A lot of green fun with a little junk

By Stew

Green Fun

This is a picture of the one of the new prototypes being tested by GM now that the government is running the company.

Just kidding!

A couple of weeks ago we took our three kids to a children’s museum near our home. This particular children’s museum is not really a “museum” with static displays and plaques to read, rather it is a place for children to explore with their hands. There is something for almost every level of childhood. Seven month crawlers up through ten year-olds can find plenty to do.

Our two-year old boy spend most of his time playing in a life-sized fire truck complete with flashing lights and real fireman gear. Our four-year old girl spent all of her time in a kid-sized grocery store and kitchen, purchasing fake food, cooking it and then serving it to the customers.

Our six-year old kindergartner wanted to play with junk.

She led me over to a row of cubicles that housed simple tools and fasteners and asked me to help her make something out of junk. Along the back wall were a dozen or so bins full of empty, but clean milk cartons and plastic fruit containers. There was cardboard tubing and food boxes of every shape and size. There were small, odd-shaped pieces of wood and bins of full of yogurt cartons and egg cartons. We soon commenced on the project that you see above.

The museum personnel had placed directions for various projects throughout the area, but we soon figured out that the pieces of junk pictured in the directions did not necessarily match up with the junk that we had available on that particular day. It turned out that the product of our labor did not look like anything in any of the pictures.

We were limited to the tools at hand. Some of the tools and fasteners were not ideal for their application, so it challenged our resourcefulness and creativity. I guided the entire process, but I always encouraged my daughter try to solve a particular problem before stepping in with an answer. The pipe cleaner windshield wipers were all her idea.

I thoroughly enjoyed spending this hour with my child and observing her mind and hands at work. I delighted in watching her try to solve the problems posed by trying to reconcile the limits of the tools and materials at hand with her unlimited imagination. I could tell that she was experiencing a great sense of accomplishment as that little car took shape and seeing her excitement with the finished product brought a great feeling of satisfaction to me. Working with a pile of junk turned out to be a great way to spend an hour with my daughter.

The biggest surprise for me was when we arrived at home and my daughters ignored their store-bought dolls and other perfectly molded toys in favor of playing with two plastic strawberry containers bolted together with brass brads and milk carton caps for wheels. For about two weeks that piece of junk occupied a prominent place in their daily play before it completely bit the dust.

Leftover food containers?


One hour of my time?

About $20 (according to my employer)

Leftover food containers plus one hour with my kids?


So, what does this story have to do with money? Why are you reading an article about a homemade art project on blog dedicated to gathering “little by little to make it grow”? The truth is that I am not ready to give the answer right now, I want to see what GLBL readers think first and maybe later today, if you still haven’t figured it out, I will tell you how I think a little junk relates to personal finance.

So, who will be first?

7 Responses (including trackbacks) to “A lot of green fun with a little junk”

  1. DDFD at DivorcedDadFrugalDad.com Says:

    As a kid, did anyone ever play with a discarded, large appliance cardboard box?

  2. Kristen Says:

    Good article! I think parents spend way too much money buying their children a lot of expensive toys and electronics instead of teaching them to appreciate simple things and using their imaginations. My nephew has so many toys he can’t even remember what they are or who gave them to him.

    When I was a kid we got a new refridgerator. The box kept my brothers and me entertained for months and months. First we made a house. Then we mounted it on a wagon and made a vehicle. Finally we gathered up some other stuff around the house and turned it into a robot-type person. It’s educational, fun and cost effective to let kids be creative.

  3. Denise Says:

    Leftover recycle containers-free. Empty, cleaned out ketchup or pancake syrup bottles and tap water to squirt mom and dad and your friends-free. Dirt from outside and worms dug up-free.

  4. Erin Says:

    Because this is what life is about…it is just that simple. It is not what we buy, it is the time we spend with our loved ones that adds value to our lives.

  5. Gina Says:

    To add to Erin’s response …

    and you can “recycle” trash to save money on kid toys. Take that money and put it in your debt snowball. Or as Glbl guy likes to say, “snowflake” that money.

  6. Henry Says:

    What I’m surprised about is that the toys for “rich kids” when I was growing up are now available to all kids. Like motorized cars and the like. Of course it’s cheaper to manufacture, but now that all kids are rich kids doesn’t seem so much like progress b/c they can’t appreciate getting by with not a lot. My daughter: give her a blank piece of paper and some pens and she’s happy.

  7. collin Says:

    Ah, recognizing opportunities even when limited and seemingly un useful to others, making the best of what we have and using our imaginations to create something of value, where none existed before.
    These principles apply to us all not just our kids, and the things that they play with.
    Also the value in doing things together and guiding our children to be the best and most connected little people that they can be.
    Good job Dad, bet your kids think so too.