Bas Relief in Styrofoam

Last week, a delivery van pulled into our driveway and unloaded a large box. Inside the box was a brand new filing cabinet waiting to be assembled, each piece carefully packed in what turned out to be an enormous amount of styrofoam. After assembling the filing cabinet and putting all of the styrofoam in a pile for disposal, some little itch of inspiration grabbed hold. Carving. Styrofoam carvings and constructions with kid-friendly tools.

I knew this would be messy, and I didn’t want to be finding a million little white bits of styrofoam shavings all over the house, so this idea fell firmly into the “must be done outdoors” category. Yesterday after school, with the sun pouring down its warmth and a driveway finally clear of snow and ice and meltwater, it seemed like the perfect day for it, so we grabbed a few neighbourhood kids and went to work.

Carving bas relief drawings into styrofoam and colouring them

We used popsicle sticks and kid-sized cutlery as carving tools (forks are interesting), as well as playdough tools and cookie cutters. The thicker pieces of foam could be carved traditionally or used as walls for houses, tents, and other such structures. The thinner pieces, though, would simply break apart with too much manipulation, so I showed the kids how to create bas relief carvings. A favourite variation was to press a cookie cutter into the foam and then trace the outline with markers to make the shape pop. It was a lot of fun.


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