Getting Sorted with Cardboard Magnets…

This latest project began when I started shamelessly digging through someone’s recycling bin on the way to the train. It turned out that a neighbor was parting with a stainless steel file sorter with trays, as well as an over-sized rectangular tin. Hmm I thought, I know these are just what I need…

So after a wash, I realized that the tin was perfect for storing all of our cardboard letters and tinker toys. And since it’s a tin… it was perfect for magnetizing (/monetizing? I wish) our letters.

I also made a little lime green cardboard frame which has magnets on the back for doing letter and number sorts. I tell Electra, “Put all the numbers you can find in the square.” or “Which of these are from the Japanese hiragana alphabet?”

Spelling out “to-ma-to” in Japanese hiragana…

(Finding 5′s… (You can see the fan card for “Ran” from Electra’s first pony ride. ))

My luck continued when that night I received an early Mother’s Day gift, from MY mother! It was packaged in the perfect cardboard box. After applying some washi tape stripes to the side, reinforcing the inside and pasting a pretty picture on the top we were all set. A perfect fit, and a divider in the middle for our bilingual magnets.

Alpha Beads: Learning to read in English or Japanese

My husband just started taking Japanese classes in the evenings after work, so everyone in the house now is learning to speak in one way or another. After stringing cardboard beads onto long strands to make mobiles, I started cutting out letters to make alphabet beads in both English and Japanese. Japanese has two phonetic alphabets called hiragana and katakana in addition to kanji characters (derived from Chinese characters). One of my biggest challenges when learning to read Japanese hiragana was recognizing the slightly different ways of writing the hiragana. I thought this activity of getting all the slightly different looking letters together would be a good exercise in recognizing environmental print (albeit out of context) for both my husband and my 2 1/2 year old.

Most of the flutes in the cardboard run vertically through the letters and create multiple channels for threading.

I have quite an unruly cache of cardboard accumulating in our small apartment and we have rounded up a good little collection of letters and hiragana.

The only materials we used for these picture stand-ups were cardboard boxes from the grocery store, sturdy scissors, (We have chicken boning scissors from my father, who uses them on the farm for their original purpose.) paper tape (more beautiful than plastic tape) and pipe cleaners or wire.

Use a strip of cardboard and some tape to make a little tripod on the back.

You can make mobiles, spell out words, or make strings of letters with needle and thread. How about a rudimentary version of Scrabble or some other kind of game? I served this mekan (pronounced mee-kon) (Japanese for tangerine) for breakfast. Fruit + chopstick + carboard beads. Mmmmmm.