Saturday, October 31, 2015

DIY Plinko: Great for Carnivals, Birthdays, Church, or Chore Selection

I am in my 13th year of being an educator, and almost all schools have one thing in common: school carnivals. When I taught, each homeroom teacher was responsible for a booth, and the competition was to see which homeroom would bring in the most tickets. Being the "mildly" competitive person that I am, I always inspired my homeroom to think of a booth that would not only win, but win by a long shot. One of my favorite booths from my years of teaching was the Plinko board.

For those of you who may not know what Plinko is, you obviously never spent time as a kid sick at home watching The Price Is Right from 10:00 to 11:00. It's the game where you drop a round or spherical object down a board, and it bounces its way towards a series of chutes at the bottom which label the prizes.

So as my school prepares for its Fall Carnival this year, of course I volunteered to build a Plinko board. Having done it before once or twice, I learned several things that helped make this the best Plinko board ever. The beauty of this is that it cost nothing. I did not spend a penny on it, since all of the pieces were from scrap, the paint was leftover spray paint that I have been looking for ways to get rid of, it only took about three hours, and the time spent with my kids was fantastic. So here we go.
2) Offset the marks for the nails

Cost: $0 (all materials were scrap materials on hand)
Time: about 3 hours from start to finish
Skill level: moderate

1) Decide how large the Plinko board will be. I found a scrap of plywood in the alley that was 33" x 48". I wanted it a little narrower, so I cut it down to 30" x 48".

2) Determine what type of object you will drop down it. Ping pong balls or plastic practice golf balls are my preferred spheres. Measure the width, and add enough additional space so the ball can fit through easily. This will be the spacing between the nails. For the practice golf pall, the ball is 1 3/4" wide, I added 3/4", so my nails are spaced 2 1/2" apart. Draw parallel lines down the board using this spacing. Then, start with the first line and draw marks through the line across using this same spacing.

5) Drill each cross mark
3) You need to offset the nails for the game to work. So on the second line, take half of the spacing and mark that (1 1/4" for my spacing). Now go across the second line and make the marks every 2 1/2".

4) Laying a long straight edge down the board, copy the marks from the first line on every other line (third, fifth, etc.). Each of these cross marks will have a nail sticking out. Then copy the marks from the second line on every other line (fourth, sixth, etc.). You now have the placement of all of the nails. For a 30" x 48" board, I used more than 150 nails.

5) Using a drill bit smaller than the nails that you will use, drill a hole through the board on one of the cross marks. Drive a nail into that hole to ensure that the nail is snug. If the nail is not tight, use a smaller drill bit and test again. Proceed to drill a hole through each of the cross marks. Make sure to drill through the board.
7) Begin nailing into the holes

6) Once all of the holes have been drilled the back side will be quite splintery. Gently scrape all of the splintered wood off (I used a small steel bar for this). Lightly sand the board on both sides.

7) Either on sawhorses or on concrete, drive a nail into each of the holes, being careful not to drive the nail all the way into the board. They need to stick out a little farther than the diameter of your sphere. This is a great time to use a little helper to either hand you nails or practice their nailing skills. For anybody who is Type A and feels that the spacing all needs to be perfect, remember that this is a game of chance and the only necessity is that the ball fits between all of the nails.

9) Ensure that balls cannot get stuck
*Note: the first time I built this I drove the nails all the way through until the head was flush against the board. This meant that the pointy part of the nail was sticking out. Since it was for a carnival and I didn't want a kid to get impaled on my board, I ended up having to buy a sheet of Plexiglas to cover the front. This was quite an expense. Since I wanted to spend $0 on this board, I decided that head of the nails would be safe sticking out and I can skip the cost of the Plexiglas.

10) Create chutes at the bottom.
8) Cut the legs and the pieces for the frame. I used scrap 2" x 4" for the legs and bottom of the board, and 1" x 2" for the sides. Attach these pieces to the board.

9)  Have a small partner practice on the board and make sure that there are no areas where the ball gets stuck. For any of these areas, add extra nails to divert the balls away from the "danger spots." Additionally, look for areas to add places where the ball can land in the middle of the board for high value prizes by adding additional nails to capture the ball. The balls seldom land here because of the way they bounce through the board, hence the high value.

12) Have fun!
10) For the bottom, cut some small scrap for slots where the balls will land. I cut the pieces with 45 degree angles to direct the balls away from the higher value slots. This creates a little more excitement. Attach these chutes to the bottom board, using wider spaces for lower values and narrower spaces for higher values, ensuring that the balls will actually fit into the narrower spaces (unless you want to be really mean).

11) Paint the board. I had seven cans of leftover spray paint from various projects, so I sprayed a background of black. I then lightly sprayed the other colors on top to create some depth to the colors.

12) Have fun.

11) Layered paint
 This is great for carnivals, church activities, or parties. But I also see the possibility for having kids choose their chores with this board. The possibilities are endless. But as is the case with most projects, the bulk of the joy comes in the building, especially with helpers.

For anybody who builds one of these, I would love to have you post pictures and tell me about your experience building it and what you built it for.

Bottom Detail

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Parenting Game Changer: Letting Your Kids Help

I love doing projects with my kids, whether it's cooking, building, assembling, constructing, or gardening. As I started a project this past week with and for my son, I started to wonder why I enjoy projects with my kids. Why do I enjoy building furniture with my kids when it takes so much longer with their help? Why is gardening fun with them when I could do it so much more quickly without them? Why is making pancakes more enjoyable when they are creating such a mess? And now is confession time - in the moment these things are not always a lot of fun, and I often don't have the most patience with my kids. So why do I do it? Why do I make my projects more difficult by asking and insisting that my kids participate with me?

1) My kids can learn practical skills. They can learn how to hammer, drill a hole, measure flour, or spread manure. I can teach them how to measure twice, cut once, and then trim, trim, trim until a piece of wood is just the right length. I can teach them tool safety, kitchen safety, and any other kind of safety possible.

2) My kids can teach me patience. It is easier
when I can move at my own speed with any project, but having my kids with me helps me slow down and work on patience.

3) My kids learn to participate in my world, just as I participate in their world when I play with them. As a family, we love doing things together, and for my kids, that means doing things that are important to mommy and daddy just as we do things that are important to them.

4) I enjoy spending time with them. Sure, this is an easy answer. I love spending time with my kids, and having them help me with projects is a way to double dip - get something done while spending time with them. There's nothing wrong with leveraging time, is there?

5) I love them. The times when I am working on something with my kids and their eyes sparkle, they giggle, or they get excited about putting a nail into the peg board, these are the times that I live for.

Is it easy to have my kids participate in every project? No, it really isn't. But is it worth it? Absolutely.