Take Building with Cardboard Boxes Up a Notch

. June 2, 2014.

Chances are you have built a contraption or two out of a cardboard box, either with your kids or as a kid yourself. A fort or spaceship, robot arms or a drum kit, a lemonade stand or puppet theater- kids turn boxes into everything under the sun. Is it any surprise that the cardboard box is in the National Toy Hall of Fame? Playing with packaging offers kids something that the toy you just bought them may not – endless possibilities.

FLY Children’s Art Center has discovered the best idea for what to make with cardboard boxes. Turn them into working machines. The recipe is simple. Add moving parts and basic mechanisms and you get all sorts of “Fabulous Contraptions.”

This spring, FLY’s free four-part workshop series, “Fabulous Contraptions” challenged kids to create simple machines out of cardboard – including workshops on crank controlled automata, animal toys with moving parts, and a marble run.

FLY stumbled across the idea while surfing viral videos. An L.A. boy named Caine Monroy built an entire arcade out of cardboard at his dad’s auto parts store. “Caine’s Arcade” is a play land of games that dispense tickets, which you can turn in for prizes. Caine ingeniously engineered a claw game with an S-hook hanging from a piece of yarn, a cardboard box and some clear tape for the window.

Two short documentaries about Caine by filmmaker Nirvan Mullick have collected nearly 5.5 million views on YouTube, since 2012, and the boy’s story has inspired cardboard building events, like FLY’s, all over the world.

FLY organizers were drawn to the idea because it covers all five parts of S.T.E.A.M. education, a model they strive to incorporate into their programming. Kids use science, technology, engineering, art and math to make cardboard contraptions.

“The idea behind ‘Fabulous Contraptions’ is to empower kids to discover how to play and learn, building confidence through a combination of art making, science, engineering and experimentation,” says Christine Bruxvoort, FLY Board President.

If your kids tend to ignore the toy and go straight for the box, do not fret. Be glad. They are exercising their ingenuity and learning skills that apply in the real world.

An exhibit and party, on Friday June 6 from 5:30-7:30pm, will celebrate the finished projects, at FLY’s Creative Lab, 40 N. Huron St., Ypsilanti. Visit FLY Children’s Art Center online at flyartcenter.org.