Describe the project/activity and the inspiration for it. This is where you get people jazzed up about it and tell them what to expect. How long might it take? Will they need any special tools or materials or do they likely have everything they need already? Will they need to gather materials in advance? Keep in mind that a lot of homes don't have ready supplies of everything on hand, including cardboard or paperboard. (You can mention the specific materials in the next step)

The facilitator template has you list learning goals at the beginning. You can include some here too if you like. It's nice to let kids know what they'll be learning/exploring.

STEP 1 - Gather Your Materials

  • What are things that are absolutely needed, and what are good alternatives if families/kids reading don't have them on hand? Where might they find things if they don't have them already?
  • Include useful but not strictly necessary materials
  • When possible, mention the purpose of the objects they will need and give examples, such as "A long stick-type object, like a skewer, a pencil, or a tightly rolled up piece of paper," or "A way to add color, like markers, paint, or colorful unwanted junk mail." This allows them to think creatively when they're hunting for materials.

STEP 2 - Does it Need a Planning Step?

Is there a planning step? If so, give some structure about how they can plan and what they should think about to help them in future steps. If their task is to make a creature, ask them to think about shapes, what objects they have that might work for different body parts, what they think they'll need to do to make it all happen.
Space Diorama, Inspired by Mae Among the Stars

STEP 3 through whatever - Break It Down

Depending on your activity, this is where you want to break it down into concepts or knowledge bites, rather than steps to follow exactly.
If the project is making a specific object, identify the core parts and functions of it. What are the base segments that are best done first? What are the important criteria that need to be met? In each step, describe one of them and then ask guiding questions to get them thinking and excited about their own ideas for their project.
If there are techniques that work well for different segments, explain how to make them clearly but generally, then ask the kids to think about how to implement them into their project.
Provide links to inspiration if relevant.

For Open-Ended Activities

If the project is a super open-ended activity, skip the previous two items, and spend various "steps" suggesting ways to explore and interact with the activity. Playing with loose parts is less of a step by step activity, but you can use different segments of the guide to suggest different ideas for "games," such as "what is different and what is the same about your materials? Sort them into two piles. Describe the different piles to a friend or family member. Can you guess what someone else was thinking when they sorted THEIR piles? Can you find a way to sort them into three piles? More?"
Obviously, the open-ended and project-style activities can be combined. The main idea is to break it down into easily understood chunks and encourage them to interact with each.

Going Further

End your guide with suggestions about what to do to extend the activity. How might someone who finds this super exciting or super easy do more? Are there other guides to point them to, or topics, or websites?

For Adult Helpers

One option, depending on how young the activity guide is directed toward, is to give tips to adults who are assisting. Let them know what parts might need help, and when they should let the kids try it on their own for a bit before jumping in to do it for them. If there are any guiding questions you haven't included elsewhere, this is a good place for it. Perhaps suggest a way that the adults can share a relevant experience of their own.

Activity guides for Facilitators and teachers are a different ball of wax. They include a lot more about prepping and running the activity, especially for a group. They might include a list of the Standards they incorporate. Those have a different activity guide template.