Box Play: Why Didn’t I Think of This?!


How many times have you gifted a child something in a box only to find him or her more fascinated with the box than what was inside? The gift exists only as what it is, but the box presents endless possibilities.

Kids crawl into furniture boxes later creating castles and forts. My brother and I created an early computer, though I doubt we had enough savvy to call it that: one of us sat inside a really big box while the other asked “the machine” questions. Answers were written on a pad and fed out of a slot to much vocal whirring and buzzing. Dials, knobs and screens were drawn on the outside. We also made over-the-head masks with appliance boxes, drawing and pasting on colored paper features, cutting eye and mouth holes.

Janette and Greg Harwell, specialists in packaging and branding, wanted their daughter Chloe to develop her creativity in the most organic fashion possible. Looking around their home with Chloe’s eyes, (and those of designers), they saw common household items as providing skeletons for creating her own toys. The process, they knew, would “stimulate curiosity, enthusiasm and learning.” The three of them began to make things with milk and egg cartons, paper towel and toilet paper rolls, cereal and mac n’cheese boxes based on what the “bodies” looked like or might become with a little help. And Box Play was born.

Each kit contains 100% recycled, adhesive paper stickers (made in the USA), which applied to cardboard or plastic containers usually tossed out, make toys. Thus, a milk carton becomes a fire engine, two toilet paper rolls become binoculars, collected paper towel cylinders become bowling pins, a mac n’cheese box becomes a purse. Help your daughter cut along the front flap and she can actually put things inside. Attach a long ribbon and she has a shoulder bag. The egg carton that morphs into a paint holder can actually be used by adding small plastic paint cups purchased at any art supply store, one inside each egg section.

The point, as I see it, is to put kids on the path of perceiving things differently. Not only is there the satisfaction of making something with which to play, but the idea that one thing can, with a little ingenuity, become another has been seeded. It won’t be long before they’ll be commandeering all sorts of containers. An oatmeal box engine with cracker or cookie box cars might be a train. See what I mean?

These would also make super party favors. Every child has the opportunity to create something and take it home. Or easy-to-mail gifts around holiday time. Or sick bed activities. A really clever, ecologically responsible, invention stimulus “masquerading” as fun.

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