When we adults see a cardboard box, we see something that needs to be broken down and taken out, to the recycling bin. I also believe that many of us adults have had that disillusioning experience of buying a toy as a gift for a child and then finding the child prefered to play with the box instead of the toy.
When children see a cardboard box, they see the opportunity of the box, like a blank canvas, that is just waiting to be transferred into a space rocket, a car, a doll house, a ship, only limited by their imagination.
For younger children it is a shape and texture to explore, a space to climb into, something to poke, crush or bang.
Turning a cardboard box into a plaything is an eco-friendly waste-not lesson, we are not only repurposing, but also facilitating a play based learning opportunity. Play-based learning helps children develop social skills, motivation to learn, and even language and numeracy skills. Taking initiative, focused attention, and curiosity about the world, are all a part of play.
Cardboard boxes inspire creativity and imagination as children transform and reinvent them into something else. Cardboard boxes of all shapes and sizes are one of the most popular open ended play materials for children and they certainly don’t require an activity sheet or expensive additional materials. What has been found through research and various studies is that open-ended material is the most educational material.
Open ended materials means material, that is not finished and that can have several uses. These materials are the ones that contribute most to interaction and dialogue and also to development. Open-ended materials have multiple uses and limitless possibilities, there are no rules to follow, no expectations, no specific problems to solve and no pressure to produce a finished product. Children can create a purpose for open ended toys and use it as they wish.
As an open ended resource, a box has endless potential!
Provide materials for children to expand their cardboard box play
Provide cardboard box play with natural or manmade objects (Loose Parts), like nature based-wood, plastic-metal, ceramic, fabric-ribbon and packaging. but also with crayons, tape. glue, water based painting colour,brushes etc.
Children can have fun with cardboard boxes of any size.
Remember to remove any staples or other sharp objects from the box!
Let the cardboard box play grow over time. Don’t throw the project away, try instead to find a place where the children can revisit and add to it. This will increase both the complexity of the construction and their play.
Technology, books and toys can all be effective ways of helping children to learn and explore the world, but sometimes all they really need is a cardboard box.
Low-tech and unpretentious it may be, but the cardboard box has fostered learning and creativity for multiple generations.
The humble cardboard box was inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame in 2005.