Cardboard Box Challenge

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TinkerLab is one today!

To help me celebrate a year of exploration, tinkering, creativity, and experimentation, I’ve invited some of my favorite arts and education bloggers to join me in today’s Cardboard Box Challenge as a gift to each of YOU. My blogging journey was originally inspired by the fabulous Jean of The Artful Parent and Jen of Paint Cut Paste. And I’m absolutely thrilled that they’re each part of today’s collaboration.

Like many of you, I love reading posts that inspire me to try something new, and each of my collaborators has inspired me in one way or another. They’re smart, creative, funny, generous, and they each do an amazing job at honoring the children that they work and/or live with. I asked them (and their children!) to create anything they like using at least one cardboard box. The project would be executed by children, but grown-ups were welcome to facilitate and/or collaborate if the mood struck. Links to my twenty-four collaborators can be found at the end of this post, and I’d encourage you to do a little blog hopping today (or save this for when you have some time) and bookmark those posts that inspire YOU.

Cardboard Box Marble Run

Here’s what we did with our humble box…

To spark our creativity I cut a side off of the box, just to make it look a little different. It looked a like a house to me and I could easily imagine a rough version of an architectural model. But I asked N what she imagined and she said, “Let’s make a marble run!!” Just like that. The exclamation points really are necessary.

 

I bent a rectangular piece and asked her what we could do with it. She saw it as a ramp, and it became the base of our marble run. She cut tape and played the role of director while I secured the pieces together and acted as her general contractor.

Materials

  • Deconstructed box left over from our Cardboard Box Splat Painting project
  • Full box of cardboard recyclables
  • Scissors
  • Blue painter’s tape
  • Exacto Knife (for me — it made my job so much easier!)

She tested out an idea about running tape across the the top of her ramp, but abandoned it when we noticed it created too much tension on the ramp’s walls.

She decided when it was done and we selected a bowl for the ramp to fit into…

Test run…

It worked!!

Good thing we have so many marbles! She gave me specific instructions that the skinny tunnel that feeds into the big ramp should “be closed up and dark so you can’t see the marbles,” and seemed to be fascinated by the mystery of that part of the structure.

Cardboard Box Challenge Participants

What would you (and your kids) make with a cardboard box? If you have a cardboard box project that you’d like to share, please add your link to the blog hop or comment section below. And feel free grab the button or copy the text into your HTML.

Recycled Weaving Fence

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When I saw this awesome weaving installation on display at the Bay Area Discovery Museum I knew it was something that I wanted to recreate at home. If I were running a preschool I think I would have taken the time to build such a structure because it would be a stellar group project, but as the parent of one curious, yet fickle, preschooler I thought it might be prudent to build a simple test-model first to see if this would be an idea worthy of further exploration (and investment!).

After scratching my head over this, I came up with this prototype made from wooden skewers (two on each end), painters tape, a deconstructed fruit sack from the market, and assorted ribbon.

It was a beautiful day, and N was up for the challenge.

With four ribbon spools to choose from, she cut  what she wanted and worked on figuring out how to get it through the mesh.

It was tricky, but she kept at it until she figured it out. Real challenges give kids the opportunity to celebrate their successes and gain confidence in their problem-solving abilities.

She also tried this shiny, elastic ribbon, and found it was easier to push through the holes. What a nice surprise lesson in compare and contrast!

And she even wrapped it all the way around the edge of the wood post.

N likes collaborating with me — it seems that she takes her work more seriously if I get involved too — so you can see a few of my ribbons woven in there as well. We worked on this for about 20 minutes and I left it up so that we can revisit it over the course of the week. And if there’s still energy around weaving, and this project in particular, I may just invest in some garden fencing like the stuff I saw at the children’s museum.

Has anyone made one of these? Did your child/children stick with it for a while?

Related Ideas

  • If you have a chainlink fence, you could weave through it with fabric or crepe paper. I’m thinking about bringing a basket of crepe paper with us next time we visit the park. Do you think anyone would mind if we made a fence weaving installation?
  • Check out this yarn heart-weaving from Outdoor Knit.

What else could you build a weaving fence from?

This post was shared with Craft Schooling Sunday. Childhood 101, It’s Playtime

Creative Challenge #5: Plastic Bottles

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Make something with Plastic Bottles

In honor of Earth Day, I’d like to raise a little awareness toward the enormous amounts of plastic bottles used around the world, coupled with some thoughts on recycling and upcycling those bottles into creative products. My family is hooked on bubbly water, and while the number of bottles we go through each week is staggering, each of these bottles gets recycled…and occasionally upcycled into art (our Recycled Sculpture project can be found here).

Sobering Statistics

The Challenge

Make something with plastic bottles! Have you cut the tops off to use them as funnels, added them to a marble run, used them as sand scoopers, or turned them into something surprising? The project should be executed by children, but adults are welcome to facilitate or collaborate if the mood strikes!

To join in

  • Use plastic bottles, along with any other materials of your choice.
  • Attach a link to your blog post, a YouTube video, or photo of the experiment along with a description of what you and/or your child/ren did in the comment section below.
  • There is no deadline for this project.

Inspiration

Instructions for adding an image file

  • Click on the “Choose File” button (below the “Submit” button)
  • Choose a JPEG file from your computer
  • Type in a description of your experiment into the comment text box
  • Click the “Submit Comment” button
  • Grab the Creative Challenge button and add it to your site, or copy this text into your HTML.
  • For more Creative Challengesclick here.

    How are you celebrating Earth Day?

Bird Feeder & Hop Circle

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Today I’m sharing two outdoor activities for creative play…

#1: Peanut Butter Bird Feeder

Our house is shaded by an enormous pinecone-dropping machine, and these little beasts can be found in all corners of our mini-oasis. They are so begging to be turned into something, right? Peanut-butter coated pinecone bird feeders, here we come! (Apologies up-front to all my gluten and nut-free friends…this is why there are TWO activities in this post!).

We started by mixing some oat bran into our peanut butter. I read that this is healthier for birds than straigh-up peanut butter because the grains break up the sticky PB and aid their digestion.

Our little set-up: Peanut butter mix, Holiday cheese knife, Bowl of Birdseed, Twine, Scissors, Pinecones, and Paper to place the completed bird feeders on.

I twisted the twine on the cones and then handed them over to the queen peanut-butter spreader, who took her job very seriously.

She then coated them with seeds (from the dollar store – huzzah!). Which reminds me, I originally bought ten bags of the seed as an alternative to sand for our sand table. I highly recommend it as birdseed feels clean, it has a nice texture, and it has little specks of color that make it pop.

And there it is…ready for the birds. Not the pesky squirrels. Okay, are you ready for the sad part of this little tale? We made FOUR of these (4!), hung two by our house and two off a tree by the street. And not one of them was hanging the next morning! I’m pretty sure the squirrels managed to bring them down, but how? Clever little monsters! Has anyone else had this problem? What could we do differently?

#2: Hop Circle

It was a beautiful day, so N moved down to the sidewalk and started on some chalk drawings. She drew a (wobbly) circle on the ground and asked me if I’d draw more of them so that she could play “Hop Circle.” Haha. I kept calling it Circle-Scotch, but it didn’t really matter.

I thought it would be fun to add in some other shapes and drew a triangle. BIG mistake! I really should have checked with the creative director first, as this was NOT in the plan. Back to circles!

Once all the circles (and lone triangle) were laid out to her liking, she hopped away. How fun! And this reminds me of another hopscotch alternative I recently saw at Let the Children Play, where the kids drew a continuous hopscotch all around the school. Take a look!

Bento Cutting

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My daughter is a curious child, and inevitably finds little treasures that I hide away for rainy days. And so it was with a cute little set of Bento cutting tools this week. But her timing was actually perfect, as It’s just about time to celebrate The Year of the Rabbit. Hopping after the tail of the Feisty Year of the Tiger, The Year of the Rabbit is supposed to be a calm year when we all get a chance to regroup, nest, spend time at home with family, and follow artistic pursuits (!!). Truly, I’m not making this stuff up!

My child loves cutting up play dough and cookie dough, so why not cheese and ham, too? There are some talented folks out there who create gorgeous and hilarious Bento lunches, but I doubt I’ll ever be one of them because my daughter has to be IN CHARGE of the cutting, and I’m merely a lowly sous chef who’s occasionally granted rights to poke cheese through the cutters with a toothpick.

We happen to live near a Daiso store (BEST store ever for people who like to scope out unique, cheap Japanese odds and ends), which is where I scored these fabulous tools. Little hands can use these cutters to easily cut thinly sliced cheese, while cutting meat requires a bit more elbow grease. As such, she beautified a lot more cheese than meat. If you don’t have Bento cutters, small cookie cutters work equally well.

In the end, it wasn’t about the presentation at all. While I was able to squirrel away a few pieces for our sandwiches, she piled all her little pieces into a bowl and then gobbled them all up. We had so much fun making these that I have a feeling you’ll be hearing more about creative lunch-making from us again. Especially since we’re supposed to be following our artistic pursuits this year!

Want more Bento?

Adventures in Bentomaking Blog

20 Easy Bento Lunch Boxes: Parenting.com

Just Bento Cookbook

Enormous List of Bento Resources from Cooking Cute

I’m so grateful to all of my readers for subscribing to my blog, leaving comments that keep me going, joining me on Facebook, experimenting with your children, and bringing your thoughtful ideas to the table. I happen to be one of the lucky ones who lives near the only Daiso store in the USA, and I want to lend a Bento hand to a loyal reader in need of food beautification! If you leave a comment letting me know how you would use this set by Friday, February 4 at 12 midnight PST you will be entered into a random drawing for the cute Bento tools. (Set includes Stainless rabbit mold for rice, Animal food punching tools, Stainless food storage container, Animal sandwich cutter, Green fruit box, Insulated lunch bag).

Wishing everyone an early happy Lunar New Year!

The winner is selected!! Thank you everyone for your participation. I received so much positive feedback on this giveaway that I’ll be sure to have one again soon. Stay tuned…

Creative Experiment #2: Pasta

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Make something with pasta.

Pasta! It’s a multicultural food that can be found in everything from Pad Thai to Mac ‘n Cheese. Kids love to eat it. It’s got an amazing shelf life. And most of us already have it stockpiled in our pantries.

We eat a lot of it in our home, and it’s made an appearance in more than one art activity. For example: Drippy Gravity Painting

So now I ask you…what can you do with pasta? The project should be executed by children, but adults are welcome to facilitate or collaborate if the mood strikes!

To join in on the Experiment

  • Use pasta (noodles, macaroni, ramen…it’s up to you!), along with any other materials of your choice
  • Attach a photo of the experiment along with a description of what you and/or your child/ren did in the comment section below.
  • There is no deadline for this project.

If you’re looking for inspiration, here are some thoughts to get you started:

  • Take the pasta outside, and make an installation in the dirt, sand, or sidewalk
  • Attach it to another object with a glue gun. Attach it to paper with white glue.
  • Dye it, sort it, print it, make patterns with it
  • Make a batch of fresh pasta
  • String it up like a necklace or bunting
  • As a provocation, put a variety of art materials in front of your child (i.e. pasta, markers, yarn, glue), and see what they come up with

Instructions for adding an image file

  1. Click on the “Choose File” button (below the “Submit” button)
  2. Choose a JPEG file from your computer
  3. Type in a description of your experiment into the comment text box
  4. Click the “Submit Comment” button

Idea Roundup: Creative Growth + Kids

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Do you think it’s important for children to have creative and imaginative childhoods? Do you want to raise your child in an environment that supports his or her creative capacity? Here are some of this week’s best places to look for ideas that foster creative growth and kids.


Frog Design: The Four Secrets of Playtime that Foster Creative Kids

“When 85 percent of today’s companies searching for creative talent can’t find it, will more focus on standardized curriculum, testing, and memorization provide the skills an emergent workforce needs? Not likely. Play is our greatest natural resource.”


Wall Street Journal: A box? Or a spaceship? What makes kids creative

“To nurture creative skills at home, parents can invite children to come up with possible solutions for everyday problems, and listen to their ideas with respect, says Don Treffinger, president of the Center for Creative Learning, a Sarasota, Fla., consulting group. A child who notices that an ailing neighbor is snowed in might shovel her sidewalks, for example. A child who is troubled by photos of Haitian disaster victims might donate allowance money to a relief fund.”



WSJ Blog: Sparking Creativity in Your Kids

“With school holiday breaks looming, many parents will be racking their brains to come up with fun activities for their children while they are at home. This might be a good opportunity to nurture a little creativity in your kids…”

Spooky Marble Spider Webs

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We spent Saturday afternoon carving pumpkins at a local art studio and almost missed the craft table on our way out the door. And it would have been a BIG miss, because it was such a captivating activity that my daughter wanted to recreate it at home immediately and has asked for marbles and paint multiple times over the past two days. I noticed big kids messing around with this too, so if you have older kids this may be worth a try. We did a similar project back in July, but this here marble painting project was a much bigger hit.

At the art studio. Materials include: white tempera paint, a few marbles, a pie tin, and a piece of black construction paper cut to fit the tin.

This time with thick paint.

It’s a “spider web!” Kind of a stretch to call it a spider web, but if you’re in the Halloween spirit, why not?

After a shopping trip for pie tins and marbles, we got home and set up shop.

And rolled our little hearts out. Each piece took mere seconds to create, and I found myself cutting paper like mad.

Once the novelty wears off, interest usually fades, but not just yet for this gem of an activity. To keep the interest high, we traded black paper for white and messed around with purple paint.

One of these days we’ll get some friends together and make a super-sized marble painting like this!

Have you been painting with marbles too? What do your kids think of this activity?

Happy Halloween!

MacArthur Foundation Awards "Genius Grants"

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Have you ever dreamt of receiving a large sum of cash to pursue your creative dreams? You may have heard that the MacArthur Foundation just named twenty-three very surprised fellows as the recipients of this year’s “genius grant,” an unrestricted award of $500,000 to spend on projects of their choice. There is no application process for the award. Rather, recipients are chosen on the merit of their current work and its potential to further blossom with the time and resources that the grant money will afford them. Because the awards are often given to those who demonstrate high levels of creativity and innovation, I thought I’d share this and a few related  creativity links in honor of this notable event. The winners range from an Installation Artist (Jorge Pardo) to a Computer Security Specialist (Dawn Song). Interestingly, eight (yes, eight!) of the twenty-three winners hail from California!

And I have some questions for you…

What project are you currently working on that you’d like to expand upon if you had more resources? How would you expand up on them? If you were given half a million dollars to develop your next big idea, how would you spend it?