Custom Penpal Art Cards

Yeah, this post totally isn’t a normal Wednesday “From the Heart” post, but since I intended to have it post yesterday and didn’t get it finished, I decided to just do it today!  Enjoy!
A few years back, I came across an Etsy shop that looked neat.  What has happened since then is nothing short of a love affair with cards.  I’ve always been fond of custom cards, and I enjoy scrapbooking and styling my own cards occasionally.  But printed cards have never been within my realm of expertise.  Enter Jessica Bates, from Jack and Ella Paper Press.  
Over the past several years, she has designed custom Christmas cards for our family, has created an entire custom line of “thank you” stationery for my travel clients to meet a variety of needs, and now this- all to my design specs.  She’s talented, sure… a mind reader?  Most definitely!!!  I can send her my ideas and somehow it’s like we’re on the same brain wave length.  It always turns out perfect.
other cards
This project was no different.  I wanted Becca to be able to start writing to friends and family – via mail.  Granted, she could have done so on construction paper, but I thought Jessica would be perfect for this project, and she was!  (We’re already discussing modifications for additional cards!)
So I wanted a big circle on the front.  Becca normally creates her art on a blank paper.  I wanted to see how many different places she could go with a circle.  (We’re contemplating triangles and squares coming soon!)  I also knew that to begin, I’d be writing.  But soon, she’ll be writing more on her own and she’d need plenty of space, and some guidelines for her words.  I drew up my design idea and sent it over to Jessica, who of course made it better than I could have imagined!  I love that they are of heavy paper so she can do any type of art she likes- acryllic, glue, watercolor, anything.
penpal art
For her first two cards, Becca chose to paint with acryllics.  She made a sprinkle donut and a butterfly.  She wanted me to help make zigzags on the butterfly wings and make the sun, so I held her hand.  She did the movements herself- she has much more talent for hand movements than she realizes.  We let them dry, and the next day we sat down to write our messages.
We talked about our two penpal families, where they live, how many kids they have, etc.  She decided which design of card needed to go to which family, and told me what to write to them.  We talked about letter structure- how if we want them to write back, we need to not only tell them something, but ask questions to learn more about them and show that we care.  She was very good at coming up with questions!  Then she had me help her draw a heart for her salutation, and she wrote her name on each card.
I showed her the parts of the envelope, and we discussed where the recipient address goes, where our address goes, etc.  She stuck the stamps on, and then added some stickers for a little added Becca flair.  She was super excited to mail her cards and she’s anxiously awaiting her penpal notes back.  She already has ideas for more cards she wants to make and send to more people.  So I don’t think we’re anywhere near the end of Project Penpal!
Have you done penpal projects with your kids?  If you’re interested in having some custom penpal cards like these for your kiddos, be sure to contact Jessica and I know she’ll be glad to hook you up!!  (Fyi, she’s not paying for this “ad” in any way… I’m just writing this simply because I love her work and know you will too!!)
Be sure to let her know you heard about her from Christy, and that you are interested in some penpal cards!

Building Duplo Sentences and Pronoun Matching

duplo sentencesI saw this idea from Allison McDonald, over at No Time For Flash Cards, and I thought it was really cool… but wasn’t sure how to relate it to Becca.  Then one day it hit me.  Sentences.  Becca is always wanting to write.  But due to her very asynchronous development paired with her perfectionism… she is unable to write in a manner that looks correct to her, so she doesn’t enjoy writing.  She gets very frustrated.  But this way… this way the world is opened to her.

I started by taking the Duplos that she already had and writing a bunch of words on them.  We did the activity and then we discovered I had inadvertently forgotten to make any prepositions.  And we needed color words.  And adverbs.  And… and… and… she thought of more words than I had ever dreamed of.  SO, since we needed to go to Toys R Us that afternoon anyway, we got another set of Duplos.  Because truly, we can’t ever get enough of them around here.

As of today, she has 169 words and punctuation marks.  (And that includes three blocks with ” ‘s ” written on them.)  She keeps thinking of more words she wants.  I told her that she’ll need to wait a while because we aren’t going to buy any more Duplos right now.  She wants me to write words on all of her brother’s Duplos too… which I have also held off doing because his go to specific sets.

I love the tenacity with which she approaches building her sentences.  Sometimes she likes to build silly sentences just by putting words together that don’t make sense.  Sometimes I think of sentences and have her hunt through all the blocks to find the words that are in the sentence.  And sometimes she comes up with things on her own that just blow me away.  When she wrote “I love my Mommy,” I couldn’t help but smile.

She has discovered that she can also build sentences vertically, and she loves sorting the words by type (which I made easy for her by matching the colors – all the verbs are yellow, food nouns are light blue, pronouns are red, etc.)  It’s a great way to talk about types of words, appropriate punctuation marks, sentence structure.  She can write stories by building them vertically, or by making them wrap around the table.  It’s also a great way to practice sight words if you have some words your child is struggling to remember.

I love the flexibility that comes with this activity, and that she still has the ability to use her engineering skills to build fun towers as well.  For example, yesterday I told her to forget there were words on the blocks, and just build something cool.  Then after she was done building, we read all the words in order and giggled at the silly nonsensical story she had written!

I also made male and female word sets to reinforce male and female pronouns, and that can be an activity in and of itself sorting them into the correct stack.

pronoun matching

We have a bunch of flat Duplos that I haven’t been sure what to do with… and I think I’m going to use them for math facts.  Whatever I decide to do with them, you can be sure I’ll share.  What ideas do you have for fun ways to use Duplos?

This post was not sponsored in any way by Lego Duplo… we’re just a family who loves Legos and Duplos and has an overabundance!