The description of DIY Cardboard Box Project
Like many people, my family are feeling the full weight of the recession, so the most aggressively marketed toys and video game consoles are definitely off the shopping list for now! However, when I was clearing out some old cardboard boxes from my office a few weeks ago, I was reminded of the old cliche: that kids get more enjoyment from the packaging than the gift. I decided to put the theory to the test, and I think the results are worth sharing with other parents.
First of all, I know that many people will read the opening paragraph above and wonder if I'm a tree-hugging, anti-commercial luddite, so I want to assure you that this is not the case! Like many parents, I sometimes find it difficult to suggest activities for my kids to do, and I probably resort to using the TV more often than I should. This article is simply one little gem that worked for me, and hopefully others will benefit too. It is also worth pointing out the ages of my children: my daughter is 4, and her little brother is 2.
Armed with enough old, torn cardboard to bury a small car, a roll of packing tape and a scissors, I gathered the kids together. "Who wants to make... a ROCKET", I asked. Immediately, their eyes lit up, and I had their attention, although I did have to explain that it wouldn't really fly.
It was at this point I realized that I was going to have to do a lot of the initial work myself, because the cardboard was too thick for little hands to cut. A few of the boxes were reasonably intact, so I quickly stacked them on top of each other to make the body. To get the kids more involved, I lay it horizontally on the ground, and got them to lie down beside it, so I could measure where to put the window. After that, they 'helped' by crawling in and out of the body, which had now been dubbed 'The Tunnel'.
While they were busy, I cut out a few more pieces: one for the nose cone, and a few for the fins. Putting it all together was a snap, and took maybe 10 minutes from start to finish, and admittedly, it showed. In one sense, the finished piece looked exactly like an assemblage of old cardboard stuck together with tape, but to the kids, nothing could convince them that this wasn't a rocket. The fact that it reached up to the ceiling only made it more impressive!
Maybe my kids are easily amused, but the excitement in our home that evening was palpable! The fact that it was big enough to house both of my children was a big bonus, and soon their imaginations took over. They were enacting little stories, playing hide and seek, and they even figured out a way to move the rocket while they were still inside it. Bedtime stories that night revolved around flying to distant planets, but in the back of my mind, I expected the novelty to wear off quickly.
Over the following days, the initial excitement did die down, but to my surprise, it was replaced with a different kind of enthusiasm: decorating the rocket. Every day for the past few weeks, they've been painting small patches, drawing little people on it, even sticking a little bit of kitchen foil on it to make it look more like a spaceship. I was especially impressed when they found some orange tissue paper left over from Halloween: they stuck it to the base of the rocket because they thought it looked like fire!
I wrote at the beginning that I wasn't a frugal parent that would deny my kids everything their peers took for granted. However, I no longer look at this project as building a cheap toy, but rather as an engaging, ongoing activity. There is a big difference between a toy and an activity, and I sensed that my kids got a lot more enjoyment out of this, than they did out of many fly-by-night branded products.