Think outside the box

Growing up on a farm, my dad was your “out of the box” thinker. He could build anything out of scrap metal, recycled wood pallets and old doors. Even today, he still has the ability to solve uncommon situations with everyday materials.

A recent article by Zero To Three suggests ways that children can become out of the box thinkers by using, of all things, a box. Don’t throw those boxes away just yet.

Book nook or a cozy corner. A moving box is a great place for reading your favorite books. Put a soft blanket and stuffed animal inside and let the child curl up in the box with a good book. Or expand it by…

• Build a fort or a clubhouse. Using a moving box or appliance box, let the child draw (with child-safe, washable crayons or markers) on the sides to decorate the “club house.” Offer the child stickers or even a roll of masking tape to rip and place on the box. Adult-only task: Using scissors or a box-cutter, adults can cut a door or windows into the box (putting sharp items away immediately after use). What an adventurous place this will become to read and explore.

• Tunnel their energy. Open two moving boxes so they are open at both sides. Using packing tape or duct tape, tape the side of one box to the side of the other, forming a two-box tunnel. Toddlers can crawl, roll balls, or push cars and trains through. It can also be used in building a fun obstacle course, to promote exercise and developing motor skills.

• Building block boxes. Collect about 10 boxes of different sizes (from shoebox to moving box). Tape the tops closed so the boxes can be easily carried and stacked. Let your child use these boxes as big blocks to stack, build and construct. Host a tower building competition to see who can build the tower the fastest.

• Become a chef. Make an oven using a box by taping all sides closed. Cut four red circles out of construction paper and glue to the top of the box (these will be your burners). Using markers, draw a set of buttons on top of the stove and dials and buttons on the front. Adults only: Cut a small rectangle in the front of the box to be the oven door. Using some scrap cardboard, create an oven handle and securely tape to the door using packing tape or duct tape. Let toddler cook along with the parent at dinner time with their own oven. Don’t have large enough box, contact the local appliance store to see they would be willing to supply one.

Pair creation with the popular children’s story, “A Box Can Be Many Things” and watch the learning happen. Kube suggests watching a cute story, easily found on “YouTube,” called “The Adventures of a Cardboard Box.” Remember that learning happens in extraordinary ways with the most ordinary of tools. Kube would love to hear about what families build with their box.


Carrie Kube is a director for Iowa River Valley

Early Childhood Area Board and can be reached at



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