A while back, we discussed how easy it was to make your own DIY Activity Book. Today I want to tell you about a DIY Activity Book of puzzles that I made for my dad as a special treat to brighten his day. The theme I chose was ‘This is your life’. My dad likes word searches, so it would be a book of word search puzzles all about him.
1. CHOOSE YOUR THEME
First, choose your theme. A custom made DIY Activity Book can be as big or as small as you want and adapted to suit any person, theme or style. It can include things like colouring pages, puzzles, crafts, posters, bookmarks… anything at all, really. They make great personalised gifts – both for kids and for adults; and it is also something that kids can make as special gifts for the important people in their lives. Initially, I was thinking a book of Bible puzzles for my dad, then decided on a ‘This is your life’ theme. My dad likes word searches, so it would be a book of word search puzzles all about him.
2. LIST KEYWORDS
Next, I made a list of as many relevant keywords about my dad that I could think of and put them under different categories – family; work; life; hobbies; interests; achievements. That took a bit of time, but it was fun. I wanted it to be a book of memories for him, so that as he was doing each word search it would take him back to another time and place that he could visit and remember at his leisure. Each keyword was designed to spark off a specific memory. Then I grouped the keywords into smaller sub-categories of about 15-20 words. Each sub-category would become one word search. For example, under family, I made three separate lists that became three separate word searches. I made sure to include his name in as many of the word searches as possible to give him a buzz finding his own name.
- List 1 (i.e. Word Search 1) – Dad, Mum, and their children. This became the first page of puzzles, so it would be the first thing he would see when he opened the book.
- List 2 – Dad, Mum, and a complete list of their descendants (children, grandchildren, etc) – people who would not be here if it were not for them.
- List 3 – Dad, Mum, a complete list of their descendants (children, grandchildren, etc) – and all their spouses. This became a spiral shaped word search as an extra challenge for him as the final page of the book.
- Names of companies he worked for
- Keywords about the industries he worked in
- Keywords about his main employer
- Names of key individuals – bosses, supervisors
- Keywords about his specific job roles
- List of key locations he used to regularly visit to do his job.
- Family that he grew up in – Dad; his father’s name; his mother’s name; the names of his siblings; and I put their spouses in that one, too. This could be expanded, if you wish, to include all their children and descendants and make several word searches out it, but for this time I kept it simple.
- Birth – place of birth; town of birth; month of birth; name of hospital, doctor or midwives; any other special memory or event associated with their birth (e.g. lightning storm).
- Home that he grew up in – street name; town/city; type of dwelling, special characteristics about their home (e.g. lattice wall, picket fence, kitchen fire, the old copper in the wash house); pets; holidays; any special family memories; where they played as kids; what games they used to play as kids (e.g. they played on the big tree stump in the back garden, pretending they were driving a car; they also used to climb up a big pine tree next to the shed in the back garden with old umbrellas and jump off the roof, pretending to parachute down to the ground).
- Important people in his life – special aunties and uncles; teachers; mentors; church or youth group leaders; cousins; friends; etc.
- School – name of primary school; high school; other places of study; subjects studied; achievements; graduation; awards; etc.
- Life growing up – church; youth group; clubs; hobbies; sports; first job; family’s general mode of transport (especially if unusual), first car; etc.
- Spouse – their name; how they met; who introduced them; where they met; interests they shared; special dates or events (e.g. how and where he proposed); details about their wedding; where they were married; who married them; who their attendants were; what sort of flowers they had; where they had their reception; honeymoon; first home together; other places they lived (e.g. street names, names of towns or cities); special memories of their life together; shared hobbies, holidays, activities, friends; etc.
- Dad’s Garden – I listed all the flowers and trees that I could remember from our family garden growing up, along with a few more for good measure (Dad loved his garden), including the chook pen down the back garden and the old rickety mint pot that used to sit under the tap. :)
- List of Admirable Character Traits – things I have learned from my dad – and this became the second last page in the book.
3. PREPARE YOUR PUZZLES
Then I went to an online free word search maker and started playing. Experiment with the number of words and the different shapes and options they have available, but check each word search to make sure all the words you want are included. If they can’t fit them all in, they may just randomly delete words. Try pressing the ‘back’ button to redo the word search, or you may need to shuffle some words around or put them into a different word search to get them all to fit. The shapes that worked best were mostly squares (25×25) with a few ovals. The number of words in each word search varied from about 15-20. Each clue was to be no more than 15 letters.
For the family word searches, I wanted to use the heart shaped template and that was fine for the immediate family, but when it came to listing the whole family and their descendants, the heart shape had to be abandoned to fit everybody in.
One of the word searches about Dad’s life growing up included the name of a special friend that he went to primary school with, that later became a close family friend, and who has since died and is busy partying in Heaven right about now. Dad still misses him very much. On that word search, that also lists where they went to school together, I found a cute clip art of two boys with their arms slung around each other’s shoulders and included a quote about friends in a separate text box: Good friends are hard to find, harder to leave, and impossible to forget. There will be a few tears to wipe away on that page when he comes to do it.
My dad also had a very specific and fun memory about a favourite aunt, an uncle, and a fruit orchard, that involved him and his cousin having to lay on the running boards of an old Model A Ford with hurricane lamps to light the way ahead, because the headlamps on the car blew out. :) When I was preparing my word lists and saw the car-shaped word search option, I just knew that one had to be included, even though I could only fit 7 words into that particular word search. I found some cool clip art to match and I think that became my favourite page in the whole book (although it was pretty hard to choose).
4. PREPARE YOUR PUZZLE BOOK
Next, I copied and pasted each completed word search into a MS Publisher document (ALT+print screen; then CTRL+V), taking care where my margins would be in relation to the finished book; added the clues (I typed my own so I could use any font and size and arrange them to fit); slipped in a coloured strip top and bottom to give each page a bit of definition and interest; a heading and some relevant clip art on each page, making sure I included Dad’s name at the top of each word search. I ended up with 22 pages including the cover; and this is what my pages looked like, in order, before they were assembled into a book.
COVER: To make the cover, I typed ‘Word Search Puzzles’ in word art as a heading; added the words, ‘An Exclusive Edition of Puzzles Designed For….’ with his name underneath (changed for this post); some clip art; then under his name, ‘God’s Masterpiece; Made in the Image and Likeness of God’; with Bible verses specifically chosen for him from Colossians 3:12 and Psalm 139:16: God loved you and chose you for His own’ and ‘You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had begun’.
5. PRINT AND ASSEMBLE
Finally, I printed each page and assembled it into an activity book, putting it pretty much into life order, added a blank page at the end of the book; hole punched each page using a comb binding machine, then added a spiral comb to make it into a binder. If you would like to make your own DIY Activity Book (it’s easy and sooo much fun), you will find full instructions here. A normal hole punch or file folder will do just as well if you don’t have access to a comb binding machine. Or for your sponsored child, just send the separated sheets. They will love it. Go and have fun. Make it a gift they will treasure. And let me know what you come up with. :)
If you like my work, please tell others; tell me and ‘like’ this page. Your kind comments encourage me and make my day! :)
Come and say Hi to Paper Gifts for Estefany on…
Follow me to collect your FREE BONUS GIFTS. What will they be? Click here to find out. And make sure you collect your additional FREE BONUS GIFTS when you follow me on Facebook (click on ‘Secret Treasure’ in the apps section).