Does your family feel like the world is shrinking with all the shut-downs and closures due to covid-19? My family sure does! My wife has implemented a mandatory dance party each night to help keep our morale up—but there is still the rest of the day to fill up for us and our rambunctious son.
Thankfully, as a creative writing and specialized arts teacher, I’ve got a lot of “stuff” kicking around in the closet for various projects—and I want to share some of these activities.
In truth, of the stuff I build with my kids in my classes uses “junk”. I tend to save up all the lids and plastic bits that comes with various household items. They make for excellent building supplies.
I’ve done this project with classes in Canada, Korea, and Thailand—it’s a universal project that everyone can connect with.
So, for this project, you probably have most of what you need already in your house! So, if you want to make your world a little BIGGER, try building a shrink ray and imagine what it would be like to live in your house as a mouse-sized person!
The Shrink Ray Project
What you will need:
- Plastic bottles, soda cans, or any kind of container—even toilet paper rolls will do (and people have been hoarding toilet paper, so you might have a TON of those at your disposal).
- A low-temperature hot glue gun and/or white glue.
- Marker pens.
- Aluminum foil and scrap cardboard.
- Bits and bobs—lids and snaps from various household items. Some containers (like glass milk bottles or the squeeze-fruit-paste my son eats) have the kind of lids that make for fantastic dials and switches.
- Brads (if you’re a scrapbooker, you might have these)—but otherwise you might be able to use thumbtacks, pushpins, or even screws.
Step 1: Gather all the supplies
In a formal class situation, I find it helpful for my kids to pick over all the supplies, choose what they want to use, then design what they want to build on a piece of paper.
Step 2: Draw
I always think it’s more fun—and successful—to have my kids draw what they want to build once they see what pieces that have to use. This can be done on just a plain piece of paper, or you can use the brainstorming sheet that I’ve prepared here.
Step 3: Build
Once the design is figured out, it’s just a matter of attaching all the pieces. I love building my props so that the button and switches move, but this requires a bit more patience and fiddling. Using a pushpin, you can push a hole through your average plastic lid, then attach it to the shrink ray base with a brad.
Otherwise, you can just attach all the buttons by using glue. You can use either a hot glue glue, which attaches items very quickly, but isn’t as durable, or white glue, which requires a lot more patience to allow for drying—but is more durable.
You can build miniature versions of your family using wooden pegs, scraps of cloth and felt, and buttons! That way, you can really visualize what it was like after the peskiest member of your family left the shrink ray ON and shrunk you all.
If you have kids who love to write, well the shrink ray offers you a ready-made story starter! However, I often get my students to write a poem about what life is like as a miniature person, which is a good way to prompt imagination and perspective.
You can download my sheet!