We've been trying to delay playing with the realistic toy weapons like guns or swords. Nat's first exposure was actually in school last year, where his friends started making guns from Lego bricks and shooting each other. We explained to him that he is not ready for guns yet and in our family we don't intend to hurt someone even if it's for play. But of course to totally ban him from playing shooting games will be quite unrealistic and playing cops versus bad guys are part of our childhood. At first we allowed him to make the guns from the Lego bricks but even then it's so tempting to shoot someone, hence we reinvented them as water guns and spraying each other with water is way more fun than shooting someone dead.
And then we tried to think of alternatives to toy weapons and how perhaps we can make and experiment together. He is still a little young in trying to make one by himself. He assisted me in gathering the materials, simple cutting/pasting/assembling and testing out the equipment. I found 2 wonderful alternatives which I think are quite evergreen and can be re-visited again when the children are older and they can try making themselves.
First, we made a catapult together. He chose his favourite colour, red, for the ice cream sticks. We counted how many ice cream sticks and rubber bands we needed. Then our bottle cap for the launch pad kept dropping even though we stuck it with glue and eventually we used duct tape. I haven't played with a catapult for ages and actually forgot how to press it down! So both of us were testing the catapult, figuring out whether we should press the tip of the ice cream stick or bottle cap to see which action is more powerful. He got a little discouraged and felt like giving up when he couldn't really launch. It was a good lesson for both of us, him on not giving up and me on being a coach to him because eventually when he could do it, it was really fun experimenting how high we could launch the pom pom, if it could go over a box and how far it could go too! We also experimented rolling the pom pom down a long tube and have it land into the launch pad, which really engaged him for a long time as we figure out the angle of the long tube and the proximity of the launch pad to the tube. Read here for the instructions on Catapult for Kids to Make.
DIY POM POM LAUNCHER
This one needed a bit more trial and error in its creation. In the original instructions on the DIY Pom Pom Launcher which you can check it out here, the blogger used plastic cups. But my plastic cups were too lousy in quality, the plastic was too soft and every time we tried to launch, the whole thing came apart. Nat and I were getting upset that it couldn't work. Then I tried using toilet rolls instead and attached the balloon onto the toilet roll with duct tape. Hooray for me keeping all those toilet rolls and recycling them for this toy! Nat insisted we make one launcher for every family member, he is so thoughtful in choosing the different coloured balloons for each of us. We also had a lot of experimenting with these, placing the pom poms deep into the toilet roll, how hard to pull the balloon end and at what angle should tilt our launcher. We realised that by making the balloon ends shorter, we don't need to place the pom poms deep inside anymore and there will be a more powerful launch. At the beginning, we were still just randomly just launching the poms poms so there wasn't much fun after a while. But then the next day, we came up with a game called "Army Training", Nat started building a fort and together we invented fun drills like rolling on the mattress, crawling, jumping jacks, running and then launching our pom poms! Really good activity to expend his energy indoors especially on those rainy days!
As we start the year off thinking of activities to engage our children, let's start the year with a bang! Hope you and your child will have a great time creating and experimenting, with these easily available and inexpensive materials :)