The Great Quick-n-Dirty Magnetic Tube Toy
(With apologies to teachpreschool.org)
Let me begin with a little bit of philosophizing. Some may call it maundering, or whining, but I'll let you decide!
Sometimes I get a bit of a complex when I compare the toys I make for my children and the ones you find on my favorite blogs (or, more likely, Pinterest.) In fact, I even get a bit of complex when I compare them to the ones I made for my children before they were born. Because let's face it: most of what I make now days is not exactly pretty. Or even straight. :}
For instance, after having conceived and executed the "Buckle Octopus," my Pinterest browsing just happened to lead me to another mommy who'd come up with basically the same thing - only hers was beautiful, with brightly colored ribbons, straight seams, and matching thread(!) Clearly I am not worthy to have a crafting blog. Or probably even children!
When I start to get all hard on myself, though, I am trying to remind myself of my developing philosophy:
A good toy that you make for your child is the toy that he or she actually plays with.
The best toy that you make for your child is the toy that he or she actually plays with for longer than it took you to make it!
To be honest, I am starting to believe there is involved here a law of inverse proportions - or at least diminishing returns. For instance, take pretty much everything I made for them before birth. Beautiful, soft blocks with my son's name on them. Time on my end: many hours. Play time for him? Occasionally they're used as missiles. For 3-5 minutes at a time. An adorable plushie-style stuffed elephant complete with rattle. Occasionally glanced at or possibly chewed by one or the other in infancy. A "taggie" toy - 'cause all babies love them, right? Neither ever cared for it. The cute stuffed monster made from Dollar Tree cleaning clothes? Never even gave it to the kid because I managed to sew a pin inside. I could have taken it apart and removed it, but honestly he wasn't ever that keen on the thing. But the incredibly quick-n-dirty fabric squares with some crackly cellophane inside and silky cord loops on the outside? My daughter actually loved these when she was 8-9 months old. Just like she loves her buckle octopus (which has been enhanced recently, by the way, with a screw-on lid, because I caught her playing with an OJ container from the recycle
Mine, however, is uglier, safer for smaller children, and incredibly fast. In fact, I did the whole project in about 10 minutes while my youngest was nursing!
Oh, and by the way, it was incredibly cheap, with all materials (save the TP, which I assume you have on hand!) purchased at the Dollar Tree. Should run you about $3 if you haven't got any of the items on hand. (And by the way, you should have some pom-poms around on general principle. I got some last week and we've already found 3 distinct things to do with them that don't involve glue or googly eyes! Perhaps a follow-up post on that later?)
Here's what you'll need
1. 5 toilet paper rolls
2. 5 (or preferably 10) magnets
3. A roll of heavy tape, such as electrical tape
4. A light (disposable?) plastic cup (optional)
A note on safety:
The original post from Teach Preschool used rubber marbles. Aside from not having any, I am thinking my 19 month old would still mistake them for candy. Pom-Poms, while not exactly nutritious, are not quite as likely to cause life-threatening choking.
Secondly, swallowed magnets are a very bad thing. My version, which uses tape instead of glue, can certainly still be disassembled by a motivated child. However, since the tape goes all the way around the tube in a loop, the magnets won't fall off by accident or under normal usage - unlike hot glue on cardboard. So assuming basic supervision, I am not too worried.
To construct each tube, I cut a length of electrical tape, placed a magnet on the sticky side, and wrapped it all the way around the TP roll, attaching it to itself, not simply the cardboard.
I also taped a magnet to the plastic cup, which serves as a catch-basin for the pom-poms.
I then stuck each roll to the fridge, end-to-end, handed the kids some pom-poms, and watched the fun.
Here are a few things we learned by experimentation:
* We had a rubber bouncy ball that was the correct size to fit through the tubes, but larger than your average marble. It worked, but not well, because it was too heavy: if the tubes were at any angle, they pivoted around their magnets and spilled the ball. If you want to use something heavy, you'll need two magnets per tube. (This will also require more planning during construction, since they need to line up with one another!)
* The average refrigerator or front door (ours is magnetic!) isn't large enough to accommodate more than five tubes (at least if you expect your 3-year-old to be able to reach the top one.) I had a paper towel roll on hand, but decided not to use it because it is too long for the space.
* 19-month-olds like this game too - although they are more likely to drive their older siblings crazy by pulling the tubes off the fridge and stealing the pom-poms!