Tuesday, March 1, 2016

From Boxes to Bathtubs:

Transforming Creative Play

Did you know that back in 2005 the seemingly simple cardboard box was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame? No Joke.  So, along with those little green army men, the Rubik's Cube and good 'ol Scrabble, the Cardboard Box is listed as an iconic children's toy. It was appreciated not just for what it is, but for what it can become. Boxes create opportunities for learning. But, how?

 Everyone has heard that kids love to play with cardboard boxes, but did you ever stop to think about all the fantastic learning that occurs when transforming a box into a plaything? I was reminded the other day (ahem, ok, probably about 3 years ago!) while watching my own little one explore and discover a simple cardboard box.

This is what happened:

"Ding, dong." (that's the sound of our doorbell...)
I rush to the door. Amazon has miraculously done it again.
"I just ordered these two days ago, and they're  already here...AMAZING!"
As I unpack my goodies, my Toddler stands next to me anxiously waiting for the boxes. Once emptied, I give her the boxes with all the plastic bubble wrap filling.  As my daughter drags away her new box and plastic bubble wrap, our dog hides under the table. He knows what's coming next.

"Pop, Pop, Pop!".  He abhors the sound of popping bubble wrap.
I soothe our pooch and leave my daughter playing with her box while I inspect my merchandise. As time passes by, I realize the house is REALLY quiet. Fearing that this might not be a good sign, but hoping that my daughter FINALLY learned to play independently, I peek around the corner and to my amazement, my daughter had essentially built a nursery for her dolls. She had taken one box, filled it with some of the plastic bubble wrap and was bathing her babies in their new "bath". She had taken another box and had used the leftover bubble wrap as a mattress and neatly covered it with a doll-sized blanket. I watched as she ventured into her new bubble bath box, (or is it box bubble bath?) and smiled with glee as she squeezed through all her "bubbles" and then proceeded to take her own bubble bath. She laughed as she played independently in her new self constructed nursery. She played for hours with this box over the course of a week. It became a doll table, a car, a train and so much more!

Although our dog might be traumatized from that day, I know my little Toddler was being innovative and gained a lot of confidence as she created so many different play opportunities for herself.

As a Preschool Teacher and Director for many years, I recognize the value of the cardboard box. And when placed in a studio classroom of young learners, wow, the possibilities become ENDLESS and dynamic! Armed with the right environment (Teachers/Parents willing to let children discover), and with the child's imagination, a child can transform a box into almost ANYTHING. As Teachers, (Parents included, because you are your child's first teacher), we can intentionally place certain items into a child's surroundings to create an environment for learning.

Cardboard boxes really can foster so much learning, exploration and discovery while playing. During box play your child is developing his/her:

*Spatial Awareness
*Problem Solving
*Critical Thinking
*Decision Making
*Fine Motor Skills
*Gross Motor Skills
*Engineering Skills
*Math Skills
*Vocabulary Development
*and More!

Consider adding boxes to transform your preschool (or your living room) Creative Play area to reflect a specific theme. Involve children in the process. Ask, "What should we make?" "How will we make it?"  "What materials do we need to make it...?"

This will make your child's learning experiences relevant and engaging. Make an ice cream or lemonade stand and they will naturally begin learning about money/entrepreneurship. Make a box city and learn about community helpers, government and directions. Make a drive-through, add a list of foods and increase communication and reading skills. Make a kitchen, washer or dryer and develop fine motor skills while completing "chores". Make a puppet theater and increase cooperation, vocabulary, the ability to story tell with a beginning, middle, and an end, and develop confidence when the "audience' claps at the finale!

As you can see, cardboard boxes can be a part of  preschool classrooms, as they create R. E. A. L. (Relevant, Engaging, Active Learning) opportunities. Who knew a cardboard box could foster so much learning, creativity and discovery?

At Brilliant Kids Christian Academy, we change our Dramatic Play areas in order to immerse children in playing out real-life. Children LOVE pretend play and we LOVE to foster their positive growth and development as we bring intentional tools into our studio classrooms. Look for us in the Cedar Park area. Coming Soon.

If you're passionate about finding the best early learning opportunities for your child, visit us and LIKE us at https://www.facebook.com/brilliantkidschristianacademy

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