Giant Cardboard Cubes and the Adjacent Possible

In the spirit of modeling creativity and inspiring play, I wanted to share with you a little bit about some of the “play” that I engage in here in my cardboard lab/home.

I made these giant cardboard cubes after spending an hour or so playing with a stack of cardboard banana boxes that I had collected.

Each cube is made from the tops and bottoms of two banana boxes and two cam straps.

Remember this stage in your kids? Everything down the rabbit hole…

We discovered that the cube has these pockets that are the perfect place for Isis to keep her favorite board books. (We have to keep our other books out of reach for now, otherwise we would spend all of our days re-shelving books instead of reading them.)

Last year I read the book, “Where Good Ideas Come From”, by Steven Johnson and started thinking about how I could become more innovative in my day-to-day life.

In Where Good Ideas Come From, Johnson talks about an idea called “the adjacent possible.” The concept goes something like this:  We seldom have fully formed ideas or creative solutions that come to us in a moment of brilliance. These ideas build up as slow hunches that we compile over time.

So in effect, it’s all the little experiences that lead us to those  genius ideas.

I imagine these adjacent experiences as stepping-stones. You can’t get to that big idea, without first leaping from little idea to little idea.

I’m trying to spend more time stepping away from the computer and actually playing and experimenting with cardboard as my way of building a path towards new ideas and designs in cardboard.

Future Parkour enthusiast?

I have to say, it’s a lot of fun.

I get so much joy out of just playing with cardboard, with no obvious intent, just for the joy of it. Sometimes it comes of nothing, and sometimes you get giant cardboard cubes; a happy accident.

As Steven Johnson says, “Chance favors the connected mind.”……

So now I invite you to comment!

What materials do you like to play and experiment with as an adult? Fabric, wood, flour, clay, fiber, dye, paper?

What machines do you work on and repair? bikes, sewing machine, cars, cameras, computers? (This year I replaced the hard drive on this very iMac that I write the blog on. Talk about empowering! You have to check out

Do you let yourself drift off into that elementary school aged daze, where nothing mattered beyond the sandbox or your paper and paste pot?

Cardboard Box with Wheels goes to the Airport!

Yes, it’s true. We ditched our stroller for a cardboard box with castor wheels, and it was awesome!

Where to start?

A few weeks before our flight, I was puzzling through the logistics of moving a toddler and a three-year old through the airport with all of our accompanying accoutrements. Both at Tokyo Narita and Detroit Metro, I knew we had some distances to cover between gates, check-in, immigration and the rest. I hate strollers and started thinking of ways I could avoid taking ours through the airport.

That’s when I started playing the what if game with myself.

What if we pulled the girls through the airport in the box with castor wheels? Or they pulled each other? Wait, I think our carry-ons would both fit in the box if we wanted to carry the girls or let them walk instead… yes, they do….Oh and wait a minute.. the box fits the dimensions for a carry on.. perfectly…. And hey, I think this could be genius!

I tucked a shear-ling sheepskin into the box for the girls to sit on in the airplane. It made a very soft and comfortable lining for them when they were sitting in the box at the airport.

Taking the Box with Wheels through the airport was even better than I imagined. When we initially walked into the airport towing the box with the girls behind it everyone around us actually just stopped and stared.

They had huge smiles on their faces and there was a lot of pointing and giggling (in a good way). A few people came up and asked us if they could take pictures, and we laughed and willfully obliged.

It felt a lot like we were pulling our own mini Fourth of July parade float through the terminal.

Still going strong even with all the bags AND kids in tow.

Surprised to find out they’re trying to curb hamster trafficking at Tokyo Narita Airport?

Isis befriended EVERYONE at the airport. No luck getting a business class upgrade though.

Where should we take our box next?

Cardboard Travel Swing (A Father’s Day Tribute)

Made from about five layers of glued corrugated cardboard and 4 cam straps, we created a  swing, with well, more swing. This is a great kid’s swing to keep in your car or bike bag, particularly if you find that sweet spot near a body of warm water this summer.

If you use cardboard that comes from a box that has a waxy finish, your swing would be water-resistant, and should hold up in the event of an occasional splash.

The design of this swing is a common one, but the inspiration runs deeper.

The whole idea of bringing a swing to the people is one that stems from my father; rope swing builder extraordinaire.

My father actually made a practice of seeking out “rope swing type” people, and convincing them to let him build a rope swing (or zip line) for them in their back yard. He was a kind of “missionary of extreme backyard play” seeking the easy converts of the neighborhood.

I remember my father, one evening, relishing in the fact that he had scored a large pile of tow rope from a local ski hill that had recently gone out of business. He thought it would be enough to make a swing for every family in the neighborhood.

He had extension ladders, tree climbing harnesses, and I seem to remember a pair of spiky shoes for scaling tree trunks.

He was always planning ahead by stockpiling materials. Once he and my mom even moved a massive old hospital fire-escape into our backyard which he reconfigured into an incredible twisting tube slide that launched from our back deck.

I cannot remember a time in my life when we didn’t have some kind of risky swing to swing on or I couldn’t hear my father’s occasional Wheeee! punctuate the silence of a beautiful summer day as he pushed one of us on a swing.

I know it would put a warm feeling in my Dad’s heart to know that we are sharing his enthusiasm for big swings with a few kids in Tokyo.

Thanks for all the fun Dad.

Happy Father’s Day.

Flower Pounding on Paper Egg Cartons

We’ve done another project for TinkerLab’s Flower Challenge this week. You have to try flower pounding! It’s really simple and we got great results! Electra also loved getting the chance to use a REAL hammer.

A few of the different projects that I read about on the web used watercolor paper (check out this one at Sweet Leaf Notebook). We used Egg carton lids that we had on hand. The cartons worked really well, I think because they are so thick and the texture helps absorb some of the moisture in the flower.

The biggest tip I have for you is that it’s important to spread the flower’s petals out, and use flowers with simple shapes and bold colors. Yellow Nasturtiums worked the best for us, but this works great with leaves too.

Ikebana-Inspired Teacup Arrangements

I snapped this photo of Electra playing with some leftover flowers from my Ikebana class  earlier this week and started thinking about how I could downsize this “Big Box” arrangement into something that would be more easily displayed.

Enter the teacup.

I always love arranging in open-mouthed containers and teacups are just the right size to display at dinnertime without overwhelming the food and conversation.

So, here’s my post about cardboard, teacups, and toddler flower arranging for the fabulous TinkerLab’s flower challenge that starts today. If you haven’t seen Rachelle’s site, I highly encourage you to head on over there and check it out. She’s got amazing activities and lots of ideas for turning your home into a creativity and innovation haven for your whole family.

You might be familiar with some of these traditional kinds of Japanese kenzan or “frogs” as my mom calls them. There are also glass and iron versions in beautiful shapes, and some are highly collectible.

The only problem with these types of kenzan is that they don’t sit well in the bottom of a teacup. The tapered shape of the cup makes them wobbly and difficult to work with. For that reason, I came up with two different kinds of cardboard fixtures that could be used to stabilize the flowers, and were easy for little hands to use as well.

The first fixture is made out of a rubber band and cut up cardboard tubes. This style worked well for our white teacup that was relatively small in diameter. It’s hard to construct this style if the diameter of the container is too big without ending up with a bunch of rubber bands and cardboard pieces shooting all over your kitchen. You also need to be careful not to let the cardboard tubes touch the water. They will melt.

The second fixture is made by tracing the mouth of the teacup onto waxy fruit box cardboard, and then cutting it down until it fits securely inside the cup. I poked holes in the cardboard with an awl but you can easily use a Phillips head screw driver or a nail. You want to make holes big enough for flower and foliage stems to easily fit through.

Negative Space

Don’t fill the entire fixture with holes. You want to leave some negative space that you can later cover up with moss or some other kind of low-lying ground plant. If you use the cardboard tube style kenza, just leave about half of the space empty. This can really open up the arrangement and make it more pleasing to the eye.

We had a great time going out to collect plant materials together. Electra is learning to use scissors, so this was a great way for her to put her new skills to use. I have a pair of clippers that are spring-loaded, so they were very easy for her to use and I just carefully supervised her, helping point out stems that were a little easier to cut through.

We chose a large variety of foliage and flowers searching for as many different shapes and textures as we could find. We had so many great conversations when we were out flower picking in the little neglected spaces around our neighborhood. Electra cried, “Momma, you have to smell this one!” and “Feel how fuzzy this leaf is!

When we got home we laid down newspaper and trimmed some of the stems, removing any leaves that would come close to the water. It was wonderful to finally just sit back and let Electra create her own arrangement.

After Electra finished arranging the flowers we covered the remaining part of the fixture with some luscious green moss. She was so proud of her arrangement!

I know she’ll be eager to try again next week, perhaps with some clippings from our balcony garden? Nasturtium, fennel, mint and lavender sound like a delicious combination for celebrating summer vacation at this time next week!

Be sure to check out other blogger’s submission at TinkerLab’s Flower Challenge Blog Hop / Linky Party.