This One Time, I Tried To Make a Car

Welcome to the July 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family Creations

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared crafts, recipes, and philosophies of creativity. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


Let it be known: I am the opposite of crafty. I have ideas, certainly. I always think, “I’m going to sew this,” and, “I’m going to DIY that!” But somehow, the basic concepts just fail me. So trying to decorate a box like a car? Was pretty much the same as every DIY project I’ve ever tried.


Miles loves cars. When we buckle him into his car seat, he pretends to drive with an imaginary steering wheel. When I unbuckle him, he makes a bee-line to the front seat. (This is a frustrating habit.) I have seen Cars so many times that I think I could quote the movie from start to finish.

Miles in a Steralite Box

Miles, in a mostly unmodded box

Lately, this became, “Miles likes to sit in this big plastic bin we use for laundry and pretend to be driving car.” It’s cute. Kind of; I’m a terrible housekeeper, and if the bin isn’t empty, he dumps the laundry on the floor. Unfortunately, it’s usually my clean laundry added to my dirty laundry on the floor.

One day I noticed he started stealing my car keys, climbing into his bin, and informing me that he was pretending to drive. About a week later, he was using the top half of his sit & spin as a steering wheel. And I figured what the hell — why not make his car more awesome? I can do it without ruining the integrity of the box, while encouraging his imagination and not having to buy anything new.


I drilled a hole in the box, a couple weeks back, to slide the ‘steering wheel’ through. Thus, no pictures. My bad.

My next goal was to make wheels. I had a bunch of card stock laying around, and we bought paint pens back when we were making stockings. So, I cut them out. Making the circles wasn’t bad — once upon a time, when making a circle skirt, I read a handy tutorial for creating a circle. What sucked was winging the hubcaps. I used the smaller circle, then cut five semi-circles out of it and used the same template.

On the whole I was pleased with the look of the wheels. But when the time came for painting the tire section of the wheels, I was terrified our paint pens would run out. Every stroke was a moment of, “Is it running out‽ Please dont let this run out!”

Actually, it was fine. The black paint pen rocked it:

The gold hubcaps (it was the only metallic color we had on hand, and necessity stated I couldn’t buy supplies for the project) seemed like they would be easier — but they took twice as long and were awful. The pen didn’t spread as easily, and eventually, I started holding the pen down so the the paint would seep out, and painting with a brush. Unlike the black paint pen, the metallic reeked. Ugh.

It sucked. I sort of hated this project right then.

I made some squiggly lines in the white space with a pencil, and smudged it with my thumb so that it wouldn’t just be stark white. Miles loved this part; he had been watching me and Pokémon alternately, since he couldn’t touch the paint or scissors. But when it came time to smudge pencil with our thumbs, I was ready to let him help.

Then, finally, to the glue! When I was making something over Christmas — cards, I think — I suddenly realized working with paper and glue was a million times easier if I used a paintbrush. It was a light switch moment and I used it here. I painted the back of the paper. Once it was on the box, I painted around the edges on the top as well. I don’t know if it really helps, but I felt more effective.

I let Miles take pictures during this part — but they’re mostly pictures of the floor and my butt. More interestingly for him, he helped paint some of the glue.

Honestly? At this point, Miles was pretty impressed with his new wheels, and I was exhausted from the effort of being crafty.

He was at one point asking for doors and I had big door plans. The wheels were just big enough that I could only get one per sheet, so I figured I could use those cut sheets — already with curves to match the wheels — to look like doors. I also wanted to put a seatbelt in his car, because lately he’s obsessed with seatbelts. He’ll sit in my lap, close my arms around him, shout, “Seatbelt!” and begin to drive.

But I had no idea how I wanted to attach the seatbelt to the box, what I would use to clasp it, and the idea of making doors made me want to cry. I had reached my crafting-with-paper limit. I was tapped out.

I ended up using the paint pen to create the illusion of door handles — which I’m proud of. I’d be more proud if they were on the correct ‘side’ relative to the ‘front’ of the car, but you take what you can get.

I’m utterly displeased with my attempt to draw on a back windshield. Ugh. I am not an artist, y’all. I’ll probably scrub that off.

The car still needs a seat belt & headlights. (The headlights were my husband & his boyfriend’s idea.) I’ll probably go to the Salvation Army and pick up an old belt to play seat belt, but I still have no idea how I’ll attach it.


My favorite thing about the project is watching Miles play. It’s just a box, sure, but it’s pretty much whatever he wants it to be. Mostly it’s a car, but sometimes it’s an airplane. Sometimes his toys ‘sleep’ in the box. There are usually two or three sets of toy keys living there — as well as my actual car keys. (I’m still missing the other set from his early games of Car.)

He takes a set of keys that he takes with him as he climbs into the car. He pretends to open the door, and he slides the key into a hole in the handle of the box. He yells, “Bye, Mom! Bye, Dad!” while he slides the steering wheel into the hole.

I always reply, “Bye, Miles! Drive safe!” After several minutes of driving, he comes back home.

He also plays racing. I have to count down — “Three, Two, One, Beep!” — and he starts flailing around the car, turning his wheel and making engine noises.

The second part is that there’s nothing that stops the function as a box. We use these things as laundry bins and toy boxes. A hole and some paint on the sides doesn’t stop me from tossing his toys in the bin.

I’m pleased with the overall project, even if it turned out more cartoony and less badass than I expected.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Garden Soup — Bailey finds a way to help momma Katy (from Muse of a Daffodil) in the garden.
  • This One Time, I Tried To Make a Car — Ashley at Domestic Chaos tries once again to make something crafty from stuff around the house.
  • Pin-tastic creative ideas — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud shares how Pinterest is inspiring creativity in her family this summer.
  • Baby Hiccups In The Womb — Alinka at Baby Web shares one of the ways she bonds with her unborn baby.
  • Turtle Mosaics — Lyndsay at ourfeminist{play}school and her little family spend a quiet hour making a turtle mosaic inspired by the work of Melanie Mikecz.
  • Edible Art Plus 8 Art Supply Recipes — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares some natural, chemical-free art supply alternatives, which are gauranteed to be tons of fun for children of all ages. They taste great too!
  • A surprise art lesson — Tat at Mum in search has been taking art lessons from her 5-year-old son.
  • Memory Creation — Laura from Pug in the Kitchen talks about how her family aims to create as many memories as they can as a family.
  • A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words — Melissa at Momma Beer tries to replace cars with crafts.
  • My Creative Family: Sometimes Messy, Always Fun — Emily at S.A.H.M i AM embraces the messes that sometimes accompany creative play but admits you don’t always have to get dirty to have fun.
  • Fun Family Learning: Constellation Cave Tutorial — Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter gives step-by-step instructions for building a fun new twist on a cardboard box playhouse.
  • Cooking… Kind Of — ANonyMous at Radical Ramblings makes pizza with her daughter, hoping to inspire a love of cooking and encourage a bigger interest in food. As well as making mess and having lots of fun, of course!
  • Crockpot Refried BeansThat Mama Gretchen‘s family loves to experiment with new recipes, and today she’s sharing a kitchen success!
  • Creating Memories — Andrea at Tales of Goodness reflects on how the best creations can emerge from just letting kids be kids.
  • Making Beautiful Things … And Sometimes Just Average-Looking Ones — Tamara at Tea for Three looks for ways to add more craft and creativity into every day family life.
  • Making Fruit Leather Together — When Amy Willa at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work took some time to involve her children in the process of finally trying a fruit leather recipe stored on her Pinterest food board, she got more than just a scrumptious homemade snack as a result!

  • http://www.ourfeministplayschool.ca Lyndsay

    Oh I love M's little car! I think it is a terrific craft! As long as you guys had fun that is all that matters anyway – but it IS pretty awesome and I am sure my little guy would love a pair of wheels that cool.

    • http://www.domesticchaos.com Ashley Poland

      Thanks! I really enjoyed that it was something Miles could help with — I mean, glue. It ended up all over the place but it pulled right off everything.

  • Pingback: Getting My Craft On | Natural Parents Network

  • http://codenamemama.com Dionna@CodeName:Mama

    I think it is awesome! And who cares what YOU think – you're not the one enjoying it ;) (I say that tongue in cheek, but truly, Miles loves it, so let go of your standards and revel in how cool he thinks you and the car are!)

    • http://www.domesticchaos.com Ashley Poland

      I'm truly enjoying the years where Miles doesn't yet realize that cutting circles out of paper isn't magic. :D When I finished painting them and showed him where I was going to glue them, his face just lit up — "Wheels!"

  • alinkarutkowska

    Congratulations Ashley! You're one creative mama! :) What a great example of how to make something out of nothing! :)

    • http://www.domesticchaos.com Ashley Poland

      Thanks! The side effect of not being the craftiest person, is that I hate to buy supplies to make things — they inevitably go to waste. :D

  • http://www.HoboMama.com Hobo_Mama

    I am so super impressed! The part where you're hating the project — ha ha ha! I know that part well. I love how much Miles loves it. :)

    • http://www.domesticchaos.com Ashley Poland

      Oh man, the part where you're like, "I regret everything about this project ever," is the worst. XD Thank you!

  • Pingback: Making Glasses From Children’s Art | living peacefully with children

  • Pingback: Baby Hiccups In The Womb | Baby Web

  • Pingback: Cooking… Kind Of | Radical Ramblings

  • Pingback: Preparing Family Meals Together | LivingMontessoriNow.com

  • Pingback: A surprise art lesson | Mum in search

  • Lucy at Dreaming Aloud

    Any boy would LOVE that car! Well done mama!

    • http://www.ashleympoland.com Ashley

      Thanks! :D

  • Pingback: Creating Joy! Felt Counting Fish and Other Fun - Child of the Nature Isle