I loved that credit card commercial from a few years ago – the one that featured a baby receiving a fancy gift, and then spending all of his time playing with the box the gift came in. And you’ve no doubt discovered it’s true – it’s often the simplest things that provide the most entertainment for our little ones. And it’s no coincidence that it works that way. Our children are SMART, so smart that they sometimes know even better than we do what they need to help them learn and grow…
Imagine for a moment a flashy bells-and-whistles toy – the kind with about 25 different buttons that light up and make sounds or play music. Exciting for a moment? Absolutely! But now think about that same toy two days later. Your child has pressed the same buttons over and over again, seen the same lights, and heard the same songs. When your child has lost interest in pushing those buttons, what is left to do with that toy? Not much, aside from throwing it in boredom or using it as a step stool to climb up onto the bookshelf.
Now imagine the cardboard box that toy came in. To a child, the possibilities for play are literally endless. The box does not impose limits, like those bells-and-whistles toys often do. The box invites imagination and creativity. The box represents limitless possibilities.
So the next time you have an empty cardboard box in your house, take a detour from your path to the recycling bin. Check the box to make sure it does not have any sharp edges or staples. Then make a beeline for the playroom. Your child will discover her own ways to play. But here are a few fun ideas you may want to introduce as well…
· Open both ends of the box and use as a tunnel to crawl through. This is a great way to promote motor planning and many other important skills in crawling babies. But kids of all ages will love this game, particularly if you pretend to chase them through the tunnel. Helpful Hint: If your child skipped the crawling stage, they’ve missed out on more than just a temporary method of getting around. Crawling is an important building block for later development – but it is never too late to practice, and this is a great way to do it!
· Have your child sit in the box and pull or push it around as a toy car. Older children will enjoy cutting out paper windows, headlights and wheels and pasting them to the car.
· Large boxes make wonderful playhouses! Cut out a door and some windows, or have your child paint their own house outside in the yard on a clear day.
· Smaller boxes make excellent dollhouses. Leave one end of the box open, and cut out some little windows and doors. Your child may enjoy helping you decorate the inside and outside of the house with felts or crayons. Or for a realistic twist, cut pictures of doors, windows, carpets, furniture, etc. out of a magazine and paste them onto the inside and outside of your dollhouse.