The humble wooden toothpick '- a slender sliver of birch wood '- is designed to help people remove bits of food from between their teeth. These tiny pieces of wood are produced by toothpick-manufacturing machines, the first of which was patented on this day in 1872 by Silas Noble and J.P. Cooley. Thanks to these long-ago inventors, modern parents can buy inexpensive boxes of toothpicks and let kids make fun things with them.
What you'll need:
Boxes of flat or round wood toothpicks (select colored toothpicks for fun!)
Gumdrops or marshmallows
Clear contact paper
What you'll do:
Let kids become junior architects by crafting three-dimensional structures with toothpicks and candy. Insert each end of the toothpick into a gumdrop or marshmallow, which serves as a "corner joint." Continue adding more toothpicks and candy to create tall or geometric structures, like houses and bridges. Try to find a photo of Buckminster Fuller's geodesic dome for inspiration! (You can also use small balls of modeling clay for the corner joints.)
Cut out a square of clear contact paper and give kids a permanent marker to draw a design on the nonsticky side. Angular designs, such as houses, skyscrapers or stars work best. Cut away the excess around the design. Peel away the protective coating to expose the sticky side, then have kids press flat toothpicks into the design until it is filled in. You may have to cut some toothpicks to fit. Use double-sided tape to mount the toothpick design on a piece of craft paper.
Same idea, different technique: Let kids "draw" a design onto heavy craft paper using a glue bottle, then fill in the design with toothpicks.