We rent space for our preschool from a church. Each weekend all the equipment and toys are rolled out and at the end of each week all the equipment and toys are packed away. We got news that the church was having an event on a weeknight. We would have to put everything away just to bring it all out again for one day and then pack it all up after 4 hours. My first thought was… “Ugh.” My next thought was… “Here’s an opportunity!” What would happen if we didn’t have the toys and equipment and instead had a room full of cardboard boxes? It was a risk but one that I thought might be worth taking.
First I checked in with some parents to see if they were willing to bring in boxes for this event and there was lots of support for the idea! Each family brought one or two boxes that were at least large enough for a child to sit inside. A few families told me they had large boxes for their children to play inside at home with doors and windows already cut out. Wonderful!
I also arranged for a couple of parents to come and help break down the boxes at the end of the day and take them to the recycling depot. Even with them packed flat, we just don’t have the storage space to keep a lot of boxes around. I wondered… would everyone remember to bring boxes? Would we have enough?
And then I started collecting materials to use with the boxes. I tried to choose items that could be used for many purposes. I had a box of curtain rings, some rolls of streamers, several rolls of tape, scissors, markers, paint, a large roll of paper, some clamps, a few sheets, some scarves and several battery operated tea light candles.
We had our snack and then read the story, “Not a Box” by Antionette Portis and then the children had free reign with the boxes. These items sustained play for our preschoolers for over an hour. We stopped for lunch and went back for more cardboard box play for another 45 minutes as we knew this was our one and only chance to play with all these boxes together.
Children enjoyed climbing through openings in boxes, popping in and out of boxes, decorating boxes, pretending to be trick or treating in a neighbourhood, pretending to go for boat rides in boxes and more. And sitting inside the dark boxes with tea light candles was so much fun!
The process of decorating the boxes alone was a huge undertaking. Scarves were clipped onto openings. Streamers were carefully cut and taped onto boxes. Even just cutting the tape was a huge process as it can really stick to the scissors! Pom poms were carefully placed on top as decorations and markers were used for drawing on boxes inside and out. It reminded me of when adults decorate their homes. They want it to be beautiful; they consult with the family about what they like; they put a lot of thought and effort into improving a home so it can be a place to truly call their own. For this reason I was very glad that we have just enough storage space to keep a few of the boxes that were so carefully decorated.
At the end of the day most of the boxes were loaded into a truck and taken to be recycled but the important ones were saved and those will be revisited in the weeks to come, ready for more creative ideas to be added and ready to be anything the children dream they can be.
At the beginning of the day, I had no idea how many boxes would show up and exactly what shape or size they would be. I had no idea how the children would respond to not having any toys available indoors and being limited to loose parts. By the end of the day I had decided it was a huge success. Would I do this again? A thousand times, yes!
“If it’s still in your mind it is worth taking the risk.” -Paul Coehlo