Thank you cardboard box!
I have the pleasure of taking care of my six year old nephew and two year old niece in the mornings while their poor hard working parents toil to provide for them. I too work – only later in the day (just so you don’t think all I do is lay about dreaming of Alan Rickman, listening to the Eels and eating bon-bons). This past week the kids and I were gifted an empty flat screen t.v. box – a very big one! Now, I have spent a lot of time and money finding the right educational toy for these children, something that will stimulate their imagination, teach them new skills, open new worlds for them and nothing, let me reiterate NOTHING, that I have ever gotten them has been enjoyed by them as much as that big old cardboard box. We cut a window that opened and closed from one of the pictures of the t.v. set on one side of the box and on the other side we cut out a door that also opened and closed. In turn this cardboard box became an old fashion rocket ship which then turned into the space shuttle, a car, a submarine, a rabbit hole, a puppet theater, a house, a surf board, and a thrill ride (I’m sure I’m forgetting some of its other many incarnations). The thrill ride consisted of the kids getting in one behind the other and starting to rock until they managed to tip the box over on its side. It sounds more dangerous than it was – believe me eagle -eyed, worry-wort tia was there 100% of the time. The fun lasted four days in a row – something unheard of for most toys they’ve gotten. My niece for the most part followed the lead of her older brother but at one point, much to my amusement, she decided that packing dishes and plastic cheese to take on their space voyage was going to be her contribution. While I, as mission control, did the count down, she got in behind him and watched as her brother pretended the styrofoam packing blocks were the controls of the ship and prepared for blast off. At one point they decided they were pelted with asteroids necessitating a repair mission (get the masking tape). The playing opened up conversations about how a space ship works, about the arm/crane used by the space shuttle, about space walks and what you need. It introduced the little one to counting backwards and cooperative play. When they played puppet theatre, it opened up new realms of imagination – planning, constructing a story and performing it. The little one learned about how to behave as an audience and she too participated with a Stitch hand puppet that ran amok taking chomps out of the audience (aka, me). When the box became a rabbit hole to jump into (we have a rabbit puppet) they imagined themselves as bunnies. The little one didn’t quite get the concept but when her brother asked for a carrot and then asked what else do rabbits eat to which I responded lettuce – she, too, took and ate some carrots and lettuce (hey the box is not only a wonderful plaything, it got them to eat their vegetables!). My nephew even got some markers and did a little bit of decorating on the box (art skills). So, all hail the cardboard box – the perfect toy.
Alas, that poor box took quite a beating. We used copious amounts of masking tape to try and keep it together but Monday is recycling day and the box will now go on to another life, hopefully to be reincarnated as another cardboard box to provide some other children with hours and hours of creative fun.