From TVs and laptops to tablets and smartphones, it’s hard to ignore that it can be difficult to keep screens from kids these days, especially when grownups can’t peel their eyes away from their gadgets. That’s why we’re putting the spotlight on one crafty hands-on mom who’s not letting the digital age eat up her son.
Full-time mom Margaret Wuthrich-Sarmenta is mom to 3-year-old Lucas. Ever since her son was born, she and her husband, both of whom love the outdoors and sports, have decided to raise him screen-free. Here's a photo of the animal fan “bird watching” and pretending to be an owl in his nappies.
It has only been recent when the couple started to let him watch a little TV, and little here means just 30 minutes a day. So, how does the full-time mom keep him busy? By making DIY toys. Just check out this impressive car garage made out of cardboard and tissue rolls! It's three stories high, complete with a tunnel and ramps that can support a toddler's enthusiastic playing.
Over the years, Margaret has made numerous DIY projects for her son, which he often helps make, too. “He paints them. He sticks whatever he wants to stick on them, and I ask what he wants me to put,” she told SmartParenting.com.ph.
Last Christmas, for example, the family made their own Christmas tags out of dough. “We cut out letters from old newspapers and used scratch paper to shape roses,” says Margaret. “He was so proud when he saw the gift tags being attached on the gifts!”
Here’s another crafty little project: a carwash. “For this I made use of a disposable container. I cut out the narrow sides for an entrance and an exit. Then, I made the carwash’s cleaners using strips of felt cloth on barbeque sticks so my son can turn the sticks to ‘clean’ the car that goes in.”
You might want to consider making your child his very own “quiet book” like the one Margaret made. The pages are filled with little activities Lucas can do like looping strings through buttons, zipping up zippers, tying shoe laces and arranging alphabet letters and shapes. It even has a tic-tac-toe board and a little road map for a toy car. We love that each page already has a pouch to store the detachables. “I bring it when we travel. It’s made of soft foam paper, and Lucas helped me make it.”
So, where does she get the ideas from? Margaret says she mostly takes inspiration from Lucas’ interests or what she thinks he’ll like. Once, they made finger puppets from pipe cleaners because “he loves to sing the finger family song,” she says. Other times they’re organizing solutions, like the display she made for Lucas’ animal collection.
“I used toilet paper rolls and cardboard boxes we had at home. My only expense was buying the glue. Why spend when you can make it, right?” Following that philosophy, she showed us her son’s “iPad,” which is essentially a busy board of household hardware Lucas can tinker with different kinds of locks and switches. DIY busy boards for kids can also include handles, faucets and dials. They can be made whatever size. Margaret says Lucas' busy board is perfect for travelling or bringing along to the park.
“My son loves playing with the projects I make him. He still plays with all of them,” says Margaret. Even Lucas' playmates enjoy her projects, she adds, especially the ones they can play together like what she calls the “cup game” where players attempt to throw balls into cups. It’s super simple to make requiring only a board, some plastic cups and a few pingpong balls.
You can also copy her “ball roll” where tubes are taped to a wall to form a track and, with the help of gravity, the child has to get the ball into a cup on the floor. It introduces basic physics concepts and can entertain a child for an afternoon. Plus, it’s easy to assemble.
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“My heart swells with happiness every time he hugs me and tells me he loves something I built for him or we built together. He’s learned to appreciate even the simple things and the projects have nurtured his imagination,” says Margaret.
For parents who also want to make DIY projects with their kids, Margaret says to just go for it as a little creativity and resourcefulness will take you a long way. Make it a bonding activity, too. “Let your child take part even if it's just with painting or decorating. It’s more fun this way, and it makes the project more meaningful.”