Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Animation for Kids: Gifts for Future Movie Makers

Recently we've been preparing for an Animation and Video Games family event so we've been looking at stop motion animation and similar products that kids can use with phones or tablets. Animation in movies and computer games is popular and stop motion style filming is still used in many movies that want a different feel to what can be achieved with purely digital effects.

I've found that both at home and at school Stop Motion is a great way to get modern kids to slow down and pay attention to detail. You have to put in a lot of effort to get a short movie just how you want it, sometimes kids have to throw away some work when they realise their hand is in the shot or they have their device in the wrong place.

Stop Motion also gets kids creating in physical space rather than just spending time with their devices.

Zing StikBot Studio Pro

The StikBot range features cool poseable humanoid figures that have suckers for hands and feet. This makes it easy to get them to stay in a range of expressive positions.

The StickBot Studio Pro kit comes with a cardboard green screen stage and a stand for keeping a phone steady and in the same positions.

The StickBot app is easy to use and supports green screen effects which is pretty neat. The cardboard stage won't last forever but the affordable price reflects this.

We've found StikBots really easy to get started with and the lack of character branding means that kids have to draw on their own imagination to come up with storylines.

Bloxels: Build Your Own Video Game

Bloxels is a product that we've been following from the beginning, we backed the Kickstarter and it's now under the Mattel brand. It's a physical board with coloured pixels that can be used to design characters and layouts for video games that kids can create themselves on a tablet. 

Bloxels allows kids to create animations for characters so that they can walk and jump. They do this by moving blocks on the physical board to new positions (there are options in the app for simply directional translations so you don't need to move every pixel!)

Pixel characters are brought into the game via the camera using computer vision technology to read the pixels. 

Bloxels focusses on the kind of animation that is used in video games and is a great introduction to design thinking for kids. A good choice for kids who are more interested in computer games.

Minecraft Stop-Motion Animation Studio

The Minecraft Stop-Motion Animation Studio includes a plastic stage, backgrounds, a phone stand and lots of cool Minecraft figures and accessories.

My kids have this set and it's great for encouraging Minecraft obsessed kids away from the game for a while.

There's a free app that goes along with the set and that's easy for kids to use. You can buy additional Minecraft mini-figures to increase the scope of the storytelling.

GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine

GoldieBlox is a range of story-based construction toys that aim to encourage more girls into engineering.

The GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine set gets kids to construct a spinning Zoetrope - the first kind of movie animation. There's also a GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine app that goes with set and allows kids to create animated movies using photos stamps and drawing tools.

We love that this set introduces kids to the history of animation as well as modern techniques. There's absolutely no reason not to buy this for boys as well as girls.

K'NEX Mighty Makers Director's Cut Building Set

The K'NEX Mighty Makers Director's Cut Building Set is another set that's targetted at girls but which many boys would enjoy too.

Kids can build movie-themed models and then role play making movies with the accessories.

They can also make a stand for a phone and record movies featuring the included characters and props.

There isn't a specific app for this set but kids can either just record a video or use a stop motion app with the set.

LEGO Books and App

LEGO is fantastic for stop motion animation so another alternative is to chose a themed LEGO set that your child will appreciate. 

There's a free LEGO Movie Maker stop motion app for iOS which my kids have enjoyed using. The latest version allows you to take a photo by snapping your fingers. Neat!

There are also books that will teach kids the finer points of LEGO stop motion animation. 

Clapper Board

And finally, why not add a clapper board to get them really into character!

If you choose a dry erase board then kids can actually make use of the clapper board to record details of their current movies.

And of course a clapper board is lots of fun. Store it in a prominent place and it will act as a visual prompt to encourage them to get their movie making kit out.

Who knows, maybe you have a future YouTube star in the house!

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