Crafts: Mom’s Dirty Secret

I hope you are thinking what I am usually thinking when I see kids playing with toys handcrafted by their mom: What a good mother…I hate her guts. But here’s the thing about crafts in my house. I like doing art projects with the kids — and because I’m working part-time now I can do more of them than I used to — but I like finishing art projects a whole lot more. In other words, when I’m flipping through a book like Heather Swain’s excellent Make These Toys: 99 Clever Creations Using Everyday Items, my motive is purely selfish. This is what I’m thinking: What project can we do that requires minimum investment on the front-end, but will keep the girls occupied and out of sight for a huge chunk of time on the back-end, preferably during dinner prep hour, so I can listen to that Vampire Weekend song with the F-bomb in the first verse and enjoy my Dark & Stormy without interruption?

A few weeks ago, the answer to that question was Swain’s “Cereal Box Town Facade,” created out of old boxes of Oaty Bites and Corn Flakes. I knew that if we built a general store out of Raisin Bran, a school out of Peanut Butter Panda Puffs, an apartment out of Frosted Shredded Mini Wheats, then invited a few Polly Pockets to come stay awhile, that my dollhouse-crazy daughters would lock in to their cardboard world and not come out til the meatballs were cooked and my glass of Rose was depleted.

The project was so easy I didn’t even need to follow Swain’s instructions. I just cut out the back of each box, leaving the sides and sometimes the top intact. I let the girls paint the boxes with acrylics and helped them cut out windows and doors, and paste signs (fashioned out of the box bottoms) onto the front. There were a few special requests (stair cases, made by folding a box top like an accordion) but most of the detail work (rugs, wall-hangings, apples and oranges on the store shelves) was done by them with a Sharpie.

All told, I’d say my hands-on time was about one hour, including clean-up time. My daughters’ hands-on time? Hard to quantify, as it still continues, several weeks and wine bottles later.

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LOL – what a cute project. And, yes, the first thing I thought when seeing the first photo was, how do other Mom’s have time to do stuff like this – what an awesome Mom! 🙂


What a fun project. My son would love this, but I can see it being destroyed quickly by our Godzilla-like 11 month old. That said, this is a great naptime project for us to do and I think I’ll try it out. I need to do more crafts with him, something I had great ideas on BEFORE having kids, but havent’ exactly delivered on (in my Martha Stewart wannabe way) since then.


I feel like you wrote a window into my soul with the intro to this post. That is exactly how I feel about crafts.


I do so love how you measure time in quantities of wine consumed, a kindred spirit indeed 😉

I got my ‘Make dinner not war’ sticker yesterday – thank you so much!!


As an up-and-coming (read: still in school) interior designer, I would have to take matters – and Sharpies – into my own hands at some point, but otherwise my kids would love this. And with the number of cardboard boxes we otherwise recycle every week, we could build a mini-NYC for sure. Oh, but I’d have to measure time by bowls of ice cream instead of wine, because I’m from THAT part of the Rosenstrach family… ; )


That’s too cute. My 3 year old would love to stomp themw ith dinosaurs. And, we just listen to the songs with the F bombs. When it gets to the naughty parts, hubby and I yell “EARMUFFS!” It’s to the point that the tot will scream “EARMUFFS”! right on cue…so he has no idea that he just censored the F bomb.
P.S I love Vampire Weekend.

Trish O

this is too cute. i am NOT crafty (ok i yelled that..but i am not) but to my shame, i passed that on to my boys. They are 6 and 8 and should like crafts at this point, right. But I may try this one. Batman needs some new digs.


Hi Jenny – You are so so right. Soon as I saw that photo, I thought not just what a great mummy you are, but how much more of this I need to do. Very fun project idea, and I shall definitely try to save some cereal boxes from the recycling bin to make our own little high street!


Love this! Our own city will start tomorrow! I need to occupy the kids while I unpack from vacation and repack for a weekend at the lake with friends.