Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care

You Can Learn a Lot From a Cardboard Box

This past holiday season my daughter had quite an extensive list of toys on her wish list, and at the very top of her list was a larger-than-life doll house. And so, much to her delight, on Christmas morning, her wish came true. She received a 47” tall doll house complete with furniture.

Because the dollhouse was so big, so was the box that it came in. I put the box in the basement and forgot about it.

Until a few weeks ago.

It was another cold and dreary Sunday afternoon and my daughter was bored, proclaiming she “didn’t have anything to play with.” Shocking, huh? I rattled off a litany of her toys, including the new amazing dollhouse, and she quickly told me that she had already played with it.  She wanted something new to do.

She asked me if we still had the box her new dollhouse came in and I told her we did. Then she asked me to bring it upstairs so she could make something. I complied and for the next few hours she built a dollhouse out of the cardboard box. She had a blast! My husband and I helped her, but she was the architect. We talked about measurements and how to make levels in the box so that her dolls would fit on every floor. We talked about weights and how to make the house sturdy so that it would hold the dolls. She made furniture out of some of her other toys and even built a staircase for the house. There was cutting, taping, gluing and decorating. It really was incredible to watch her work and see what she would think of next. She left no detail of the house undone.

Privately, I joked with my husband that we should have saved our money on the elaborate dollhouse we bought her for Christmas. She was more interested in, and having more fun with, the dollhouse she built from a cardboard box. Of course, I don’t regret buying her the dollhouse; she does love to play with it. But it is a good reminder that sometimes we forget about the joys of simple toys and imaginative play. Thanks to being inundated with marketing, our children want the latest phones, tablets, gaming devices and toys. And while I am happy to buy some of those things, the key is finding an acceptable balance.

I believe that the hours she spent building a dollhouse out of a cardboard box were invaluable to her overall development. And to top it off, our family spent that time together.

What are some ways that you encourage and incorporate imaginative play with your child?

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