Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Toy Hall of Fame: The Cardboard Box

"With nothing more than a little imagination, boxes can be transformed into forts or houses, spaceships or submarines, castles or caves. Inside a big cardboard box, a child is transported to a world of his or her own, one where anything is possible." - National Toy Hall of Fame

Did you know that the humble old cardboard box is in the National Toy Hall of Fame?

And with good reason.  

Cardboard boxes can engage children for hours for minimal cost and minimal impact on the planet.  But more than that, playing with a cardboard box can build skills that toys with more bells and whistles can't - creativity, imagination and resourcefulness.  

Cardboard boxes inspire creativity and imagination as they children build upon, transform and reinvent them. 

Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning
The cardboard box takes them on adventures and helps them explore imaginary places in their minds.

Things to do with a Cardboard Box

"Children don't need a box to be anything more than a box. We didn't really need to make the box into anything, we just need to give the children the box and step back...... "  - Amy, Child Central Station

The best kind of play with boxes is unstructured play - giving children the opportunity to explore a versatile open-ended material without an end result in mind.

Simply put out the box/s and see where the play unfolds.

Have other fabulously open-ended materials available that the children can easily access and combine with their box play.  

These might include:
  • ropes
  • string
  • wool
  • pegs
  • masking tape
  • scissors
  • coloured markers
  • glue
  • play silks, scarves or lengths of material
  • Smaller boxes or containers
  • cardboard tubes
  • empty yoghurt containers
  • paper
  • garden mesh
  • paint
  • cushions
  • blankets
  • carpet squares
  • old sheets
  • sticks or leafy branches

Loose parts, plus the time to explore them takes children's imagination and creativity off into a myriad of different directions, as these images from the wonderful The Big Play Box show so beautifully:

The Big Play Box
The Big Play Box
Just like in real estate, box play can be all about location, location, location.  Children may find different ways to explore boxes simply by placing them in different areas around the preschool (or home).  Don't limit box play to one area - mix things up a bit.

Why not try the:

  • sandpit
  • digging patch
  • block area
  • reading area
  • craft table
  • home corner
  • next to the easel
  • mud pie kitchen

Non Creative Mom

For more free play goodness with cardboard boxes:


  1. Yes! thankyou - just what I needed to kick start some thinking about how to explain that play is learning.

  2. we adore a cardboard box in our home.

  3. A wonderful preschool book called 'Christina Katerina and the Box' by Patricia Lee Gauch. Available from
    This book is a story about a little girl and her love of boxes............ We like to read this book to the children especially when we have lots of boxes out.

  4. Really, children love cardboard boxes. Some cardboard boxes are toys for them. These are usable and playable too.

  5. I remember so vividly playing in an amazing cardboard box maze at our primary school fete. 20c is a pretty cheap entry fee considering the outstanding play value it provided.

  6. I remember so vividly playing in an amazing cardboard box maze at our primary school fete. 20c is a pretty cheap entry fee considering the outstanding play value it provided.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. especially great for schools and families on a budget and the kids are even happier than with expensive playthings

  9. What amazing ways to play! We love playing with boxes at our house too.

  10. What a great quote from Amy! I agree that simply giving kids boxes and not instructing them how to play with it brings out the best play.

    My husband is a little annoyed that I bring home lots of boxes from Costco (a grocery warehouse). And I am really crazy there trying to find the "perfect" boxes.

  11. That the lowly cardboard box is a perennial favorite is a testament to the idea that kids want to use their imaginations and creativity more than they want to be spoonfed every little experience.

  12. Kids can enjoy a lot from these types of play boxes. This is a great idea.

  13. Children, toys and cardboards are very much related. Cardboard boxes are fun for children and are toys of them. They take, create, decorate and play with the cardboard boxes.