Winterfam

The Website of Author M G Knight

Three ways to be like Sir Dave (Kid’s lunchbox science can help save our blue planet!)

This week sir David Attenborough had been in the news again, announcing that since his landmark series, Blue Planet Two highlighted the impact of single-use plastics on the environment, people around the world have begun to take action. But, he went on to say, this is just the beginning. There is still an unfathomable amount of cleaning up to be done, even if we, as consumption-driven societies are starting to reduce the amount of pollution we’re outputting.

So how can we do more?

Each afternoon, somewhere around 3:30 to 4:00 p.m. a lot of us are making matters worse. Take a look at the environment impact of your child’s school lunchbox. It likely contains single-use plastics (let alone the box itself is likely to end up in landfill someday!), and there are easy ways we can all, without much effort, reduce the plastic waste we are putting into the ecosystem.

Stop using single-use sandwich bags

There are several alternatives to putting your child's sandwich in a plastic bag.

a) Switch to biodegradable or reusable sandwich bags. Take a quick look on Amazon. You’ll find many alternatives to those sandwich bags we all use day-after-day. There are many options available which won’t cost the earth. We found four reusable silicone bags for £12.99 –they’ll take a good few uses before they pay for themselves, but you know that you’re stopping a bag from ending up in the bin every day.

b) Use baking parchment. Yep, why not just wrap the sarnies in paper? It’s £0.16 per metre, and you’ll probably need 25 cms or so per day. The paper will rot down and have little or no impact on landfill.

c) Just use the lunchbox itself. It’s a no brainer, this. Those smaller boxes, which are not much bigger than a slice of bread are the obvious choice.

Ditch those cartons of juice

My son has a re-usable metal bottle that we refill each day. Although many small juice cartons are recyclable, they often don’t end up in the right bin. Drinks in plastic containers are even worse. So even though, you’ll probably need to purchase a large plastic bottle of squash to fill the re-usable bottle with, your overall impact will reduce PLUS you’ll be setting an excellent example for your youngster and everyone on the playground! Please don't get me started on those plastic straws too!

Try making homemade snacks with the kids?

It’s so easy to stick a penguin or a club bar into the box, I know. But the plastic wrapper – where will it end up? Making a batch of flapjacks with your youngster at the weekend, once every few weeks (they freeze too!) is an easy way to stop the wrappers getting wrapped where they will harm the environment. If baking isn’t your thing, buy a larger family size pack of snacks and use the sandwich bag technique above to put individual biscuits in a reusable container.

Convinced? Start tomorrow!

Those are just three easy ways to reduce the amount of packaging waste – let’s call it what it is, pollution; your family puts into the world around us. Do some quick calculations.

The average number of kids = 2.4 Number of sandwich bags used per child 2 2.4 x 2 = 4.8 Number of school days per month = 20

That’s over 1,100 plastic bags potentially taken out of the ecosystem by your family alone.

How many children in your son or daughters class that take lunch? Let’s say 20? That’s now over 20,000 bags stopped.

How many classes in the school – you can carry on working it out.

It all adds up to a massive reduction in how we affect the planet. So, do give it a try – we are!

Keep searching!

M G

Small changes here could add up to a big difference

Educational VR experiences on the Oculus GO - come on Mum!

Is a VR headset on your Christmas list? Here's how to convince your parents...

Ok, first off, I know VR kit isn't cheap. But if your budget can stretch to an Oculus GO, for example, the whole family will benefit. VR isn't all about gaming.

Basically a wearable computer, devices like the GO can run many of your favourite apps, like Netflix, web browsers and YouTube. And with the 360 degree VR content available, you can visit places you'd never dream of going without leaving the sofa.

We did this before heading to Cape Town last spring (see our YouTube channel for details) and were able to check out what we'd soon be experiencing in the fleshway in advance. It was great fun and helps you settle in much faster when you arrive for real.

Educational experiences ranging from exploring the ocean depths to stepping foot on Mars are available at affordable prices. Space Time will be of particular interest to my young readers!

And of course, there's the gaming and VR chat experiences that really seal the deal. WinterWill has enjoyed the Fishing and Roller Coaster content in particular - because it's not always about first person shooters!

The next chapter in the saga of the Winter family is entwined heavily with VR tech, that has been taken to the ultimate place - literally, when Enzo returns from hiding with more secrets for Oliver, his family and friends to uncover. Check back soon for more!

And... if you haven't yet found out the truth behind the Science of Santa Claus, head on over to Amazon now. Kindle Unlimited readers can read for FREE!

Keep searching!

 

M G

Oliver with his Enzo upgraded VR headset - where will it take him?

Citizens! It's time for Science...

Get involved and make a difference!

What nature are you already missing?

We’re constantly told that the planet is in great peril. Species are disappearing as though the Earth had already been struck by a giant asteroid. Nature documentaries show us images of beautiful creatures whose habitats have become polluted by man-made materials, which choke and poison the tiniest to the largest of sea life.

Environments are dying and food chains are collapsing.

With this bombardment of doom-laden predictions, it’s easy to throw up your hands and say, I can do nothing about this. Let the politicians and the big corporations and the charities take care of it.

Mankind will be fine, we’re an adaptable species. Hey, we can always go live on Mars, right? But stop and think. Think about the small changes that have happened around you, just during your own lifetime.

Studies have shown that in the UK Spring as measured by certain events such as trees coming into bud and the appearance of insects such as butterflies and moths, for example, is happening days and in some cases, weeks earlier than fifty years ago.

Ask yourself a few simple questions:

• When was the last time you saw a Hedgehog in your garden?

• Have you stopped hearing sparrows tweeting outside your window each morning?

• In the autumn, do you walk to school through frost and fog very often?

For me, living in the south of England the answers are shocking. We’ve never seen a Hedgehog in our garden, during the eighteen years we have lived in our current home. They were a common sight in the 1970s and 1980s when my wife and I were growing up. Our kids have only seen them on holidays or in sanctuaries. This is largely due to the way we fence off our gardens, there is not the access to roam between lawns as there once was and this contributed to the small mammal’s decline.

Sparrows were once incredibly common. When my brother moved from Kent to Devon, one of the first things he noticed was that he could hear that familiar chirruping again each day when he awoke. Something that we had lost from our part of North Kent, without us really noticing.

We all complain that it never snows at Christmas anymore. But equally, in my younger days, during the autumn, we would have more frequent frosts and dense fogs as warm air met cold. Because it appears that we get less of these conjunctions, walks from the bus stop to school through a real pea-souper seem to be an incredibly rare event.

So what can we do?

Let’s not leave the action taking to governments, corporations or charities. As citizens, we can do a lot to affect the impact we have on our environment and the ecology within it. Recycling. We all do it, but do we do it well? Washing out containers, ensuring waste is correctly separated may take a few extra minutes, but we HAVE to make the effort.

Gardens. Being lazy and leaving an area wild can encourage species in, which are a key food source for creatures higher up the food pyramid. A pond, no matter how small, can also encourage a great diversity of animals and help support the ecosystems beyond our back doorsteps.

Get Involved this Weekend!

This weekend, I’m going to take part in a BBC Springwatch backed initiative called GardenWatch. They’re asking us to spend some time, conducting some simple “missions” in our gardens and report our findings. It’s a potentially huge source of untapped data, and you cannot manage what is not measured, people! So get on over to BBC GardenWatch and get outside in the garden this weekend.

It’s a brilliant activity to do as a family and the results will be used to suggest future ways that we can improve the habitats that even the most modest of gardens represent.

If we all pull together, in fifty years time, we might be finding hibernating Hedgehogs in our sheds once again on those cold and foggy mornings that I for one, miss so much!

 

LifeBlox – Goal setting for kids, step by step…

Inspiring each other: The key to unlocking your dream…

How many times have you heard somebody successful sports star refer to a teacher as the one key person that made the biggest “lightbulb” moment of their life happen? I’m a regular viewer of Breakfast News here in the UK and it seems that not a week goes by when an incredible athlete, cyclists, snowboarder or netball player is on the screen giving thanks for that special person who gave them the kickstart of encouragement they needed.

 

I can recall “lightbulb” moments in my life. For example, the time when I realised that I could find an outlet for my passion and talent for writing through radio. It just so happened that the guy who would later become my brother-in-law (RIP Steve-o x) was doing a school project for media studies and had hooked up with a local hospital station. I volunteered along with a close friend and I recall the first time we took part in a broadcast, performing material that we’d written ourselves as a pivotal moment. People enjoyed what we were doing and the presenter at the station whose show we guested on, encouraged us to do more and inspired us by showing us the ropes. Within three years of that happening my friend and I had achieved things that we never thought possible and made new friends and learnt new skills, whilst hopefully entertaining and providing a valued service to some listeners.

 

I can even go back further to my school days and pin-point encouraging words from teachers that gave me the belief to try to progress, even when I made what I consider to be some duff career choices down the road.

 

I never gave up, because a network of people who became important to me, gave me the belief to keep going. Despite, the rejected scripts, demo tapes and competition entries that came to nothing, my friend and I kept going and achieved success.

 

How do you know who?

With your GOAL in mind and the TALENTS you have to help you achieve it, think about those people around you, who can help you make progress and write their names on the empty sides of your IMPORTANT PEOPLE block.

 

If you’re finding it hard, let’s look at some options:

 

Parents and Family

This one should be a given. Your family will be the first people you come to for help. But, don’t be surprised if they find it hard to fit in assisting you alongside the million other things they are likely to have on their plate. So be understanding, don’t turn this positive desire you have to achieve into a problem for your parents. There are numerous alternative folks who will be willing to pitch in and give you a hand. Always let your family know what is going on and who you plan to approach, they may be able to suggest some other parties that will be useful to contact.

 

Teachers

Obvious, but incredibly useful. If your GOAL and TALENT aren’t something you’re currently studying, then don’t be afraid to speak to teachers who have a link to your GOAL. For example, imagine that your GOAL is to become an architect and build the world’s first space elevator. 

 

You want people to be able to get into orbit without the need for spacecraft?!

 

You’re not necessarily going to need practical building skills, so hold on before you go banging on the wrong door. You will need mathematics and physics, plus knowledge of materials. They are the subjects you get some extra study on.

 

Youth leaders

I’m using the term youth leaders to cover several different types of people that will be able to set you on your way. If you are a part of the Scouting family, then speak to a leader about your ambition. You may well find that there is something coming up in your badge earning programme that fits right in with your GOAL and TALENT.

 

This could also be a martial arts tutor, football coach, youth club helper. The reason that the organisations that these individuals are involved exist, is to aid youngsters like you on your journeys. So make use of them!

 

Organisations

There are so many organisations out there that are waiting to help you. Here’s a list of some popular aspirations by topic:

 

1. Science – The Royal Institution – http://ripb.org

2. Sport – Sport England – www.sportengland.org

3. Astronomy – The Royal Astronomical Society - https://ras.ac.uk/

4. Martial Arts – Martial Arts Near You - https://www.martialartsnearyou.co.uk/

5. Astronaut – UK Space Agency - https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/uk-space-agency

6. Pilot – Air Cadets - https://www.raf.mod.uk/aircadets/

7. Game Designer - https://www.gamedesigning.org/become-a-game-designer/

8. Archaeologist – Young Archaeologists Club - https://www.yac-uk.org/

9. Musician - https://royalphilharmonicsociety.org.uk/performers/ym_programme

10. Television or Radio Writer – BBC Writers Room - https://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/

 

The lesson here is, if you have a dream, there will be a group of people out there who will aim to support you in making it a reality.

 

Online Communities

Ok, be careful with this one. Speak to your family first, but from my own experience, finding a group of like-minded people to share your journey to success with can be one of the best tactics you can try. My own example is finding a website whose aim was to find new writing talent. They had online forums where many persons with similar interests and aims would meet to swap ideas and critique each other’s work. It may take a bit of internet research but with careful guidance from adults, you can seek out a group to become a part of.

 

Go get ‘em!

Once you have become part of network of people who all share the same dream, you’ll find that the exchange of ideas and experiences will be a goldmine for you, boosting your path towards the day when you can look back on a fruitful expedition to making real your fantasy and your becoming the person you always wanted to be.

 

Keep searching!

 

MG

Who will help you on your way?

Mars awaits?

Talent Outlets and Time Spenders - walking the walk!

This week, the post is aimed directly at your youngster. No cheating, hand them your phone and let them read it. Only pass it back when done.

 

Finding an outlet for your talent, which should relate to your Gift which links directly to your GOAL is simply you practicing to be the person you always dreamed you’d be.

 

This week, we’ll examine our next two LifeBlox, Talent Outlets and Time Spenders, similar but subtly different AND vital activities.

 

If your Goal is to be the first person on Mars, and right now, you’re ten years old, you may not think that there are many ways that you could exercise your talents. Not easy to practice interplanetary flight is it? But hold on. What about the flight simulation game you saw in the store? Would you be better off spending your pocket money on that than another 10,000 v-bucks?

 

And you’ll need some hardcore math skills to take on navigating your way through Earth’s airspace, let alone that of Mars. You might not be in the top stream for math at school, but you could get there. Put in some extra time spent on Mathletics instead of watching today’s newest gaming vlog, it will put you a step closer to the ladder down to the Martian surface.

 

Two examples. One a talent outlet, the other a time spender.

 

One directly related to your goal, the other a little more general. But both worth your time and effort. Now think about what you want to achieve an apply the same principles.

 

ASK: Is doing this moving me closer to my goal? If the answer is no, then it may belong on the DOWNTIME block or you maybe shouldn't do it at all!

 

And if you only take one thing away from reading this let it be:

 

“Do one thing, no matter how small, each day that counts towards achieving your goal.”

 

It won’t be long before you look back and realize just how much you’ve achieved without noticing.

 

People that achieve their goals successfully are healthily nuts about making them real. It’s all they think about.

 

Planning how to best use the time you have and what activities you’ll do to practice is an important step.

 

OK, hand the phone back and go fill in your LifeBlox and report back below. Any questions? Click the Share with Us page and ask away.

 

Keep searching!

 

M G

The Yin and Yang of Finance

Time to discuss the “root of all evil” with your youngster? Actual that often misquoted extract from the bible is referring to “the love of money” rather than money itself. It’s a fact of life, if you want to achieve the goals you’re setting, at some point finance is probably going to crop up.

 

Recognising this we added two LifeBlox – “Penny Takers” and “Penny Earners” which are, pardon the pun, two sides of the same coin.

 

The Penny Takers block should be used to list down the things that money will need to be spent on in order to reach the GOAL. But can also be the things  your child wants to stop spending on in order to leave them more resources to reach that target. Cancelling your weekly sweet fix might be the way to go

 

Penny Takers could include equipment, clothing or maybe lessons.

 

My daughter, whose goal is to become a musician went straight for a piano. Which will take a little effort to save for and also some time! Which brings us nicely onto our next block: Penny Earners.

 

Use this one to list out all the ingenious ways you can think of together that they can earn some money. Brilliant if you can link the GOALs to the earners – imagine the young lad who wants to be a professional goalkeeper working as a boot boy to pay for his coaching each week.

 

Challenge and question each time they want to spend on something not on the blocks. You can’t stop them spending their hard earned pennies on sweets or the latest Xbox game, but just nudging the eyes back onto the prize will hopefully be something they’ll thank you for.

 

All that said, here’s the Winterfam top 3 tools to help your child develop a head for finance:

 

1. Top Up Cards

 

Pocket money debit cards such as the Go Henry account come with a handy app for both the parent and the child. The child gets a terribly grown up feel from holding their very own, customised contactless debit card and you add funds to a holding account which can be released when you feel they’ve earned it. Parents can also set earning tasks and automatically pay these on a certain day, providing the tasks have been completed. This obviously instils a work ethic and rewards them for good behaviour. Every spend they make is logged in the app and you’re notified when they’ve made a purchase. A great solution if you have Penny Earners listed on your block relating to the main GOAL.

 

2. Multiple piggy banks

 

Ok it’s traditional. Not as swish as having your own debit card, but that won’t be for everybody. If your kids are anything like mine, they will have accrued several piggy banks to hold their coins over the years. I can count four on my youngest son’s window sill right now! If not, use anything: jam jars, coffee tins or my old school favourite the gigantic see through bottle. Label them up. Take the Penny Earners from your block and label each coin receptacle appropriately.

 

3. Create a forecast

 

It’s never too early too learn how to use a spreadsheet. If you have Microsoft Excel, there are a few templates that can be used to calculate how long it will take to save a certain amount simply by specifying your goal and a start date. Just click File, New and type “Savings” into the search box. For the more adventurous or experienced user, create a plan with your Penny Earners and Takers listed on the left and the months in the columns left to right. We’ve created a simple sheet for you to  download that will get you started. Letting them see the light at the end of the saving tunnel will really pay off.

 

Until next week, keep saving and searching!

 

M G

Earners and Takers

We all have talents and need outlets to express them

LifeBlox Blog Part Two – Gifts and 5 tips for creating effective goals

This week we’ll be looking at the second LifeBlok you’ll build together with your young dreamer, but before we get into that, let’s consider for a moment just how HARD goal setting with your child is.

 

Looks easy right? We’re just making a 3d to-do list with this fun activity kit? What could be simpler? This will be your train of thought until you sit down and try it.

 

Your young charge is going to sit there, felt tip pen in hand, colouring away and is most likely to shrug when you say:

 

“So… What’s your goal going to be?”

 

Putting yourself back in their shoes, at say, 10 years old, did you have any idea of:

• What career you wanted to follow?

• Sporting achievements you could attain?

• Qualifications you needed to pass?

 

Of course, you didn’t and perhaps nobody ever even asked you? As we’ve said before, this is an important responsibility and possibly the best bit of parenting you’ll ever do!

 

Here’s the Winterfam top 5 tips to getting this key activity right:

 

1. Tackle LifeBlox 1 & 2 simultaneously

 

LifeBlox number two relates to what your child excels at, their talents or GIFTS. When you’re setting goals, you have more of a chance of success if what they want to achieve relates to or utilises the skills and expertise, they’re good at. Most likely, these will be things that your child enjoys the most. See below for more on LifeBlok 2.

 

2. Line up with your child’s motivation

 

What motivates your youngster? I found that my boys are money driven. Particularly as they got older and made the connection between that little wallet, they got for their 6th birthday and the potential additional contents of their toy boxes. I’m not necessarily going to let all their goals be oriented around the acquisition of funds but planning and budgeting can be brought in when you hit the Penny Takers and Penny Earners blocks later and are both useful skills.

 

My daughter was very much motivated by what her friends were doing. When we dug a little deeper into her goal of learning to play the piano, we found that three of her pals were doing the same thing. So, we added those friends to the Important People block to remind her that they can learn together and support each other.

 

Be candid and ask why they’re going for a particular goal. It can be a revealing conversation.

 

Using LifeBlox to steer your child in a certain direction if you get the motivational link right. If your aim as a parent is to use the tool to MAKE your child choose a certain subject at school, question your own motivations before you think about theirs.

 

Are you forcing someone to do something? Are they just humouring you with false interest?

 

3. Anchor the goal to a real-life event (rather than a dream!)

 

Some children will be on-board with you from the outset. Maybe they truly know that they want to be a Formula One racing driver at the age of eleven. Offering an incentive that’s anchored in a real-life event can be a good tactic. An hour at the local Karting track as an incentive is the only way you and they will find out if they have a natural talent as a racer.

 

School options are another good real-life anchor. Discussing which subjects are going to help them best achieve their goal is vital. Racing drivers for example, need mental discipline, good numeracy and business acumen to make a career of doing what they love. So, psychology, mathematics and business studies would be good choices.

 

4. Use all 6 sides

 

The LifeBlox are cubes for a reason. Start with your main goal, then create Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic and if you’re happy to press your child, Time bound sub goals. Steps along a road that your child can write on the other five sides. Keep in mind the other blocks as you work.

 

TimeSpenders for example. What activities do you they need to carry out? To use our wanna-be F1 driver as an example again doing some exercises aimed at improving reaction times, maybe as a football goal-keeper would be a useful way to improve future driving and could link to the DownTime block also.

 

5. Be prepared to negotiate

 

Set expectations and be prepared for some give and take. The last thing you want is to create an unrealistic plan that is only going to dash your young dreamer’s hopes.

 

In my own family, my daughter, the budding musician went straight to putting a full-sized piano onto the ToolKit block. Which in itself is OK, as she also linked up to Penny Earners and knew she had to save for it, but one big problem: We don’t have room for one in the house.

 

We need to negotiate her down to something a little more manageable in terms of floor space!

 

Blok 2: YOUR GIFTS

 

When you sit down to begin your LifeBlox plan, as a parent, you know where your child’s strengths lie. The GIFTS block is all about listing what your child enjoys doing as these are likely the things that they revel in. But the GIFTS LifeBlok not just to do with their strong points, as I discovered…

 

My daughter is a creative one. She writes stories, loves to draw and has enjoyed posting on her own YouTube channel for a while (heavy parental content curation required folks!). It was no surprise that she wanted to continue learning the piano and head down the path to becoming a musician. Ukulele had been a school music lesson staple at primary, which seemed to spark something which she has continued with ever since.

 

On the GOALs LifeBlok, we mapped out several steps and we discussed how she would need to perform in public at some point. This is where we hit a blocker. She’s shy, despite her YouTubing and flatly refused that we should make any plans around playing for an audience. We talked about playing for a school production or joining a band to help her overcome the fear. But she was resolute.

 

We parked it for now but will revisit the topic. I’m thinking we go back to the puppet shows she used to do with her little brother in days gone by. Rekindle that memory and build upon how much fun it was. “Remember the applause darling!”

 

This does highlight another use for the GIFTS block and the Talent Outlets block too: Some GIFTS must be worked for and improved via practice.

 

We’ve yet to complete her GIFTS LifeBlok, but when we do, I expect that she’ll need some prompting, so prepared in my mental kitbag will be:

 

GIFTS: Song writing, Storytelling, Dancing

 

Talents that she probably doesn’t even realise that she has. But I’ve seen them. Little notebooks and scraps of paper left on the bedroom floor, expressing what she was feeling at a point in time. Impressing me with her Charleston in some random moment in the kitchen. That’s creativity and that’s artistry. Stuff that may make her blush, but it needs to be cherished and nurtured and channelled positively through encouragement and kindness.

 

So be prepared to discuss your little one’s weaknesses as well as their strengths and barter on those sub-goals.

 

Until next week, when we’ll discuss the Yin and Yangs of finance: keep searching!

 

M G

Block out some family time for what's important

Goal setting is something we all need to consider regardless of our age, IF we truly desire to achieve our aims in life, whatever they may be.

 

At Winterfam, part of our mission is to inspire the next generation of young innovators through exciting stories that expand the boundaries of our readers knowledge.

 

We aim to introduce readers to fresh new ideas and technologies that by the time they reach adulthood could be commonplace. Concepts such as advanced artificial intelligence, human cloning, nano-machines and autonomous vehicles are all part of our first book: The Science of Santa Claus. Which, by the way, mostly takes place outside of the festive season!

 

The adventure follows nine-year-old Oliver Winter and his family on a journey through a sometimes-perilous year of incredible discoveries. During that journey young Oliver discovers that he shows many of the traits of a great scientist and is helped to begin down that road by the mysterious Order of Saint Nicholas.

 

But why just read about what the future will be like? Why not also plan what your part in it will be?

 

We came up with LifeBlox to give families a fun and engaging way to plan a path to achieving a youngster’s dreams, whether they be related to the sciences, information technology or any other area.

 

LifeBlox challenges a young person to think about life goals and what will be needed to reach them. Channelling their thoughts and energies into nine categories which ultimately build into an inter-related 3d model of their life strategy. (It’s also a fun make-and-do activity with a little geometry thrown in for good measure!)

 

In this series of Blogs, we’ll walk through the meaning of each category and the things guiding adults and kids alike should consider when planning each one.

 

(TOP TIP: Have a note pad on hand as you enjoy the activity, there will be things you’ll need to jot down for later.)

 

Blok 1: GOALS

 

The most important Blok off all. This is where you begin with the end in mind and simply ask:

 

What is it you want to achieve?

 

Let’s get straight to it and look at a possible answer – which may seem like a CRAZY goal, but I would imagine, that this will be the BIG dream of many youngsters today.

 

I want to be the first person on Mars…

 

It’s a clear and concise objective and one that many parents would be SO proud to hear their child aspiring to.

 

So, let’s assume that we have followed the guidance in the LifeBlox kit, printing our strikingly coloured GOALS Blok.

 

Let’s now write our number one GOAL on the Blok.

 

(TOP TIP: Use a pencil and have an eraser handy in case you change direction!)

 

Let’s also add a timescale to the GOAL – not a hard and fast deadline, just a rough idea on when this will happen by. REMEMBER your plan is likely to change and will need to be adapted and that’s perfectly OK. We have a name for that in fact. It’s called life.

 

So, now we might have:

 

I want to be the first person on Mars…

…in the year 2035!

 

Awesome!

 

Before we move onto the next of the remaining eight Bloks, we should take time to consider some of the steps along the road to Mars and where we are at right now. Who knows, you may have ticked off some of the things you need already!

 

Be prepared to seriously and openly discuss GOALS together as a family. Sometimes, revealing your dreams can be hard. We’ve all been afraid that folks will laugh when speaking our vision aloud. So be bold, honest, accepting and encouraging. Dreams are important and shouldn’t be ridiculed, no matter how nuts they might seem.

 

As you talk about the main objective use the other five sides of the Blok to write down some GOALS that you will need to meet as steps along the journey. Think about it like levelling up!

 

Joining NASA or another Space Agency is going to be a given in our example and for a Mars astronaut other GOALS could be:

 

Learn to fly a jet plane

Attain a degree in biological science

Be as physically fit as I can be

 

We have two of our six sides spare at this point. Which is OK. There are no rules that say you must complete all the sides of your Blok, but why waste the space? Related to our other sub goals we could add:

 

Become an Air Cadet

Join the after-school science club

 

Hopefully by now, you will have engaged in a great conversation about these GOALS and will probably have naturally sparked some thoughts in the other categories to come. Deploy that pen and pad now!

 

Challenge yourself on how realistic your aims are AND do some research. You don’t want to start down a path only to find that your way is blocked by something you might have overlooked.

 

That’s step one almost complete. All that remains is to use your scissors and glue to cut out the net of the GOALS blok and give it an extra dimension with some deft folding skills.

 

Next, we’ll tackle the ‘Your Gift’ Blok and discover talents to be nurtured. Don’t feel the whole activity needs to be done in a single sitting either.

This is important stuff and takes time!

 

If anyone has any questions or would like to share their LifeBlox story reach out using the Get In Touch page.

 

As ever, keep searching!

 

M G

 

 

Going for goal!

What good is December 27th anyway?

The between Christmas and New-Year limbo needn't be a drag...

Top 5 things to do in Christmas limbo!

I've sometimes found the time between Christmas and New year to be a bit of a challenge. Most of the fun at Christmas is in the anticipation, the build up to the big day. Once that has been and gone things can seem a little flat especially if family members have to go back to work.

 

So with this in mind we here at Winterfam present to you our top 5 things we like to do during Christmas limbo:

 

1) Make Bubble and Squeak

Maybe a bit of a UK thing this but cooking leftovers into an awesome hot sandwich filling is a must. Everyone has plenty of leftover roast potatoes, carrots, parsnips and dare we say it, Brussel sprouts in their fridge after the big day is over. All you need is a big mixing bowl and a potato masher and you’re set. Throw all the leftovers in and mash them to a paste. Get an adult to heat a frying pan with a little butter in it and fry the mashed-up goodness for 15 mins or so (listen for the bubbling and squeaking). Serve it on fresh white buttered bread and a little pepper. Go on, you know you want to!

 

2) Geocaching

Everyone’s heard of this hobby, right? No? I’m still surprised by how many adults I know who have never done this with their kids. Google it, right now! It gives a point to a walk in the fresh air. Combined with a winter trip to the seaside (yes you can buy ice cream in December and January!) it’s a brilliant way to spend a day. Hiding your own cache for others to find is even more fun. Don’t forget to take those naff gifts from the inside of your Christmas crackers as swappables. (You’ll find out!)

 

3) Make a Tik-Tok Thank You Video (ask an adult first!)

Tik-Tok is a great way to share quick funny videos with your friends. Instead of writing a dozen thank you letters for all those Christmas gifts, why not spend an afternoon, scripting and filming your video version. You can feature the gift and maybe show yourself wearing, using, playing or doing something with it in an unexpected way. You never know, you might become a film director someday and what better way to kick off your career?

 

4) Birdwatching

Yep, I said it! I’m recommending you go out, with or without binoculars in the wide wide world taking at least one other family member or friend with you and look for birds. I challenge you to spot (and send us a pic of) the following feathered species: A) Robin B) Goldfinch C) Redwing. Visit RSPB.org if you need help identifying those and why not take a notepad and pen to tick them off or draw a picture of your sightings.

 

5) Hold a Hot Wheels Tournament

Everyone has a big box of Hot Wheels cars, don’t they? And I bet you have one of those tracks you set up to whiz them down (you might have even got one from Santa)? A favourite game here in the Winterfam is to hold a tournament to see which of all your many cars can get down the track fastest. Pair all your cars up and hold a race down two identical sections of track. Place the winner of each race in a separate pile until you find a winner. Simple, but massive fun.

 

That’s our top 5 things to do to keep you occupied. Don’t think about going back to school or work just yet – have some fun together as brothers and sisters, mums and dads, uncles and aunts and cousins too!

 

In the The Science of Santa Claus Oliver is feeling glum on the January night before he returns to normality and look what happened to him! Who knows what adventures you'll have?

 

Keep searching.

 

MG

 

 

Talking Turkey About Santa Blog Series

Does Santa really live at the North Pole?

Anyone who saw the Penguin episode of David Attenborugh's Dynasties on BBC1 recently will know just how hard life in arctic conditions can be. The frozen north isn't the ideal place to conceal an enormous toy production and shipping centre.

 

Hiding his hidden base under the ice would be possible, but where would all the waste products and heat go? Surely the risk of melting the ice and snow above would be too great for Mr C to take?

 

Maybe there's a cloaking device at play here. Such things are possible, just take a look at YouTube for some cool examples. Hiding a vast complex might be a challenge, especially from prying satellites, but it could be doable.

 

Maybe the facility exists in another dimension and Santa has a portal, like a wormhole, that whisks you halfway across the galaxy, to where the toys are made.

 

Could there be other explanations? Invisibile elves or miniaturisation? Why not pick up the conversation with the rest of the family over dinner tonight?

 

You could also curl up with my book, The Science of Santa Claus and spend all next year discovering the truth behind all the secrets of Christmas.

 

Whatever you do,  I hope you have a great time and that you've enjoyed this series of posts.

 

Keep searching!

 

M G 

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Is this the real North Pole?

This guy looks around 16!

How old is Santa anyway?

Pondering Santa's age can be great fun. You get to explore both the facts and some fictions around good old Mr C.

 

The original St Nick lived back in the 3rd and 4th centuries and it is believed lived to the ripe old age of 73. He was a bishop in what's now Turkey and performed some good deeds that made him famous and eventually one of the early saints.

 

But ask yourself, is this the same guy that delivers presents to all on Christmas Eve? Unlikely, as that would make him about 1775 years old.

 

So could our Santa be a different person altogether?

 

From the 1860's Santa started to appear in newspapers, magazines and books as a figure quire different from the red and white jolly fellow we recognize today. Something must have started this 150 years ago? Maybe a cartoonist met a mysterious figure as a child and started to draw images from what they mistook for a childhood dream?

 

Almost 100 years ago, somebody who worked at the Cocal-Cola company must have also been influenced to use the image of Santa to advertise their drinks. Perhaps another encounter with an enigmatic stranger on a rooftop?

 

What do you think? Is Santa always the same person? Does he live forever and regenerate like Dr Who? Is he an alien or a robot or both?

 

Not knowing and speculating is part of the magic of Christmas. A special feeling you can keep going all year round with my e-book The Science of Santa Claus 

 

Keep the conversation going in your family by following the Winters as they go through one incredible year and discover some amazing truths that explain it all, without a hint of fairy dust!

 

Keep searching 

 

MG

 

How can one man eat that many mince pies?

We all leave Santa a little snack on Christmas Eve, don't we? And there's the problem! How could he gorge on all those goodies and still be fit to do his job?

 

The mince pies or cookies would be bad enough but someone is also drinking a lot of milk or worse still whisky on December 24th. Nobody could out do Amazon's delivery service in the way the big man does whilst tipsy.

 

Reindeer eating carrots though, I believe, is possible. Those guys must need a lot of energy to carry out their nights work. Rudolph munching on root vegetables, even if he saves a few for later, is plausible.

 

But I remain to be convinced on Santa's yuletide diet. Eating that much sugar and fat would be bad for the old gents health to say the least.

 

The other explanation is that someone else, perhaps parents or grandparents are devouring the treats. Leaving crumbs and mocking up a little post munch scene in the fireplace to fool everyone. But that would be dishonest and our mums and dads are far too trustworthy to be doing something so sneaky.

 

Where else could all this festive food be going? What's your theory?

 

The Science of Santa Claus presents one possible explanation. If you think it ads up, do reach out and let me know.

 

Keep searching!

 

MG

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Could someone be stealing Santas goodies?

One of our esteemed readers chilaxes with The Science of Santa Claus

How can Santa make all those presents?

This question is a matter of resources. Man (or Elf) power, money, materials and incredibly efficient production facilities. Where would Mr C get all that from and where would something on that massive scale be hidden?

 

Using the word production, hinting that Santa’s organisation actually makes all those gifts, gives one real cause to ponder: does he make or buy? Could there be many hundreds of fake companies, owned by a Mr Kris Kringle, that buy products in from businesses around the globe and then just give them away? Just imagine what would happen to the world economy if Santa stopped purchasing toys direct from the makers. It would make the financial crash of 2008 look like Woolworths going under. (Exactly. Who-worths?) As a way of doing business it , it doesn't add up.

 

Let’s turn to the E word then. Elfin kind. Santa’s legendary work force. Considering the Elves of Lord of the Rings fame, you can envisage thousands of lofty, muscular forest dwellers turning up for work each morning at one of hundreds of production plants, presumably hidden under the snow. They’d bash out PlayStations by the dozen no problem, using fully automated production of course.

 

If the work is being done by smaller fellows then they would likely be even more efficient, presumably requiring less housing space and food to keep them going. But it doesn’t feel right to me. How would they manage to take any time off with a production schedule like theirs to keep on top of? Santa’s employee benefits scheme would need to be tip-top to keep all those workers happy at their benches.

 

Also, I think we’d know they were there, up at the North Pole. The ice caps would have melted long ago from all that manufacturing activity and as soon as mankind had seen the pole from space, we would have spotted something. A chimney or two, most likely.

 

How do you think Santa does it? These posts are designed to get your brain working on the problem, like Sherlock Holmes said: “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?”

 

I came up with some theories of my own in my first book, The Science of Santa Claus. Why not curl up with it this Christmas and see if you agree with me?

 

Keep searching!

 

MG .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How does Santa travel around the world in one night?

This is a tricky question and let’s get straight to the obvious but more fantastical answers:

 

1) Time Travel 

 

As far as we know, it’s not possible to travel back in time. The universe we live in has a real problem with it. Forward time travel is doable (see below). Having Santa time travel his way around the world on Christmas Eve is a bit of a stretch for me. 

 

2) Wormholes

 

Wormholes are gateways in spacetime made when the fabric of reality gets stretched into a well like shape to such a degree that two points in the universe touch and a tunnel opens. Santa would need some very advanced tech to open wormholes and probably something called negative energy to keep one open. Not sure the big man could handle that.

 

3) Santa moves incredibly fast

 

To get this job done in one night would mean some very fast travelling for Santa. Einstein’s theory of special relativity says that the faster you go, the slower the clock ticks for you relative to everyone else. By the time Santa had travelled fast enough to deliver to everyone, we would all probably have grown up and got married and stopped believing in him anyway.

 

4) He’s magic!

 

Fun to believe, but not very scientific. We’ve talked about a famous thinker and writer called Arthur C. Clarke elsewhere on the site. One of the many things he is famous for is having set out three laws. The third of which is: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Please do go look him and his laws up.

 

Having junked those possible explanations. What does that leave us with?

 

What do you think?

 

In The Science of Santa Claus Oliver Winter discovers exactly how it’s done. I’d love to share the secret with you too!

 

Keep searching.

 

MG

Dashers, the only way to travel!

A typical Santa entry point?

How does Santa get down the chimney?

If we're to believe Santa's press, let's face it, he's a big guy. Logically, therefore, it would be a struggle for him to fit down the average chimney, it's safe to assume.

 

Then of course, there are millions of homes worldwide, that don't have a stack and therefore the big man has to choose another option to get inside.

 

But let's think outside the box for a second. Does Santa even need to actually enter the building to get his delivery job done? If you go back to the original story of Saint Nicholas and do some research, you'll find that he left his first ever presents in some stockings or shoes by the fire, but that doesn't mean he climbed down the chimney to leave them there, does it?

 

He could have used a rope to lower them down, or slipped the gold coins in when the socks were outside being washed?

 

There are those that just rely on magic to explain it, but me, I prefer a more scientific explanation. I think a process like 3D printing could be used to create the gifts right by the fireside or at the end of your bed. But that would still mean getting some sort of machinery into your house right? Well maybe.

 

If you want to know the truth, and a kindle is on your Christmas list, check out my e-book, The Science of Santa Claus

 

You'll find a lot of the answers to the mysteries of Christmas are hidden in plain sight!

 

Keep searching.

 

MG

Can Reindeer really fly?

It's a question we've all asked:

 

If you need to transport large volumes of varying sized packages around the world and make deliveries to millions of homes, is the Reindeer the best way of getting around?

 

Reindeer, or Caribou as they are known in North America are a species of plant eating quadruped that live in enormous herds in the northernmost parts of the world.

 

They feed on whatever vegetation they can find in the frozen tundra and like cows and other herd species, their natural digestive processes cause a lot of methane gas.

 

Methane is a greenhouse has, which means it traps heat from the sun in the atmosphere adding to the effect that is causing global temperatures to rise. One possible way that Santa may have decided to help combat global warming is by burning the methane he collects from the Caribou. Under pressure, it could be used as a fuel to power the rockets on his delivery vehicle.

 

Do you think this is likely? Or would you prefer to read more about other ways that Santa could use science to solve his problems? If so, check this book, The Science of Santa Claus on Amazon.

 

Guessing is fun, but wouldn't you rather know the facts?

 

Keep searching!

 

MG

A flying Caribou?

More awesome knowledge added today!

Check this out guys!

 

MG

December 6th 2018 - Check out some awesome knowledge

Hey - I've just added a new page that will gather lots of links to cool science and tech knowledge, a lot of which is featured in my writing.

 

Take a look at our Awesome Knowledge page!

 

MG

Enzo and the Order of Saint Nicholas make use of awesome knowledge!

December 5th 2018 - Excited

Seems that more people are experiencing the incredible year that Oliver Winter, his sister Megan and their parents Dave and Diane had when they first encountered Enzo and the Order of St. Nick.

 

It's was so important to me that the book not only contained, incredible, exciting and inspiring happenings BUT also an authentic setting within a family, just like yours.

 

An amazing journey could be just around the corner for any of us at any time - that's why it's important to realise that CHRISTMAS is not JUST FOR CHRISTMAS!

 

Please, if you've read The Science of Santa Claus, do reach out - I'd love to hear from readers of all ages.

 

MG

Science of Santa Claus now available in paperback

The first chapter in the Winter family saga is now available in paperback - it's been hard work getting to this stage and I have to thank Wintermum for all her hard work and support.

 

If you love cool technology, science, computing, drones and the magic of christmas AND want a book you can enjoy all year round, head over to Amazon now and look me up.

 

Thx

 

MG

Welcome to the Winterfam blog - contains spoliers!

It's been a crazy few weeks, getting The Science of Santa Claus completed, but we're finally live on Amazon. I have to thank my amazing family for helping me get the book done. They're the inspiration for everything I do and will be a big part of the content that you'll see, particularly on YouTube.

 

The paperback edition is still in the works, so if you prefer to hold a real tome in your hand rather than an e-reader, hang in there. Tommorow we'll be putting up our Christmas tree, not a real one, like those that surround the northern home of the Order of Saint Nicholas, but we just can't handle hoovering all those pine needles.

 

Now, without adding any more spoilers to this post for those of you who haven't read as far as the August chapter of SOSC yet - here's a great video  that might help you understand how the Space Elevator that leads to the North Pole could be hidden.

 

Keep searching x

 

M G