Not-So-Wooden Blocks

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Slight confession. I have a bit of a shopping problem. Not enough to call a 1-800 number about, but enough of a problem that box hoarding is in my future. You see, I like to buy things from Amazon. The hoovering of the mouse over shiny items, the pulse in my skull when I drag items to my shopping cart, the total release of chemicals I can never hope to pronounce as I input my credit card numbers. Pure, pure ecstasy, let me tell you.

Of course, this is in stark contrast to the fact I’m El Cheap-o. I’m serious. I’m so frugal, I use toothpaste to cover up holes I’ve made in the walls by attempting to hang pictures, since I’m too tightfisted to actually just buy a tape measure to line up what’s being hung with where it needs to go. I like to pretend that approximating based on freckle location along my forearm works just as well (trust me, it doesn’t).

While I just dropped $89 on a dresser my daughter desperately needs (I’ve been using a hanging shoe organizer to store her clothes for the better part of two years now) I’ve yet to actually buy toy blocks. I like blocks and most parenting resources I read talk about how they’re great for motor skill development. Awesome stuff. I have a shelf that I hung so low, it will never actually hang towels on the brightly-colored pegs, and I have (allegedly) too severe of a case of OCD to just let the shelf be pretty for the sake of being a shelf. So these blocks I intend to make with ribbon and hang them as lettered accessories.

Anyway, I made them out of cardboard! Here’s a brief tutorial for Not-So-Wooden Blocks.

You will need:

-Cardboard
-Sharpie
-Scissors
-Glue (or other bonding agent)
-Decorating materials

First, I grabbed a few cardboard boxes that weren’t dusty or covered with grime to be cut up. You can’t really wash cardboard, so I suggest implementing my (pretty low) standards of cleanliness. Especially for boxes that apparently originated in Italy.

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Next, I knew I needed to create about six squares to create a perfect block. I first learned how many sides there were to a block in fifth grade math class, when we did a brief Geometry unit. I remember being told that a cube and a block were one in the same, and that I would never forget the sides to a cube due to my own spatial cranial relationship to a block. My teacher, Mrs. Summers, didn’t like me very much, but 15 years later, I’ve got to give her credit for one subversive way of insulting my intelligence (block head! get it?) even if she is dead now. Anyway, remember how I said I’m too cheap to buy any unit of measurement? That’s pretty much true. So I snapped together some of my son’s Legos to create a square shape about the size I estimated wooden blocks to be.

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After I finished tracing squares, I cut them out on a surface which could be painted, and went to town decorating them. I started off with red paint, but it took too long to dry and I was really into the episode of “Hell’s Kitchen” airing in the background, so the other colors received a marker updo.

Not really digging the “Hey! I’m actually cardboard!” give away of the natural color, I opted to obscure it with some lettering and additional paint. This is where you can go crazy with your own decorations. I lucked out, because these cubes are going in a Dr. Seuss-themed bathroom. In a nutshell, that means it doesn’t matter if I mess up, because even if I inadvertently create a triangle here, because it’s Dr. Seuss, it’s allowed to be messed up. Heck, it probably even matches better, so I owe it to my kids to do a poor job (how’s THAT for justifying mediocrity, America?) or else it won’t like right. However, unless you’re going for a Dr. Seuss theme, I’d suggest that you avoid creating under my philosophy.

Once the paint had (almost) completely dried, I began constructing the block. I wasn’t too worried about the arrangement of letters, so it didn’t really matter where I started. Put down one square and then glue each side on one at a time, and from the inside to avoid drip lines and strengthening the integrity of the block. This is what I recommend, because this is precisely what I DIDN’T do, and it would have been better if I had.

No, I was the genius who thought it was a fine idea to do squares across from each other and leave the glue on the outside (maybe Mrs. Summers was on to something…). Here’s a staged photo of how I’d advise you to do it (you know,  CORRECTLY) for your own sake.


After you’ve successfully glued everything together, what’s next is up to you. You can stop, or you can choose to embellish it further. My writing style should probably tip you off to which direction I headed.


After it dried, I attacked it with some ribbon to cover the glue streaks and some mod podge for a shine, and left it alone overnight. Make no mistake, it won’t pass for a wooden block, but it looks decent enough and I saved a few things from the trash heap, so I’m feeling pretty could about myself.

Here’s the finished product, on the shelf it will hang from. I ran out of ribbon, so I’ll have to buy more before I hang it properly. I don’t have any idea how long, though. I’m just going to hazard a guess.

 

Emotion Flashcards

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Let me start out this blog by acknowledging I’m not an artist. I’m not even really a crafter. My approach is similar to the plot line of a made-for-TV Lifetime movie: if I throw enough sparkly things together, and have a good cry, and maybe make a passing mention of cancer, the end result is bound to be appealing to at least half of all those paying attention.

Here’s the first thing to know about me. I tend to dive into things head first, after I’ve made enough noise to give the (erroneous) impression I’m a planner. I’m the kind of person who sits down and makes a shopping list based on the sales happening that week and what coupons I have stockpiled, but will, upon arrival at said grocery store, deliberately refuses to look at her list. At all. I don’t have an explanation for this; it’s just an annoying habit that I have. So when I decide on a project, I make an elaborate design in my head, then wing it in real life.

So it’s kind of fitting that my first entry at Demeter Space is going to mirror this philosophy. The husband and I are basically too broke, like about 99 percent of the rest of the country’s population, to decorate our home like something out of Passable Hearths and Patches (the dime-store, often-shunned cousin to Better Homes and Gardens). Heck, even if we could afford quality to the tune of Crate and Barrel clearance, I wouldn’t have the first idea how to do anything beyond straightening a place mat.

Unfortunately, as a stay-at-home mom, I’m kind of locked into this cultural assumption that domesticity is as natural to me as being a jerk is to Ingrid Newkirk. Obviously, I could spend the next 12 paragraphs deconstructing the sexist notions contained therein, but I do that plenty over at AdiosBarbie (really) and I want to use this opportunity to give myself some kudos. After all, as women, it’s not acceptable to be proud of yourself, or broadcast what you do well, especially in writing.

Alright, on to the show.

Of the small assortment of life forms crawling around my house, one is a four-year-old boy, my stepson, who is quickly emerging as my muse when it comes to crafting. In fact, my relationship with him has a lot to do with why I picked up crafting in the first place; when he’s not busy constructing Legos with his dad, I wanted him and I to find a way to bond.

Most of our crafts have been of the novelty and whimsical variety, but today, I realized sometimes crafts can be a great way to establish a communication breakthrough. Despite being far more articulate than most four-year-olds ought to be, little man has trouble expressing his emotions. So with some inspiration from The Happiest Toddler on the Block, I devised:

Emotion Flashcards!

You will need:
-Note cards
-A marker
-Photos of your child
-Pictures of faces showing emotion
-Stickers

1. After gathering your supplies, round up photos of your child displaying various emotions. I didn’t have photos I wanted to cut up, so I just snapped a few with the camera on my phone and uploaded them through my computer to print them out. Make sure to ask for a wide range of emotions–since little man is only four, I felt safe sticking with basic emotions, like “sad” and “happy.”

2. Sitting down with your child, work together to find images of people expressing the emotions you’ve just discussed. Cutting up magazines is an old favorite, or you can do a Google Image search, which is what we chose to do. It’s important to make sure your child picks out the picture, because they’ll be associating it with what they’re feeling later on.

3. Cut out the images and place them on the note cards–get really creative with it. I chose to include stickers, but that had more to do with keeping the photos on them in the first place. On the next set, I’m going to encourage stepson to use colors to associate with certain emotions, like red for anger and blue for sadness. Somewhere on the front, make sure to write the emotion. Down the road, this might help with reading!

4. Talk to your child about some positive ways to deal with their emotions, and then write them down on the back of the card. Some good examples include, “Ask for a hug,” “Sing a song,” and “Roar like a lion” (which we’re using for ‘sad’). This will help with prompting so that you can diffuse a tense situation by reminding them of better ways to cope, such as, “Adam, you are angry, angry, angry about not getting to eat your dessert first. Instead of hitting the table, what about singing a song?”

5. Help your child pick out a special place to store their Emotion Flashcards. Because we have joint custody with my stepson’s mother and he also goes to preschool, we’ll definitely be making him a second and third set so that he won’t have to worry about taking one back and forth. But it’s important to let your child decide where to put them. You want them to know right where to go when they want to communicate how they’re feeling.

That’s it! You’re done. It’s not a difficult craft by any means, but so far, it’s worked like a charm.