The Do Nothing Machine Activities

The Do Nothing Machine Activities
From The Do Nothing Machine children’s book
Written by Sharon MacDonald
1. Collect small boxes (toothpaste, hand soap, cereal, and the like). Send a note home
to parents requesting boxes smaller than a shoebox (neighborhood shoe stores often
will donate shoeboxes, too). When you have collected about 100 small boxes you are
ready to start. The child can now make a Do Nothing Machine.
Put the boxes in a large container in an area where a group of children can
work with 12-15 boxes at a time. The children can build with lids or the boxes
depending on their interest and level of development. Using the shoebox lids to
build in tends to control the size of the structure built (a better idea for a
younger child). They glue the boxes in any order inside the box or lid with liquid
glue. Allow it to dry and then they can paint their “machines.”
Place a large table outside your door for the children’s Do Nothing Machine
museum. When all the constructions are on display have each child write the
name of their machine on an index card to place with their machine. Each child
talks about what their machine can and write a story about or description of
their machine. Put the stories on the wall above the museum (typically, the
construction looks nothing like their story or description).
Car Machine
It is red. Goes fast. Takes people to work.
Jeremy built his machine with blocks while Amber made her machine from wood scraps.
Block Center
2. Give two children a bucket with the same number of blocks in each one.
Encourage them to sit back to back and build a do-nothing machine with their
blocks. When they have finished have them compare their structures.
3. Put out a “Make a Sign” box with paper and pencils for the children to make signs
for their machines.
4. Copy and enlarge the last page in The Do-nothing Machine book. Post it on the
wall in the Block Center. Encourage the children to build a different Do Nothing
Machine with the blocks. Photograph the children’s structures and encourage them
to talk about the machines they have made.
(Skills: Reports observations/Listens to others/Uses new vocabulary/Interprets/
Measures and describes events/Writes signs and labels/Cooperates with others).
Art Center
5. Collect buttons from parents. Give the children small paper plates and glue.
Have them make a “button machine” and name it.
6. Collect small box lids. Cover a table with newspaper. Give the children large
sheets of paper. Fill several small trays with different colors of tempera paint.
The children dip the box lid in the paint and stamp the lid design on their paper.
Encourage them to overlap imprints and give their creation a name. They can write
the name on an index card to put with their painting or you can take name dictation
for them.
7. Provide the children with crayon and paper. Encourage them to draw a do-nothing
(Skills: Organizes and explores materials/Contrasts objects/Expresses ideas
creatively/Identifies color, texture, and form/Organizes ideas).
Library Center
8. Have the Do-nothing Machine book available for exploration and examination.
(The book has been published as a big book, as well.)
9. Place a wand in the Library Center along with the book so the children can find all
the “cat” things on the pages. If you do not have a wand use a finger puppet.
10. Make a discussion chart so the children can tell you about the interesting words
in the story. Post it in the Library Center. Write the words on the chart and
encourage the children to talk about what the words mean and to use them in their
11. Provide a basket of blank books for the children to write stories about a donothing machine.
(Skills: Left to right/Turning pages front to back/Cultivating reading-like
behavior/Understanding “storyness”/Representation/Writing.
Home Center or Dramatic Play Center
12. Set up a construction site with saw horses, signs, hard hats, digging tools,
cardboard boxes, architectural plans, pencils, measuring tools, surveyor tape, and
tool aprons.
13. Set up a repair shop with tools, tool belt, worktable
or bench, broken toys or small appliances, work-order forms, cash
register, play money, telephone, credit cards, and receipts.
(Skills: Citizenship/Purpose of jobs/Economics/Recognizes coins/
Obtains information about a topic/Problem solves/Make decisions/
Parent Component
14. Make an Idea Bag to send home for the parents. See the following
pages. Cut along the dotted line and glue the poem on the cover.
Copy the next two pages back to front on colored paper. Fold it and
slip it into the bag (poem on the bag-cover).
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