Making an organizer from a variety of recycled paper products is a fun and earth friendly way to keep busy when it's cold outside. The project is very messy and the many short and simple steps are great for keeping the little ones occupied indoors.
You will need:
Paper Towel and Toilet Paper Tubes
Food Packaging Boxes in a variety of sizes (cereal, mac and cheese, Bisquick, etc.)
News Paper (If you want to use book pages or junk mail you may need to let the strips soak in the paste for a few minutes until they are soft and plaible)
A Large Cookie Sheet
Aluminum Foil or Parchment Paper
Aluminum Foil or Parchment Paper
Spray Paint or Sealer
Mix together 1 part flour to 2 parts water to make the paste. Pour the flour and water in a large bowl and stir it until it is mostly smooth. It should be about the consistency of white school glue. If you prefer a thinner or thicker paste, add more water or flour as necessary. The flour gives it strength so try not to make it too runny, but this isn't an exacting endeavor and there is plenty of room for experimentation.
Adding a dash of salt to the mix can help prevent mold in moist climates.
Keep your flour, salt, and water handy in case you need to mix more as you work. I worked in batches of about 2 cups of flour/4 cups water at a time and used about 2 bowls per organizer. You will use more or less depending on how many layers of paper you use and the size of the organizer you are making.
your paper strips down to size. I prefer to work with strips that are
about 1 inch wide and 6 to 10 inches long.
Cut up everything else!
Cut your boxes in half. (It is fine to make them taller or shorter if you want.)
Arrange your tubes inside one box segment. Use as many tubes as you can fit upright in the box without crushing any. If you need to cut away a section of box and refold it for a better fit you can.
Cut your paper towel and toilet paper tubes down to descending heights. (Mine are 5.25 inches, 3.75 inches, 2.75 inches, 1.75 inches, and 1 inch long.) I cut the tops of my tubes at angles to make it easier for little fingers to get stuff out.
And now for some taping!
Individually tape all of you boxes firmly shut. This is mostly just for structure/strength.
Call the Tetris theme song to mind. Then play a little modified game of cereal box Tetris. (In need some musical inspiration to help fit your boxes together? click here.)
After some playing around you should end up with something vaguely resembling:
Once you have the boxes together the way you would like them, tape away! Don't just tape around the outside! Remember to tape your tubes to the boxes, and tape the boxes in the middle as well.
You can cut and tape pieces of boxes to divide larger boxes or even put smaller boxes inside larger ones.
Cover the cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper.
Flip your box creation upside down on the sheet.
Dip your strips of newspaper into the flour paste and smooth them over the bottom of your box creation. After covering the bottom with 2 layers of newspaper, flip the boxes back over on the cookie sheet and use this as your work space.
Now cover the entire surface area with 2-3 layers of newspaper being sure to smooth all of the edges.
For the tubes, saturate some strips of paper and roll them into a snake shape. Use your spoon or a pencil to press the snakes around the inner bottom edge of the tubes to seal them on the inside. The tubes may require a little extra time to make sure they are firmly affixed to the other boxes, each other, the inside, and that there are no remaining gaps.
Push and pull a little so the boxes and tubes twist and turn like a Whoville Housing Project.
Take a dancing break. You have earned it
Put the oven rack on the lowest rung. Turn the oven to 200 degrees.
Place the cookie sheets inside. Bake until they are hard.
Either leave it rough or decorate it up.
If you want to leave it rough, use a spray to seal and protect it from moisture.
If you want to paint it, do a base coat of spray paint. It may take several coats to cover the news print. If you add your glitter while the paint is still wet, it will stick perfectly with the least amount of effort. Once the paint has dried, you can paint on windows, add stickers, decoupage images from your favorite books, etc. Enjoy!