Maker Mayhem #10
Tongue Depressor Gifts: Better to give than receive
The attention span of a child is short-lived at best, so creating a DIY project for kids comes with a unique set of challenges: designing a step-by-step process that is both exciting and engaging (and preferably one that a child can enjoy unsupervised), employing materials that are unusual and fun to work with, and producing a payoff that is as satisfying as it is enduring.
However, if there were ever a project to discourage a child from trying to make anything by hand, the Tongue Depressor Bracelet would certainly top the list. It’s the “Scared Straight” of How-To; enough to swear an aspiring young Maker off home made craft forever. Imagine a child so patient that she could endure waiting half a day—a minimum of eight full hours—just to soak a tongue depressor in water; the first demoralizing step in a project to create a bent wood bracelet that isn’t even guaranteed to fit properly, and that no friend would envy. The second step in this process takes even longer. Overnight, in fact. Then there’s the time spent waiting for the tongue depressor to completely dry. Soaking + shaping + drying = nearly two days of a child’s life. For a child this feels like six lifetimes—and this is just prep, before any of the fun starts. Even a child in a coma couldn’t muster the wherewithal to endure such boredom. This is actually slower than watching paint dry, or witnessing the birth of a Sea Monkey. Literally slower than molasses in January.
How committed to their vision—or hyper focused and unmedicated—would a child have to be to roll with that? To sustain that level of interest in a tongue depressor bracelet is not normal, or healthy, nor should it be encouraged by adults. This project is more like craft punishment: “MARCH STRAIGHT TO YOUR ROOM AND DON’T COME OUT UNTIL YOU’VE MADE FIVE TONGUE DEPRESSOR BRACELETS!”
The Tongue Depressor Letter Opener is considerably more feasible, and more fun, mostly because with a little sharpening it could double duty as a shiv, and all children love weapons. The tongue depressor-trimmed flower pot pleases less, mostly because it calls to mind too many tongues, and you never know from where exactly all those tongue depressors were scavenged.
The suggestions continue, telling us that with the addition of “gummed tape,” a tongue depressor coaster is made to look “something like bamboo shades” although they in fact look very much like a bunch of tongue depressors held together with gummed tape. It is also suggested that they may be “decorated…and hung on the wall,” but even an intrepid crafter should proceed with caution.