Thursday, 28 January 2010

Are you having enough fun with boxes?

Back by popular demand!

OK, Mamacrow asked. Plenty of encouragement for the socially misaligned Grit.

So, here we go.

Seven days of crafty education with a kid and a load of boxes!
Have you noticed how kids and cats are exactly the same? Both investigate boxes. And neither laugh along with you when you slam the lid shut and take them off to the vets. Here are some other things to do with boxes this week apart from lock your baby up in one.

Day 1: Make a feely box.

A wondrous item.

For this, you need a glue gun and 14 extralong gluesticks, so get down the DIY shop.

Next, give your kid away. It is more fun if Tinkertop does not witness the preparation. And this project might be fun for you; you don't need small people asking where are you going? why do you need scissors? what are you doing with daddy's trousers? why are you laughing like that? At this point it would help very much if Tinkertop wasn't hanging onto your leg or eating the gluesticks.

Get your cardboard box. The bigger and stronger, the better.

And clear out your wardrobe. Look for fabric to cut up. Like your leather trousers. I know it's tough, but let's face facts. You bought them to impress kinky Simon with the bleached hair. He disappeared with your bezzy mate and your Duran Duran CD over fifteen years ago. You have never worn the trousers since. Scissors are therapy.

You've started, so may as well continue. Howabout that velveteen red pencil skirt, size 8? If you have a stomach like mine, it has motherhood stamped all over it and it ain't going inside a size 8 pencil skirt ever again. If it does, it is clearly near death's door, and will want comfort food on recovery. Enjoy the sound of those scissors.

Try the faux suede coat. It made you look like road kill. Unlike the bitch of a neighbour, ten years younger and size zero, who looked like a filmstar. Scissors are infinitely more satisfying than a plasticine poppet and pins. With faux suede, no-one can see what you are thinking.

While you're seeking vengeance, find those skinny jeans that gave you a muffin top and consider the pointlessness of Victoria Beckham. You'll feel better for it.

Now you're on a roll. Hack apart that string vest you deny ever having bought in 1988 when Madonna turned them into sex for one week. Afterwards, they became you like Rab C Nesbitt. You know even the Oxfam shop will hand it back.

And why stop with the wardrobe? One turn round the house yields torn net curtain, worn out satin cushion covers and velvet throws covered in vomit. And we haven't even started on the table linen yet. Or the wardrobe belonging to daddy. He's out and will never notice. If he discovers one leg of his linen trousers is missing, you can tell him Tinkertop did it.

By the end of three therapeutic hours you have amassed a fine pile of cut up leather, string, cotton, silk, voile, plastic, linen, satin and nylon, all in a glorious riot of colours and textures.

Unless every item you possess is black. If so, realise this fundamental problem quickly. The RSPCA shop may have a pound rail. Bulk buy fabrics here in every colour but black, bring them home and cut them up instead.

Next, rummage in your drawers. I told you this would be fun.

Five minutes in a cutlery drawer round here and we find cork, wooden blocks, tinfoil, pan scourer, feathers, cardboard, bootlaces, cotton reels and a bent cheesegrater. Perfect. It might suggest why dinner times are problematic.

Back to your big cardboard box. On two sides, cut holes, round enough for your arms to get in.

Set to work on the inside. In our feely box I glued hard stuff like wood, ridged plastic, cold metal, scourer, a small cardboard box, and a bent grater. You might be nice, and line your feely box with soft stuff. Cover the holes in the cardboard with curtains, hanging down on the inside. I used a see-through black polyester fabric from a 1980s Dorothy Perkins top. I'm so classy, it hurts.

Now start on the outside of the box. If it is a box with flaps, bring them together and seal them up with super strong packing tape. Apart from the holes you cut, it should be sealed all the way round. If you used a box with only five faces, you're in trouble. (I thought I'd wait till step 8 to tell you that.)

On all the six faces of your box, get going with the glue and fabric again. Cover every surface. Make it as fantastically Niedojadlo as you can. Do stuff like tie that linen trouser leg at the ankle with a shoelace, then fill it with polystyrene foam, and attach it to side of your box. Keep going, until the childminder rings up and begs.

Voila! Introduce feely box to child! Introduce child to feely box!

Caution. After you have laboured all day with love, burned the skin off your fingers with boiling glue, and cut up your clothes, do not be disappointed if Tinkertop stares indifferently past your box of delight, or is overawed and starts screaming in horror because daddy's leg is glued to the side. Your child might simply need encouragement to approach the box and stick her hands in the holes. At this point, do not say the box contains demons. Say the box contains chocolate. Be brave, Tinkertop, and find the Smarties.

OK, it's a long-term box. You can try and be an uber parent like Grit. Over a year of managing screaming child temper tantrums I sought to use the soft and hard materials of the box as a vehicle for discussing emotions. Like sometimes we say sharp and angry words which feel like cheesegraters; sometimes we feel soft and soothing words like this old suede pocket. It never worked. The only thing that ever worked for Tiger was smashing up her bedroom.

Day 2: The magic story box!
Now that your feely box lies discarded in the front room, try this one. (This takes some setting up, so plan ahead! Now you really feel the benefit of Grit's fantastic guide, don't you?)

Think up a story to tell. One that includes a magic box, obviously, or there's no point. Introduce a padlocked box. I don't know where you get it from. Be resourceful. I used the office petty cash box. Anyway, alongside the padlocked box, offer a range of different keys in envelopes or containers or, better still, put them in the ruddy feely box. Encourage Tinkertop to find the keys, try them all, and find her way into the padlocked box. Is she going to find anything? Link it to your story. And resolve that next time you won't use your car key because now you have no idea where it is.

Day 3: Make your own boxes
Drag some patterns off t'internet. There are loads. If you can't do that, make some up. I bought this book, which I admit is specialist interest, but I was in love with the design teacher at the time, and bellow dust flap, tuck lock, and auto lock bottom all made for a perfect fantasy.

Day 4: Geometry with boxes
You've probably done this because you are smart, but when I realised after two hours I was actually doing maths it was like the dawn of all divine revelation to me.

Collect lots of small containers in different geometric shapes, like cylinders, cubes, spheres, cones. Or give in and buy a set because it's quicker. Fill them all endlessly with coloured rice or beads or anything you won't mind the baby shoving up their nostrils. Sit happily pouring rice from one to the other, talk volume and ask questions like Do boxes have to look rectangular? What's a face? A corner? A solid? Side? End? Perimeter? Angle?

Oh I bet you could go on for hours. Soon you'll be doing singalong Pythagoras while the kids amuse themselves shoving stuff up their nostrils.

Day 4: Living in a cardboard box
After yesterday's hospital visit to remove six beads from Tinkertop's nose, you need to do something calming with boxes. Throw lots of empty boxes, Playmobil, and kids into the hollowed out front room and ask them to make a cardboard city for all the sad homeless people. With a bit of snip snip snip boxes make very good castles, doll's houses, stables, Travelodges, supermarkets and Barratt homes.

If you are really motoring on this one, or blind and careless to the destruction ahead, the kids can paint bricks and rooves and walls and make roads and hospitals and crematoriums and stuff. Hide the matches.

Day 5: How many can you think of?
Looking back to these old diaries, most weeks I included a discussion day. I take that to mean this was the day I threw the kids in the library and tried to hide for a cry in the toilets. Because you are stronger than me, you could make a big picture collage of boxes for your display wall, i.e. the last visible bit of wall in the front room. Cut up magazines or draw pictures of boxes: wooden sound boxes on guitars, shell inlaid music boxes, tin boxes of snuff, pirate boxes of buried treasure, Victorian food boxes, ceremonial scroll-storing boxes, Roman lead coffins. Oh the fun you can have.

Day 6: Get rid of all the bloody boxes
When you can't take any more, tell the kids everyone can play Post Office. Dress them up in polyester uniforms, sellotape up the boxes you've collected, write out address labels to teddies, unicorns, anyone, and create some stamps. Rubber stamp everything like mad with a scowl just like at a proper post office counter. Exchange plastic money. Then take all the boxes to a recycling point and dump them. This is called posting them, and in some circumstances is as good as using the actual post office.

Memo: Check for actual box contents before tipping. Buying a replacement classic pooh bear at £9.95 is not a mistake I recommend to anyone.

Day 7: Travel back in time with your box
By now, you are interested in boxes through the ages, aren't you? Stop watching Doctor Who and read Hans Christian Andersen's The Tinder Box. Come on, do some actions. If you really want to come over all English teacher, draw pictures of the main events on different cards, jumble them up, and ask the kids to put the story back together in proper picture order. Make the dogs especially terrifying.

Hmm. Now I think of it, Tiger's terrible fear of dogs might have started here.

There, Mamacrow. I am all boxed up for the week, and hope you are too.

(And I observe there are actually two day 4s. I thought that was a week of achievement.)


sharon said...

A-ha! The 8 day week! Is this compulsory for HE? Or merely a useful option?

We had fun with boxes too, in fact quite often Boxes of the Extremely Large Variety resided in our living room long enough for the homeless to take up residence.

On a more serious note the feel-y boxes reverberate with me as I had several of those for physio purposes after I had a stroke. Gave me a whole new appreciation on how babies/children learn ;-)

Michelle said...

LOL I did do the singalong Pythagoras!

mamacrow said...

awesome! we love love love cardboard boxes here - they inevitably get turned into dolls houses for homeless stuffed toy elephants/hippos etc etc.

Moohaa said...

This is fantastic! I am going to use and pass on some of these ideas. Thanks!!

MadameSmokinGun said...

Can I come and live in one of your boxes? Not the cheese-gratery one - I want to be in a soft faux suede and curtain feely box for a while. I don't mind if you recycle me. I might come back as a maths genius. You will let me won't you?