn About Lenses - Make a Rudimentary Image Projector!This week we’re learning about lenses for my ABCs of Photography series.  And in case you’re wondering, this is really about the concept of lenses, so we’ll be spending time exploring how they work rather than what kind of lens you should get.  We’ll even project an image onto the wall using a magnifying glass!

But first, let’s cover the Dictionary.com definition of a lens:

n. a piece of transparent substance, usually glass, having two opposite surfaces either both curved or one curved and one plane, used in an optical device in changing the convergence of light rays, as for magnification, or in correcting defects of vision.

Your glasses have lenses, your eyes have what’s called “crystalline lenses” …and they all focus light.  As we explored when learning about cameras , you don’t need much to focus light. Even a pinhole can become a lens of sorts.  While not as simple as a pinhole, another simple lens is a magnifying glass.  And that’s what we’re going to use for these activities.

In fact, I originally brainstormed these ideas when we were making our camera obscura, but decided to split the activities into two posts since each set could really stand on their own.  So, don’t mind the fact that these images portray snow on the ground — it really is warmer than that here.  It’s just that this post has been patiently waiting for you!

Now for the fun part.  Activities!

You can do either activity first, or just choose one.  Both will help teach the same concepts, it’s just a matter of which one your kids may find more interesting.

Use a Lens to Make a Picture on Paper

All you need for this activity is a piece of paper, a magnifying glass, and a shaded area next to a window.  Although I suppose you could do it outside too.  Anyways, we put the paper in shade (this is important — your image won’t show up if the paper is in the sun), and then put the magnifying glass between the window and the paper.  As you move the magnifying glass closer to and further away from the paper, the blob of light reflected onto the paper will come in and out of focus.  If your child has enough coordination, you’ll be able to see a somewhat crisp (or fuzzy!) upside down version of what’s outside.

Here’s what it looks like when the paper is in the sun.  You will see the blob of light through the magnifying glass, but not much else, no matter how well you focus it.

Learn About Lenses - Make a Rudimentary Image Projector!

Toby had fun trying to find the focus point of th magnifying glass — you’ll see he was somewhat successful here.  Note the faint pattern of light on the paper.  That’s the view out onto our deck.

Learn About Lenses - Make a Rudimentary Image Projector!

And here’s mommy’s rendition.  See how I was able to get it a little more crisply focused?  It’s all a matter of patience.  Move the magnifying glass slowly back and forth; you’ll find it.

Learn About Lenses - Make a Rudimentary Image Projector!

Want to know what the view actually looked like?  Here’s a snapshot out onto our deck.

Learn About Lenses - Make a Rudimentary Image Projector!

And for those of you who like videos, here’s a video of the whole activity.  Well, a brief shot of the paper, panning to the outside view.  Maybe of interest for your kids, if they like videos as much as mine do. Seriously, we had to search for tornado videos on youtube to learn about how tornados work.  And astronaut videos to learn about rockets. Incidentally, Toby doesn’t want to be an astronaut now that he knows they “have” to wear diapers when in the spacesuits.

But I digress. Here’s the video (under 30 seconds in length):

How cool is that?  Yeah, we were psyched too.

Okay, now for part two.

Use a Lens to Project a Movie onto the Wall

For this activity, you’ll need your magnifying glass, and a smartphone.  We originally projected a picture onto the wall from my smartphone gallery, but a video proved more interesting.  Specifically, a video of our duplo train setup.

In order for this to work, we had to be in complete darkness.  So, we went into our bathroom, closed the door, and played the video.  Toby had fun trying to “find” the picture for a short while, but ultimately he wanted me to hold the magnifying glass so he could watch the “silly” video.  Silly because it projects upside down.  Here’s what it looked like.

Learn About Lenses - Make a Rudimentary Image Projector!

Sorry about the noise in the image.  I had to use my small camera since I was multitasking …it would’ve been crazy to try holding the magnifying glass and my DSLR that could capture this scene more adequately.  Sometimes you have to accept imperfection and go with the flow.  While I don’t settle for less with my clients — when doing activities with my boys, their experience is most important. So the documentary pictures took a place on backburner. Priorities, right?

So, to make up for that, here’s a diagram of this activity.  How you can set up your rudimentary image projection system in under two minutes… or however long it takes you to find your phone and a magnifying glass.

Rudimentary Image Projection simple activity with a Smartphone in a Dark Room!

And since I have them, here are some more pictures of the smartphone image projection activity.

Okay, there you have it!  I love how simple this activity is, and it really is great for helping kids learn about lenses.  The concept of focusing as you move the lens closer to the wall, farther from the wall, etc …all the interaction is fantastic for helping to reinforce what’s being learned.

Make sure to check back next week for the next post, where I’ll share an activity for the letter M. You might also enjoy revisiting last week’s activity where we learned about high key and low key (for the letter K).


The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

Sign up for emails to get each week’s blog update delivered to your inbox, which will include future posts in this series.

Learn About Key (High Key + Low Key)

posted in: Learning | 1

Learn About Key - High Key + Low KeyToday we’re going to learn about key. Specifically, high key and low key, as they relate to photography (since this is part of my ABCs of Photography series). And yes, I couldn’t resist the play on words with a few of these photos, so I included some high key and low key photos of keys. It’s fallout from having grown up with a family that enjoyed puns.

Anyways, back to key. High key and low key are lighting ratios in photography (don’t worry, we’re not going to get technical here), and they have two very different looks. Dictionary.com defines the two terms as follows…

High Key:

(of a photograph) having chiefly light tones, usually with little tonal contrast (distinguished from low-key).

Low Key:

1. of reduced intensity; restrained; understated. 

2. (of a photograph) having chiefly dark tones, usually with little tonal contrast (distinguished from high-key).

To simplify things to the max, high key images are very light, whereas low key images are very dark. A slightly more technical definition would go into the specific ranges of tonal values (remember our learning about grayscale activity?) and how the high key image is made up of mostly light tones, whereas the low key image is made up of mostly dark tones.

We won’t get more technical than that, but know that there are actually specific ratios, or proportions, that are supposed to be used when setting up lights.  But we’re keeping things simple.

So, let’s look at some high key and low key images.  I actually made a printable of these pictures too, so you can have something to print out and discuss with your kids.  The printable also has a few game ideas that you could use as an extension activity!  So, read on for now, and remember to get the printable when you get to the end of the post.

Learn About High Key

High key images are bright, white, and comprised of mostly light tones.  There will likely be some darker areas in the image, but the majority of the picture will be whites and lighter grays.  High key images can be black and white or color — it’s not so much about the hues in the image (remember when we learned about hue?), so much as how light or dark the colors are (remember we simplified this to black and white when we learned about grayscale).

Take a peek at the images below (used with permission from Pixabay.com).  I selected images that were obviously high key, very white, very not contrasty, not much in the way of dark tones.  Some of these have correlating low key images in the next section, you might find it interesting to compare the two! Click on any image to enlarge.

Learn About Low Key

Low key images, on the other hand, are mostly dark tones.  They may have some lighter accents or highlights, but overall things will be not very bright.  Again, images can be black and white or color, it’s not the hue so much as the darkness of the image.  AsI mentioned earlier, I gathered these images with the intent to compare and contrast them.  So we’ll do that in a minute.  Click on any image to enlarge.

High Key vs. Low Key

I won’t go through every image pair, but we might as well do one set, right?  So here are two images of laptop keyboards.  Keyboards are all pretty similar, right?  Nothing special about most… except sometimes you have your choice of color.  This first one is a white keyboard.  Which gives us which kind of image?

That’s right.  High key.

See how the image is mostly light tones – light grays and whites?  There isn’t much in the way of dark, save for the lettering on the keys.

Now for the next image.  It’s another laptop, but this time with black keys.  Which do you suppose this image is?

Yup, low key.

The tones in this photo are mostly dark.  If you look closely, you’ll notice that the lettering on the keys isn’t even white – they are grayish toned.  So there aren’t really any bright white tones in this image, even though we “know” that the lettering on these keys is “white.”

Okay, I’ll leave the rest of the compare and contrast activity to you.  You can use the images here on the post, or download the free printable that has all twelve of these images compiled onto two pages.  I’ve even included three game ideas (hint, they’re really easy, …remember my DIY photo memory game?).

Learn About Key Printable

Now the part you’ve (hopefully) been waiting for, right?  Here’s the printable.  It’s actually three pages long – one introduction page with the game ideas, and two pages of photos.  There are twelve images in total, and I did make sure to include equal numbers of high key and low key photos.

bphotoart-high-key-low-key-printable

Download Learn About Key Printable (PDF)

Do you have any other fun ideas that we could use as extension activities for learning about high key and low key?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.  Also, make sure to check back next week for the next post, where I’ll share an activity for the letter L. You might also enjoy revisiting our last activity where we learned about jaggies.


The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

Sign up for emails to get each week’s blog update delivered to your inbox, which will include future posts in this series.

5 Reasons We Love the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum

posted in: Notes | 1

I have many fond memories of the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum as a child. My girl scout troop had a lock-in there (we got to sleep on the 4th level of exhibits!), we had numerous field trips… and now I get to take my boys to experience the museum as well!  This post has actually been months in the making… I kept pushing it back in the schedule and I’m not sure why.  Maybe it’s because there is so much to do and see, or because the Hands on Museum keeps changing and updating their exhibits.  Whatever the reason, no more excuses!

These pictures are from a year ago, so it’s a bit of a trip down memory lane.  Toby looks so little, it’s amazing to see just how much kids grow in a year’s time.  And of course, Zack hadn’t arrived yet either.  A lot changes in a year.

Anyways, the Hands On Museum.  I wanted to share 5 reasons why we love it.

1. The museum encourages curiosity about how things work.

This is a biggie for me.  Growing up, my favorite books were “The Way Things Work” and an illustrated first aid book.  I was always asking: “why?”  I wanted to know how the world worked.  And I see that same natural curiosity in my boys.  Toby asks why a lot — and I don’t want to dissuade him from being interested in how the world works… but I admit sometimes the constant “why?” question does get old.  So we’ve come up with a solution — he has to ask what we call “why questions” or sentences.  It can’t just be “why?” — but needs to be a complete thought.  So far, that approach has worked pretty well!

2. There is a toddler room with age appropriate activities.

Before this room existed (years ago), all of the exhibits were child friendly, but many were geared towards older kids.  And during the day, when the museum became filled with children, it could be tough for the little ones to explore amidst the big kids.  The toddler room gives little ones a place to play …without worrying about being bowled over by older children.  There’s even a baby zone, for extra little ones.  We have spent many hours in this one room; Toby loves the ball whatchamacallit that has a conveyor belt, ramps, drop zones, and of course buckets for collecting the balls.  Also popular?  The toddler water table.  Two parent-friendly features that I really appreciate are the fact there’s a family restroom right off the toddler room (so you don’t have to pack up and leave just for a potty break), and that there is always a staff person monitoring the toddler room (to keep kids from leaving with out their adult)

3. It is a great option for winter excursions.

During the long winter months, it’s tough to keep from going stir crazy inside the house.  Since the Hands On Museum is about 15 minutes away from us, we would frequently bundle up and venture to downtown Ann Arbor for a fun playdate — either with friends, or just on our own. If we got out of the house as planned, we’d usually arrive just when the museum was opening.  Perfect for us, as it wasn’t yet busy, and we could plan around naps and lunch.  Sometimes it’s just good to get out of the house.  And the Hands On Museum can be a great place to go.

4. Membership options can include guest passes.

As a birthday present one year, we got a family pass to the the Handsn Museum — one that included guest passes too.  It was really nice to be able to introduce other friends to the Hands On Museum and not feel bad about finding out if they had a pass before inviting them.  We like to take care of our friends, and for the small upgrade fee in our membership, this option was totally worth it.  Plus, grandparents can take the kids too!  I think there’s also a named caregiver option as well, but since i watch the boys during the daytime, that was never really of any concern for us personally.

5. Making memories here is nostalgic.

Most people who grew up in this area have been to the Hands On Museum themselves — and since it’s been around for so long, many local parents my age have fond memories of going to the Hands On Museum as children.  It is so much fun to see your own child get excited about the same things that you fondly remember from childhood.  The ambulance is a classic, as is the working cut-away toilet, and the skeleton pedaling the bicycle too.  There are many new things to explore at the Hands On Museum, but one thing is sure — your child will definitely have fond memories of this place once they are grown.

The Ann Arbor Hands On Museum has over 250 hands-on exhibits that cover a variety of topics:  science, technology, engineering, art, math.  The Museum is open daily, and if you’re worried about it being crowded, you can always call ahead to see if there are any school field trips scheduled to arrive that day.

Growing a Garden – “The Gardener”

posted in: Learning | 29

Growing a Garden - Read + Play: starting seeds indoors for Earth Day!We’ve enjoyed having a vegetable garden the past few summers.  In fact, when the librarian read “Growing a Rainbow” the other day, I overheard my son arguing with another child. She said, “You can’t grow a rainbow!”

“Yes you can!” Toby exclaimed vehemently, “My mom and I grew a rainbow in our garden!”

That’s my boy.  So cute.

Anyways, that day, we checked out Sarah Stewart’s “The Gardener” (#afflink) …which is a Caldecott Honor Award book.  I loved the story, which was really brought to life with lovely illustrations by David Small.

If you want a synopsis, here you go:  Lydia Grace Finch goes to the city to stay with her uncle (presumably during the Depression, her dad lost his job). In her suitcase, she brings along seeds from her grandmother’s garden.  As the weeks progress, Lydia learns to bake bread in her uncle’s bakery, and grows plants everywhere — including a secret garden on the rooftop to surprise her uncle.  Ultimately, her dad gets a job and she goes back home, but not before becoming known as “the Gardener” by the city folk.

Here’s the cover of the book.  Again, I love the illustrations:
"The Gardener" by Sarah Stewart

So, when it came time to start our seeds for the vegetable garden, I knew this would be a fun post for the Earth Day Read and Play blog hop.  You can read about my plans for the garden this summer, which are quite ambitious.

But let’s not get sidetracked.

For this activity, we needed a few bags of seed starting dirt, some seed starting trays, a trowel, newspaper strips, and a seed pot maker #afflink.

Earlier, I had made plans for what we would be growing, and how many seeds would be needed.
Earlier, I had made plans for what we would be growing, and how many seeds would be needed.
We have a lot of vegetable seed packets, just like Lydia Grace
We have a lot of vegetable seed packets, just like Lydia Grace
He was very careful not to spill...
He was very careful not to spill…
I couldn't help but enjoy watching Toby work diligently.
I couldn’t help but enjoy watching Toby work diligently.
And smiling for the camera, of course.
And smiling for the camera, of course.
Here is a tray getting filled up with seed pots.
Here is a tray getting filled up with seed pots.
He worked hard for quite some time.
He worked hard for quite some time.
We went through both bags of dirt by the time it was all said and done.
We went through both bags of dirt by the time it was all said and done.
Toby filling up the newspaper cups with dirt.
Toby filling up the newspaper cups with dirt.
Here's the newspaper pot maker. It's awesome!
Here’s the newspaper pot maker. It’s awesome!

In case you’re wondering how the newspaper pots were formed, here’s a little photo tutorial (it uses the DIY seed pot maker #afflink).  Toby was able to make some of these on his own, but preferred to help me make them.  I will say that it was a great hands-on experience for him, even though he ultimately decided to have me make the pots so he could fill them with dirt.  The concept is really simple, so take a peek to see how the newspaper seed starting pots are formed!

You wrap a piece of newspaper around the pot maker, with about 1.5" overhang.
You wrap a piece of newspaper around the pot maker, with about 1.5″ overhang.
Here's the newspaper wrapped up.
Here’s the newspaper wrapped up.
Then you fold down the newspaper to form the bottom of the pot.
Then you fold down the newspaper to form the bottom of the pot.
And then you press the form together to crease the newspaper.
And then you press the form together to crease the newspaper.
Toby liked to make sure I twisted it back and forth each time.
Toby liked to make sure I twisted it back and forth each time.
Voila! Simply slide off the newspaper, which is now formed into a eco-friendly seed pot!
Voila! Simply slide off the newspaper, which is now formed into a eco-friendly seed pot!

And our next steps?

We’ll be watching the seeds sprout in our greenhouse over the next few days and weeks… and then the seedlings will get transplanted into our raised garden beds.  It really is a great extension activity that gets my toddler into the dirt and loving the nature around him.  Plus, it’s more fun to eat vegetables that you grow yourself!

Are you growing anything this year?  What’s your favorite plant to grow?  What summer vegetables would your dream garden have?  The only thing ours is missing is asparagus, because we don’t want to dedicate the space for a crop that takes 2+ years for a harvest.


earth-day-read-playEarth Day Read and Play Blog Hop

This post is part of a blog hop celebrating Earth Day!  Please check out the other posts below for some more fun book-based activities!  Book titles are in parentheses, linked to Amazon for your convenience (#afflinks used).

Learn About Jaggies (Graph Paper Coloring Activity)

posted in: Notes | 35

bphotoart-learn-about-jaggiesFor Today’s ABCs of Photography, we’re learning about a slang term for pixelization: “jaggies.”  The term refers to how a computer uses square pixels to create diagonal and curved lines.

The more pixels there are in a line, the smoother the line will appear.

And the opposite is true too.

The fewer pixels there are, the more the jagged the line will appear.

Jagged.

Jaggies.

See where the term comes from?

Now, for practical applications.  Color by numbers are a good way to understand this concept!

So we’re going to get out a piece of graph paper, and a plain piece of paper.

First, have your child draw a design with curved lines on the plain piece of paper.

Next, put the graph paper over top. If you can’t see the design through the graph paper, tape both sheets up on the window.

Now it’s time for the fun part.  Have your child trace the design onto the graph paper, but with one rule —

They have to follow the straight lines of the graph paper.

Easier said than done, I know.  But just give it a shot.  You may find the end result to be more recognizable than you’d think.

Here’s an example of how this shows up in a digital image that has been resaved at a very low resolution:

Learn About Jaggies With this Graph Paper  Coloring Activity!
Image by Liselotte Brunner from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

 

 

Make sure to check back next week for the next post, where I’ll share an activity for the letter K. You might also enjoy revisiting last week’s activity where we learned about hue.


The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

Sign up for emails to get each week’s blog update delivered to your inbox, which will include future posts in this series.

10 Ways to Decorate Easter Eggs

posted in: Notes | 10

10 Ways to Decorate Easter EggsOne of my favorite parts about spring is celebrating Easter.  And with Easter, comes the necessity of making Easter eggs.  Over the years, I’ve enjoyed decorating eggs a number of different ways — but the traditionally dyed hard boiled eggs, along with hand-blown eggs, are my favorites.

I’ll get into the details of how we do things in a little bit, but first I wanted to help inspire you for the Easter egg decorating season.  So I’ll be sharing some images of Easter Eggs decorated in ten different ways!

But first, a little teaser about what we’re doing this year with our Easter eggs.  This one is my own concoction — and I’ll be sharing in more detail (with pictures) sometime in the next few weeks.  But, it’s actually not too complicated to adhere a photo to an Easter egg.  And if you combined this with the hand-blown egg process, it could be an adorable Easter gift for grandparents to receive!

Each of these ten different ideas for decorating was actually based on a different stock photo that I came across while looking for some images to use — and once inspiration struck, I couldn’t help myself.

So, rather than recreate each of the photos myself, I decided to share these “found photographs” (which are, of course, used with permission from Pixabay.com).

Now, without further ado, let’s get onto the 10 ways you can decorate Easter eggs!

1. Decorate Easter eggs with seed beads.

I haven’t done this myself, but I loved the look of these Easter eggs that had been decorated with seed beads.  What a unique and creative way to decorate Easter eggs!  Now, this activity might be suited for older kids or adults, but I could see adapting the activity to be suitable for younger kids by using pony beads or sequins.

Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.
Easter eggs decorated with beads.
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

2. Use pearls and silver cording to decorate Easter eggs.

This option also caught my eye as an alternate Easter egg method.  I imagine you’d use hot glue or something to easily adhere the pearls and the silver cord (or ribbon).  This activity would be doable for younger kids, although you might want to leave off the cording (or maybe put that on prior to having your kids get started.

Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.
Easter eggs decorated with cording and pearls.
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

3. Tried and true – just dye your Easter eggs.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with dying Easter eggs solid colors.  When put together, they look fantastic and add cheer to any Easter basket.  I’ve always used either an Easter egg kit or normal food coloring to dye Easter eggs, but I hear there are some fun natural food dyes you can use as well.

Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.
Simple dyed Easter eggs.
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

4. Crochet Easter egg decorations.

If you or your kids likes to work with yarn, you could always try your hand at making crochet Easter eggs.  This intricate lace egg ornament caught my eye, and I imagine it took quite a lot of time and skill to create.  But, there are simpler patterns for eggs made from yarn too.  Here is a pattern I found on Amazon for Elegant Easter Eggs (#afflink).

Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.
Crocheted Easter egg ornaments.
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

5. Make hand-blown Easter egg ornaments

This is one of my favorite ways to do Easter eggs.  You poke two holes in a raw egg (one at each end), and gently blow into one hole…and the raw egg will come out the other hole… giving you a hollow eggshell you can decorate in any way you like.  You could dye the shells, paint them, the sky’s the limit.  If you want, you can also thread a slim ribbon through the holes in the eggshell to make an Easter ornament that can be hung anywhere!

Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.
Hand-blown Easter egg ornaments.
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

6. Draw wax patterns on Easter eggs.

You can paint intricate patterns on an Easter egg, of course.  The wax application will keep the dye from taking in certain areas, allowing subsequent dips in dye to add to the different color patterns.  The ones in this photo are on the simpler side, but still reminiscent of pysanky (extremely intricate Hungarian eggs that can take 80 hours to complete).  Last year, we used white crayon to draw on the eggs before dying them — Toby’s pattern at that point was an abstract squiggle. It still turned out to be cute (at least for anyone related to Toby!).

Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.
Easter eggs with intricate wax designs.
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

7. Write words on plain eggs.

I found this photo with words written on eggs — they’re in German, and in case you’re wondering, the words are the names of different colors (green, red, blue, etc).  I thought a neat extension of this would be to write each child’s name on a set of eggs before hiding them for the Easter egg hunt.  You know, to make things more fair.  But you could also write Bible verses or other things of significance too.

Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.
Easter eggs with words on them.
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

8. Make smiley face Easter eggs.

I thought this one was really cute!  Especially with the googly eyes, don’t you think?  The facial features could be painted on or drawn with crayon/marker.  I think this take on Easter eggs could be a great activity for kids of any age.  Use glue for the eyes, or maybe frosting if you wanted it to be more food safe.

Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.
Easter eggs that have been dyed then decorated with smiley faces.
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

9. Paint intricate designs on Easter eggs.

These eggs are somewhat similar in intricacy to the wax resist eggs, but only require one session in the dye bath.  Then you would use paint to add in all the other traditional detailing and patterns.  Younger kids could make simpler patterns, or even just stripes of paint.

Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.
Easter eggs decorated with traditional painted designs.
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

10. Make ribbon-wrapped Easter eggs.

I love this concept.  It’s easy to do, and looks really classy.  Plus, there’s no need to work with messy dyes or paint.  You just need some lengths of ribbon and maybe some glue or frosting to stick things together.  Don’t these look neat?

Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.
Easter eggs decorated with ribbons.
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

What are your ideas?

If you have more ideas on how to decorate Easter eggs, I’d love to hear them! Please share in the comments section below!


Creative-Activities-for-Kids-Monthly-Blog-Hop-300x300Creative Easter Activities for Kids

This post is part of the Creative Activities for Kids monthly blog hop.

Learn about Flash with 3 fun activities!

posted in: Learning | 4
Learn about  Flash with 3 fun activities!              Camera Flash Activity Find-The-Differences Game Flashlight Find-It Fun
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

This week for our ABCs of Photography series, we’re learning about flash.  Yes, like the flash on your camera.  Since we learned about existing light for the letter “E” …it only seemed fitting to learn about an artificial light source like flash for letter “F” …right?

Anyway, Dictionary.com defines flash photography like this:

photography using a momentary flash of artificial light as a source of illumination.

I’m not sure I can really simplify that definition any further, but here goes.  Flash is a burst of light that you add to the scene when you take a picture.  You’ll likely be most familiar with the on-camera flash built into your camera (there are off-camera flashes too).

I have three activity ideas for today.

Camera Flash Activity

You can adapt this exercise for older or younger kids as needed.  The simplest version of the activity?  Go around the house and take pictures of things with the flash on and off.  See when your camera automatically turns on the flash, and talk about why that happens.

Why does that happen?  Your camera determines that there is not enough existing light to adequately expose the image (take the picture).

Your older child may enjoy overriding the flash mode and seeing how the images change.  Have them pull up the images on the computer, side by side, and see how the quality of the light changes.

You could also print them out.  Which leads me into the next activity…

Find-The-Differences Game

Print out two images of the same scene — one taken with flash, one taken with existing light.  It could be a set of images taken by the same person, or one image taken by each person from different angles…go with the flow!

Give everyone a piece of paper and pencil.  Set a timer and have everyone spend 2-5 minutes jotting down all the differences they see between the two images.

Then, when time is up, go through your lists one at a time.  As each person shares, cross off any items that someone else noticed. The winner is whoever ends up with the most items left!

Flashlight Find-It Fun

While a flashlight is most definitely NOT a momentary burst of light, you can use it to illustrate the concept of flash for younger kids.  Hand each kid a flashlight and then turn off the lights in a dimly lit room.  Talk about how the shadowy forms are revealed by the light of the flashlight, making it so that our eyes can “properly expose” the image and see things “the way” a camera uses flash to see things in a picture.

You can leave the activity at that, or if your kids have the attention span, play a game of “Find-It” or “I Spy” with the flashlights.  Ask them to find something:

  • specific color (e.g. what can you find that’s red?)
  • particular shape (e.g. are there any rectangular objects you can find?)
  • certain texture (e.g. what do you see that looks fuzzy?)
  • motion (e.g. do you see anything that is moving? like a ceiling fan)

As an extension activity, you could even experiment with different objects that cast light to see how they make items appear different.  Toby enjoyed doing this with glowsticks in the dark.  His pictures, by the way, had the auto flash on, so we did have a nice compare/contrast conversation starter.

bphotoart-light-play-glow-stick-bracelet-1966
Toby taking pictures (in the dark) of glow sticks

 

Any more ideas?

Hopefully these three activities will give you and your kids several fun options for exploring camera flash and learning about how light is used to expose an image.  I’d love to hear of any activity extensions you come up with to learn about flash!

Make sure to check back next week for the next post, where I’ll share an activity for the letter G (learn about gray scale). You might also enjoy revisiting last week’s activity where we learned about existing light (with a free scavenger hunt printable).


The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

Sign up for emails to get each week’s blog update delivered to your inbox, which will include future posts in this series.

1 2 3 4