AI: Creative children

As most of you know by now, Masala Skeptic, Tim3P0 and I are in Chicago, visiting Elyse, Brian, and Moose for the weekend. I know you’re all sick of hearing about how cute this child is, but…well, he just is.

Photo 186

He’s entertaining us this morning by playing wii, dancing, taking pictures of himself with my laptop (see above), and at one point, playing baseball with a lint roller and a used tissue. I’ve always been immensely amused by the creative things kids do with non toys.

What’s the most entertaining creative thing you’ve seen a child do (or done yourself, for that matter) with something that was never intended to be a toy?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.

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  1. It’s not a single “thing”, but they find great potential in the classic “big cardboard box”….

  2. We have a lot of toys at our house for when our nieces and nephews are over and what sticks in my mind most was the time my oldest nephew was playing with a bunch of wooden blocks and a metal Tops Supermarkets tractor trailer. He loaded the blocks into the trailer like cargo, of course, but not before putting blocks behind all the tires so it wouldn’t roll away -just like he sees Grandpa do with the 5th wheel camper. The kid was probably four at the time. I laughed my ass off.

  3. i second david’s big cardboard box hypothesis.

    when i was a wee lass, i would make a pool table out of a shirt box and use marbles for the balls and a pencil for the cue.

  4. He’s very cute, and smart. If he’s so clever now, what’s he going to be like when he’s grown up?

    I for one would like to be the first to bow down before our Moose overlord

  5. My mom tells me that she’s not surprised that when I got to pick an instrument to play that I chose percussion. I used to pull all the pots and pans out of the cupboard, line them up, and play them. Not just bang randomly to make noise, I was actually doing simple beats. I was probably 3 or 4.

  6. When I was four or five, my grandmother scavenged a drum from an old tumble dryer. I decided that it was just the right shape and size to be my very own space capsule, so I became an astronaut.

    My grandfather had to give it a nice new coat of paint so it wouldn’t get all rusted out.

    I played my own little version of Star Trek in that thing till I was too big to get in and out.

  7. My oldest tends to improvise quite a few “Batman-like” devices. By the age of two, he repeatedly combined shoelaces and coat hangers to create functional grappling hooks.

  8. I buy paper towels and toilet paper in bulk from costco. My son never misses the opportunity to use these items as “enemies”. He practices karate chops, flying knees, body slams and the like till the plastic breaks around the rolls. The he takes the rolls, stacks them up in stratigic piles and works on his group attacks. He yells out battle cries. He claims these yawping noises “max his strength”.

    I once bought him an inflatable “Venom” that never entertained him so much.

  9. My kids love my laundry basket. It alternates between a rocket ship being pushed around the house to a turtle shell to a cave to an invisibility shield, because of course, I can’t see them under there.

  10. My little sister and I used to take bed sheets and lay them down the stairs to create a “waterfall,” which we would ride over in laundry baskets, cardboard boxes, or even unprotected. Amazingly, neither of us ever broke a limb or lost an eye.

  11. @tiger kitty: @Oskar Kennedy: we used to do that with those sleeping bags with the slippery fabric. we’d get in the sleeping bag and slide down the stairs.
    we did laundry baskets too. amazingly, no one ever got hurt running shit down the stairs.
    though i did contribute to my brother splitting his ear open on a wall corner while sitting in a laundry basket and making him pull me around the house (he was the reindeer and the basket was the sleigh).

  12. A food juicer. One day while Mum and Dad were working, we took it down and decided to see what you could juice. Everything from steak to veg to even bread (which did not work, surprise surprise) went thru the machine, until we had emptied the entire fridge. Yeah, we got in trouble, but damn it was a fun afternoon. ~

  13. Our youngest was about three when she decided that instead of taking a nap, she wanted to become an electrical engineer. So she took her little plug-in night light out of the wall socket and disassembled it so thoroughly that I couldn’t put it back together…and she did it without any tools!

    I didn’t know one of those things had that many parts in it…! She lined the parts up neatly on the bedroom carpet.

    This is the kid that’s graduating in December from Honors College with a dual major in Criminology/Sociology and a Master’s in Criminology.

  14. When I was about seven years old all the kids in the neighborhood had two foot long pieces of half inch black PVC pipe. There was an old abandon apple orchard in the neighborhood and when the apples were ripe the traditional games of war and cowboys and Indians tuck a turn to the fruity and messy. We would all stuff a dozen or so apples down the fronts of our shirts (ammo storage), separate into opposing armies and start chewing up large bites of apple which were blown through the pipes with great gusto at the opposing forces. You had to get close to be3 effective in this type of combat. We threw in some capture the flag elements and if you got nailed with apple you had to go back to your home base before you could fight any more.

    I have no idea which kid or dad thought up this game or if any other kids anywhere else in the world have ever played it. I remember lots of laughing and my mother being upset at all the dried apple (and saliva) on my clothes and hair. I’m sure the nanny twits of modern childhood would think this was unsafe incredibly, wasteful and dangerous seeing a bunch of boys running around with PVC pipe in their mouths which were full of half chewed apple preparing to spew a fruit and bodily fluid cocktail into the face of other kids. Most fun I ever had in grade school!

  15. I always love the mixing of toys my daughter does. On xmas morn this year, we had a princess castle, complete with Snow White, being defended from an invading army by Chewbacca and Anakin Skywalker.

    Kids don’t seem to get hung up on what things are ‘supposed’ to play together, they just have the fun.

  16. I used to build all sorts or craft (of the robotic kind) from cardboard toilet paper cores.

    My daughter loves to use brushes as people, blankets as monsters, and build structures from DVD cases.

  17. One of my kids creates dystopian landscapes using pieces from various play sets, paper towel tubes, styrofoam packing inserts and anything else that that’s lying around.

  18. I can remember when my kids were young and their grandparents would spend crazy money on them for christmas we would end up with the kids playing with the torn wrapping paper and empty boxes while I was trying to assemble their toys. Even after the toys were assembled they were more interested in the packaging.

    My middle sone is all about the stick. At one point he misbehaved and all his sticks were taken away so he substituted a yellow number two pencil. It was a sword, knife, lightsabre, shield. When he has a stick he can disappear into an imaginary world for hours.

  19. When I was about three I used to amuse myself by throwing cotton balls in the air and pretend it was snowing. (I had my own separate bag.)

  20. I used to take baths with my older brother (we were born about 18 months apart) until IT WAS FORBIDDEN (about age 10ish). I was then very bored without a playmate in the tub, so I would dump a whole box of laundry detergent before I ran the water, beating the water so there were heaps of bubbles. Then I would descend into this bubbliciousness and begin to herd the ‘wayward sheep’ from one end of the tub to the other. Needless to say, I came out of the bath incredibly clean (while mom would wonder who was doing the laundry on the sneak).

  21. I used to crawl around with a plastic tub as my turtle’s shell.

    Around the age of 3-4-5 (?) my best friend and I used to play out a story (pretty much the same tale each time IIRC) involving a horse, a foal and a butcher. The butchered horse was put into an old wooden chest and for some reason covered with a blanket. I don’t really think it was inspired by any real stories. But we probably knew that black sausage contained horse.

  22. I can remember playing with cardboard boxes and left-over paper towel tubes. I also had what can only be called an obsession with stuff that looked like it would make the perfect rocket, saucer, or other spacecraft shape. There was plastic light bulb packing that served as a decent facsimile pod from 2001, and the egg carton that was modified into en Eagle from Space: 1999.

    My favorite thing lately, was my sister had decided that my oldest nephew would only grow up with peaceful and educational toys. Unfortunately, she also let him watch TV.

    A few Power Ranger shows later, anything he played with had to make gun noises and blow up spectacularly!

  23. @MiddleMan: Your nephew reminds me of my two boys. I had the no gun thing going on for awhile, and they will take ANYTHING and make a gun out of it. Legos, Lincoln Logs, cardboard, straws, it doesn’t matter. Needless to say, I gave up on my gun ban. I swear, it’s all KILL CRUSH DESTROY.

  24. After the 1000th time my son watched “March of the Penguins”, he rolled up a towel, stuck it under his shirt, and waddled around on the floor on his knees trying to pass the “egg” to his little sister.

    While camping last year, my 5 yo daughter built a huge castle on the picnic table out of rocks and twigs. It was about a foot high and covered half the table.

  25. @Bjornar: That reminds me of when I was 11 or maybe 12 I would go over to a friends house, they had an old steel cattle water trough that we used as a pool. We would get plastic trash bags and wear them in the water so we were submarines.

  26. @tiger kitty: Another thing that boys go for is dinosaurs. My nephews love to pretend that either they are dinosaurs or fighting with their toy dinos.

    What does everyone think of this? Is this a “boys only” thing? If it is, is it cultural or biological?

  27. One fateful morning my 4 year old son was happily playing in the living room when a creative fancy struck him. He purloined a Sam’s Club size jar of creamy peanut butter as his medium and chose our living room as his canvas. He proceeded to craft his masterpiece all over the walls, couch, carpet, TV, lamp, drapes, and virtually every other surface he could find. Seeing the final result was almost worth the $400 cleaning bill.

  28. @tigerkitty: Transforming robot ninja dinosaurs! The next big thing! Quick! Patent it!
    LOL :-D

  29. My niece Lorelei needs nothing to play with except air. I’ve watched her form entire kingdoms (in which she is the Princess and I alternate between the prince and a monster) with nothing but her hands. She describes them so well, that I can see the kingdom too.

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