Do cardboard boxes make the best toys?
At Christmas and birthdays it’s sometimes hard to tell whether young children are more thrilled with their presents or with the packaging they are wrapped in! Cathy from Nurturestore explores why cardboard boxes are such a big hit with kids.
I sometimes think that if I had my babies over again I wouldn’t bother to buy them any toys at all but would instead just make use of things we find around the home to play with. My two daughters do of course have plenty of shop-bought toys but it’s true to say that much of their play is done using pots and pans borrowed from the kitchen, sheets and scarves pulled from beds and drawers and the most treasured un-toy of all: cardboard boxes.
There are three things that I love about cardboard box toys. The first is that they are environmentally friendly, being made from upcycled packaging that would otherwise be heading for the bin. Secondly they’re free, which is always a good thing when you’re managing a family budget. The third is that they are packed full of creative potential. There is no pre-determined idea put on them as to how they should be played with: no colours, no buttons, no characters. Giving boxes to children to play with lets them decide whether they are in fact a cooker, a boat or a castle.
My elder daughter is now eight, so we have had several years of cardboard box metamorphosis in our house. Here are some of our favourite ways to play with boxes.
When my girls were babies I found empty shoe boxes were wonderfully interesting to them. Most babies go through a stage where they love to put things in and take things out of containers, and shoe boxes are perfect for this. Hiding things inside boxes with lids on actually helps them understand the concept that things exist even when they can’t see them and I used to vary the things I placed inside the boxes every few days so there was always some new object, shape or texture to discover.
When babies begin to crawl big cardboard boxes suddenly take a new life as tunnels to climb through. My daughters also used to love hiding inside a big box, with the lid very gently placed on top, so they could leap up like a jack-in-a-box with squeals of glee.
We moved house just before my second daughter was born and one of the removal boxes was turned into a new home for my toddler to play in. It was easy to cut out some windows and a door and paint it to resemble a house. Adding roses round the door, a letter box and some fabric curtains on length of elastic gave the finishing touches and it was played with for months and months. I think my daughter loved it especially because it was too small for an adult but just the right size for her to fit in with a teddy and a book, giving her a prefect child-sized space of her own.
A long, sturdy cardboard box can also be turned quite easily into a ride-on toy by adding paper plate wheels or some cardboard wings. I think keeping a design very simple allows the children to use their imaginations to add in all the extras they desire.
Now Christmas is on the way and it really is true that my children look forward to the packaging almost as much as the presents inside.
Do your kids love cardboard boxes too? How do they play with theirs?