adventures in cardboard

Ahhhh, beautiful, precious cardboard. Is there anything it can’t become? Our recycling bin is one of our most shopped sites for art materials and entertainment, in fact my son recently forbade me from throwing away any cardboard box, EVER. These kids love cardboard so much that despite having two cutely outfitted twin beds, they have recently taken to even sleeping in it.sleeping in a box

Other past cardboard ventures include fairy houses,toilet paper roll fairy houses

toilet paper roll critterstoilet paper roll bat

a viking longshipcardboard viking ship

a submarine and crewcardboard submarine

a deep sea dioramadeep sea diorama

a plethora of birthday party decorations over the years, including dinosaur lawn decorationspainting a cardboard ankylosaurus

and a great white shark beanbag tossshark beanbag toss

and hilariously, an iPad.cardboard ipad

cardboard ipad

Yes, we’re those mean parents who won’t get their kids a tablet. (I spend enough energy setting and enforcing screen time limits as it is.) They love to play games on their grandparents’ ones, and my son tries to create analog versions of his favorite apps to play back at home.

Some of his best efforts have been “Dino Maker,” a mix-n-match game that lets you select a head, front, back, and tail to create your own dinosaur species

dino maker cardboard ipad app

“Ant Squish,” where you use your fingers to squish the ants as they rotate around the tablet, and make their pipe cleaner guts spill out, but avoid touching the wasps or you lose your turnant squish cardboard ipad app

And “Medic,” where you remove construction paper tumors from the patient’s brain.cardboard ipad app - brain surgery

playing the cardboard ipad

Most readers of this blog have probably seen the amazing video Caine’s Arcade, featuring a mind-blowing game arcade created completely out of cardboard and recyclables by (then) 9-year old Caine Monroy. If you haven’t then it’s required viewing before scrolling on to the rest of this post:

I watched, and rewatched it a couple of years ago when it came out but what I didn’t realize until recently is that it had a huge impact beyond the viral popularity of the video. Donations flooded in for a college fund for Caine (currently at almost $240,000!) and the filmmaker ended up starting a foundation to promote this kind of creative play for kids. It’s called the Imagination Foundation and they also host an annual event called the Global Cardboard Challenge where kids are invited to make anything their imaginations can dream up out of cardboard and other recyclables.

We actually went to a very similar event recently, sponsored by The Play Workshop, a new non-profit organization in Northampton, MA, that is working on bringing a permanent adventure playground to the area. If you read that Atlantic article The Overprotected Kid about adventure playgrounds last spring, then you’re probably as excited about this prospect as I am! A place for kids to play independently, constructing their own play structures out of loose parts. Healthy learning about risk-taking! Self-expression! The pride and excitement of creating things for themselves! I long for my kids to have the kind of free-wheeling childhood I did, and while there were no European-style loose parts playgrounds involved, there was a heck of a lot more independent, unsupervised play than is considered normal, or even legal, today. Less helicoptering, more Roxaboxen. I have a lot to say about the trend toward constant supervision ’til high school, actually, but that’s pretty far off track from what I meant to talk about here, which is my passionate love of cardboard.

So The Play Workshop’s eventual plan is to create an adventure playground in the Pioneer Valley, but until they reach that goal, they are putting on these pop-up adventure playgrounds, where the loose parts are easily transportable stuff like, you guessed it, cardboard boxes and recyclables!pop up adventure playground 3

My kids had a great time exploring other children’s forts and joining in their play,pop up adventure playground 1

as well as making some improvements to them.pop up adventure playground 2

and making some constructions of their own.pop up adventure playground 4

They even built a teeter totter out of an old cable spool and a long board!pop up adventure playground 5

What my three year-old lacks in cardboard building skills, she more than makes up for in imagination. She adopted this scrap of box and declared it her pet tiger, carrying it around with her for a good 30 minutes.

pop up adventure playground 7

And both kids seemed to get as much enjoyment out of the clean-up process as they did the building and exploring part, utilizing this pile of flattened boxes as a trampoline.pop up adventure playground 8

I want to finish by sharing my favorite resource on cardboard and kids. The amazing and inspirational LiEr of Ikat Bag wrote this awesome cardboard manifesto a few years ago, and it is basically the bible of how to make stuff out of cardboard with your kids. What kind of cardboard to use for what purpose, how to cut it, how to bend it, how to fasten it, and links to a bunch of tutorials of cardboard toys she’s done, including the cool viking ship we made (above) and dozens of other great things.

Oh, and I can’t end this post without my all time best favorite movie about kids and cardboard ever:

Happy Cardboard Adventures!

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it’s friday i’m in love

Happy Friday, kids! Here is your weekly dose of random awesome things from the internet.raspberries

1) First of all, a shout out to my friend Nils’ amazing band, Future Folk. Did you guys see the movie The History of Future Folk? If you haven’t, you should totally watch it. It has goofy but lovable aliens, banjo music, a charming romance plot, and saving the Earth. What more do you need in entertainment? The band, consisting of two helmeted, folk-music playing spacemen, are currently on a US tour, so if you have the chance, go see them play live – you won’t be sorry:

2) How cool are these little ceramic mugs by Creature Cups with a secret sea creature at the bottom? I have a birthday coming up this month for my ocean-obsessed son, and I’m thinking one of these might be just the ticket. Now to decide, shark or octopus??

3) Check out this super simple and – this is the awesome part – COLLAPSIBLE cardboard playhouse

My kids would love this, and it looks so easy to make, and to store when they’re not playing in it! Could be the perfect thing to pull out for a rainy day, and let them go to town decorating it with markers.

4) Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables.

French supermarket chain Intermarché recently launched this campaign (there called Les Fruits et Légumes Moches, but I rather love the translation “inglorious” for moche) to combat food waste. Basically instead of farmers throwing away all the produce they grow that doesn’t look like a textbook perfect specimen, Intermarché bought all the reject fruits and veggies and sold them to the public at a discounted price. Brilliant. Why doesn’t every supermarket everywhere do this. It’s unbelievable that farmers have to throw away so much unsellable food , yet there are people going hungry, or struggling to afford fresh produce. A perfect solution.

5) My Milk Toof

This insanely cute blog by California artist Inhae Lee is basically like a photo-comic that follows the adventures of two baby teeth who go around having adventures, trying on underpants, and experiencing the anxieties of modern life. I LOVE IT. There is even a picture book. Might have to get that for when my three year-old starts losing teeth, which, if she follows in her brother’s footsteps, should be in about 12 months… GULP!

6) You always hear about “the summer slide,” where kids lose their academic and reading skills over the months away from school. I’m not really worried about that right now, since my kids don’t even go to school yet, but we did sign up for our local library reading program just for fun. (Though since neither of them know how to read, perhaps we should call it our summer listening program.) One thing they both can do on their own, however, is math. I credit this 10% to the abacus my mother-in-law gave them, and 90% to Bedtime Math.

It’s this great website and app that each day posts awesome factoids and related story problems, inclusively geared toward various levels of math competence from preschoolers counting on their fingers on up to mid-elementary and beyond. The idea is to make it part of your bedtime routine and slip in a little math practice before lights out. Since I eliminated room cleaning and getting in their own beds from the routine this week, we have plenty of time for doing math. Win-win.

7) Speaking of bedtime, the wonderful Cosmic Kids Yoga posted a really sweet bedtime yoga routine for kids recently, called “Twilight the Unicorn of Dreams.”(Not to be confused with Twilight Sparkle the Unicorn of MLP) If you’re not familiar with Cosmic Kids, it’s this kooky British lady, Jaimie Brodie who makes yoga videos for young children that all involve an animal story for kids to act out through various yoga poses. My kids absolutely adore them and there is nothing more sweet and hilarious than watching them do “namaste” together at the end.

They also recently launched a meditation series for kids called Cosmic Kids Zen Den. I am so, so bad at meditating but I really aspire to work it into my life. I think these beginner meditation lessons meant for kindergarteners might be just my speed…

Namaste, guys, and have a great weekend!