Have you ever found the perfect gift for your child, only to end up tinkering with it yourself while your child plays with the cardboard box remnants?
I know I’ve been in this situation plenty of times where I think I’m going to score major Mother-of-the-Year points for a certain must-have toy, only to watch my daughters turn the box into a pirate ship or a castle all afternoon.
A preschool teacher in Ohio this week is putting the cardboard craze to the test, replacing all of the name-brand toys in his classroom with cardboard boxes. So far, the experiment is a success, he says. The students are engaged and using their imaginations to construct everything from an igloo to a hotel to a didgeridoo.
“I just spent so many years looking at all my teaching materials and thinking that so much of them have a preassigned value to them,” teacher Pete Kaser says here. “I wasn’t getting the imagination out of the children that I wanted.”
The problem, he found, was that toys shaped as phones or dogs or kitchens are always only one specific thing. But cardboard? Well, the possibilities are endless.
Other educators have chimed in on the cardboard experiment, saying creative play like this allows students to navigate social situations while they play. One child may see a rocket ship while another sees a castle. Reaching a consensus requires teamwork and compromise.
Who knows how long the cardboard boxes will capture these kids’ imaginations, but I think it is a great reminder to parents that the best gifts for kids aren’t necessarily the ones the toymakers are pushing this year.
Sometimes, the best gifts can be the one of an afternoon of undivided attention, a cardboard box and the freedom to imagine.
How do you encourage your kids to use their imagination while they play? Any not-so-high-tech gifts that have ended up as a favorite toy?