Remember the frisson of creative anticipation you felt, as a kid, when you constructed an indispensable something-or-other for your parents out of shoe boxes, milk carton caps and pipe cleaners?
It turns out that you can re-experience the thrill as an adult, by making birthday cards for the children in your life.
This year, I marked my daughter’s seventh birthday by making an alphabet card in her honour, with one adjective for each letter from A to Z.
It took me about an hour, including ten minutes, while folding laundry, to brainstorm Isla-specific adjectives.
My time was well rewarded as she hunted for the words in alphabetical order, noting in passing, “I guess I am quite giggly,” and exclaimed, upon getting to Z, “This card is like a whole other present!”
As an aspiring children’s author, I felt like I’d achieved my top goal for anything I write — To give joy, and foster connection.
And of course, the tiger mum in me smuggled in a few vocab-stretchers, such as ‘optimistic’ and ‘inquisitive’.
But the best reason to make an alpha-ntastic card is that it prompts one to spend an hour thinking about the qualities that make the recipient so unique—and the greater precision and clarity only reinforces the bond. I’ve always felt that Isla was the missing piece to our family’s jigsaw– the fragment that gives coherence to the entire bewildering jumble. Now I can give you 26 reasons why.
If you’d like to give it a go, here are some tips:
-A4 or US letter sized paper
– A4 or US letter sized card stock
– Glue stick
– Pencil & eraser
– Felt tips and coloured pens (I used Staedtler fineliners & Tombow dual brush pens. My attachment to luxury stationery is a subject for another post)
I mentally ran through a checklist of adjectives the previous day.
Then, I folded the card stock in half, cut out a rectangle of white paper, wrote “Isla is . . .” on it, and glued it to the front.
I calculated that I had roughly 5 c.m. X 5 c.m. for each adjective, using A4 (or 0.8 inches X 2 inches, using US letter paper). With this in mind, I wrote the words on a sheet of A4 paper, scattering them over the page, and experimenting with different types of lettering. (Google, “Ideas for lettering” for a buffet of options.) I wrote the words in pencil first, then traced over in pen and erased the pencil marks underneath.
I opted to write the words on a sheet of white paper, and then glue it into the card so that I wouldn’t waste expensive card stock if I needed a second try. It helps to fold the white paper in half before gluing, and then glue one side first, and then the other, into the folded card stock.
My first attempt at an alpha-ntastic card was certainly flawed — my brush pen lettering is a work in progress, and in retrospect, I wish I’d swapped “cute” for “creative” or “caring”. Next time, I will start brainstorming adjectives a few days in advance, to allow for more mental trial-and-error.
But then again, my shoe-box-milk-carton-cap-pipe-cleaner gizmos weren’t exactly Instagram clickbait either.
Except in the eyes of the beholder. Which is all that mattered.
PS: I was inspired to make this card by my love for alphabet books. Click here to read about my favourites.