Story of the Week/Not a Box

Children love cardboard boxes and I was very excited to read “Not a Box” by Antionette Portis in conjunction with our “Cardboard Box Extravaganza” which I will tell you more about later in this post and in a follow up post coming soon.

Today there are so many toys that do everything for children. Sadly, many of today’s toys are so specifically designed that they take creative opportunities away from children.  Even popular building toys come in sets designed to create a specific something (possibly something from a movie or tv show).  If you go back in time a few decades, we would get bricks that could be used any way we wanted and no one gave us ideas for what to make.  We came up with the ideas ourselves. The emphasis was squarely on the process of creating and not the end result.

Boxes have endless possibilities and that’s what gives them greater play value.  When we give children simple things like boxes, then we give them opportunities for more creativity and imaginative play. Not a Box is wonderful because it really demonstrates to children in an empowering way the many possibilities a cardboard box can present. After reading the story we discussed other possibilities for cardboard boxes and then the children had their opportunity to try out their ideas in a room filled with cardboard boxes.

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How the “Cardboard Box Extravaganza” came about…

First our family’s hot water tank got a leak and that led to the purchase of a new hot water tank.  What a shame that they last such a limited time!  But now I had a gigantic box!

Many people asked me what we at the preschool would make the box into and I hesitated to answer as I wasn’t totally sure what would most interest the children.  I also wanted to be certain that lots of children could use it at once so it needed to have a wide appeal.  We had a lot of interest in trains so I thought perhaps it would be a train; then a wonderful idea came from T who thought it could make a good airplane.  I considered that idea too.  I had my own idea that it could be a tunnel as that would allow many children to use it at once.

We talked about and recorded all the ideas children had for using the box.  We made a picture list with an idea beside each child’s name.  One child had a question… “What happens when two people have different ideas about how to use the box?”  This question made me think.  Then I planted the idea that maybe the box could even be two different things at the same time; if everyone is using their imaginations it could be a castle for one child while at the same time be an airplane for another.  How well each child understood this concept, I do not know.  Here’s what I do know.  When they played with the box, they found ways to cooperate and had many different ideas for what it could be.  It was a tunnel, a castle, an ice cream shop, a doctor’s office an airplane and a space ship. Now I was glad I didn’t decide exactly what the box would be.  The children had ideas that were meaningful to each of them and the meaning was what sustained the play and the learning!

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So this whole experience planted the seed for our “Cardboard Box Extravaganza”!  Observing the play and cooperation that happened with one cardboard box, we wondered what would happen with a room full of cardboard boxes!  And eventually the opportunity presented itself….

Stay tuned for part two coming soon!

“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainty.” -Eric Fromm

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