A toy boat craft.

Our toy boat day was the talk of the Coryell Castle. The munchkins decided that they needed to make their own toys boats in a manner that reflected their individual prefences and personalities. How can I argue with that? So we started from scratch, mostly. A sailboat seemed to be the general consensus. Followed by a promise that they could sleep with their toy boats tonight and that we would tie a string to them and go float them out on Lake Tuscaloosa (or Pontulia, the large puddle in our front yard, if it rains) tomorrow.

Gathering materials

The kids ran to the backyard and picked twigs to use as masts and booms for their boats. Then they each selected a piece of scrap fabric from the fabric bin to use as sails.

A bouncing Max tried to figure out what would work best for a boat bottom. Among his ideas:

  • A kitchen sponge- We decided it would sink after a while.
  • A kitchen sponge covered with duct tape- The waterproofing effect of the duct tape would cancel out the floating effect of the tiny holes in the sponge.
  • A tin can like the boy in the book- We decided that cutting the tin created really sharp edges that might make it hard to sleep with out boats per plan.
  • A milk carton a la Nini- We don’t have any milk cartons or juice cartons.
  • A bunch of twigs and string a la the light garden- We need some sturdy, fresh-cut twigs or bamboo. This is one of our top choices, provided we find the materials.
  • Paper a la Imagine Childhood – It would sink under weight of the mast, boom, and sail.
  • A large piece of bark a la the magic onions- It would have to be a really really big piece of bark to hold the mast and boom. Probably not going to happen.
  • Styrofoam food trays a la Family Fun – This would work for sure. Except we don’t have any styrofoam or styrofoam food trays.
  • A container covered with aluminum foil- This would waterproof the container. But we couldn’t settle on the “perfect” container.

And then, as we scavenged under kitchen counters in dark little corners, a flash of lightning illuminated the room. Those Maxwell House coffee drink tins in the back of the cabinet that nobody ever drank– we could give those tins a purpose! And we could replicate the boy in the book’s boat by using tin– a very special little tin that would not require sharp edges. I love how everything always works out somehow quite perfectly…

Our final ingredients included twine, scissors, 2 long thick twigs, 2 shorter light twigs, fabric for sails, and two coffee drink tins.


Thanks to a childhood on sailboats with my awesome parents, I knew enough to piddle through this craft.

The kids held the designated twigs in a cross with the boom just a little beneath midway up the mast. The boom should be about half the length of the mast.

As they held the twigs in place, I cut a 12-inch piece of twine and wrapped it in a X over the intersection point on the twigs. To keep the boom from tilting too much, I circled the twigs with twine (this is hard to explain so I hope the pictures will help).

Then I laid the tied twigs over the fabric and cut a triangle sail 1 inch wider than the triangle created by the twigs. Twine was used to double-knot the fabric to each twig corner, leaving a little room for the fabric to “catch the wind”.

Finally, I used the scissors to literally stab a hole in the red plastic tin top just thick enough for the mast to slip in. This works to keep the mast in place and keep water (we hope) out of the boat.

I am proud to introduce Sunflowers In The Night (Max’s bigger boat) and Pootie (Micah’s smaller boat). Can’t wait to tie some string to them and see what happens at the lake tomorrow.

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