Cutting slots into component parts supports creating a construction set of your own design: a collection of parts that can be used to build, unbuild, and rebuild! Every learner's construction set will look different as they engage with different materials, invent their own components and connectors, and follow their own ideas. Below is a bank of slotted construction inspiration to support some of these possible directions.
Create a set of shapes as a starting point. Your pieces might be identical or unique, big or small, and geometric shapes or abstract forms. Thin cardboard works well as a raw material, but explore whatever you can find in your recycling bin. Some of our favorite tools for cutting cardboard are corrugated cardboard scissors, cardboard cutters, and box cutters.
Slots, wedges, and slits
Experiment with the size, shape, and placement of slots. For some materials, making a thin triangular cut works well. For others, cutting a rectangular slot by making two cuts next to each other creates a wider but still snug slot. How many slots will each piece have? Will you distribute them at regular angles or randomly?
Add some color
Use markers, paint, and other supplies to add some color and pattern to your component parts. As a bonus, acrylic paint not only adds a pop of color to your construction, but also seals the cardboard, adding some durability. We like finding colorful or patterned cardboard from packaging (like shoe boxes), using toilet paper tubes (derders), and have even tried out cutting slots into playing cards.
Invent Creative Connections
Once you've created a set of base components to use for building, go a step further. Invent a new connection method, like using bendy straws to make flexible joints or taping together small plastic pizza savers that often come in pizza delivery boxes (more on that in this blog post).
Scale up your component parts to build structures that are bigger than you are!
For a quick way to get started, make a teeny tiny slotted construction set. Use cardstock or thin cardboard packaging to make sturdy but easy to cut component parts.
Create Cardboard Creatures
Slotted construction makes it easy to add parts with personality like feet, wings, spines, tentacles, and eyes. Create a creature and add embellishment to your construction to make it your own. Consider exploring different kinds of cardboard to incorporate colors and textures, or add your own patterns with drawing supplies.
For some tips to get started, join our friend and fellow tinkerer Mathieu Penot in turning your slotted constructions into creatures:
Add a light source
Take inspiration from Artencurs: they introduced light and shadow explorations to their slotted constructions, incorporating translucent materials and using their builds to create compelling shadows. Consider experimenting with different light sources, like the sun and flashlights, and introducing multiple light sources to cast multiple shadows.
To really deepend your exploration, you can flex your construction skills by first building a blanket fort, and then exploring shadows with your slotted construction set inside of it!
Converse with your materials
Writer Mary Roach reveals the hidden language of cardboard box labels in an article for the Exploratorium:
“Companies that make corrugated fiberboard boxes list the vital stats in a small circular pedigree on the bottom called the Box Certificate. What I find amazing is that dozens upon dozens of corrugated fiberboard containers have come and gone from the end-point distribution environment known as my life and not once have I noticed this little coded box tattoo, this visa stamp for a secret cardboard nation."
What is your cardboard box trying to say to you?