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Building Blocks

Materials:

  • ½ Gallon cardboard milk or juice cartons (or quart-sized for smaller blocks)
  • Sturdy scissors
  • Clear packing tape
  • Optional: Dried beans, un-popped popcorn, uncooked rice, dried macaroni, and other sound-making materials.

Procedure:

  1. Wash the milk cartons with soapy water.
  2. Cut off pointed top part, about ½ inches down from the bend for half-gallon-sized cartons.
  3. Wipe out the inside well with rubbing alcohol on a drying cloth. Alcohol will kill the germs that cause odors that might occur if milk sours. Dry the inside thoroughly (or beans will rot.)
  4. Measure the size across the bottom of the carton. Then measure that same distance up from the bottom on each corner edge. Mark the spot on the edge. If the blocks are not measured, they may be lop-sided and will stack like the Leaning Tower of Pizza boxes. That can frustrate children.
  5. Cut down each of the four corners from the open top down to the mark you made. Stop cutting at each mark.
  6. At this stage, you may put in the noisemakers (dried beans, uncooked rice, un-popped popcorn, dry macaroni) before you tape it closed to make it rattle.
  7. After you have put sound-making items into each block, fold down all four sides. Press each fold to make a crisp, sharp edge, not a rounded edge, to make stacking easier. Tape the sides down well with clear packing tape. This not only keeps them in block-shape, it also keeps children from opening them and dumping the contents in undesirable places.
  8. Use the blocks as they are (tastefully decorated in milk company advertisements) or you can cover them with bright contact paper or fabrics for textures. Do as much or little as you and your children enjoy.

How to Use the Blocks:

  • Let children stack the blocks, which takes eye-hand coordination.
  • Let them kick the block towers down, which takes eye-foot coordination.
  • Let them butt the blocks down with their heads, which takes… um…I guess we’ll call it “eye-head coordination.” This also teaches body control and coordination, and they love it because it appeals to innate destructive motivations while causing no real damage.
  • Let them bat the blocks down with a light-weight paddle. I do not recommend using a real bat, racket, or sledge-hammer inside. Color me old-fashioned. The blocks may become missiles and detonate your favorite decorations.
  • Make two blocks of each sound. Two with beans, two with rice, two with trapped elves (if available). Spread out all of the blocks. Show children how they can shake the blocks to find blocks that sound alike (which can teach them to match sounds). This is not only a physical activity involving shaking and moving, but it is a very rough precursor for music skills, learning languages, and learning to read.