Activity Days: Identikat

Editorial Note: I have been a fan of Helen Dineen’s work on her website. I especially enjoy her Activity Days series. It’s a series of posts where she explores an inspiring iPad app that she has played with her juniors and plans a day filled with activities inspired from the app. I was excited when she agreed to plan a brand new activity day post just for us. And, I’m proud to present you her take on IdentiKat.

Crafting our own Kats

Origin of the Activity Days Series

I was delighted when Eric asked me to guest on Geeks with Juniors with an Activity Day post. I started this series last summer on my own blog, CAppTivated Kids with my children Mr. Tall who is now 5, and Little Miss Chatterbox, aged 3. The long summer holidays seemed to stretch out before us and I wanted to make sure we didn’t rely on TV and computer games too much.

So, inspired by other bloggers like Zoe Toft, I came up with an idea. Why not start the day with a favourite app, then turn off the iPad and do other games, art and crafts, cooking, trips out and so on, all inspired by the app? That way, we would have a great mix of technology and traditional activities, all adding up to a really balanced and fun day. The first time was such a success they asked me for more, and you can find details of our previous posts.

Little Miss Chatterbox and Mr. Tall playing Identikat

How IdentiKat Inspires Us

For this post, we picked out a new favourite app, IdentiKat. This is a brilliant puzzle app which both Mr. Tall and Little Miss Chatterbox took to instantly. The concept is very simple, but it is very well executed. You can read Camila’s excellent and very thorough review. I completely agree with her summary, so I will only mention two reasons why we love this app in particular.

The first is the unique style - all the puzzle pieces are items you would find in your sewing or craft basket such as bows, buttons, braids, and tassels. It looks beautiful and really stands out in the crowded puzzle game market.

Secondly, I love how it helps my children follow instructions and test their memory. When each puzzle falls apart, it is tricky to reassemble, but press on the button at the top right and the pieces will temporarily shift back together. So you can take a quick look and remember a few steps, piecing it together bit by bit. I can hear the gears in my children’s brains working as they play!

Decorating cookies with food coloring pens

The Activities

Inspired by the app, we thought we would look at cats for the day. It wasn’t the best of weather so we stuck to indoor activities. Little Miss Chatterbox put on her cat costume, and Mr Tall dressed as Harry Potter.

First up, we checked out IdentiKat’s own printables and made our own paper IdentiKats, raiding our craft box to add our own bits and bobs too, like glittery whiskers and a ribbon collar. We also made stand up cats and coloured them marmalade orange. Then we found a selection of picture books about cats on our shelves and settled down for a good read.

No rainy activity day is complete without a bit of baking, and so we made cat biscuits and decorated them with food colouring pens. Finally, we found out about big cats like lions, cheetahs and leopards. We found some great videos from BBC children’s show Little Big Cat - watch this one for a flavour!

Thanks to Eric for letting me share our activity days on Geeks with Juniors!

My juniors had a lot of fun making their own biscuits.

Biscuit Ingredients

Butter Cut-Out Biscuits courtesy of Nigella Lawson’s cookbook: How to be a Domestic Goddess.

175g unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
400g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Cream the butter and sugar together, then beat in the eggs and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in another bowl, then add it to the wet ingredients. Divide in two, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for an hour. Sprinkle flour on a surface and roll out the dough to thickness of 0.5cm. Cut into desired shapes. Bake on a baking sheet for 8-12 mins at 180oC/Gas 4. Makes 50-60 depending on size.

We decorated them with food colouring pens but you could also get more creative using icing and chocolate buttons, sweeties, strawberry laces for whiskers etc.

Here's the stand-up paper cats that we made from Crayola's instructions.

Accompanying Materials

  • Find your themed costumes from Amazon.
  • Get the IdentiKat printables from their website. Prepare scissors, glue sticks and craft items (coloured paper pieces, glitter pens, buttons, ribbons, stickers, pens etc) to decorate them. It would be helpful to have A3/A4 coloured paper to use as the background.
  • Get the stand-up paper cats from Crayola website; then use scissors, glue sticks and crayons to assemble them.
  • Get the picture books from your own bookshelves or your local library. It’s a good idea to ask the librarian in advance to reserve books on a certain theme.
  • Find some documentaries on cats. The BBC Earth Channel on YouTube has a good collection of Little Big Cat series. When finding themed videos on YouTube, it can be useful to make a playlist in advance to avoid any unwanted surprises!

Note: This has been a guest post by Helen Dineen, a dear friend of ours. Helen is a stay-at-home mum of two, Mr Tall aged 5 and Little Miss Chatterbox aged 3. Originally from Scotland, she now lives on the infinitely warmer south coast of England. When she isn’t blogging about apps at CAppTivated Kids, she can be found on Twitter chatting about apps and picture books. She is also a writer of picture books, as yet unpublished but hoping to see her stories in print one day.