NDSU Extension - Sargent County


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The Joy and Magic of Cardboard Boxes

The Joy and Magic of Cardboard BoxesLast week I got to spend two days taking care of my grandchildren at their home, and earlier this week I got to have another day there with them.  With ages 9, 6, 4, and 11 months, there was never a dull moment, and I felt very lucky to be with them!

Four new stools for their breakfast counter were delivered to their home the first day that I was there last week.  Each one came in its own large cardboard box.  Need I say more?  Imagination and creativity were inspired and knew no limit.

The boxes quickly became towers, and then caves, complete with drawings, words and hieroglyphics, depending on who was doing the decorating.  Then they became pits that the kids “fell” into and had to be “rescued” from.  They were also wonderful structures to hide in or behind or under while we played the kids’ version of hide and seek in the dark. 

Then one of the boxes was transformed into a rocket ship.   A lot of design and engineering went into that!  Once the rocket ship was ready, out came clothes and accessories to serve as space suits:  goggles, rain coats, headphones, colanders (space helmets) and even plastic drinking cups that we could suction over our mouths to look like respirators!

This week, parts of the boxes were used in constructing an outdoor lemonade stand right in front of the garage doors, just for us to play with.  We each got turns to be the worker/server, and we each got turns to be the paying customer, once we found several flat stones to use as coins.  Keeping with the times we are in, when each of us got to be the customer, we could be a drive-thru customer only; no indoor seating was allowed.

“Imagination is the doorway to possibilities. It's where creativity, ingenuity, and thinking outside the box begin,” says Brian McNeill, University of Minnesota Extension Educator.  This is true literally and figuratively. 

“Imaginative and creative play is how children learn about the world. During imaginative play, children manipulate materials, express themselves verbally and non-verbally, plan, act, interact, react, and try different roles. Whether with dolls, vehicles, blocks, rocks, cardboard or boxes, great opportunities for learning and development are possible when children participate in creative play,” continues McNeill.

Play is essential for healthy child development, but it is decreasingly available to many of today’s youth.  In our technology-driven society, we need to encourage the young people in our lives to use their imagination.  Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Create distraction-free time for youth to explore. There must be some boundaries put in place; but providing the time, space and tools to play can spark their imaginations.
  • Involve youth in activities where they can use their creativity in a team. This experience not only provides a place and time to use their imagination but it creates opportunity to work with others. This will sharpen their teamwork skills for school and into the future.

NDSU Extension offers child development and parenting materials upon request and online, including “Understanding Brain Development in Young Children,” and “Understanding and Working with Youth.”  I’d be happy to provide these resources to you and help you learn more about child development and ways to nurture it.  You can reach me at 701-724-3355 or by emailing me at cindy.klapperich@ndsu.edu.

Source:  The Importance of Imagination and Play, Brian McNeill, University of Minnesota, 11-29-2017. 

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/illustrations/moving-box-cardboard-box-carton-box-4115066/

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