The Greatest Gift of All

The Greatest Gift of All

Boxes and Unstructured Play

There’s one thing that most of us discover as a parent: our kids love to play with boxes.  And, especially in the baby and tot ages, they sometimes like the wrapping paper and bows and, yes, boxes more than the actual gift.  In my recent post about 12 must-have picture books (for the 12 days of Christmas), I listed Antoinette Portis’ Not a Box, which is very close to my heart as my girls (and husband) have very active imaginations.  

 Mini Me playing in her bakery box while I snuggle up with a newborn Little Lion.  See, she's even yellow! (with jaundice) Posted with permission.

Mini Me playing in her bakery box while I snuggle up with a newborn Little Lion.  See, she's even yellow! (with jaundice) Posted with permission.

Since it’s the season of giving, a lot of us are having packages delivered.  Why not save one or two of them for some unstructured play time?  If you have a large one, you can make a mini cottage for them.  Little and big hands can decorate the inside.  A grown-up can help to cut out windows, portholes, or create a mast to hoist a sail on. Or you can set up window ledges for a storefront bakery.  Yes, we’ve done all of these things.

Mr. Bookworm’s latest creation is the Eye of the Princess.  It’s been in storage in our garage, but Little Lion asked to sit in it the other day to watch tv.  So after spider-patrolling it, Mr. Bookworm brought it back in our living room.  She created a lion’s den and then happily watched Finding Dory through the porthole.  She also read Oliver Jeffers’ The Great Paper Caper.  See our YouTube channel for the read-along.  Sorry about the cleaning-up-the-kitchen noises in the background.  [Side note: LL told me it wasn't a lion's den even though she, Simba and Kion were all in it.  It was NOT a lion's den because she also had a turtle there too.]

 Little Lion reading inside the Eye of the Princess, a spaceship.  The top flap holds the steering wheel.

Little Lion reading inside the Eye of the Princess, a spaceship.  The top flap holds the steering wheel.

What about the smaller boxes? If your little ones are toddler-sized, they can sit in the boxes and make race cars.  Or, just watch television in them as clearly mine like to do.  If the boxes are even smaller, you can save them to make dioramas or makeshift doll houses or tsum tsum houses.  Or spaceships.  Or you can make paper box robots.  We’ve had fun with all of these projects. 

So the greatest gift you can give your child? It's not a box.

 Sleeping bag or small cottage box with Little Lion inside.  Posted with permission

Sleeping bag or small cottage box with Little Lion inside.  Posted with permission


What is unstructured play?  Unstructured playtime is free time for your kids to choose what they want to do.  No directions, just time to create, develop, imagine, and just be a kid.

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