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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diy nursing necklace

natural wooden nursing-teething necklace

Happy World Breastfeeding Week! In honor of nursing mothers everywhere, here’s a tutorial to make a stylish nursing necklace. I’ll actually be helping moms make these Wednesday morning (8/6) at Windham County Breastfeeding Coalition’s World Breastfeeding Week party from 10-12 in the Tyler Conference Room at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, so if you’re local, stop on by!nursing necklace

Why would anyone need a necklace for nursing, you may ask? Well, if you’ve nursed a child past the age of about 4 months, you may have noticed that they are always looking for something to do with their hands while they nurse. Sometimes this is something as cute and cuddly as patting mama’s cheek or hugging her waist, but often it is really suuuuper annoying behaviors like pinching or even worse, the dreaded “Tune in Tokyo.” So my best solution has been to proactively give the baby something acceptable to pinch, twiddle, and squeeze, rather than say, my own body.natural wooden beads

These necklaces are especially great because they’re also completely non-toxic, made with Alexa Organics‘ natural wooden beads and rings finished with beeswax and olive oil, and naturally dyed leather cords from The Leather Cord Store on Etsy. After having two babies who loved (and still love, much to my chagrin) to explore the world by putting it all in their mouths, I think it’s important to make sure anything that’s going to be near your baby’s face is safe for them to mouth and chew on. In fact, these are great as a fashion accessory for any mother whose child likes to grab and chew on her jewelry, no matter how she’s feeding her baby.nursing necklace supplies

There are lots of ways you can assemble these materials to make a cool necklace. The simplest way is, just string a bunch of beads onto the cord, let the ring slide on over them, and knot the cord at the back.wooden beads and teething ring on leather cord

I like this version because the teething ring is big enough to side over the beads, so it makes a cool Saturn effect (well, when you are wearing the necklace in a vertical position, it’s more like Uranus), and it’s something interesting for your baby to do with the beads.

If you prefer a more static position for the ring, you can make a slip knot around itslipknot on teething ring

and then slide an equal number of beads onto each side of it before knotting at the back.knotting the ends

And there you have it! My fellow breastfeeding mamas, I salute you. May your nursing days be peaceful and rewarding, with a minimal amount of pinching and twiddling!

Oh, and PS, here’s one more diy treat for nursing mamas: my patented recipe for the tastiest ever lactation cookies! Bon appetit! (See what I did there?)