Cardboard Play Day at Kujira Yama (#6)

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Cardboard Kryptonite!
We had light rain just after our event was set up for The Global Cardboard Challenge on Friday.  Sadly, most of the kids we anticipated didn’t show up. We didn’t lose heart though, and a few brave souls trickled in after the weather cleared to inhabit the cardboard dwellings that were created. As always, it was great fun and I couldn’t have done it without my husband’s help, or the wonderful folks that run the play park adventure playground.

I had such a great time this year getting to know the folks at The Imagination Foundation, as well as other Cardboard Challenge organizers from around the world. This year there were more than 43 countries represented and 100,000 kids at the Global Cardboard Play Day. If you’ve ever thought about planning an event for your community next year, be sure to visit Caine’s Arcade to find out more. You can be part of this amazing and inspiring cardboard movement!

10 Tips for Cardboard Play Day

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The Global Cardboard Challenge is here again! Will you be joining THE WORLD on October 5th, 2014 to either play or host an event?

For everything Caine’s Arcade and The Global Day of Play, please be sure to check out The Imagination Foundation’s excellent website and resources. 

I’m also excited to be planning my own event in collaboration with a local adventure playground here in Tokyo! More information to come, but until then I want to share some of my insights from hosting 5+ events last year…….

 *10 Tips for Cardboard Play Day*

1. It’s all about the cardboard!

  • Provide a wide variety of cardboard! Shoe boxes, small boxes, over-sized boxes, cardboard tubes, and whatever other reclaimed materials you’ve collected all add to the diversity and creativity of what kids create.
  • A rule of thumb that I follow is 1 square meter of cardboard for every 20-30 kids

2. Don’t let cardboard get unruly.

  • Cardboard + kids can = chaos!
  • Keep the cardboard upright if you can (as if each piece were a book on a book shelf.) That way there is thought in selecting the cardboard and it doesn’t get kicked around and stepped on.
  • It’s even more helpful to organize your cardboard by size. (Think of a lumber yard.) Kids often know what size materials they need and if the cardboard is organized then kids won’t have to spend time rooting around through big piles to get what they want.

3. Give them tool boxes.

  • Tool boxes allow kids to be mobile and have everything they need to build whatever, wherever, with whoever.
  • A tool box can be as simple as a shoe box, or a cardboard six pack.
  • Provide a place that is clearly marked for kids to return tool boxes when they’re finished working or ready to leave the play day.

4. Provide a secure area for kids to keep their stuff (i.e. coat check).

  • Kids easily loose track of their new friendship bracelet, cell phone, hooded sweatshirt, etc.
  • Create a place (as simple as a “drop” pile), or even better an informal system like a coat check, for keeping track of kids’ things so they can focus on building and collaborating with their friends, and you can alleviate the hassle of having to help them search for their lost items.

5. Keep the organizer free.

  • If you are organizing a cardboard play day, recruit enough parent volunteers to assist kids so you’re free to trouble shoot any problems that might pop up.
  • Parents get excited and often want to share or ask questions. If you’re responsibility is to supervise kids, you may be torn between providing adequate supervision and having a great conversation with a future cardboard enthusiast.
  • It’s also helpful to have a volunteer that is solely devoted to taking photos so you have some great shots for promoting your event next year.

6. Provide a theme/give permission

  • Telling kids that they can build whatever they want is exhilarating for some and overwhelming for others.
  • Providing a theme a invites collaboration and helps kids narrow their focus….
  • We’re building a village….
  • We’re building igloos….
  • We’re building a cardboard maze….
  • We’re making cardboard costumes….
  • We’re making an arcade….
  • It’s a cardboard ocean!
  • Some kids need permission to create and many just want to be told it’s OK to be creative and let loose. Indulge them! This is their time to think big and we want to encourage them in any way we can.

7. Give kids real tools.

  • It’s important to gauge your audience, (parents kids and the host institution) when deciding what kind of tools you’re going to make available to participants. I prefer to always give kids “real tools” as opposed to dumbed down versions that can cause frustration. In the real world, however that’s not always possible.
  • If kids are only allowed to use safety scissors and plastic saws, try arming your adult volunteers with more professional tools that can help finish the job. These are the tools I’ve found to be most effective and in my opinion entirely kid-friendly, but they require instruction and adult supervision:
  • round tipped serrated cutting tool
  • Phillips head screw driver
  • scissors
  • cordless drill

8. Use reusable fasteners.

  • To build really cool, big stuff out of cardboard you need some kind of fastener to hold everything together. (tape and hot glue just don’t cut it!) There are 3 that stand out in my opinion, based on their re-usability AND functionality.
  • MakeDo
  • re-usable zip ties
  • nuts and bolts
  • All of these fasteners have different price points and advantages and disadvantages, so I really recommend getting a few of each and test driving them at home before your event.
  • It’s really helpful to show participants how the fastener you’re using works when kids arrive, so keep some supplies in your pocket to quickly demonstrate as you greet new arrivals.

9. Have an exit strategy.

  • Sometimes kids are so excited at cardboard play day, they can’t stop building! Givie kids a heads-up starting 30 minutes before cleanup, so they can get focused on completion and get ready to say goodbye to their creations.
  • Make sure you have a plan for recycling your cardboard. I was once left in a terrible position at a play day, when the organization that donated the cardboard said they could no longer take it back! I had to haul it all back to my home by bike and then put it out for recycling over a course of several weeks!
  • If you haven’t prearranged volunteers for cleaning up and bundling cardboard at the end of your event, a clipboard signup is handy when participants arrive and usually provides you with enough hands to finish the job.

10. Get feedback.

  • This is something new I’m hoping to try this year; a one sentence question for kids as they’re cleaning up or heading out…. you  could also try a paper-pencil survey or even a simple high five?
  • What would you build next time?
  • Is it more fun to work by yourself, with your mom and dad, or with a friend?
  • What was the best part about today?
  • Have you ever made/built something like this? Why/Why not?
  • See you next year?

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Cardboard Play Days 4&5

This week was filled with lots of play, lots of cardboard, and lots of discovery. I learned a lot by watching children and parents play and build together during the two events that took place.

The first was a play event for my daughter’s Yoji group, a play group that meets weekly at the local Jidokan (a kind of youth community center). The other was at a local park called Kajino Koen. The Kahjino event hosted lots of local groups that support the park, like Play Park: a local adventure play organization that facilitates weekly play events for children.

Play Park built an amazingly tall and steep wooden slide with wooden handholds, as well as over-sized hammocks, rope walkways, and braided swings. I’m in love with the work that they do and I’m hoping to deepen my relationship with their community in the coming year.

A few things I learned this week:

  • Crayons (bright, waxy pastel ones) play really nicely with cardboard. Markers wander, and paint is a pain to clean up.
  • Parents love to play like children. Children give them a great cover for indulging in the kind of play that they used to do…. and at the same time children fall in love with their parents all over again. There is an amazing playful connection that Is kindled, and when I see parents leave cardboard events smiling, I know an imaginative little fire has been lit and will grow into something more.
  • pre-teen boys like to kick cardboard boxes and stab them with screw drivers. At first I bristle, and then I watch for a while and see the totally therapeutic effect of this activity for them. They calm down, start talking to each other and then start to cooperate and build. Cardboard stabbing boys, I welcome you, and I love to see the amazing things you can build with cardboard.
  • Girls can bring a quiet measured intensity to building with cardboard. I love watching them deliberate while considering all the details like widows and shelving…their excitement is contagious.
  • I love connecting with people through cardboard, seeing parents build something for their children, seeing children build something else for themselves, watching three year olds rip their older brothers around in the back of wheelie cardboard boxes.
  • What can I say? I’m hooked.

Resources: How to put wheels on a box and instructions for Tanaka Satoshi’s Giant Cardboard Windballs

Cardboard Heart Locket

Cardboard Locket

When my daughter was about 18 months old, we went on a trip to an island off of Tokyo’s coast called Shikinejima. It was the off season, most restaurants were closed and we were sleeping in a tent.

We ended up doing a lot of shopping at convenience stores, eating meals of: apples, Oreos, cans of hot cocoa, and cans of tuna fish, and were even gifted a fresh bag of assorted seafood from a local fisherman, which we hesitantly attempted to cook over a fire… Maybe you’ve had a similarly strange almost-camping experience?

Cardboard Locket

One of the shop keepers, a little old man who was so enamored with our daughter and her blond hair, kindly gave her a red plastic 3D heart pendant which had a light inside that would blink on and off.

It was one of those toys with sticking power, and became well-worn and well-loved over the next year and a half- that is until the battery died.

Cardboard Locket necklace

When I saw this cardboard heart ornament on Pinterest by A Little Learning for 2, it gave me the idea for making a low tech replacement for the blinking heart pendant.

My daughter approved. She loves being able to open and close the locket. We’re now working together to make something similar as a Valentine’s Day present for the grandparents. Definitely not afraid to share the cardboard love….

Info on adding cardboard beads to your locket here.

Make a Cardboard Locket by The Cardboard Collective

 

Cardboard Play Day at Musashino Place

The Cardboard Collective

The Cardboard Collective

The Cardboard Collective

A few photos from our first ever, open-to-the-Tokyo-public, cardboard pop-up play day.

We ran the event with just recycled cardboard, a few tools, bike power, and creative spirit.

Neighboring Ito Yokado kindly helped us bring many beautiful boxes over from their store (including the fantastic red stuff which was left over from New Year’s postcard displays) and MakeDo pieces were lent to us by the American School of Japan.

The Cardboard Collective

We assembled these incredible Wind-balls prior to the play day, with Tanaka Satoshi’s design plans that you can get here. Just plain fun. We’ve now got the smaller one up as a lampshade in the girls’ room and it’s gorgeous.

The Cardboard Collective

The highlight of the day was seeing parents and children building together. Once my Japanese teacher helped me to write a sign in Japanese inviting everyone to play freely, they all started getting to it. Little houses, castles, tunnels, trains and forts….it’s all poetry to me.

The Cardboard Collective

The Cardboard Collective

The same box on wheels that I made about 8 months ago (and flew back and forth from the US with) withstood countless laps on the concrete around the grass patch. I’m thinking we could do a great pop-up based on these alone….where to reclaim some old wheels????

The Cardboard Collective

Thanks to my friends from MIA, my husband (who even made dinner after we got home) and Chris B of a small lab for coming out, bearing the cold, taking pictures (many of which you see here) and wrangling cardboard with us at the end. A true labor of cardboard love! I really appreciate your support.

I’m looking forward to hosting more pop-ups and play days in 2013 so stay tuned for more info on where we’ll be next…

….of course I hope you’ll consider having a few cardboard pop-ups in your own home in the meantime?

Will You Join Me? A Global Cardboard Challenge

Have you heard the news? The Imagination Foundation, (the people behind the short film, Caine’s Arcade) are hosting a global day of cardboard play!

While I’m busy organizing an event here in Tokyo and getting ready to unleash our first cardboard challenge here on The Cardboard Collective, I wanted to get the word out to all of you so that you can get the ball rolling in your neck of the woods.

The Imagination Foundation has put together organizing kits with resources and ideas for hosting an event in your community.

We would love to publicize your event here on The Cardboard Collective as well, so this is an invitation to all of you cardboard creatives out there….Will you join me?