Thinking Outside of the Box

By Michelle DeWald, BS in Early Childhood, Care Coordinator, Great Start Collaborative/Help Me Grow

5-4-3-2-1, BLAST OFF! We have landed on the moon; it's one small step for my 2-year-old daughter and one giant leap for her imagination. How many of us are guilty of buying kids the newest toys on the market? You know the toys they play with for one day and gather dust on the shelves by the end of the week. As a parent of a 13, 2, and 1-year-old, I'm guilty as charged. Now, how many times are the boxes those toys arrived in played with? Weeks, sometimes months, or until they fall apart!

Here are some tips for thinking outside of the box:

Enjoy the journey together: Join your child's play and allow them to lead; they may surprise you! This will enable them to stretch their imagination and creativity, which paves the way for critical thinking.

It's all about the process: Allow them to explore! If they want to smash the box, let them! Your child is exploring the world around them, how things work together, and how they break down. Remember, the outcome is in your child's mind, not what's in the box.

Expression: Allow your child to express themselves. Allow them to explore how different materials interact with the box, like markers, paints and crayons. Just because your child may sit quietly inside or on the box doesn't mean they aren't exploring or using their imagination.

Keep the learning going: Instead of tossing the box at the end of the day, keep it and revisit it another time or day. Your child may want to add to or change the box. One day you may be on a spaceship through the solar system, the next day, you might be on a pirate ship in the Caribbean searching for buried treasure. You can build on this pretend play by introducing other props and books that support their imagination. My daughter and I visited our local library for books like, Not a Box, The Man Who Loved Boxes, Future Astronaut, and What to do with a Box.

Don't have boxes lying around? Not a problem! You don't need boxes to spark your child's imagination. Reuse what you have! Used cans, empty plastic spice jars, paper towel rolls, and empty food containers, the possibilities are endless! Cherish this time with your child and support them as they grow, learn and explore the world around them.

*Check all items to make sure they are clean and safe while supervising play.

For more fun imaginative play ideas, visit Zero to Three's 5 Ways to Play, PBS Kids' DIY Activities Around the House, and check out these pretend play clips from Bluey.

  • Fun
  • Learning
  • Play

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