FUNtastic! Recycled Box Art

Created for local elementary school's Eco-Fest

If you tend to do a lot of online shopping, chances are you have a lot of cardboard boxes that need to be recycled. Why not use those boxes as canvases for artwork! Eco-art is a great way to teach your kids how to create a new use for things you don’t need anymore. You can cut the boxes down to any size you like and decorate them: create signs for sporting events, door hangers, wall art, picture frames, and any other creative idea you can think of!

Suggested Supplies:

Cardboard boxes

Box cutter (adults only for cutting the boxes)

Washable paint

Glitter pens/glue

Stencils

Ribbon or yarn for hanging (if applicable)

Author: Shannon McAfee, Founder and Owner, TOYconomy

TOYplay Tips: KEVA Contraptions 50 Plank Set

As soon as the box from Toyconomy arrived, my three-year-old daughter was eager to open it, since “It’s a package for me!” We immediately got out the Keva Contraptions set and got to work building ramps for the two balls that are included in the package.

Keva planks are familiar to my daughter, since they have thousands of them at our local science museum. Her grandparents also have a bunch they bought after visiting that museum with us. So she is familiar with building with the planks, which is an activity that is fun for all ages. My 80-year-old grandmother who is recovering from a stroke had a great time building towers with them with my daughter on a recent visit.

But the Keva Contraptions set is a little different, since it includes two balls and the idea is to make ramps for them to travel down, so that was a new, exciting concept. She immediately started building a tower just like she always builds and then dropped the balls down inside — the way she built the tower didn’t allow any room for the balls to roll out of the tower, so we talked about the need to create a gap at the bottom, and I used the included idea guide to show her a way they did that.

She said “Oh, oh, oh. Let’s try that!” and started again. After successfully making a tower with a gap at the bottom, she grabbed the idea guide and pointed to a ramp and said “Let’s make that!” So we set to work building a ramp together.

Then we tried to put tunnels at the top and bottom of it which took a few tries to get it just right, but we succeeded after a few frustrated tears. We talked about how we have to just keep trying, and she said “Oh yeah, I can do that! I will just try again!” I love the Keva planks for that — they are remarkably easy to build with so frustration doesn’t happen too often, and when a structure does fall down, it just creates an opportunity to practice and learn perseverance. After building a few other ramps, she said “Let’s just build a tower like I always do” and we built a few different towers with the planks. Then she and Daddy built a house with two different staircases. She played with it for well over an hour until it was bedtime.

This morning when she woke up, the first thing she ran for was the Keva Contraptions set and just started building towers with the planks on her own. I think the ramp concept might be better for kids a little older than her, as they do require a little bit more precision than she usually has with her buildings. But since all Keva planks are exactly the same size, shape, and weight, kids can use this set to build whatever they like, just as my daughter did.

The included balls seem to be basically ping-pong balls, so when we are at the grandparents’ house next week, I’m going to test my theory and see if we can build ramps with the planks and just use ping-pong balls with them. I would recommend the Keva planks on their own or this particular set for kids of all ages — the planks are so easy to build with for kids, and fun to try to create more difficult structures (like spirals!) for adults, so it’s a fun family activity where no one gets bored.

I am planning to buy a set of Keva planks, so we have plenty on hand for building — they truly are incredible and something I know we will all use for years and years to come.

Developmental Areas: Fine motor skills, cause and effect,spatial reasoning, critical thinking skills, creative play

Recommended Age : 7+ years (may be appropriate for younger children ages 3+ depending on skill level and interest – planks are not a choking hazard)

Playtime:  30 minutes+

Tested and Reviewed by: Cara (mom), 3-year-old daughter, and grandmother

Make Your Own Bubble Solution!

All kids love bubbles, so why not throw a little science education into the mix one day and make your own bubble solution with the kids! Here’s an easy recipe below:

Bubble solution

1/2 cup  Dishwasher Detergent

4-1/2  cups water

4 tablespoons glycerin (available in pharmacies)

Measure out the water, detergent and glycerin into the container with a cover and stir gently.

Note: The longer you let the mixture set, the larger the bubbles are and the longer they seem to last.

Extension activity: encourage the kids to use recycled material to create their own bubble wands while they are waiting for the mixture to set.

TOYplay Tips: Caterpillar Gears Toddler Toy by Melissa & Doug

My 2-year-old son, Jack, has been enjoying playing with the Melissa & Doug Rainbow Caterpillar.  He was immediately attracted to the vibrant colors and unique caterpillar shape.  Once I demonstrated the rotation of the gears, he instantaneously put his motor skills to work.  Jack quickly learned that he can take the gears on and off and change the direction of the rotation.

The next day, I used the colored gears to teach numbers.  We counted 1-6 with the gears on the caterpillar and then did the same removing them.  Before we put the caterpillar away, I reviewed colors as we were putting the gears back on.

Jack had a great time with this classic toy!

Developmental Areas: Motor skills, counting, cause and effect, and color recognition

Recommended Age : 18 months

Playtime:  10-15 minutes

Extension activities: use colored gears to reinforce counting, numbers, and colors

Tested and Reviewed by: Alyssa Chalifoux,  2-year-old son