Help give my third grade son ideas for a fun school project!
March 18, 2010 5:49 PM   Subscribe

My son's third grade class is going to be doing a fun project called "Mini-Society." Each student has to come up with a product that they will market to other students within the society. Help me come up with a fun, easy product for my son to "sell!"

There are a couple of stipulations regarding the arts and crafts that the kids produce. You can only use common household items; you're also given a $10 budget for additional materials. You should choose a product that can be made into different variations - i.e., different colors or shapes. In previous years, for instance, one kid "sold" animals made out of pompoms; another made and "sold" small pillows.

The goal here, obviously, is to create something that will be a "hot seller" - something that all of the kids will want to buy.

I am not a very creative person. I'm hoping the hivemind can help me and my son come up with a really neat idea!

Thanks in advance!
posted by meggie78 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (20 answers total)
Buy a bunch of beads and thread and take a few hours to learn some neat bead-crafting skills. Come to school with prepared items as well as the raw materials for 'custom' orders.
posted by Think_Long at 5:56 PM on March 18, 2010

rock candy - different colors, by manipulating the string you can get different shapes, and you only need sugar, water, food coloring, heat, string and pencils. i did it as a science project once and got high marks
posted by nadawi at 5:56 PM on March 18, 2010

I don't know if this would be allowed, but you could get that temporary tattoo paper and use your printer to make a lot of different temporary tattoos for him to bring in.
posted by Ashley801 at 5:58 PM on March 18, 2010

Bags of Treasure - Get can of gold spraypaint and a bunch of pennies (or blank slugs if you can find them cheaper). Paint'em. You can get fake 'gems' at most craft stores, either in the form of paste jewelry or (cheaper) colored glass beads. Put the golden coins and gems in a square of cloth and tie it up with a bit of twine. Drawing a '$' on the bag is optional.

Warning: This may teach your child's teacher just how greedy kids can be.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:03 PM on March 18, 2010

Limited edition "the bearer is cool" certificates. magic marker, glitter, stickers, whatever.

The key is, there are only a limited supply, equal to 60% of the class size, and that's announced up front. Once they sell out, anyone who doesn't have one isn't "cool". They're sold by number, and each time one is so0ld, your kid announced "Cool Certificate I has been sold, only N left! Get yours before they're all gone! All the cool kids have them!"

Your kid may need to seed the market by handing out the first five or so, rewarding them to the coolest kids in class.

After they sell out, wait 10 minutes, then reveal that there a small number of "Really Cool Certificates". Rinse and repeat.
posted by orthogonality at 6:03 PM on March 18, 2010

Doesn't the child actually have to do his own homework? I don't mean to be snarky, but if some parents do their kids homework for them, it's not fair to the kids whose parents *don't*.
posted by Maias at 6:03 PM on March 18, 2010 [7 favorites]

Is your son dexterous enough to do origami? At 8 years old I remember the coolest thing in the universe being a string of three or so origami cranes made out of ripped out pages of National Geographic attached to a red painted stick that I could wave around. There may have been a bell on the end.

Magic wands made out of braided and spiraled pipe cleaners to people's color preferences can clearly grant wishes, just not in front of anybody else.

What about something that's attached to a pencil-grip? Little animals or mascots, colored, laminated, and hotglued to an eraser that would then bobble along as you write might be cool.

I think the classic in this situation is the Pet Rock. But if your son got super creative with each Pet Rock, giving them a whole backstory, name, list of personality traits and preferences and so-on, it would be more like marketing pokemon than dolls. Because the kids would find the ones with similar interests and be able to share facts about their new rock friends. I suppose the same logic could be applied to any kind of personified and decorated object, and not just rocks. Small, decorated boxes?
posted by Mizu at 6:04 PM on March 18, 2010

Limited edition "the bearer is cool" certificates. magic marker, glitter, stickers, whatever.

No offense, but please don't do this.
posted by k8lin at 6:08 PM on March 18, 2010 [6 favorites]

I'm gonna jump on the jerktrain and say that while it's great you want to help your kid out with his little assignment, you should only help, rather than project managing it. No doubt the whole purpose of this homework is to encourage creativity in the children. Your son knows what's popular, and what he can do, and should be allowed to do it. If he isn't interested then, well, tough luck, son, that's what school is all about.
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:09 PM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm not going to be doing his homework for him; just helping him brainstorm a few ideas! Thanks for all of the suggestions so far!
posted by meggie78 at 6:09 PM on March 18, 2010

Mod note: comments removed - metatalk is your option if you want to discuss parenting
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:21 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure why people are giving you such a hard time on this. Ideas are cheap. It's the execution that makes or breaks the project.

I imagine the most desirable crafts will have some hint of subversion. For that reason, the rock candy and tattoos sound pretty good. ("Candy? In school?!")

You might also think about some kind of meta-craft … say, homemade playdough in little baggies, perhaps with a few different colors / glitter to make them more trade-able.
posted by Alt F4 at 6:32 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I do feel that part of the project is for him to come up with the idea, but I'll tell you that when we did mini-society in 4th grade, the (already popular) girls who brought in their toaster oven from home and made english muffin pizzas CLEANED UP.

My small publishing house never got off the ground, but I did get two of the other weirdo kids to produce short books for me to sell.
posted by serazin at 7:23 PM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

When my fourth grade class did this activity, my dad gave me the idea to sell insurance. It didn't work very well. (Not very many kids will willing to purchase policies against pencil damage.) I don't think I ever had to pay out a claim, though, so it was profitable in that regard.
posted by aparrish at 7:39 PM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

I agree, as a parent, that the idea should be his - but helping him or guiding him toward a good, workable and well-thought out idea that can actually be produced is part of being a parent. As much as letting a few cockamamie schemes fail is... because they can learn as much from failing too, right (not as in the F grade, but from not succeeding, I mean). All it takes asking the right questions, to try to find where he'd like to go with this.

So, if this were my kid, I'd ask leading questions, about what other ideas are already being discussed, and see if you can help him come up with, say, the beer to quench the thirst of the one who indulged in the salty nut snacks... or the Iphone skin or apps... or the Pet Rock License that's required to keep Pet Rocks within city limits... the delivery service or toppings or napkins or drinks for those who ate the mini English muffin pizzas...

Or, think... once people start acquiring things, what do they need next? Something to hold them or a place to put them.

Bags in different sizes! To sell to the other kids, to be used to hold all of the other stuff they buy.

Paper gift bags (You can re-use all sorts of paper for this)

Fabric gift bags

Or just brand/re-label/decorate paper bags you already have?

And one last thought? The selling technique we barely escaped from at Medieval Times recently? Souvenir photos! Take pictures of people and then try to make them feel bad for not buying them because they're already printed out! Sell them framed (construction paper mats) or unframed!
posted by peagood at 8:01 PM on March 18, 2010

He could make Flexagons which he could color with different pictures, messages, etc. They are fun to play with and pretty simple to make.
posted by cross_impact at 8:36 PM on March 18, 2010

Ooh, the bag suggestion reminds me - when I was a kid I was totally obsessed with stuff that I could keep things in. That might be a hit - especially if you have fabric pens or something so they can be personalized, or little artsy stuff to decorate them with.

Rock candy looks like fun too, and different colors might be neat.
posted by Lady Li at 1:16 AM on March 19, 2010

Speaking as a parent, I writhe in displeasure when the teachers give these work at home assignments for such young kids because as others have said, it's only normal to want to help our kids out so they feel positive about their work. But I hate how it creates an unfair playing field because not all parents are equally capable of providing time and resources to projects. Also, parents are tired, for Pete's sake; do they also need to come home and have to face something like a 3D model of the solar system by breakfast?

And the kid ends up watching most of the time (I'm not saying that's what you're doing, just in general).

That's why as a teacher, I never do stuff like this. And teachers prefer to see the roughly hewn popsicle stick house rather than the working volcano with dry ice. We can tell who did the work; we work with these kids all day and know what they're already capable of.

But to your question, you should absolutely encourage him as much as you can, but that's it. Have him think about where his society lives (near a river, in a tropical climate, etc.) and maybe what grows there. Will his society be near a volcano? Could he use volcanic ash for...I don't know...facial masks...eye pillows?

Help him to think about the connection between his society and what the people there could produce with local materials, then encourage him to come up with ideas for what he could make.

Let it be handsewn, glued awkwardly, but please let it be his. You should encourage by asking, "How do you think this would work?" etc.
posted by dzaz at 2:32 AM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Duct tape roses are pretty cheap and easy to make, and look nice too
posted by rollick at 9:05 AM on March 20, 2010

In the vein of the temporary tattoos, perhaps his culture could have some sort of tribal tattoo. He takes in a stencil (perhaps cut, in relief, from a rectangle of cardboard from a cereal box?), puts it on the back of the classmate's hand, and uses a washable magic marker to give them a tattoo.

He could even experiment with different pricing models, where he has 3 different stencils, each one at a higher price point.
posted by Alt F4 at 12:20 PM on March 20, 2010

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