Category Archives: children’s activities (recycled materials)

Build a Bot: Robot Building Party Favor Game

MYO robot party bots

Gossiping robots -These were made by two guests at party.

I designed this game because I wanted the kids to have something fun to do at my daughter’s 9th birthday party. In addition, I wanted to give out party favors but wanted to avoid the usual candy and plastic stuff.

Even the girls loved this robot building game. It generated lots of laughs and the kids liked that they could take their creation home.
Game rules
Using one dice, roll to see what number you get. Start with the birthday boy or girl and then continue around the table.
If you roll a one, pick out a body and pass the dice to the next player.
If it’s a two, pick out eyes and pass the dice to the next player.
If it’s a three, pick out a nose and pass the dice to the next player.
If it’s a four, pick out a head and pass the dice to the next player.
If it’s a five, pick out a mouth and pass the dice to the next player.
If it’s a six, pick out arms and pass the dice to the next player.
Bonus: If you roll the same number as the previous player, pick out an extra part. You might want to find something to be the ears, hair, eye brows…
Note: If you roll a two and you already have a set of eyes just pass on the die. There is no limit to the number of extras you can choose; as long as you are lucky enough to roll the same number as the previous player’s roll.
Game set up:
You will need to set up 7 trays; one for each number plus one more for extras. Find “trash” for the parts. Get enough for each player plus a few (for variety sake).
Body (one): olive oil cans, large cans…
Eyes (two): bottle caps, nuts, bolts, misc…
Nose (three): misc…
Head (four): cat food or tuna cans…
Mouth (five): misc.
Arms (six): thrift store silverware, electrical wire…
Extras: electronic wires,…

robot parts

Robot Part Trays
Children have artistic freedom. If they want the eyes to be on the side of the head, they should put them there. These robots develop a personality of their own. Make up a name for each. The first person to finish gets a small prize. The game continues until all the guests finish their robot. Some of the bots look like robot people and some resemble animals, some are clown-like and others are aliens.
After the children have designed their robot, you will need to glue on the parts while the kids move on to another activity. I used a glue gun which worked with most of the parts (avoid really heavy items). I also used magnets to hold some of the pieces. (The head attaches well to the olive can with a magnet.)
If you want to restrict your pieces to things that a magnet will stick to, you can make a Mr. Potato Head -like toy (We named it Mr. Bolt or Mrs. Washer.)The fun being that you can rearrange the pieces to make different faces. Just glue a magnet to the back of each piece.

More robot fun coming soon.

Make A Super Cool Tipi Fort Using Recycled Materials

teepee

Although tee-pee is often spelled tee-pee (t-e-e-p-e-e), tipi (t-i-p-i) is considered the correct spelling. Tipi is a Sioux word formed from the word meaning to dwell or live- ti, and the word meaning used to live in -pi. Regardless of the spelling, they make a super cool fort.
Tipi poles:
1. I made my poles out of bamboo from a friend’s property. Start asking around to see who might have some. Bamboo grows quickly and spreads easily. I bet people with bamboo on their property would be glad to have you come by and harvest some. Use a hand saw to cut down and use clippers to cut off any side branches. Alternative: use straight thin trees with few if any side branches. The diameter of the poles should reflect the size of the tipi: a larger tipi will need thicker poles than a smaller tipi. Use your judgment: poles should be thick enough to support the cover without bowing in. You will need 11 or more poles for this extra large tipi; each pole should be 11.5 feet long. If you plan to use your tipi inside, like we do, make sure to make it a size that will fit. I have high ceilings so I was able to make a really large tipi. Smaller tipis don’t need as many poles. The toddler tipi fort I made had only 6 poles that were 64 inches long. Poles for a toddler tipi could also be made out of newspaper. Make long thick rolls of newspaper. Connect these rolls with some masking tape. Then add more layers of newspaper to reinforce the places where the tubes connect.
Making your tipi cover:
1. I used blankets from the thrift store; it took me several months before I found enough for this project. I think I pieced together about four blankets. I thought that these blankets looked vaguely like animal skins and had the benefit of not needing to be hemmed along the edges. To make it look more authentic, I hand-sewed the pieced together with imitation sinew, which is thick waxy cord, using a large upholstery needle. Sinew is what Indians traditionally used to sew skins with; it is made from the tendons of animals.
Sheets would also work well as a cover. The benefit of using sheets is that they are easy to find at second-hand shops; you might even have some old ones around your house. Also, especially if you are using white or another light color, the cover could be painted as many tipis often were. In addition, you may like that you can sew the sheets together with a sewing machine.
2. To make the shape of the cover:
paper tipi 1

paper tipi 2

To make it easier to visualize, I made a paper model. Note that the tipi shown here is in the shape of an inverted cone. Usually a tipi would be in the shape of a tilted cone: the floor would be in an egg shape and when viewed from the side you could see the back was steeper then the front. We ignore this fact for purposes of this play tipi. To make the cone-shaped cover you will first need to decide how big you want your tipi. Remember that the height of your tipi will not be as tall as the poles, ie: make the poles longer than the desired height plus extra to extend out the top. Determine the length of the tipi side (A to B in image). Your fabric can be folded in half like in the image or you can lay the fabric out and cut out the resulting semicircle. I had someone hold a string (cut to the length of the tipi side) at point A. I then marked the distance while swinging the string in an arc.

Add smoke Flaps, for decorative purposes, if you like. Smoke flaps were used to help direct the flow of smoke. If it rained, the smoke flaps could be closed. Also cut a door. A smaller door would have been more authentic but I thought wildly playing kids would have an easier time getting in and out.
3. You can make a door out of some of the left-over cover material and two sticks. Turn over the fabric and sew a channel for the stick (as I did on the top of my door) or slice small holes and weave the stick through (as I did on the bottom of the door).

tipi door detail -sticks

tipi door open

Flip door to the side if you want to leave the door open.

Setting up your tipi:

tipi setup 1
2. Tie four poles together about 18 inches from the top (traditional tipis had a lot more pole extending out the top). Then stand the poles up. (Smaller tipis can have less pole extending out.)
tipi setup 2

3. Arrange other poles (11 or more total) for a x-large teepee.

tipi setup 3
4. Apply the “skin”. (Have your covering folded in half with the good side on the inside of the fold. Placing center back into place first then unfold the other side.

tipi setup 4
5. Arrange the cover. I used large safety pins to close the front (not authentic of course but easy). The next time I set up our tipi I think I’ll try “pinning” it up the front with sticks in the traditional way.

tipi setup5 with door

Fake Christmas trees are perfect for this imaginative play. I got mine second-hand of course.

tipi door detail

Tie the ends of the top stick to the tipi.
I couldn’t capture in pictures how cool it feels being inside. Furthermore, it is surprisingly spacious (an adult can stand in it and sleep inside) yet it has a very cozy feel. Your kids will want to make up their own Indian names like: Eagle Feather, Big Bear, Dancing Deer…

Pretend To Campout: How To Make A Pretend Campfire and Paper Marshmallows

roasting pretend marshmallows

Believe it or not, children can have fun without watching TV. Take out some sleeping bags and let the kids pretend to camp out in the middle of your living room. They will enjoy building this imaginary campfire and pretending to roast marshmallows. Later they may tell each other stories, pretend to hear nocturnal animals lurking about, and imagine they are falling asleep under the stars.

pretend camp fire
How to make a pretend campfire:
Gather enough rocks to make the fire ring. Clean them off before bringing inside. We ripped up a brown paper bag and then twisted the pieces to look like firewood. You could use real twigs and sticks but paper is cleaner. We used scrap pieces of felt for the flames. To make the flames, the kids and I cut up yellow felt scraps (you could use a mix of colors) so that they were a bit like irregular triangles. Then we pulled at the edges to soften the look. Arrange the rocks in a circle and build your fire.

How to make pretend marshmallows:
You will need one-sided office paper, a stick about 2 or so feet long and a little white glue or clear tape.

MYO marshmallow step 1
Take a piece of one-sided office paper. One-sided paper means that only one side is blank. Why use a new sheet of paper when you can reuse another?
Fold the paper in half long ways. You should have the printed on side hidden on the inside.

MYO marshmallow step 2
Fold in half again.

MYO marshmallow step 3

MYO marshmallow step 4
Roll the resulting strip of paper around the stick.

MYO marshmallow step 6
Fold another piece of paper as before. Then add a little glue to this new piece before adding.
Add more layers (strips of paper) until the marshmallow is the size you want it to be. You will want to save the piece of paper with the least amount of stuff on the other side to allow for the whitest marshmallow. Use a piece of clear tape or carefully glue the end of the strip in place. If you choose to glue instead of tape, you will need to put something on top of it to hold it in place while the glue dries.
For a roasted look, be creative. We used watercolors and a sponge to apply paint around the edges.

campfire for girls and dolls

Here are some snapshots. These clever girls inspired me to do this post. They came up with the marshmallow idea.  They used shorter sticks for their dolls to use. The sticks were held on with elastic bands.

Bag Of Nest Building Material, Great Gift For Birds Or Bird Lovers

Help make a bird’s job of nest building a little easier by providing it with wonderful nest building materials. After you make it, hang outside in early spring for the birds to discover. Then keep your eyes out for nearby bird’s nests: you might spot some of your offerings.

How to: Save a plastic mesh produce bag: they are the bags that oranges and onions usually come in at the grocery store. Loosely stuff your mesh produce bag with any of the following:
bits of left-over yarn, sheep’s wool , wool roving (ask a spinner), dryer lint (especially when you are drying a wool blanket or are felting a wool sweater ; but I wouldn’t recommend using fabric softeners, because the birds don’t need the added chemicals.) You can also use: fur, human hair, horse hair, snake skins(sure why not), leaves, feathers, plant fluff from a cattail plant or from a milkweed pod, straw, tree bark, pine needles, moss… For fun add: small colorful pieces of scrap yarn (5 inches more or less), strips of cloth, shredded paper… Experiment and see what happens.
Quick gift for nature lovers of all ages.

Fun To Make Autumn Leaf Mobile

Fall is such a pleasant time for me. I really enjoy the cooler temperatures and the changing colors of the foliage. When a gust of wind comes along and the leaves rain down, I smile. I guess that is why I like these mobiles so much. It is like being outside even when I have to be inside.

Try using the leaf stem called the petiole (if long enough) to tie the leaf to the branch.

Salvaged copper wire can be used to hang your mobile or use whatever you have on hand.
How to: Spend a pleasant afternoon collecting your favorite leaves. Take a walk perhaps with your son or daughter and search for the best specimens. Your theme could be one kind of tree or a variety of trees and colors. Also, find a small branch from which you will hang your leaves.
During your walk you could introduce a few vocabulary words and a bit of science. Mention deciduous plants are the plants that drop their leaves in preparation of the coming winter. Evergreen plants like pine trees and hollies stay green throughout the winter: they lose leaves too but not all at once. Abscission is the process by which leaves are shed.
When you get home, and if the leaf isn’t completely dried out, you can use the leaf’s petiole (the stem part) to tie the leaf to the branch. Alternatively, glue the leaves directly onto the branch. Clamp with a cloths pin until the glue dries.

These ginkgo leaves are so beautiful. On that day the ground was painted yellow from fallen ginkgo leaves. The shadows are beautiful too.
Another option is to hang the leaves from pieces of string, thread or fishing line.  You might be able to salvage some fishing line. I’ve found some in the past near fishing spots and saved it for projects. Plus, I feel good about picking up litter.

I wish I had made this ginkgo leaf mobile with thread instead of this string because the thread would be almost invisible.