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How to Do Nothing with Nobody All Alone by Yourself

To see videos of real kids making dangerous projects and to learn more about the book, visit www.howtodonothing.net.

New York Times Best-seller

How to Do Nothing literally tells "how to do nothing with nobody all alone by yourself"—real things, fascinating things, the things that you did when you were a kid, or your parents did when they were kids. This is a book to free your kid from video games for a few hours, a handbook on the avoidance of boredom, a primer on the uses of solitude, a child's declaration of independence.

If you don't remember how to make a spool tank, what to do with an old umbrella, whether "pennies" come before or after "spank the baby" in mumbly-peg, or how to make rubber-band guns, slings, or clamshell bracelets, it's OK because Robert Paul Smith has collected all of this and more in How to Do Nothing. It's a book for kids, but parents are not prohibited from reading it.

  • Page Count: 131
  • Direct Price: $12.00
  • List Price: $14.95
  • 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
  • Trade Cloth
  • March 2010
  • 978-0-9820539-5-9
Format Price

Price as Configured $0.00

Robert Paul Smith is the author of the best-selling Where Did You Go? Out. What Did You Do? Nothing. and of the novelsSo It Doesn’t WhistleThe JourneyBecause of My Love, andThe Time and the Place. Smith was born in Brooklyn, grew up in Mount Vernon, New York, and graduated from Columbia College in 1936. He worked as a writer with CBS Radio.

"Every great book reminds us that we're all alone in the world. At least this one provides us with the means to entertain ourselves while we're here."
—Lemony Snicket


"It's what you'd get if you crossed the Boy Scout Handbook with The Anarchist's Cookbook, and it's definitely the wildest how-to manual I've seen this year." 
—Greg Cowles, The New York Times Paper Cuts blog


"It's a perfect book for summer."
—Katie Schneider, The Oregonian


"His book is timeless and remarkably timely in both spirit and hands-on ingenuity."


"What a joy to give children something they can do without 'hollering for help'...How to Do Nothing with Nobody All Alone by Yourself is replete with the sort of fun that childhood should be, and too rarely is." —Blogcritics.com


"Had I known about it, Robert Paul Smith's 1958 book, 'How to Do Nothing with Nobody All Alone by Yourself,' would have been my Bible. Smith gets down to the nitty-gritty on the first page: 'These are things you can do by yourself,' he writes. 'You don't need any help from your mother or your father or anybody.'"
—Laurie Hertzel, Minneapolis Star Tribune

"This classic 1958 guide reintroduces kids to those natural urges that have to turn random objects into crazy great stuff...Readers will love that everything in this book was invented by kids and passed along by kids, that nothing costs money and that each of the projects is a seat-of-the-pants creation."
—Where the Best Books Are!


"You'll never hear 'I'm bored' again with this illustrated guide to simple, nostalgic fun."
Canadian Family

Now I’ll tell you how to make a handkerchief parachute. For this you’ll need an old handkerchief—it’s got to be an old one, that you or your father don’t use any more—some string, and a stone, or some washers. Lay the handker­chief out flat.



Handkerchief Image1



Now take a piece of string, cut it into four pieces, each about a foot long, and tie one piece around each corner. Twist up the corner and tie a square knot. That’s right over left, left over right.



Pull the strings out straight so the corners of the hand­kerchief are all together. Now take all four strings and tie a knot about three or four inches up from the bottom. We used to hunt around and find a stone with a kind of dent in the middle, so you could tie the string around tight. But we rarely found a good stone, and it almost always comes loose sooner or later, and then I found a box in the base­ment that had a lot of heavy washers in it. If you can find washers, it’s better. You put the string through the holes and tie it up tight. If all you’ve got is a stone, tie it the best you can, in all directions.



Handkerchief Image2



Now take the center of the handkerchief between your thumb and index finger and whirl it around and around, until it’s going good. You can tell it’s going really good when you hear it make a kind of whistling noise. Let go of it when the stone is coming up. The stone will carry it up in the air, then it will start to fall, stone first, the hand­kerchief will open out like a parachute, and there you are. Lots of times it will get caught in a tree or on a telephone wire. What do you do then? If you can climb a tree, you climb the tree. If it’s on a telephone wire, you do not climb the telephone pole, because maybe it’s also an electric light pole, and the kind of electricity that runs in those wires is very dangerous. If you threw it in a tree that’s too tall, or if it’s a telephone wire, build another parachute.