PICTURE THIS: a family outing that's great for all ages, affordable, and (shh!) educational too. Sound too good to be true? Not if you've got a digital camera and a sharp eye for letter shapes, as my family recently discovered they have. My 10-year-old, Ava, and 5-year-old, Harry, loved going on an I Spy adventure; their dad and I loved how creative and easy this excursion turned out to be. Read on for our eight tips on staging your own successful letter quest as well as for craft ideas to help you showcase your alphabet finds.
1. CAPTURE COLOR
We kept our eyes peeled for splashes of color and were not disappointed. Here's Ava in front of a banana-yellow garage door, her camera at the ready. When we stepped back and tilted our heads, we spotted a perfect upside-down "L" in the angle of the door frame.
2. MAKE A CHECKLIST
A must-have! We made a list of the letters we needed before getting started. Without it, we surely would have forgotten a few p's and q's. Plus, when we spotted different versions of a letter, we could record them on our list.
3. PURSUE DIFFERENT AVENUES
To test if this fun hunt could take place anywhere, we visited a mix of spots around town. For example, after pounding the pavement on Main Street, we drifted over to a leafy park to see what else we might find. We spied several letter shapes in the playground equipment, then used the slides and monkey bars as intended — to give our littlest letter sleuth a break.
4. LOOK UP
After shooting at eye level for a while, we decided to tilt backward and shoot up. We were amazed to discover so many letters suspended above our heads: in telephone lines, electrical wires, architectural details, and among the foliage. For example, lying on his back in the park, Harry got a shot of a "Y" in the crook of a tree branch.
5. LOOK DOWN
Here's a tip that lends credence to the phrase, "The world is at your feet!" We were surprised to find so many clearly formed letters in the pavement's cracks and gaps. Looking at the ground, Harry found a little "R" festooned with tiny leaves, while Ava spied the elusive "Q" in an iron chain link.
6. CHECK THE ALLEYS
They have it all! We could have spent hours examining the angular fire escapes and pocked brick walls, never mind the wire tubing and climbing vines. Here's Ava shooting an unexpected alley find. Do you see the "O" in the truck's chrome fixture? We saw lots of letters in bike racks, sidewalk cracks, and emblems too.
7. BE FLEXIBLE
While our 10-year-old was interested in finding all the letters she could, our 5-year-old mostly tried to find himself — or his initials anyway — on the hunt. Harry was thrilled to see so many sideways H's in the brick wall above and the one in the window pane shown below.
8. GET SOME PERSPECTIVE
Sometimes it's all about the approach. Here we were peering at a staircase, searching for a letter but having no luck. When we took a few steps back and scanned the entire shape, however, this lower-case "j" — with a globe lantern for its dot — leaped out at us!
When you get home, turn your photos into mementos with an eye-catching Photo Alphabet Book.
Or create Frame Names: Spell your name or your initials using colorful letter photos, then trim and mat the shots to fit a store-bought frame.