Busy Board Engine DIY

Monday, September 28, 2020

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If you have been around I'm sure you know, but in case you are new here let me tell you a little secret... my kid is into cars. Like REALLY into cars. So when I fell into a hole of awesome car toys and found this amazing toy for $300 I said what every crafter around the world has said at least once in their life... "I can make that." Of course, mine is made of cardboard and recycled things, but it's a great solution for our situation.

I looked into other toys that let children tinker with motors and they all had something in common that kind of bugged me... they were mostly gears and nuts and bolts. And while that is really cool, I had dreamed of a toy that could actually introduce some VERY basic car tasks, like changing a tire or charging a battery. So I ended up researching a bit about car care and basic repair tasks, and came up with a small list of things that I thought I could create with supplies I had at home. Then I modified all of these ideas to be able to keep my kid entertained for more than 5 seconds, drew up a diagram, and started collecting supplies. 

So here's what we've got going on under the hood:

- A car battery that you can clip cables to.
- A belt that you can turn and change out.
- Fuses and a fuse box.
- An oil tank with a dipstick and a place to "drain."
- Spark plugs.
- Fun decorations that could be called pistons?
- Two changeable tires with hubcaps.

I realize that these are ridiculously incorrect when it comes to actual engine repair, but I kept in mind the audience (a three-year-old) and focused on making it fun over factual. I would also like you to know that everything I used to make this I already had in my house. So feel free to modify anything to fit in with what supplies you have on hand.


Car Battery Supplies: box, dowel rods, yarn, clothespins, paint, tape, scissors, and hot glue.

Tape up the sides of the box, cut your dowel rods, and glue them on. Paint your dowel rods and your clothespins to match, attach yarn to box and clothespins with tape.

Now you have a battery! My family asked what the three charges were about. It was really to provide an extra color learning experience, but we decided it was a positive charge, a negative charge, and a magical charge. 

Serpentine Belt supplies: Empty wide ribbon spools, cardboard, scissors, tape, pipe cleaners, wide elastic, needle, and thread.

Cut your cardboard to match the size of the tops of the ribbon holders, then cut two holes in the middle. Thread the pipe cleaner through the holes, then down through the hole in the ribbon spool. Tape it to the cardboard underneath, then cover the top with tape. This should allow the spools to rotate. Tape down all of the spools you have, then wrap your elastic around and trim, leaving excess. Sew your elastic into a loop and wrap it around your spools.


Fuse Box supplies: Corrugated cardboard, floral foam, Exacto knife, wooden appetizer picks, colorful paper, duct tape, hot glue, and a permanent marker.

This was one of the parts of the project that took a few tries to get right. To make the fuse box I cut cardboard to make a box that would fit where I needed it to, trimmed some floral foam to fit inside, and once it was in I covered the whole thing with tape. To make the fuses I found it was best to draw out a guide of where I wanted the prongs to be placed in relation to the paper. I put the paper down, put hot glue on one half, placed the trimmed prongs and folded over the paper. When I had them all made I use an Exacto knife to cut holes into the box and lined them with a permanent marker to show where the holes were. The object of this activity is for the child to match the number of prongs the fuse has (two or three) to the number of holes in the box.

Oil Tank supplies: Milk carton, plastic carton with large screw-on lid, zip tie, scissors, and hot glue.

I didn't get any good pictures of this, but the "oil tank" has two lids. One (the milk carton lid) is on the top, and the other (larger lid) is on the bottom. This way the child can fill the oil tank and unscrew the lid on the bottom to "change" the oil whenever they want to! To do this, I cut off both the lids and the pieces of plastic they screwed onto. I flipped the milk carton over and cut a hole in the bottom for the milk carton lid. I glued this on with hot glue. Then I flipped it back the right way and glued on the larger lid parts to what was now the bottom. I glued a zip tie to the inside of the milk carton lid for a "dipstick."

Spark Plug supplies: Plastic nuts and bolts (like these), water bottle caps, straws, skewers, metallic silver marker, and a hot glue gun.

Cut holes where you want your spark plugs to be and glue on the "nut" part. Test to make sure the bolt will screw into the nut and the cardboard underneath. To make the spark plug I put hot glue into the bottom of the bolt, (the part that actually screws in is hollow) then I stuck in my skewer that was inside my straw. When all of those parts were dried, I cut a hole in the water bottle cap and glued it to the top for stability. Then I colored the exposed part of the skewer with a metallic silver marker. All of this is a visual thing, I just Googled spark plugs and tried to make them look like the pictures I saw.

The "Piston" supplies: T.P. rolls, plastic caps, and hot glue.

This is the part of the build that I think might win the award for most unrealistic. I had a little room so I added in these "pistons" to have some more things to play with. They are just made of a smaller T.P. roll inside of a wider half of a T.P. roll with a cap glued on top. Glue them to the cardboard and you have a movable ring that I'm sure has a very important purpose for this engine. Maybe it has something to do with the magical charge?

Tire and Hubcap supplies: Plastic nuts and bolts, paper plates (2 big, 2 small), black paint, silver paint, and an Exacto knife.

Cut a hole in the centers of the big plates then paint them black on both sides. Cut the edge off the smaller plate, a hole in the center,  and cut out sections to resemble a hubcap. Paint these small plates silver. Position your tires where you want them, mark where the center is, and cut a hole for your bolt. Put the bolt through from the inside of the "car" then add the nut to the other side to secure your tires.

To make the base for the engine I used an extra box hidden in the bottom for support. I also just did a lot of weird duct tape magic to make it all stay up. I have no advice for this, the whole engine is held in place with hope and a whole roll of duct tape. Which is a lot like some of the real cars that I have owned through the years, now that I think about it.

This project was time-consuming but worth it. It is sturdy enough that we have had it for about a month and it still hasn't broken permanently, which is amazing as it has also doubled as a cat bed. Ro has enjoyed playing with the components, but there are still a few improvements I would like to make. I think I want to buy some ribbon or beads that have an "oil slick" look about them so he can put something in the oil tank besides leaves or whatever toys he finds on the floor. All in all, if you have a little one who can't get enough of cars, this is an inexpensive (and eco-friendly) alternative to an expensive toy.

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Expression Face Magnets DIY

Monday, September 21, 2020

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 I've always found it interesting how expressive eyebrows are. Maybe it's because I draw a lot of faces, and a slight tilt of an eyebrow can change a character from normal to "determined and a little angry" in 2.5 seconds. It could also just be the fact that I can't raise just one eyebrow at a time and therefore I often find myself with extreme eyebrow envy. Whatever the reason, through my years I've learned to watch for the tilt of a brow or the quirk of a mouth to read people's emotions. 

Obviously, my almost-three-year-old has only the beginnings of these skills. I know its something he will develop over time, but I thought I could help him along with this fun little toy! With a few basic shapes, you can show a wide range of emotions. Also, you can just make silly faces, which is just as important.

Sticky Back Magnet Sheets
Metal Pan or Magna Doodle



Step one: Cut out your patterns. Feel free to use the image above as a template, or freehand it!

Step two: Trace the pattern onto the back of the magnet sheets. If you plan on using these as magnets you will need two each of the long trapezoid, the small half oval, the eye shape, and the circle.

Step three: Cut out your shapes.

Step four: Peel off the back of the magnet and attach it to paper. Trim it to size.

And that's it! This simple craft took me about 20 minutes to make. I had so much fun challenging myself to create as many expressions as I could!

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Play Road Printable

Monday, September 14, 2020

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Hello! As you've recently learned, we are all about cars in this house. In my constant quest to find the perfect road toy, I came up with the idea of interchangeable square map pieces that could potentially build the most epic road map ever. I used the little bit of free time I have to create a simple rendition of my idea and after we played with them for a day it was deemed good enough to share.

This kit includes 13 different .pdfs. There are 4 variations of straight road, a roundabout, a 4 way stop, a railroad crossing, and many other pieces that will help you make an awesome map. I kept the design for everything simple to encourage kids to decorate them however they wanted!

We ended up making a map that filled our living room, but with this particular type of map the possibilities are literally endless. If you want to download your own map scroll to the bottom of the page!

Download the Road Printable .pdfs here!

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Ten [CAR CAR] Things...

Monday, September 7, 2020

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Monster's first word was "cat." We have two of them, so that wasn't a big surprise. Then we got out our little IKEA blocks that come in a wagon, and bought a book all about wheels. So his second word was "car" and for a long time it seemed he might have decided that he can just stop there.
Unsurprisingly, we are all about cars in this house. Of course this means I spend a fair amount of time looking for cute car toys and car toy accessories. There are some that I buy right away, but many more get put on my "in my dreams" list, so I decided that a ten things was a perfect place to share them with you.

This road toy is so cool! It is durable and can be used almost anywhere. 

This road tape could turn any drab old kitchen into an epic town.

This Etsy shop sells colorful shirts that double as a road map! Let your kid play while you enjoy a (hopefully) soothing back rub!

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