Portable Sketch Kits.

We have a playdate tomorrow to go to zoo with our Pals, and we thought we would design some portable drawing kits.

We took some empty mint tins from Trader Joe’s and then stuck on these name tags that we found at Target in the dollar bins. I trimmed down pencils by hand with a sharp utility knife and then sharpened them in the Dahle 133, using its Auto Stop feature.

We included some tiny sharpeners that we found at the shop, along with some tiny 💩 erasers and some rainbow erasers.

Finally, we made some tiny little notebooks to fit inside. My kids are super excited, and I am busy eating more of those delicious vanilla mints so that I can get more tins. I want one for myself!

Curated: Henry’s Blue Pencils.

(Click to embiggen.)
(Click to embiggen.)

While Charlotte, my six-year-old, gets most of the attention on Pencil Revolution, Henry (who’s three) likes pencils too. Charlotte rates her pencils by point retention (Bic Xtra Fun, Hello Kitty), interesting finish (Write Notepads & Co. Quickstrike, velvet pencils, Wopex), and sometimes appearance (Ticonderoga Metallic, General’s Cartooning, Staedtler Tri-Plus Jumbo, Faber-Castell Grip pastel). Henry just likes blue pencils.

Each and every pack of pencils I’ve opened that contains a blue pencil quickly loses a blue pencil to Henry’s blue pencil box. Yes, the box is blue. After supper tonight, I asked him if he wanted to go hunt some blue pencils in my closet. We found two that he didn’t already have, and he was delighted enough to run away with them in hand, almost impaling himself along the way.

My kids have developed interesting stationery habits. I think this will be the first in a series.

Also! Check out Black Sal’s recent post about blue pencils.

Fat Pencils, Redux.

Now that The Boy is into pencils, I feel like our house is going through another phase of fat pencils, to match the second phase of diapers and bottles. He only recently started using colored pencils and graphite. I started him on the My First Ticonderoga, the pencil that seemed to give his sister The Pencil Bug in 2012.
Last week, he climbed into chair at the dining room table and picked up his sister’s hand-sharpened Tri-Conderoga and drew on her art (which produced giggles and then screams from the artist, who was drawing some nice houses). Between that severe triangular shape and the fact that fat pencils are round and roll everywhere, I picked up some Musgrave Finger Fitter pencils. Hen, from Rad and Hungry, sent a wonderful assortment of some really nice, fat pencils from her travels to Charlotte about two years ago, and there was this huge, triangular pencil I’d never seen before in the package.* Amazon started carrying them recently. These current ones are made of some kind of different wood, and of course Musgrave packages them in a glorified sandwich bag these days.

Henry got started early this Saturday morning, though Charlotte has cranked out three drawings already, before I am finished my first large stein of coffee. Wait, seven. (What’s in that chocolate milk?)

*(I swear I didn’t steal any, even though I’m a lot bigger than a toddler.)

Learning Cursive.

Kids don’t learn cursive in school any longer. It’s a useless skill, apparently, unlike Algebra, which I use twenty times before I’ve finished my third cup of coffee.* For a year or two, the death of cursive writing is at least a monthly topic I have read about on social media, complete with outrage and negativity.

Someone is doing something about it, though, rather than bellyaching. Cursive Logic is a straight-forward system which teaches cursive logically and quickly. After twelve years of Catholic school, I don’t think I could learn more about cursive, being steeped in some bad habits born of rebellion in college, where I could print in gel to my heart’s content. But having a daughter who turns five this spring and who wants to learn cursive, I can see by reading this workbook that she’ll be proficient in cursive writing quickly enough to astound her teachers, as soon as she’s ready to begin this workbook.

And, of course, I checked out the paper in the workbook, for it’s suitability for pencil. Conclusion: they picked this paper on purpose for its pencil friendliness. I know it.

You can back this system on Kickstarter. With seven days to go, the goal is achievable with some endoftheline help from Comrades like you. If you want to contribute toward kids learning cursive, do contribute to this project. Pledges start at only $25, which is a small price to pay for helping kids’ brains. And we all benefit from smarter kids.

*Of course, I kid. The French press is an art, not something which requires precision, to be duplicated.

(We received an advanced copy of the workbook for the purpose of review/promotion.)

Baby Henry’s First Try with Pencils.

First, I gave him My First Crayola colored pencils. He liked them, but the points kept breaking when he dropped them from the highchair. I let him scribble with the first Blackwing MMX I ever had, a pre-production model (also the first pencil his sister ever held). He really liked that, with the minimal pressure required to make a mark. But when he started trying to chew the fancy ferrule, we gave him his own box of Crayola Write Start pencils, which are pretty danged hard to break. He was in Pencil Heaven, until he needed to go and take care of Nature’s call and to dumb bubbly water all over the dining room.

So now we have broken the Pencil Seal with Mr. Henry, whose pencil box is far from as impressive as his sister’s — though I think it might make a few grown-ups jealous.

Write Start Colored Pencils.

I hope I can be forgiven for some parent-centric posts. My daughter has discovered pencils, and this is exciting! Charlotte has been playing/coloring with crayons since around her first birthday in April 2011. She learned her standard eleven colors that way, and she really enjoys them. She recently graduated to some very very toddler-friendly colored pencils from Crayola.

I know: Crayola does not make the world’s greatest colored pencils, etc. But they do make a lot of coloring/drawing supplies for small hands. Charlotte is completely in love with their hexagonal, fat, strong, attractive colored pencils called Write Start. They are shorter than pencils, falling between crayons and “art” pencils at 5 inches long, and they are covered in graphics that correspond to the color of the pencils (a frog on the green pencil, for instance).  And, rather than a shoddy layer of paint, they have a nice matte finish that reminds me of Forest Choice pencils (in a very good way).

But what is especially nice about this pencils is how difficult they are to break and to wear down. Charlotte has only managed to break one pencil (and it was something that might have also broken a Bic pen or a finger) in two weeks, and we haven’t had to sharpen any of them yet, despite filling up most of a sketchbook with them. The one that she broke sharpened up very nicely with a Kum two-holed wedge. On the down side, the cores are also faint, and they only come in 8 colors. But Charlotte seems to really enjoy them as an introduction to colored pencils and to pencils in general.

Parental bonus: They travel better than crayons. There are only 8 colors to keep track of. They also don’t roll off of the table at restaurants and cafés like crayons do. If you have small children in your life, it’s a good bet that they might enjoy these.

(I found mine locally, but they are available from Amazon also and, I’d bet, lots of other online retailers.)


Charlotte’s First [graphite] Pencil.

My daughter recently turned two years old, and she’s always been interested in pens and pencils and notebooks and crayons. Santa brought her some large-diameter pencils for her first Christmas in 2010. I spared Comrades the Cuteness Overload at the time, waiting for when she was ready to actually use them. She’s been “colohing” with colored pencils for a week or so, and she’s stolen pencils from me to “coloh” in my Field Notes on several occasions.

So today we stepped up to a “Big Girl Pencil” — My First Dixon, as it were, which we picked up today while we were out. She had largely worn the point down by Bedtime.

Now I merely delay the Cuteness Overload, which is immanent. Adorable Small Comrades (bka, “kids”) and pencils together — wow.

The Frugal Gal, on pencils.

The Frugal Gal writes about her kids’ use of pencils, down to the hilt:

I think my kids are on the “Use it up, wear it out” wagon judging from the pile of almost-used-up pencils we found while cleaning out the bin…Most of these are so short, it’s nigh onto impossible to sharpen them. We’ll use them up to the best of our ability, of course, but a lot of them are about done. Can you compost pencils? (I assume pencil shavings are compostable.)

Read the rest of the post here.