His Favorite Things

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I recently came across a site called Code Name: Mama, where she hosts a monthly craft/blog challenge called “Families, Create!”
There is a monthly topic, and then you (I), along with your family (Max and Jamie), do something creative based on the theme. This is my first time participating in this project, and I look forward to playing again in the future!

The topic for March is an easy one for us; Animals. Max's favorite things in his life are currently (in no particular order) Letters, the zoo, and my camera. Rounding out the top five? Cheerios and Journey (Yes, as in Steve Perry!) Here's just a portion of his animal collection:
So around here, we're big on animals. Big or small, furry or slimy, exotic or domestic.

Max is only peripherally interested in crafts; it can take an hour to get him to leave his mark on a greeting card for Nana or Bubba. Like most almost three-year olds, he has the attention span of a gnat, so keeping him interested would be the biggest challenge, even if the project is focusing on one of his favorite things.

My father-in-law made Max a set of flashcards for Christmas, featuring photos of animals he'd taken on safari in Tunisia last year; with a photo on the front and the animal's name on the back. Max literally loved those flashcards to pieces; I find peeled bits of photos in the car, under his bed, tucked in pockets of pants.

While trying to come up with a fantastic/perfect/awe-inspiring craft idea, we were presented with an unseasonably gorgeous day. We grabbed our Zoo season pass and headed out… I brought my camera (with the Big Lens, my Nikon 70-200, for those who care about such things) and hoped inspiration would strike at some point. If nothing else, I could take cool pictures of the animals!

It wasn't long after our arrival at the zoo that I got my idea. It was only about the third exhibit we stopped at, when Max said “Mommy! Take pictures of the monkey! Cheeeeese!” and I had an idea…

The first part of this project is easy; a family day at the zoo!
We had a great time, checking out the animals and even splurged on a train ride for the three of us. Throughout the day, Max suggested photos for me to take, of his favorite animals, and then I took my usual mom-shots to fill in.

After we got home, I went through and edited the photos down to about 20, with Max helping me choose. When half a dozen meerkat photos look the same to a grown-up, it totally matters to an almost-3-year old which one is “best”
We ordered prints of the chosen photos, and that brings us to the next step… The Craft

Step 1: The stuff you need. I've got a 11 printed 4×6 photos from the zoo, 12 pieces of 5.5×8.5 cardstock, adhesive, markers (Not pictured, but feel free to use your imagination. They're Crayola Washables), and a variety of letter stickers (I'm a scrapbooker, so I have about a zillion of them to choose from, but when narrowing down which ones to offer Max, I only chose upper-case letters, since that will allow him to help more with choosing stickers.)

Step 2: Decorate the cardstock. I just gave him the markers and let him go to town. (Confession: It actually took several sessions with the markers, since he only draws for a few minutes at a time before moving onto something else…)


Step 3: Attach photos. Using my handy dandy scrapbooking adhesive, I attached all of the photos to their pages. We laid all of the illustrated pages out on the table and Max “assigned” each photo to a page. (Skipping ahead to step 5, I recommend a dry adhesive (tape) instead of wet (glue stick) if you plan to heat laminate the pages. If you're using adhesive contact paper like I did, the type of adhesive isn't as much of an issue)

Step 4: Add the names of animals I let Max help me by asking him to tell me each name, and occasionally he can tell me what letter is starts with. Then I put him in charge of hunting down the needed letter, so he had his choice of colors/fonts. He also helped stick the letters down, as long as I showed him where to put them.


Step 5: Laminate the finished pages. I used clear contact/laminating paper, and then trimmed them down. You could also take them to a Kinko's/Staples type place, but in my experience (worked @ Kinko's in high school), the thicker pages (cardstock + photos + stickers) can really bubble badly if the laminator isn't set to a high enough temperature. IMHO, it's safer to use the sticky paper route instead.

Step 6: Bind it! Almost any office supply/copy shop will be able to do this for just a couple of dollars. I like the plastic comb bind because it lays flat.

Step 7: “Read” and enjoy! It kept him entertained for the entire drive home this afternoon (45 minutes) AND he wanted to bring it in the house with him, so he could keep looking. A smashing success, if you ask me!
Oh, and I forgot to take a picture of it, but the last page is a picture of him from that day at the zoo, and it has his name and says “Max: The silliest monkey in the zoo” Finding himself in the book with his animals cracked him right up!


March’s Families, Create! challenge was filled with awesome animal-themed posts. From Mo Willems to monkey finger puppets, our writers and crafters kept busy getting creative with the little animals in their lives.

Visit Code Name: Mama and Living Peacefully with Children to find out how you can participate in the next Families, Create! Carnival. Our April theme is “Fantasy” – childhood is a fascinating time, filled with magic around every corner. What can your family imagine and create?

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17 Comments

  1. This is a great idea. My kids love books and I love to take photos. Hopefully, I will find the energy to create something similar. Thank you.

  2. Smashing success, indeed!! I love it, from the pictures, to the book, to the experience of creating as a family!! Woohoo!!! :>

  3. Nifty idea. Not only did you involve him in the project, but the final package gave him something to keep his interest. Win Win.

  4. Lizz! This is *amazing!* I participate in Families, Create too and I adore your project! I love that you're sharing his passion and yours and, of course, the togetherness of it all warms my heart to pieces! 🙂

  5. Wow! Love this! And I love the look of concentration on your husband's face – cutting straight lines is serious business!

    *Visiting from TRDC*

  6. This is amazing! Your book is so pretty!I haven't made a book with Kieran in awhile – we did a couple last year that were smashing successes, we need to try again. TY for the inspiration!

  7. That is sooooo cute! We've been planning a zoo trip for my almost-two year old, and while he doesn't know what letters animal names start with, I'm sure he'd love his own zoo animal book starring him! Thanks for sharing your great idea 🙂

  8. What a fabulous idea! We will definitely have to recreate it when we hit the zoo this month.

  9. What a fabulous idea! We will definitely have to recreate it when we hit the zoo this month.

  10. What a fabulous idea! We will definitely have to recreate it when we hit the zoo this month.

  11. What a great idea! This would be a fun project with my preschooler, we can make a letters learning book.

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