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Cardboard Boxes, Free Play and World Peace – Are They All Connected?

cardboard box free play

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.

cardboard box city

Here are some examples from around the world – of how cardboard boxes can be a rich source of free play.

  1. 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.
  2. Cardboard boxes are so much fun, my friend Laura Grace Weldon (of Free Range Learning) hosts BYOB (Bring Your Own Box) parties.
  3. The beauty of small world play that can be created in cardboard boxes is beyond words. Ana of The Imagination Tree shows how.
  4. 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.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Madhu January 11, 2015, 7:29 am

    Yup! cardboard boxes do provide a lot of entertainment! When my daughter was under 2, I was doing this almost every day. She used to love sitting in the diaper box. Now, sometimes I get a little scared if she wants to sit in it because my back kills me pulling her, not once, not 10 times but close to 75 times! lol But fun though

    • Rashmie January 13, 2015, 11:10 pm

      Madhu – I agree – not once, not ten times but 75 times at a stretch! That’s what Sufiana does too. That evening, Pari and I were taking turns, for my back started hurting. After a while, I made the string (to pull) longer and that helped a bit. But, then, oh what fun it is to be a child, to let my hair loose… :-)

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