Nest Building with Kraft Paper

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nest building with children play open ended

Spring is in the air here in Tokyo and we’ve been blessed with more than a week of beautiful 60 degree days. While out spotting Ume blossoms, we’ve been watching lots of birds, and talking a lot about nest building. I’m totally fascinated with all kinds of animal (and people) homes, so I’ve been thinking about how we could make a nest that the girls could build, add to, and alter.

Last week I did some Spring cardboard cleaning and stumbled across some Kraft paper that I had fished out of a neighbor’s recycling some time ago. Kraft paper (the base material for cardboard) works great for this project, but you could also use large sheets of newspaper, or if you’re a teacher try used, crumpled bulletin board paper.

The Cardboard Collective

I let the girls work with the Kraft paper to build the nest shape and showed them how to use the screwdriver to push the ribbon through the paper.

They were not strong enough to puncture the paper on their own, so in the end I had to help them secure the sides….maybe in a few years they’ll be independent young nest builders!

Open Play

We watched a few BBC videos to show the girls how birds use different materials in their nests. They were inspired to add ribbons, play scarves, and lots of junky little things from around the house to the nest before they climbed in with a few good books.

Open Play

I recommend building the nest on some kind of platform. We made ours from pineapple and banana boxes.  There must be some kind of technical term for the fun factor that comes from elevating a play structure… the bird’s definitely know what I’m talking about.

Enjoy Mr. Attenborough with your cup of tea…….

 

Stackable Cardboard Dressers for Kids

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Stackable dressers

My daughters are young and their needs are always changing. They wear a pair of shoes for 6 months then need a new pair.

They use a little chair, or a booster seat for a year or a month or 2 and then we have to replace it and either throw out the old one, find a friend who happens to need the same thing at the same moment we want to get rid of it, or put it on Craig’s List. (We have no charity shops here in Tokyo and limited recycling opportunities for large items.)

I find this kind of turnover exhausting. I wanted to create a dresser system for the girls that accomplished 3 things:

stackable dressers

  1. Recyclable so that we could recycle the whole thing, or just parts of it as the girls’ needs changed. I didn’t want the guilt of throwing away something that was perfectly good and I didn’t want the extra work of finding someone to take on our old stuff.
  2. Facilitates Independence. I wanted a piece of furniture that was easy to use and functional so the girls could easily pick out their own clothes and put them away starting from an early age (about 18 months-2 years ).
  3. Beautiful. I believe that the things in our life should be beautiful and functional. I want my daughters to value beauty, design, the arts, and momma moxie, so we tried to accomplish all of those things when we made the dressers. If you like hot pink and pattern as much as I do I hope you agree on our definition of beautiful….

The Cardboard Collective

To make the dressers, we collected kiwi boxes over the course of a few weeks, as well as beautiful papers; a mix of washi papers, origami paper, paper bags and Gallery Opening flyers.

I then decoupaged the papers onto the fronts of the boxes with water and white glue. I made a door in each box by cutting two sides about a ruler’s width from the edges of the box, and and then scored the bottom to create the door opening.

The doors of the dressers always stay shut and close easily. In a year and a half of using these boxes, the doors have never flopped open or gotten flimsy.

stackable dressers

The girls can easily open and close the drawers. By decorating each box differently they quickly have memorized what kind of clothing each box holds. (Only Dad is still struggling with this.)

Another benefit of these dressers is that they are not a hazard if they fall over in the event of an earthquake – an important consideration living here in Japan.

stackable dressers

If you’re wondering where you can get kiwi boxes, check out your local produce department. This past summer I wrote a post about how to find free cardboard here. We also use these boxes for storing our toys, puzzles, and art supplies. Yes, kiwi boxes are a definite favorite here in our apartment.

 

A Cardboard Toolbox for Kids

Cardboard Toolbox for Kids

Note to readers: Washi tape has since been removed from the toolbox (only to be rein-listed with parental supervision (full focus parental supervision)).

As a family of makers, a kids’ cardboard toolbox was next up on our cardboard making list. I found a smaller box with smaller handholds for the toolbox with real tools, real nuts and bolts and other real stuff, for real cardboard projects…

Cardboard Toolbox for Kids

Child sized tools: embellishment hammer, round tipped serrated cutting blade, spackling blade, screwdriver and safety scissors

The Cardboard Collective

Assorted screws, bolts, nuts and washers

Cardboard Toolbox for Kids

Here’s a peek at our first project. I originally saw this idea in what I believe was a February 2012 issue of Family Fun Magazine. They used dry wall screws and a rock for pounding, which would work too.

Cardboard Toolbox for Kids

We enjoyed the opportunity to do some parallel “making”. It was great to all be focused on different cardboard projects while we pounded, sawed and glued to our heart’s content.

Cardboard Toolbox for Kids

The accordion cardboard drop cloth is a great addition to this ensemble. I blogged about it last fall here.

The Cardboard Collective

Cardboard Toolbox for Kids

Do you have a cardboard tool kit or set of tools for your kids? I’d love to hear how others are making cardboard construction play accessible for kids of all ages…

 

Stackable Cardboard Puzzle Trays

Getting our toys organized to the point that they can easily be used and put away has been a huge focus in our home this past month.

Electra is a complete puzzle nut, so I thought getting our puzzles straightened up would be a good place to start.

These are just kiwi boxes, super sturdy ones, that I rescued from the grocery store. I cut out the front portion of the box with a utility knife.

The boxes have notches at the top that interlock with the box above. This feature makes the boxes great for stacking since they always stay in place.

In the first version I tried, I removed the entire front of the box, which I wouldn’t advise. It’s important to leave at least an inch or so on all three sides to maintain the rigidity of the cardboard.

We thought about decorating the boxes in some way, but I in the end I fell in love with the punchy red and yellow (and the little diagonal break.)  Bold, graphic colors are such a great contrast to all of the neutral shades we have in our apartment.

I’m a big proponent of Montessori philosophy. “Help me do it by myself,” is a central Montessori theme, and this project is an example of one way that we integrate Montessori  philosophy into our day-to-day activities.

Electra always works on a mat to define the space, and chooses one puzzle at a time. When she’s done she has to put one puzzle away before she gets  another one out.

Sometimes I pull all of the trays out for her to choose from and sometimes just a few, it kind of depends on the mood of the day and what she’s currently interested in.

I have to say, with this system, she really does clean up after herself. There’s something about that whole order begets order thing.

Now if I can just get it to spread to the rest of my house a little faster.

More on Montessori:

Basics of Montessori Philosophy

Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius, by Angelina S. Lillard, PhD (If you don’t have time to read this excellent book, listen to the NPR podcast while you’re folding laundry!)