RECOGNIZE PEOPLE AND PLACES WITH BOX PUZZLE PLAY

What’s on your summer calendar? Fourth of July celebrations, picnics at the park or a family reunion far from home? For your preschoolers, the friendly faces at these summertime gatherings of cousins, aunts, uncles and friends might seem puzzling at first. Who are all these people?

Here’s a playful way to prepare your child (and maybe even you!) for these special events before you go. Make fun and easy recycled cereal box puzzles featuring photos of the faces they will be seeing and places they’ll be visiting in coming weeks. Instead of asking, “Who’s that?” as Uncle Pete scoops ice cream at the reunion dessert bar, you might hear: “Hey, mommy — he’s the guy in my puzzle!”

Before you begin, scroll through your photo library and look for a group photo of people you’ll be seeing, and photos of homes or landmarks of places on your itinerary. You’ll be enlarging the images and cutting them into rectangular puzzle pieces to adapt to the size of the boxes.

Here’s the stuff you’ll need for one puzzle set of two images (one on the front and one on the back of the boxes):
–9 small, empty rectangular single-portion cereal boxes
–2 photocopied photographs of extended family members, and/or a place where you will be traveling (about 8-inches by 12-inches)
–paint, or wide colored tape
–scissors
–household glue or spray craft glue
–Empty grapefruit or orange net bag for storage (optional)
Here’s the fun:
1. Lay one photo or piece of art face down on a table. Line the boxes side by side on the backside of the photocopy in three vertical rows. Draw around each box with a pencil, and then cut out the pieces.
2. Cover the printing on the sides of the food boxes with paint or colored packing tape, then glue the paper photo pieces on the front of each box.
3. Turn the boxes over, and add another photo following the same instructions.
4. To play, mix up the boxes and start puzzling them on one side, then the other. Say the names of the people or places as you go. Tell your child how they are related, and share a story or two about individual people.
When done, I like to keep these puzzle pieces in empty net bags. If you weave a string through the tops, you can hang them on a hook for easy storage between play.
Extra idea: For a mini puzzle, use a set of same-size boxes in smaller sizes, such as single-portion raisin boxes. Adjust the dimensions of the enlarged photos to fit accordingly.

“PICTURE YOURSELF” GIFT WRAP

It’s fun and easy to make this inexpensive personalized wrap using photos, markers and a copy machine or printer.

Start by sorting through photos stuffed away in albums and drawers, or browse through digital photos on your phone and computer. Choose your favorites, and then pick one of the following ideas to show off smiles, smirks and grins.

Andy Warhol-like wrap:

Inspired by Warhol’s technique of painting repeats of the same image of celebrities and objects such as the Campbell’s soup can, make a similar artistic collage from one of your photos. (For an example of Warhol’s painting, go online to www.wikipedia.org/wiki/andy_warhol and under “Contents,” click on “Paintings.”)

Go to a photocopy store and make lots of black-and-white copies of one of your photos. Cut them out and trim off any excess white paper so that the prints are all the same size. Glue them together in rows on an 11-inch by 17-inch sheet. Photocopy the large sheet.

With markers, fill in some of the light spaces with bright colors to enhance the black-and-white images on the sheet. Set aside. Wrap a gift with plain paper from a recycled paper grocery bag. Trim the photo sheet to size, and glue it on the front or top. Add a ribbon or bow, if you wish.

Note: Instead of using a photocopy machine, create a black-and-white photo collage of repeated photo images with a computer and printer, if you have them available. Use the preloaded photo software that came with your computer and printer, or one that is recommended.

Other quick photo gift wraps:

–For a small gift box, simply make one photocopy of a photo of the person receiving the gift. Glue the black-and-white copy to the center of the wrapped package and color it in with markers. Add a greeting and your signature.

–Choose a photo to provide a hint for what’s in the package and glue it on top. For example, if the gift is mittens, a wool scarf or hat, use a photo of your favorite sledding hill. For a box of Legos or building blocks, use a photo of a city skyline. For a cookbook, pick a photo of the family at a picnic or sitting around the dinner table.