Monday 19 November 2012

Junk Modelling

A box with a hole in. Brilliant!

Honestly? "Junk Modelling" was the bane of my life as a teacher, and as a parent it is no different.
Kids take a load of rubbish and turn it into... a load of rubbish covered in sellotape (and maybe a bit of tin foil or paint.) Plus you then have to find somewhere to display their amazing creation, which inevitably makes it look like you store your re-cycling on the windowsill.

Is it because they've got brilliant imaginations that they believe a load of cereal packets sellotaped together look just like a robot, or a spaceship? I don't get it. However, it is a fun, nearly-free activity. It involves using different motor skills and promotes problem-solving, it also encourages discussion and develops imaginations. I suppose I can see the positives, which is why we have a cupboard full of a variety of packaging ready for when the mood takes them.
Egg box Caterpillar

Although I'm a firm believer in letting children get on and do things in their own way, I'm afraid junk modelling is one activity where, once they reach a certain age, I can't resist wading in with advice about how to join things together without the need for tape, how to find boxes the right shape and size to make their invention vaguely resemble the thing they're attempting etc. I don't know if they feel any more satisfied with the final outcome but at least I'm then prepared to let them hold onto it for a little longer before it is really consigned to the recycling bin.

Threading the reels
It's a  "beautiful" necklace.
Surprisingly I can't find any pics of my boys' early junk-modelling attempts! The first thing I thought worthy of recording appears to be this one of Zac making a cotton reel necklace aged nearly 3. Which also reminds me that junk modelling doesn't have to involve vast quantities of packaging. In fact, Danny's favourite thing to make only involves 2 loo-roll tubes, either taped side-by-side to be binoculars-"I'm an explorer," or end to end to be a telescope- "Ha haaaar, I'm a pirate!" As with my other blogs I'm not claiming any original ideas, however here are a few things the boys have made which worked out well.

Danny's robot! (Not sure why he's in wellies!)
When it comes to boxes, robots seem to be a favourite. They're the right shape and you can use loads of shiny tin foil, plus you can stick on bottle tops etc to make buttons. This one of Danny's had an antenna made from a pipe-cleaner.
Zac also spent ages making a scale model of our house out of a box. He even made some furniture to go inside and put a floor in so it had an upstairs and downstairs.It was an ongoing project which meant we had lots of bits of cardboard lying around the kitchen for a long time.
Zac's model of our house.

My favourite junk model that we've made together was a castle. It had  breadstick-tube towers and a drawbridge that you could pull up and down. I showed Zac that he could cut slots all round the top and then fold alternate flaps down to make the battlements and he was very pleased with the way it turned out. We also slotted on the tube towers, so there was no need for lots of tape- which is impossible to paint over so always looks a mess.
Painting the castle.
Danny did most of the painting on this one. When he asked me why the towers were still a bit red I felt quite pleased with my explanation that it was the blood of soldiers killed in a battle when they tried to capture the castle. He replied very drily, "No mummy, I think my painting was just a bit rubbish!" Apparently grown-ups aren't allowed to use their imagination!
This week's homework project!

Ok, so I apologise for the negative start to this post. Junk modelling is a fantastic and fun way to re-use things, PLUS if they've had some practice it's not quite such a trauma when their lovely teacher gives them a "Make a model of a Tudor House" homework, so give it a try!
Distracted from itching his pox!

This week Zac has had really bad chicken pox, and once he'd got over the worst of it we kept each other entertained by making a Tracy Island out of junk and papier mache, since Thunderbirds is his new passion. We used the Blue Peter demo on youtube from sometime in the distant past, and were v pleased with our bendy palm trees and swivelling pool!

Plus, I just read this absolutely brilliant article about the benefits of big cardboard box play, check it out:


  1. Junk modelling!

    Brilliant. I loved that when I was younger - that and paper mache!


    1. Thank you Gemma Lea! Think we've got a little truck you made ( a few years ago!?!) safely stashed in a cupboard upstairs.x

  2. Wow, that tudor house is fantastic! My son loves junk modelling and comes up with the weirdest creations.
    Thanks for linking #LetKidsBeKids