I was running out of options that evening. Avie was out of town for a few days, and Sufiana, who’s very attached to Avie, was getting cranky and clingy by the moment. Balls, wind chime, stories, paintbrush+paint) songs – none of those things that she’s fond of – was catching her attention for more than a few seconds. She was tired and so was I.
And then, suddenly, I see a ray of hope in my mind’s eye!
I grabbed an empty carton (cardboard box), poked couple of holes and strung a rope. Lined the inside of the box with a soft towel and made Sufiana sit in it. With a song on my lips (and bated breath), I started pulling the carton around the living room. She was, at first, shocked with apprehension. Then, a subtle smile on her face appears as she relaxed herself in the confines of the box. Pari and I exchanged a look of ‘sigh+fingers crossed’. I went twice around the living room and then stopped to check if she was actually comfortable. Comfortable? She was loving it. She wouldn’t want me to stop for a second.
I wouldn’t want to either. It was not just her who was having fun. I was enjoying myself thoroughly, too. Pari and I were taking turns with this ‘carton train game’. Pari, who was busy doing her own thing before this game started, jumped right into the scene. A fake train + a live doll was too irresistible a play for a nine year old to be doing something else. The whole atmosphere transformed. We were reenergized.
Cardboard boxes (big and small) – I’ve loved playing with them as a child. From doll houses to caves to buildings, towers, forts, trains and cars – the cartons were a great tool for imaginative play. Give some cardboard boxes to a child and you can be sure he/she will be engrossed for a good deal of time. Pari loved to play with small cardboard boxes. She would first paint on them and then construct a tower, a city etc.
Here are some examples from around the world – of how cardboard boxes can be a rich source of free play.
- A preschool teacher replaces toys with cardboard boxes and finds that kids don’t really care about the toys. They had a whale of a time playing, learning, negotiating.
- Cardboard boxes are so much fun, my friend Laura Grace Weldon (of Free Range Learning) hosts BYOB (Bring Your Own Box) parties.
- The beauty of small world play that can be created in cardboard boxes is beyond words. Ana of The Imagination Tree shows how.
- Throw a cardboard box challenge party – for kids or grown-ups. Rachelle at Tinker Lab did, and look at these amazing creations that the children came up with.
Come to think of it – of all things, cardboard boxes can genuinely contribute to world peace and environment. 1. By spreading happiness (of free play) among children (happy child = happy family = happy community). 2. One cardboard box will lead to at least 5 less plastic toys, which means a better/safer environment.
So, if you want to volunteer for a good cause, start saving some cardboard boxes right-away. Seriously.