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!

Beautiful DIY Cardboard Storage is HERE!

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Cardboard Totem Boxes: pattern and video tutorial https://www.etsy.com/listing/152961516/cardboard-totem-boxes-pattern-and-video?ref=shop_home_active

Cardboard Totem Boxes: pattern and video tutorial https://www.etsy.com/listing/152961516/cardboard-totem-boxes-pattern-and-video?ref=shop_home_active

Cardboard Totem Boxes: pattern and video tutorial https://www.etsy.com/listing/152961516/cardboard-totem-boxes-pattern-and-video?ref=shop_home_active

All I can say, is it’s a great feeling to start with an idea, work with it for more than 6 months, and get to this place.

I’m so excited to share this pattern with you! It started basically as a way to solve a problem I was having:
How do I organize my kid’s toys? (the little ones)
which led to other problems:
How can I make something that’s just right for them?
How can I make it out of cardboard?
How can I make it strong?
How can I make it recyclable?
How can I make it beautiful?
Well, curiosity can lead you down a long and winding path.
Mine included a re-acquaintance with high school geometry, learning more about photography and lighting, the search for affordable copyright free music, video editing, cardboard sourcing, explorations in color and pattern (ultimately inspired by the divine Japanese kimono), tool and material testing and lots and lots of watching kids play (the best part)!
I ended up with Totem Boxes.

A set of sculptural stacking boxes (the base of one box fits the top of another) that double as a nightstand, stool, ottoman or table and stool set for children. You can leave them plain, or decoupage them with decorative paper.

What do you do with them?

Put your favorite stuff inside. Yarn, yo-yos, matchbox cars and trucks, Legos, rubber stamps, fancy hats, scarves, alphabet magnets, musical instruments, play-dough, cookie cutters, wooden blocks…

I don’t exactly understand the magic, but my kids love cleaning up with the Totem Boxes. They make sorting the toys like another way to play.  You can easily move the boxes to where the mess is because they are modular, and then stack them up as you go. They look good sitting in the corner of your room, if you do nothing else. To me, they are functional sculpture.

And they’re not just for kids. Someday when I’m a knitter, I’m going to make a set with a hole on the side for the yarn to feed out while I knit. I’ll prop up my heels on the boxes as I relax and make gorgeous socks….

But are they durable enough for kids to use?

Months of testing and strength to support the sitting weight of a 150lb. adult makes me say YES.

What do I need to make them?

You will need lots of strong cardboard (like the kind that banana boxes or diaper boxes are made out of) and basic supplies like a pencil, white glue, a metal ruler, binder clips or clothespins and a utility knife. You will also need access to the internet, a computer and a printer to print out your pattern pieces and directions.

How long does it take?

Anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour for the first box, but after making about 20 of them, I’ve got it down to about 30 minutes a box (without decoupage). Best thought of as a weekend project. Say, if you wanted to make an amazing gift for your 2-5 year old niece or nephew’s birthday.

Where can I buy the pattern?

The pattern costs $12 and is currently available in my Etsy Shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/cardboardcollect

It includes instructional PDFs in US Standard and Metric with written directions and a pictorial guide with links to 3 original video tutorials. The elementary school teacher in me did my best to appeal to audio and visual learners, so if you get frustrated by traditional patterns, fear not.

Cardboard Tinkering Toy Series: Egg Carton Gondola


As Christmas marketing campaigns and expensive toy lists begin appearing on the internet, I wanted to start this series to remind parents and gift givers everywhere about  simple, low cost, recycled toys that kids will wrench out of your hands and say, “Let me try!”

In case you haven’t heard about the creativity crisis that’s being heralded by lots of important people, I just want to leave you with this simple thought. As a parent, you are your child’s first teacher. They are constantly watching you to find out what you think, what you like to do, and how you handle a challenge. While we don’t need to teach our children how to play, we do need to positively model for them the joy of learning, experimenting, creating and doing.

How do you do that? You can let your child see you make things, solve problems, fix what’s broken….. be resourceful. There are a million ways to do it, but if you want a place to start, here’s one:

To make an egg carton gondola:

1. Use the nail clippers to cut notches on both sides of the spindles in the middle of the egg carton. Measure down about 1 cm to 1 inch to make the cuts.

2. Cut a slit down the entire length of the tube. You will need a tube thicker than a standard paper towel tube. A tube that has three or four layers makes a gondola that’s quite strong and will hold up to lots of play.

3. Slide the tube unto the egg carton where you’ve made the notches so that the tube grips the egg carton when you put gentle pressure on it.

4. Puncture a hole in one end of the tube and tie a long string or piece of yarn to the gondola for moving it back and forth.

5. Thread an even longer second string through the tube for the gondola to travel on. Anchor this string in two places with a slight decline so that gravity will help the gondola to travel on its own.

And one more thing. I’m challenging everyone who reads this blog to make a handmade toy for a child they love for Christmas. It’s not an official challenge as I don’t have the energy for another one after the Cardboard Costume Challenge, but I just want to give you permission to make something quick and homey, and even ugly, that you can play with together on Christmas day. I promise your child will never forget it.