Pre-school education/Essential toys
Eco-Engineering Education Toys -- pre-pre-school
The following products are meant to serve the often overlooked educational needs of the infant and toddler from hour of birth onward, using natural or discarded materials (Creative Reuse) which are in themselves instructive (such as the grain of wood, made more visible by processes such as sanding and varnishing, or the shape of selected wood pieces).
Everything described here can be made of consumer "waste", left-over hardware, scrap lumber discards and trunk-and-branch deadwood ("landscape waste"), found free right in your neighborhood-- along with providing opportunity to instruct children how no tree has to be killed to get any of the material for their toys.
This seems to me to carry forward the wish of Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, 1898-1998, whose concern was not just to super-train a few elite violin virtuosos but to develop the character, and conscience, of any and every child. Please add further product ideas, and help position this information in the context of a university which serves everyone from age zero up.
Warning: be sure to exclude lumber that may contain hazards, such as lead paint and lumber for outdoor use that may contain chromated copper arsenate or other wood preservatives. Alternatively, where possible, trim or sand away outer wood and apply a protective glaze of one or more layers of paint, shellac and/or varnish. Add dust from such operation not to compost used for food production (Greenpost) but to compost destined to be transported away for remote area reforestation (Brownpost).
The Bogie (short for Kraadtzenbogen)
This consists of a short hardwood stick, preferably bowed or warped (save straight sticks to make into a mallet-handle-- or Bogenbong-handle, see below, or other precision product). (Any bogie made for an infant under a year of age should be short enough, maybe 6 inches, to avoid danger of jabbing a eye or other accident.)
- A. "Classic Bogie" -- up to 10"/25 cm. segment of tree branch, with original bark if intact and durable, except the concave side may be skinned and sanded flat two-thirds of the way up from the narrower end of the stick, and V-shaped notches cut and filed across the flat area every half inch or centimeter. It will look a little bit like a human finger, except with more notches on the underside.
- B. "Milled lumber two-track Bogie" (see "Zooky" illustration, below) -- flat bar of hardwood lumber, preferably warped, with angled notches along two of its long edges, one having a notch every inch (slow kratztrack) and the other a notch every centimeter (fast kratztrack). Take care to sand away every possible splinter (see Sanding Systems, below). Sand "with the grain" on the notched side and "across the grain" on the unnotched side (so that the crossgrain sanding produces microscopic grooves which make surprising tones when this side of the Bogie is kratzed lengthwise across a sharp edge such as the lip of a cat-food can, bottle-bottom or tape-reinforced cardboard box).
- C. "Wire-braid Bogie" -- with a flat stick shaped right for a Bogie, but with wood that is too soft to make a good loud noise, or hold up under hard kratzing-- drill a series of holes along the stick (except handle-end), through which wires can pass to anchor a wirebraid running down along most of the Bogie on one side. Kratzing with this wirebraid against various soundscrapes will yield a different kind of noise than a notched-hardwood bogie. Keep this type of Bogie short enough that there is no chance of the wood breaking.
Place an infant's hand around the Bogie handle, your hand around the infant's hand, and execute some bogenkratzes together-- infant will experience simultaneity of vibration felt in the hand and sound heard by the ears (psychocoordination).
Infant can learn to hold a Bogie firmly by the fat end and "saw" (kratz) it across a Zooky (see below), or crib rails, edges of furniture, chair rungs, cookie tin rims, etc. to produce a loud dramatic noise which varies with pressure and speed of movement. Infant can crawl around the house and try kratzing on hundreds of available soundscrapes, learning the courage of self-expression and also keeping groan-ups informed what he/she is up to. Bogie If the Bogie moves slowly enoughcan will sound like a purring pus, or the infant can master intricate fast rhythms too. lip.
Work relevance: by age three the child will be saw-, rasp- and file-literate and ready for the thrill of serious adult carpentry.
Named after the retired maestro of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, this is made from a round hardwood stick up to a foot long (such as a discarded drumstick from which the last few inches were broken off), with a hardwood bead on the narrower end to beat against objects such as a wood-slat- or bamboo-strung marimbadera (see below). The Bogenbong handle may be notched like a Bogie to kratz against the metal frame of the marimbadera or other sharp edges.
This could be the first-ever music instrument in a child's life, usable from minutes after birth (with guidance from an adult hand around the infant's hand). Cut the bottom two inches or the top two or three inches from a green plastic beverage bottle forming a little cup or funnel which turns out to have a rim which can be plucked producing a note-worthy sound (no two bottles exactly alike, depending on the diameter and thickness and other factors). This plucking provides training a toddler can get without risking a hundred dollar guitar. An infant can readily learn to kratz the cup rim against a rough surface such as a screen or a concrete floor producing a SCUFFING noise loud enough that parents can know what the kid is doing anywhere in the house-- but a noise less emotionally disturbing than crying.
A handle can be created from a wood piece one end of which is rounded to snugly fit in the mouth of the bottle-funnel, or by scrolling up and taping a rectangular piece of bottle plastic, either a half or whole middle section from a bottle from which the ends were cut to make plwckies (see Type Two, below).
'Clwnky: (Type 1) cut the bottom 2 inches from a green plastic beverage bottle (or any bottle, but green is most educational) and screw it to the flat end of a fat wood block or 2"-diameter tree branch segment, 3 or more inches long. This requires drilling a small hole through the exact center of the bottle bottom and another hole into the flat end of the handle against which the cwp will sit. The cutting can be carefully done with a razor knife and then edited for greater straightness with a scissors.
Type 2 ("Cowbell Clwnky") is made as the plwcky described above with a scrolled flat bottleplastic piece, or by tapering an inch-thick stick down so its narrower end fits tight in the neck of a 3-inch bottle-neck segment from a green plastic beverage bottle. Alternatively, scroll the rectangle formed by the middle part of a bottle (after bottom and top were removed) tightly so it can be stuffed into a bottle-neck, and then some decoratively colored tape used to wrap around the juncture securing the handle and cup together.
The Clwnky can do anything a Plwcky Cwp can do, but additionally, a Čźôgў can be added-- typically a battered old golf ball, with two narrow holes drilled through, to admit loop of 1-mm solid-core color-shielded telephone wire, which runs two-stranded about a foot in length from the Čźôgў to the neck of the Clwnky. For the golf ball you can substitute a reasonably rotund chwnk of hardwood, hardwired or screwstudded for louder music results, a big nut or bolt or a securely wired-together or glued-together assemblage of hardware parts adding up to over an inch in diameter. The wire tether should not be over a foot long, and this toy should be reserved for children over 2, to avoid any chance of a strangulation accident.
It's the classic "swing the ball into the cup" toy, very easy to do but, after all, this is for young learners. A loud "clwnk" is heard when the Čźôgў lands in the cup, after which you can hold it upright and shake it like a Statue of Liberty rattle. Or, if you miss, the Čźôgў makes a hell of a noise hitting the rim of the bottlebottomcwp. You can plwck the cwp, kratz a Bogie across the rim of the cwp and make even a heller of a noise. Or you can rub the mouth of the cwp against a concrete floor for the hellest noise of all.
Music and dance Čźôgў: attach two wire-tethered flyloads to the Clwnky, keep the heavy hardware one in the cwp and let the lighter one (maybe a ball of crwmpled paper with tape wrapped around it) hang down. Shake the Clwnky so that the Musikčźôgў makes a rattly noise in the Cwp while the Dancečźôgў dances around in the air over an outstretcherd "dancefloor" hand which may have wiggling fingertips too.
Stradizuki (if it is violin-size) or Stratozuki (if guitar-size) is made to be either fingerplwcked or stroked with a Bogie. Trim and sand a flat hardwood bar, 15-30 inches long, 2 inches wide, 1/2 inch thick. The harder the wood, the louder the tone! Various noisemakers can be attached to this Zookybar-- on one side screw a 2"-deep green plastic beverage bottle-bottom (rim outward for plwcking), maybe a bottom-outward bottle bottom part for kratzing, and a cat food can. On the other side attach a cooky tin or cooky tin lid (use 2 screws) for maximum loudness, or a (somewhat less loud) shallow cardboard box protected against wear by tape reinforcement over the exposed edges which will be vigorously kratzed.
Run braided conduit wire from two holes in the side of the cat food can, slanting to two holes in the wood a few inches down the zookybar, run the two leads through the holes, then braid again up to two holes in the cooky tin. (Kratzing the wirebraid on the cat-food-can side will sound different from the wirebraid on the cooky-tin side.) Or run a straight hard coathanger wire along the bar, secured at one end by passing through holes in the bar and tucked under attached structures at the other. File notches along one or more edges of the zookybar-- a continual rotary stroke with notched Bogie against notched Zookybar edge, or against the slanting braided wire, results in an "endless rattle noise". Add other features ad lib to the extent of your imagination.
For guitar-like versions use more different types of flexible plastic containers with outward-pointing rim that can be plwcked on.
This idea appears to have originated in the Madison, Wisc. Suzuki Talent Education program, as shown in a photo in They're Rarely Too Young... and Never Too Old "To Twinkle" by Kay Collier Slone, an instructor who worked there in the 1980's. Say you have a 5-year-old in the Suzuki program, and also a 2-year-old sibling with "violin tendencies" that wants to get her hands on the $100 instrument-- what do you do? Make a cheap sturdy surrogate "violin" as described above, just as personal, but easy to fix if it breaks, and a toddler soon learns to make dozens of different kinds of noise/music on it (think of it as a rhythm instrument, kid can participate in family-together music-making even before age 3 when they are beginning to understand pitch).
Longer zookybar and a bigger soundbox-- maybe the bottom 3 inches of a 5-gallon HDPE recyclable bucket, a cardboard box with all edges sealed by hard (=loud) paper tape, or a bigger cooky tin.
This looks like a painter's easel, except it has a securely mounted long hardwood bar slanting down 4 feet or more to the floor, with tins, cans, boxes, bottle segments etc. attached along the way. Several toddlers can stand side by side kratzing, bonging and plwcking on it all together.
Weld together a framework of metal bars, with hardwood slats and/or bamboo segments (various lengths and pitches) wire-suspended in the air-space between the top bars. Several Bogenbong maestroes can stand around bonging and kratzing, like a Balinese gamelin.
Named after the Ůniversity of you-know-what. Buy a recorder-mouthpiece or other cheap breath-activated tone-producer with a male outlet that plugs into the female opening of a foot-length of drilled-out 1-1/4" diameter street-tree branchwood (with good intact bark or bark free, and maybe varnished), with holes drilled along the side not for exact pitch relationships but for visual beauty or based on where the wood is strong enough. (Don't worry about exact pitch differences till age 3.)
Kids' block toys-- best construction and engineering education
There is no limit to sizes or shapes of blocks worth making nor is exact geometry of importance prior to age 3. ("Irregular Blocks Teach Adaptive Engineering.") Cut, shape, manicure, use what you find in field and dumpster-- the main priority is to trim or sand away dirt, pollution and splinters and to round sharp edges and corners.
- A recent Beckley-Cardy toy catalog offered a set of 500 blocks for $700($1.40 per block), guaranteeing that they are made only of the very best special New England maple and that every block is an exact precise multiple of the length or width of every other. Forget spending all that money; buy a second-hand table-saw and a 7-1/4" carbide-tipped sawblade (which will last through hundreds of hidden-nail hits) and you can transform editable old scrapwood cutoffs from crates, pallets, construction and demolition leftovers, etc., into clean gorgeous blocks in surprisingly little time.
- Next to maybe writing symphonies for large orchestra, saw-trimming scrapwood into blockshapes for children is the most intellectually challenging and creative work on the planet.
- 19th Century educator and writer John Ruskin ("The Stones of Venice") said his childhood collection of blocks were his "constant companions" which taught him proportion and architecture.
- (Diagrams and pictures of representative products are in preparation to be added to this article. If you have a product idea with picture don't hesitate to add it.)
Many sides and edges will have to be sanded to eliminate all chance of splinters and round all sharp edges and corners. Attach a regular 1725-rpm motor to a table with the shaft pointing out over the table's edge. Onto the shaft, with an arbor/converter which can be obtained for less than $10, attach a 7-inch flapsander disc (the #24-Grit "Tiger-Disc" for $18 from Weiler Abrasives is recommended, and other discs, from Grit #36 up, are often cheaper). This disc will survive tens of thousands of wood sandings.
As you face the sander with the block firmly held in both hands, the disc will be revolving counter-clockwise so that the direction is down on the left side, up on the right. Do all your sanding on the left side of the disc so that the dust flies downward into a sack, box or vacuum contrivance. Protective eyeware and woodman's muzzle (Muzzlewoodmanism) advised.
Instead of just holding the block still while pushing it against the disc, keep the block moving so as to reduce heat-buildup (and clogging)! Movement left and right distributes abrasion heat among different areas of the sandpaper and of the wood. Movement up and down varies the direction of cut.
Develop a sequence of movements for sanding all sides and turning edges and corners. Mentally count numbers as needed to keep track of where you are in your system. First sanding of a typical block from totally rough may take two minutes. You can save sanding time by first skinning the sides with a table saw or chop saw, leaving only sharp corners and edges to be sanded.
When rounding an end-edge, sand away from the sidegrain into the endgrain so you won't rip anything off (such as the bark on rustic stick pieces).
* Sanding blocks is analogous to conducting that symphony which someone else (maybe you earlier) wrote! It brings out the glorious artistry of the Artist (tree), and will help you develop a systematic mind and sense of rhythm so that you are more effective demonstrating a Zooky (to children or adults who haven't seen one before).
* (Further learning bonus: the sander is a relatively safe machine for relatively young children to use, making blocks for relatively younger children. Consult experts on how to set up a workspace in which some children can participate safely.)
Two layers of varnish might be advisable for some softwoods which soil or stain easily-- and can also make some pines, etc., more dramatic by bringing out the color contrast between rings. The boringest softwood pieces can be painted: first a coat of paint, then let dry; resand; second coat may be varnish).
An option with hardwood blocks is to resand with a higher grit (and slower wheel speed, which may require belt and pulley): Grit #36, #50, #60, #80, #100 etc.
* The crossgrain thus revealed, detailed view of many years of treegrowth, is the #1 most educational view seen anywhere on the planet; might not need to be varnished.
For more tips on sanding, please seeWikibooks:Carpentry?Power Tools/Sanders.
Block toy specialties
Cut any size and shape of block (unless there is enough stick or lumber length for a Bogie, mallethandle or walkstick), but here are some especially important types you can aim for:
From board cut-offs and other left-over milled lumber, cut slender blocks any length, but if in doubt cut 5"-- this size can serve as track ties for the Abstrak 2 Cardboard Railway and for tall surprisingly stable World Babble Bubble Towers. It does not matter if the blocks are a little thicker or wider at one end than the other! Children building towers learn to compensate so that if the tower is too high on one side, thicker blocks are added next further up on the other side. ("Irregular Blocks Teach Adaptive Engineering.")
The tower is built up Jew-Star fashion, i.e. hexagonal with three blocks on each level interlocking with the three blocks of the previous level. Looking down on an tower in progress you see something like a multiple star of David. Lay out bigger blocks at the bottom and reduce size (down to about five inch blocks) on the way up making it look from the side a bit like the Eiffel Tower. Unlike a square system, easily pushed in any of four directions, this is surprisingly stable and will not fall down easily no matter how high you build it if the logs are laid astutely. (This idea was allegedly invented in 1999 in Jewtown, the former Chicago Maxwell Street neighborhood.) At a height of 4 feet or so-- or as high as a 2-year-old standing on a Stookle can still safely add blocks to it-- an 8" World Babble Bubble Ball (see below) is placed atop the tower and breathtaking photos made.
(No affiliation with manufacturer of a killedtree commercial product of similar name, let 'em sue me.) Cut tree-branch sticks various lengths 10" or shorter, with the bark still on if it is in good condition, flatten and sand smooth the ends, round edges splinterfree, and produce cut-a-way flat notches near each end like in the pictures of log cabins in history books. Can also be used to build rustic World Babble Bubble Towers (see below), for which 5 inches is a good typical length for most of the sticks, producing an upper tower diameter of about 8 inches. Children familiar with this genre of blocks will understand later how to build useful things such as a modern Compost Bin on a Pallet.
Cut out any 2" x 3", 3" x 4-1/2", 4" x 6" etc. area of 1/2" or 3/4" board which has a large central "defect" (i.e. messy knot/ornament) into an egg-shape, and sand very smooth and regular (may take up to 5 minutes). Something durable and permanent to hide in the garden each Eastertide instead of hens' eggs.
Trim any "ornamented" piece of flat board that is just slightly too small to make an Eggspflat (i.e. smaller than 2" x 3"/5-cm x 8-cm) into a rhomboid shape; bevel and sand all edges agressively but, in this one case, leave resulting edges and corners unrounded! Aim for perfect shape lines against which the "blemish" in the flatwood will present a poignant irony.
Use any small cutoff pieces of 1/2"-3/4" plywood, even filthy old ones. Cut squares up to about 2 inches (5 cm) wide, saw-beveling all edges (up to a 3/8"/1 cm.-wide slanted area) and sanding the two flat sides to produce a relatively clean beauty block. (With old, possibly weak plywood, cut square only, but if you can slant-cut to a rhomboid shape without the thing breaking apart, go for the rhomboid Diamond shape which is even more special.)
Varnish is advisable, especially with old weak wood or if suspected of being treated with who knows what chemicals.
By drilling two wire-holes near the center of each piece you can wire three or four relatively small Raviolies (less than 1-1/2"/4 cm wide) together to make a golfballsize Japanese Lantern Čźôgў (see above). Countersink (45-degree bladed drill bit) the openings of the holes to eliminate splintering.
When in the course of boardcutoffing you find a well-formed, round, eye-like knot or knothole, cut a wedge-shaped piece 3-8" long with the knot well centered in the wide end (Ono Picasso). A woodpiece with the eye at the edge of the wider end is also worth saving, and making into an Uh Oh Picasso. Sometimes there are two knots close together; center them well and make a Guernica Picasso. (Each single-eye piece is a Sinatra Picasso.) You can drill two holes (like nostrils) in the nose or narrow end of the Picasso and wirebraid a key, small pencil or other important doodad onto the piece after whatever sanding or varnish has been done.
Miró Picasso (named partly after the "other" Chicago statue)
If there are two or more small irregular knots in the wood, cut a wide wedge-shape with the ornamentation mostly in the wide end. The Miró can be used like a Picasso, as a Bettybird-deck, or as part of a Watergropius.
From boring undistinguished softwood 2x2's cut 1-1/2" x 1-1/2" x 2" blocks, paint with primer, then let children put on a colorful coat or drawing, followed by varnish. Use at Eastertide instead of real hen's eggs (along with Eggspflat, above).
Hide Hens'-Eggs-Size-Blox (children get one point for each), Eggspflats (2 points), Diamonds (3 points) and Picassoes (4 points) around the White House (or your house) lawn.
Also erect a signboard listing prices: Hens'-Eggs-Size-Blox 38¢, Eggspflats $38.00, Diamonds $38,000.00, and Picassoes $38,000,000.00. This will help teach the children mathematics and voodoo economics.
This is up to the size of a regulation (expensive) soccer ball (5-8"), only instead of being purchased for big bucks from a sporting goods store, it is made out of you don't want to know what. (Well, actually it exemplifies Adaptive Reuse instead of Recycling.)
Instead of recycling old crinkly plastic water bottles (for lousy prices), cut up to four of them down to 6 inches long (save topfunnel to make a Plwcky Cwp), crumple, tape or tie them together into a sort of nucleus. Cut long strips of cardboard and wrap those around the ball, mainly in concave areas making the ball rounder, taping the ends of the strips down. Wrap around and tape down long rolls of scrolled-up newspaper with lots of soft puffy stuff rolled inside, then wrap with lots of lousy old tape you want to use up, pushing and beating with the butt of your hand on any part that sticks out, until it is roughly spherical (don't worry about perfectly, the Perfect is the Enemy of the Good). Glue on beautiful sections of old maps or other illustrated paper, or apply colored tape in interesting geometric patterns. Then 100% weatherproof it with many rounds of relatively good 2" or 3" clear packaging tape (art decoration will show through pretty well), so if the kid leaves it out in the rain it won't weigh a ton.
If it turns out rather too heavy for a kickball, place it on top of a World Babble Bubble Blocktower. If light enough it can be used for volleyball or strung to a pole to use as a tetherball.
This can be made by scrolling up a strip, 4-6 feet long depending on thickness, of that waxed brown cardboard some fruit cartons are made of (not accepted for recycling because of the wax). Cut the strip 4 inches wide at one end and soon begin to narrow down, then start wrapping tight from the wide end until you have something close to a spheroid. Wrap tired old tape around until reasonably firm and solid, then color tape or glued-on paper with color or patterns, then enough layers of 2-inch clear plastic tape until weatherproofed.
Intended for anything a regular softball can do including hit with a bat. An infant or toddler might have several balls of different colors, shapes, sizes (perfectly spheroid not essential) on down to tennis ball size.
Study pictures of old abacuses, then cut five slabs of wood, maybe 3/4" x 2", drill and countersink a matched series of holes up to 2" apart along each of the vertical (?) slabs, and sand away all splinterdom before carefully securing them together with nails, screws or whatever. The holes should be just the right size to tightly grip grey telephone cable, the kind with 4-8 little wires inside. Thread the cable through all holes with 4 and 1 or 5 and 2 beads suspended inside the space of the frame-- this may take 10 to 15 feet of cable. The holes of the beads should also be tight enough that they slide along the cable only when pushed, so that the user will have the option to hold the thing with the cable segments lined up vertically like with real Arabic number columns in modern math, without the beads sliding down unexpectedly.
The beads can be about an inch thick, round or square to taste, or painted various colors.
Railway toys are important for the development of a young mind, as concerns comprehending the ABC LAW-- Actions Beget Consequences. If you push a lead car or Locomotive along, one or more other cars tied or wired to it will follow.
Cut 5-inch wide slabs of cardboard of any length and score and fold so that there is a 2"-wide space in the middle with a 1/2" high curb on either side. Punch holes in the cardboard and use little 1-mm. colored telephone wires to tie these curbs in position and also tie the structure in turn to 5" small sticks (for each piece of track, two crossties and four wires). Cut short wedge-shaped pieces for turns. Create hills, valleys, bridges etc. by wiring cardboard on and over the top of various blocks, boxes etc. Tape down edges or corners that a moving blocktrain could snag on. This is a DIY simple primitive version of the popular but expensive and fragile HO and O gauge train layouts made from parts sold in stores.
Make trains out of blocks 1-1/2" - 1-3/4" wide and up to 5 inches long, with little boxes and/or other stuff wired on top of them. Drill wide holes on top to insert Painted Little People (dowel dolls)from a commercial toy set if you have those. Drill little holes at the ends of the bottom blocks to wire-link cars together so that when the locomotive car is manually pushed along the track, other, usually lighter cars follow (ABC). Round or bevel the front end of each block so that in movement forward they don't snag on some joint in the cardboard track.
Line up kids' other toys-- blocks, block towers, block houses, log cabins etc. 4 inches apart to form streets on the carpet. Make trains 3" wide to push manually along the streets.
A nifty locomotive can be made by cutting off the top 3-4 inches of a cleaned-out gallon anti-freeze jug (some are bright yellow, green, etc.). Wash thoroughly to remove alleged toxins and avoid $3,000,000.00 lawsuit. Cut an oval-shaped piece of board to fit snug inside the open (bottom) end of the jugtop and secure safely with screws, nails, staples or whatever. You can stuff something inside the open mouth of the jug on top to make it look even more like a real traditional old locomotive. Use wires to attach other reasonably heavy cars behind with baroque loads on top.
- Aside from maybe the bicycle, the railroad train is the most magnificent technocratic art triumph and education toy of the last two centuries.
- Since the early 1800's musicians have eagerly soaked up the railroad sound and sense of movement into their art, including the great composers who were already creating a "tracked" variety of music, i.e. the audio-visual system of manuscript score + live or recorded performance. Consider introducing your toddler to a great modern railroad symphony such as Dvořák's No. 9 op. 95 (1892, possibly named after a long forgotten locomotive with the nickname "New World" painted on it), or Nielsen's No. 5 op. 50 (especially the finale) (1921-22), and borrow a score from the library so your toddler can learn to "follow the tracks" and read along with the music (at first you guide the child's finger left to right along the page). This practice makes it amazingly easy later on, say by age 3, to learn to read words and sentences. For more discussion of score-reading and how it educates the inventive ability, see Preschool Project.
From almost a foot-length of well-sanded 2 x 4, by adding notched wheels on either side make a car less than 3-1/2" wide that can be pushed along on the carpet (or in the channels created for Abstrak 4). Mounted along each side is a tongue-depressor stick (or any flat length of wood or plastic) that stretches from the front to rear wheel on that side, and by sticking into the notches on each wheel makes a complex clacking noise when the car is pushed and the wheels turn. On top of the 2x4 drill wide holes with a speedbor into which Painted Little People (dowel dolls) can be inserted.(An illustration is in preparation and will be added when this writer gets scanner-literate.)
The Claxwell is named after that old car owned by Jack Benny and Rochester-- right, the Maxwell-- and it was invented on Maxwell Street during the 90's before the University of You-Know-What gobbled up ("gentrified") the neighborhood.
Pre-School Family Toys For Outdoor Use
l. The croquet mallet handles can be made from strong straight sticks of any length from 10 to 40 inches. For the sake of appropriate mirth the tallest family member will use the shortest mallet and the shortest family member the longest. The mallet heads can be segments of tree branch, 2 - 2-1/2" wide and 4 - 5" long. If the head has interesting bark on it, so much the better. To the mallets as to all other equipment the golden rule of childhood learning applies: no two alike.
2. The croquet balls can be made by winding strips of nonrecyclable waxed cardboard (used to ship fruit), starting 4" wide and getting narrower, into a tight spheroid, then wrapping with ugly old tape, beating and banging down places that stick out. When fairly round (the Perfect is the enemy of the Good), apply colored tape, or glue on interesting paper, then wrap with lots of good clear 2" packaging tape for weatherproofing.
3. This game can be played with variant rules, whereby the object is to hit your ball into an 11" x 5-1/2" x 1-1/2" G. O. D. (giant outdoor domino), plywood playing card, 4 x 4 x 4 dice cube (can be made from a block pallet block), same size scrabble cube, giant scrabble block, or giant outdoor chesspiece (all made from landscape waste or pieces of scrap lumber). If you hit your ball into a domino, you can place the domino in a formation with other domines and claim corresponding points. If you hit a dice cube, claim the points on top and throw the die somewhere else across the lawn. If you hit a scrabble, lay it with other scrabbles to form a word. If you hit a chess piece, carry it over to an eight-foot chessboard (painted on the driveway, or made from two handy 4' x 8' foot rolls of dyed carpet laid out side by side on the lawn).
4. From playing these games a child might logically graduate into the carpentry class and learn to make outdoor education toys for younger children.
From a set of 11" x 5-1/2" x 1-1/2" giant outdoor dominoes a Standing Stonehenge of Stone-Age Dominoes (apologies to Paul, they're made of wood) can be constructed. Stand the dominoes upright in a wide circle. While cameras roll, an exquisitely dressed 2-year-old armed with a bogie steps toward the circle and knocks one of the dominoes over. All the grownups go ooh and aah and clap and cheer and shout the number of the first-knocked-over domino which will be visible for a few seconds until the rest of the dominoes have fallen. This will teach the selected blessed damozel 2-year-old a bit of math and physics and promote high self-esteem.
Make large-size outdoor chesspieces out of segments of tree-trunk (up to 9"-diameter checkers which serve as the pedestal), with the bark still on it to serve as the black pieces; or blocks of milled, sanded dimension-lumber and plywood (white pieces). The ČESCAGO system shown in the adjoining diagram uses size, shape and arms which stick out at various places to distinguish the different pieces.
Paint a big chessboard on an 8' or wider driveway, or checkerdye two 4' x 8' slabs of carpet which can be laid side-by-side on the lawn. The pieces in the adjoining diagram range from 7" high pawns to 13" high kings; sets of plastic Staunton Design pieces in that size range set for hundreds of dollars in internet, you can save big bucks making your own using the formula shown here.
- Lawn Chess Ceremony: committees of 6-year-olds function as Chessgenerals, huddling and deciding on the moves, issuing an instruction such as, "Vanna, would you please move our pawn to QB4 (c4)?" Then an exquisitely dressed 2-year-old Chesshostess-- Vanna McWhiteknight or Betty McBlackbishop-- steps forward, picks up the indicated piece, and places it on the correct square. All elderpersons present applaud like on a real tv show, and the preschooler is rewarded with high self-esteem and encouragement toward a career in math or engineering. Some bureaucrat writes up the score (list of completed moves in two columns) on a signboard and all participants develop chess literacy, a step toward learning other more complex languages later.Treedesigner
Additional helpful readings include:
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