When is a box not a box? When kids are playing with a box, it becomes a rocket, a fort, a mountain, Elsa’s ice castle, a Rebel space station, a pirate ship, Santa’s sleigh, the workshop at the North Pole, a stove, a restaurant, an office, a store, a post office, a car, a bus, an airplane, a boat, a train, a zoo, and whatever else kids can imagine.
When is a wrapping paper tube not a tube? When it’s a lightsaber, a sword for a knight or a pirate, a tunnel for cars and trucks, a tree, a log, a cane, a witch’s broomstick, a magic wand, a cowboy’s horse, a bridge, and like the box, anything else kids decide.
In just a few days at Christmas, kids will be receiving wonderful new toys. By comparison, a box is nothing, but to a child with imagination it can be everything. Both boxes and paper tubes have unlimited possibilities. Playing with a box or playing with a paper tube will engage the imagination.
Why is the imagination so crucial? The brain is not just a collection of special cells called neurons, it is also a vast system of connections, about 1,000 trillion of them. The early years are the most sensitive time for wiring these connections. The imagination can create new and very different pathways.
For a play-of-the-day, find an empty box, preferably one that is big enough for a child to fit inside. Kids can color on the box or leave it plain. They will often accessorize with toys or treasures from the recycling. A wrapping paper tube, or smaller one from paper towels, can be used with or without a box. It can be covered with aluminum foil to make it shiny, or it too can be colored. While it might look like the magic is coming from the wand or box, isn’t it really coming from the kids themselves?