I just finished an article from the November 2008 Parenting magazine about children and boxes (page 144). The scenario they gave is so very true. I used to sell specialty toys for a home-party company, but my son’s favorite part of the whole experience were the large boxes of packing peanuts I would discard as I inventoried products. He could have cared less about the brightly-colored toys and balls, the noises and lights, the glitz and glitter. He was happy sitting in a box, kicking packing peanuts into the air and burying himself in the sea of white foam.
For my son, it was a matter of space. In a box, he was secure and comfortable. It was a small space, just like him, and he seemed to feel protected. I have witnessed this same phenomena in our church nursery. We will have small children come in and be totally overwhelmed by the room, the toys the stimuli, but if you place that same child in a high chair with one or two small toys, they are happy and will stay there until they are more familiar with the environment.
Boxes are also great for creating and imagination. We used to place several large boxes in a row to make a train, a rocket, and, at one point, a school bus. Children are not confined to the way a box looks; a box is generic. It can become a castle, a cave, a restaurant, and even Grandma’s house. Older kids can use paints or paper to visually create what their imagination “sees”.
Small boxes are awesome tools for storing toys and objects. Small children love to fill boxes and other containers with cars, balls, animals – whatever toys are at their disposal. The act of putting a toy in a box and pulling it out is a wonderful lesson in object permanence with younger children. Even though the object isn’t visible, the child realizes it is still there, just inside the box.
So, as the holiday season approaches, keep those boxes handy for all sorts of creative and imaginative play. And, when your child is more interested in the packaging rather than the product, realize that it is okay. Boxes are actually a good thing!