Destination Imagination: 5 Cardboard Box Toys to Inspire Your Child’s Creativity
These days it seems as if every toy has a battery or controller. Toys have gotten expensive and complicated, and while technology is amazing and there are some very educational games for children, it still seems important to ask, “Is it a bit much?” After all, we’ve all heard the story of someone’s little brother receiving an expensive Christmas gift, and then spending the rest of the week playing with the box it came in.
Playing with boxes allows children to develop their imaginations and encourages them to use creativity as they take ownership of their box. Research shows that imagining doing an action physically impacts the brain in the same way as actually doing that action. Imagination is so powerful that envisioning practicing a skill can be effective in learning that skill. So shouldn’t parents foster their children’s abilities to think imaginatively?
How good of a toy is a box? Boxes have been reviewed by such discerning sources as Wired, and have inspired children’s literature since the advent of Calvin and Hobbes. Boxes are readily available and versatile to inspire imagination and creativity. Today we would like to add our voice to the conversation about boxes and suggest five different variations of toys for children that can be made out of cardboard boxes, and will take your child on their trip to destination imagination.
Castle: This is sure to be a popular one, especially for children who love to dress-up as princesses or princes and pretend to reign over their kingdom. A castle requires a large box. We recommend leaving the bottom intact and cutting the top to look like ramparts. Next, cut out windows and a low door, fasten a flag, and voila, your child has his or her own castle and has reached his or her destination imagination. A moat is easy to add by laying a piece of fabric on the ground underneath or around the box. An added bonus is that when this castle is not in use, it can serve as storage for dress-ups or other toys.
Fort: We recommend that the box is laid on it’s side, so one end becomes the natural entry way. Depending on the size of the box, your child can make the inside comfortable with blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals. The advantage of this variation over a castle is that it requires less parental supervision. An adult may need to help cut a window or two, but for the most part, the appeal of a fort is the cosiness of the inside, and a child can arrange that mostly on his or her own. Once the inside is arranged to perfection, it can also become a reading-nook.
Rocket/Car/Bus/Ship/Airplane: This is the most versatile of the box-toys, and requires a very active imagination. The box is placed with the opening up, so that passengers (including, but not limited to, action figures, dolls, stuffed animals and compliant pets) can sit comfortably inside. Before the journey starts, accessories can be added by your child: perhaps some flames to the back of the rocket, headlights for a submarine or car, decals, tires, and steering wheels. Once your child has entered his or her vehicle, the journey can begin to destination imagination. This toy is also beneficial because it allows a lot of involvement from your child in the process of decorating the box.
If your child enjoys acting, this may be a perfect toy. The box is placed so that the opening is down. Cut a “screen” into one side of the box. Allow your child to help decorate the outside with drawn-on buttons. The child can now sit inside the box and present the household news to the viewer. For some variation, pick up a remote, and explain to your child that you are changing the channel. What’s the next program? A cooking show? An educational piece on dinosaurs? It is up to your child to come up with the content.
Kitchen Appliances: Smaller boxes can be used to build many of the appliance toys that factories make out of plastic and wood. By using construction paper and re-enforcing the outside with packaging tape, you can construct a stove-top with round burners, dishwasher, microwave, or refrigerator (with a flap that opens so dishes or “food” can be placed inside). You can even create a washing machine for costumes or doll clothes. If your child needs some “food” to go in the kitchen, we recommend making some out of salt dough, another fun, creative project to do with your child.
Toys do not have to be expensive or complicated. With the power of God-given imagination and creativity, a simple cardboard box can become anything your child wants it to be.
Psalm 127:3 reminds us that children are a wonderful gift from God. As parents, it is our responsibility to help our children develop their creativity and imagination. One of the best ways to educate children is through play. With a simple box and endless creativity, your child can reach destination imagination.