Beautiful Paper Birds (that fly!)

Paper Birds

Beautiful paper bird paper airplanes that fly

Paper airplanes are fun to build and fly and can serve as a physics lesson as well. We’ve long been inspired by the flight of birds and look for ways to replicate it. In this quick project we will build paper birds and make them fly, a simple mix of form and function that kids can appreciate.

Paper Birds

2 versions of paper bird paper airplanes

For this project we will need printed paper, scissors, tape and a paper clip.

paper bird materials

1. Start by cutting the four feathers to form each of the wings.  Fan out and tape at the base so they stay in place.

paper bird wing cut-tape

Cutting the wings for a paper bird paper airplane

2. Make the body / tail feather.  The body and tail piece will be two separate pieces so that we can extend the tail to different lengths to tweak its flight.

paper birds parts

3. Tape the feathers to the body to form the wing, then bend the wings down half way.

paper birds tape wings

attaching the wings to our paper bird paper airplane

4. Slide the tail piece into the body and bend the end upward to form the tail.  Place a paper clip on the bottom towards the front that will hold the two pieces together and add weight.

paper bird profile

Profile view of the assembled paper bird paper airplane

5. Now with a few adjustments you can get your bird flying pretty well.  Try changing the length of the tailpiece and adjusting the location of the paper clip.  If the bird is looping straight up into the air, move the paper clip forward and extend the tail a bit, if the bird is sinking, try the opposite.  Enjoy your beautiful creation and build a flock!

I’ve made a few variations of this design inspired by different birds.  Happy flying!

paper bird swift

Pink paper bird paper airplane

paper bird cardinal

Cardinal bird paper airplane

paper bird front

front view of the paper bird paper airplane


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Silly Putty Replicator

Silly Putty Replicator


Make wax replicas of everyday stuff using silly putty molds and crayons.

Who needs a 3D printer to replicate household items? By making impressions in silly putty and filling the mold with melted crayons you can make replicas of coins, toy soldiers, small toys and more. Of course parental participation / supervision is required for this one.

Step 1

Roll silly putty into a ball and press the object into the putty then remove. Toys without a lot of intricate shapes will work best.


Step 2

Remove the paper from a crayon and slowly melt in a metal or pyrex glass container. Microwaving will not work well since the crayon has very little density. Try slowly heating on a stovetop or in an oven until the crayon is just melted, not too hot!  Remember to be extremely cautious since the wax and container will be very hot!


Step 3

Carefully pour the wax into the mold and let it cool. Slowly remove the wax from the putty. If some of the putty sticks to the wax take a piece of putty and blot the wax, pulling off the wax.


Step 4

There is no step 4! Go play with your newly minted treasures.

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Turn your child’s drawings into an eBook to share



My son loves books, so much that he will create his own books, color them and even bind them with a stapler. As a parent I love to share these treasures with family.  In this project we are combining good ol’ crayon and paper with the new tech of ebooks and tablets, making a kids ebook to share with family.  Your kid will create their own picture book and then you’ll help them convert it into a fantastic eBook to share. The wonderful thing about this project is that the technology enables your kid to share their craft with family in a really rich and enjoyable way.  We’ll use the free iBooks Author program to add photos, text and audio to create a special .

all 4 screensWhat you’ll need

For this project you’ll need paper supplies, a Mac computer and the free iBooks Author program.  Why not use a windows program? As I was making the eBook, I attempted to find a windows eBook creator that was both free and easy to use. Well turns I just couldn’t find any, and while iBooks Author may not be perfect, it is easy enough for a non-technical person to use.

Paper Book

Start by having your kid create their own book about whatever sparks their interests. It could be a collection of pictures or an illustrated story, anything that they will enjoy writing about.  Make sure to create a nice cover drawing for the book too.

Scan the Pages

Take the pages and scan them into the computer. If you don’t have a scanner, a camera or phone will do, just make sure you have good lighting and you can hold the camera steady. Keeping the image sizes the same will give a neater finished product.

Create the eBook with iBooks Author


Start by getting the iBooks Author app from the Mac App Store.  When you open the app you’ll be able to create a new book from a list of templates.  We’ll keep things simple by creating a portrait only book that is suitable for viewing on an iPad (you’ll also be able to export to other formats that work with other tablets or a computer.)  Choose the Photo Book template under the portrait only section and iBooks Author will create a sample book for you to start editing.


Edit the Cover

new book

Let’s start be creating the book cover.  Select “Book Title” in the outline section to the left. You should see a full page photo and a title section.  Click on the image to select it, then simply drag your scanned cover page image over the current image.  The sample image should be replaced by your cover.  If the new image is covering the title section, right-click on the image and select “send backwards” which moves the selection one position back.  You may need to do this several times until the text appears.

Edit the title text by double clicking the sample text and add your own title and author.  Save the file once (filesave) before continuing.

Delete Sample Pages

Lets go ahead and delete out the sample pages and sample chapter by selecting each one and pressing delete.  We need to start by adding a chapter so click on the plus (+) button one the upper left and select any of the templates under Chapter.  We will make our chapter page look identical to the cover so that it appears like a regular page when reading the book, otherwise it only shows when first selecting the book to read. Clear all items on the chapter page by clicking anywhere in the page and typing command-A, delete.  Now go back to the title page by clicking Book Title, type command-A , command-C to select all and copy.  Go back to your chapter page and type command-v to paste.  You should have a page that looks just like the cover.

Add Photo Pages

add page

Now we’ll add the remaining pages.  Click on the chapter page in the outline on the left.  Click the plus (+) icon, select pagesdefault to get a blank page.  Repeat for each page in your book.  For each page, select the page then drag your photo from finder onto the page.  Make sure to resize the images so they are full page.  Select the image and drag the corner handles to the corners of the page.

Add pop over text

add popover

Now that we have our basic book in place lets add some cool features.  A popover it a little button on the page that will popup some text when tapped.  To compensate for the 6 year-old handwriting, I thought that a text ‘translation’ would nice feature. Make sure the page is selected and from the menu select InsertWidgetPop Over.  A button with sample text will appear, click on the text to edit.

Add audio

Another nice touch we can add is audio.  You can record your kid reading each page, or in the case of a picture book, talking about the drawings.  On a Mac you can easily record sound with quicktime player.  Open quicktime player, select FileNew Audio Recording from the menu and use the red record button to record from the built-in microphone.  Save the sound file before going back to iBooks Author.

From the menu select InsertWidgetMedia.  From the popup widget menu you can edit the caption text.  Now, locate the sound file that you recorded and drag it into the widget from finder.  Reposition the widgets on the page so that they aren’t covering anything important.

Export and Share

export to ibooks

Once you are done adding all of your pages, creating the iBook file is simple.  From the menu, select FileExport.  If you are sharing this book with an iPad user, select iBooks from, any other tablet or computer select PDF.

Share your kid’s new creation by emailing the book to loved ones.  Your family will adore the drawings and hearing their budding author narrate.

Here’s the eBook the I made with my son.

Bugs – iBooks version  Bugs – PDF version 

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Floating Art Show


Celebrate your kid’s art from a new perspective

If your household is anything like mine you have your kids art hanging on the walls all over your house. Here’s an interactive way for you and your kids to enjoy their art in a new way. Pick a few of your favorite works of art and create a floating art show with helium balloons. Not only will you enjoy creating this project  but you also get to enjoy and celebrate their special works of art.


What you’ll need: 1 helium tank (such as the balloon time kit), some balloons, fun tak, thread or ribbon and a few examples of your kids’s best works of art.


Balloon time helium tank


For each piece of art, inflate a balloon and tape the ribbon or thread to the upper corners of the piece, then tether the bottom with a thread and anchor it to the floor with some fun tak.  Now adjust the height of the displayed piece of art to meet the child’s eye level.

Chain a few pieces together to make a wall of art.  You can tape a ribbon or thread between adjacent pieces to keep them from rotating. Now keep going until you run out of helium, balloons or art!

Try a 360 degree spinner

Hanging 3 pieces of art together in a triangle gives a 360 degree walk around view

Take 3 smaller pieces of art and tape them together in a triangle configuration.  Then use several balloons to float the display from the center, allowing the pictures to spin freely.  I used a latex balloon in the center of the triangle to help it to keep it’s shape.

Not only will your kids love constructing the art show with all those balloons, but it also lets the kids and adults enjoy their art in a new way!

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Make your own cartoon

IMG_3666 copy

As a kid, I always wanted to make my own cartoons. Flip books were the only option for a kid with my resources and while the effect was neat, the process was painful. Create a series of still sketches and flip through them to play back the video.
The devices and apps that we have today are powerful enough to assemble photos into video essentially recreating a digital flip book.

These days we can easily make stop motion video using an app. Taking a sequence of snapshots is simple and easy. Instead of worrying about the mechanics of putting together a cartoon, we get to concentrate on the fun, creative process of storytelling. You can make your cartoon using almost any media: paper cutouts, play doh characters, figurines (legos, action figures), posable dolls or even people.

The Process.

Story Board Install App Setup Shoot Audio

 Story Board

Before filming you’ll need a plan, and in the world of film this is the storyboard. Your storyboard is simply a map of the film. Sketching the film out first gives your project definition and keeps you on track and is great tool for kids to work out the mechanics of their creative aspirations. Keep it simple, ask your kids to come up with a hero, an antagonist, a challenge and a resolution. This doesn’t need to be lengthy, keeping it short allows kids to stay motivated on the project.
In our project we created an Angry Birds short using a printed backdrop and homemade Play Doh Angry Bird characters. The plot was particularly easy since the birds always need to work towards defeating the pigs. We drew up a few scenes where the birds each try to knock down the pig, but only succeed when they work together.
See the rough storyboard:


The template used is a printable download found at printable Printable Storyboard Template.


Get the App

For this project we will use the iOS app Stop Motion Studio. There are plenty of other options an for Android as well. Stop Motion Studio is well designed, easy to use and available for free (with payed upgrade options). Download the app here.



Whether your shooting a diorama, paper cutouts, claymation, or figurines the most important thing to prepare for is a stationary scene and a stationary camera. This will insure your video is looks fluid and will make filming much easier. Fix your scenery to the floor or a table and find a place to fix the camera. I used a Joby gorillapod tripod wrapped around a small chair.

Using a small flexible tripod to secure the shots.

Using a small flexible tripod to secure the shots.


Start up the app and start snapping photos. In Stop Motion Pro you’ll need to start a new project be tapping the plus icon. You can start adding snapshots right away to film your cartoon. Make small changes from shot to shot to give a fluid video, less so if you have impatient artists ;). Snapshots appear as thumbnails in a timeline on the bottom of the screen. They can be rearranged, deleted or inserted out of sequence in case you need to make corrections. Repeating frames or a series of frames in an easy way to add to the video’s length without snapping every frame. Your video can be previewed at any time and can also be ‘scrubbed’ by dragging you finger forward or backward over the timeline.

screenshot of Stop Motion app taking a photo.

screenshot of Stop Motion app taking a photo.


Once the scene filming is complete you can add music or record dialog for you cartoon. Any music you have in your library can be added, you can add several tracks which is typical if you want background music and dialog. All tracks appear in the timeline and can be edit separately.


When you’re all done you can export your video to youtube or save it on your phone. Share your masterpiece here in the forum for this project or just stop by to talk about your cartoon project.

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3D printing without the 3D printer

compare-birds copy


There’s so much buzz around 3d printing and with good reason. 3d printing opens up a new world of possibilities the way that standard home printers did for desktop publishing. Just as we marveled long ago at creating our own newsletters, labels and posters, now we marvel at the possibilities of printing our own gadgets, toys, tools and more. As if magic, 3D objects can teleport themselves from our desktops to our desk top.

Not all of us have access to one of these magic devices but that won’t stop us from creating a little teleportation magic of our own. In this project we’ll use software, an ordinary printer and some poster board to transform a 3D model into a real world model. Your child can choose a 3D model on the computer seeing a 360 degree view, print and cut out the plans, then watch it come to life as they assemble the pieces. Finally, they can paint and embellish the finished piece to really make it their own creation. They’ll have a blast putting together this project and have a treasure to keep and display at the end.

The Process

Install software Choose a model Print the plans Cut the pieces Assemble


Step 1 – Install the Software


Lets start by installing the software we will be using. 123DMake is a free program for Windows or Mac that can take a 3D computer model and print out plans for piecing together a model of that object. The plans can be printed on paper to be cut out manually, printed directly to a CirCut cutting machine or sent to a service with will laser cut the shapes a mail them to you for assembly. We’re going to print the plans on paper and cut them out of poster board since this is the most interactive choice and doesn’t require anything special. You may also choose to cut your shapes out of cardboard or other thick material so long as you are able to cut through the material.

Find something to build

Time for some 3D shopping. 123D Make has a searchable library of user submitted 3D models that can be used for free. Let your child select their favorite model and lets start printing!

Print out the plans


Once you select your model it will open up in the 123D Make application. You can look at the model from all side by clicking and dragging the model around. Now it’s time to print out the plans. Go to file->print and a window will open with some options. There are a number of different construction methods for putting together the model but here we are going to use the simpler stacked layers method.
Now for the tricky part. In order for model to be sized properly you have to tell 123D Make about the thickness for the material we are using. You can use corrugated cardboard, poster board or just about anything that has some thickness and can be cut easily. Measure the material and enter the number in the xxx field. Press print and get ready to cut!
eps warning…



cut out the shapes

Now that we have out printed plans cut out each piece. Trace each shape on your cardboard and cut the shapes out of the material. Each printed shape should have a number so be sure to write the number on the cardboard pieces.




Glue it together

Time to watch your object come to life! Stack the pieces in numbered order, gluing them together with elmer’s glue.

bird_built Here’s the almost finished bird… he’s just lacking the top feathers.

Paint and decorate

For the final touches break out the paint brushes and give your model some character.  Cardboard or poster board may not be the easiest material to paint but with a little effort and patients you’ll have a great looking final product!



There are other ways to use the 123Dmake app.  In addition to the stacked layers construction method, there’s also interlocking slices (much like those 3d tab-in-slot models you can buy at the toy store) and the complex Folded Slices approach.

folded interlocking

There’s also the option to send the plans to a company that will cut out the sheets from your material of choice.  Then you’d simply need to assemble them.  While this gives great results, it’s expensive and is sort of contrary to the DIY spirit of these projects.

I hope you have fun building your own model.  In an upcoming project I’ll go over scanning in your own real world object and sending it to 123DMake.

Please share your creation with us!  Head to the forum to discuss this project and upload pics of your own creation.

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