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Posted by on May 12, 2014 | 1 comment

DIY Kids: Making Toy Boats with Found Objects

DIY Kids: Making Toy Boats with Found Objects

One day earlier this month when it rained nonstop for three days and our alley turned into a fast-flowing creek, I pictured racing handmade toy boats down the rapids with the kids.  This inspired an afternoon craft project – making boats with found objects. Our guidelines would be to use mainly natural materials, plus a few odds and ends from around the house – corks, popsicle sticks, twine, wire, champagne wire hoods, bottle caps, toothpicks, plus scissors and wire cutters.


For a few days on walks, we gathering materials on the ground – big magnolia leaves, bark, twigs, and nuts. We would use wire or twine, but no glue. The challenge was to figure out different boat designs using only the materials at hand.

Nadja and her friend Parisa, along with me and Javaun, Parisa’s dad, had a lot of fun fashioning boat designs.  The girls made boats with beautiful masts and sails…


Whimsical boats…



…boats that resembled pontoons.


And a teeny-tiny nut boat for a fairy or sprite.


Javaun and Parisa worked together to weave a miniature raft, an “homage,” said Javaun, “to Huckleberry Finn.”


I made one too.



Javaun said this boat made from two pieces of bark, held together with criss-crossed twine, was his favorite. He said it seemed like “a toy that might have come out of a Pharoah’s tomb.”


These are the champagne hoods turned chair for Playmobile people. Javaun remembered making ziplines with his brother for little contraptions like these, so we may try that out too.



We weren’t sure if our boats would be seaworthy, so that night Nadja and I tested them out in the bathtub. Unfortunately, the tiny nut boats sank, as did the champagne hood boats. But the leaves, cork pontoon boats, and especially the rafts proved especially sturdy and buoyant. They could even carry passengers.


We’ll keep all of the boats handy for our next big spring rain storm, maybe refine our designs, and have more ready to go for a rainy day regatta.

1 Comment

  1. So much fun! I love these… and they remind me of this poem by Robert Louis Stevenson. I always liked the idea of other children finding the boats… and the children launching the boats imagining children finding them… and the children finding them imagining the children who launched them.

    Where Go the Boats?

    Dark brown in the river,
    Golden is the sand.
    It flows along for ever,
    With trees on either hand.

    Green leaves a-floating,
    Castles of the foam,
    Boats of mine a-boating –
    Where will all come home?

    On goes the river
    And out past the mill,
    Away down the valley,
    Away down the hill.

    Away down the river,
    A hundred miles or more,
    Other little children
    Shall bring my boats ashore.

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