by Linda Gray

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Let your imagination run wild and climb into the world of cardboard boxes!

How many of us have experienced the delight in giving a small child a brand new toy, only to find he or she really does prefer the box it came in? Well, two can play at that game! Welcome to the world of cardboard box-land, where anything may happen! Let your imagination run wild and spend some quality time with the little darlings as well.

  • Collect cardboard boxes, cereal packets, paper plates, etc. Anything cardboard will be useful.

  • Keep advertising brochures, old catalogues, and magazines.

  • Look out for unusual textures or patterns in used wrapping paper and packaging.

  • Don't throw away small pieces of cloth or ribbon. They are great for adding that finishing touch!

If you collect all this in the biggest of the boxes, it's surprising how much less your garbage will be at the end of the week!

Alongside all these recycled goodies you will need:

  • pencils, markers, crayons, etc.

  • a decent pair of scissors

  • glue and tape

Trains and Boats and Cars

The one problem with this idea is that you really do need a strong back as you'll no doubt be expected to provide engine power when their vehicle is built.

  • Use the largest box for the main body of the vehicle. Make sure your child can sit in it comfortably.

  • With child-safe paper fasteners, attach paper plates for wheels and steering. Or cut circles from cardboard and attach with a length of yarn taken through the center. Make the wheels turn somehow.

  • Cut out a windscreen from another box or piece of card, with a window, and glue to the main body.

  • Add extra "carriages" on a train by tying smaller boxes behind the main one. These carry the passengers (teddies or other favorite toys). Draw symbols or pictures with a thick marker and finally color or paint.

Castles or Dream Homes

  • For the main body, you will need a very large box or two placed together.

  • Glue painted cereal packets, turret style, around the box.

  • If the box is fairly high (make sure child can't fall by leaning on the side), cut out some windows. Add curtains by gluing a scrap of material on the inside.

  • "Wallpaper" the inside walls with pictures from old catalogues and magazines and paint the outside.
  • A circle of blue cloth on the floor outside the castle or house serves well as a moat or pond. Cut out brightly colored fish shapes and scatter them in the "water."

Theatres and TVs

  • Cut or remove half the base of a regular sized box. Turn the box onto one short side. The piece removed is where the stage is set.

  • Decorate the theatre lavishly with shiny paper, ribbons, bows, etc.

  • Hang a length of cloth over the back of the box (originally the open top) to hide the puppeteer. Then hold your own puppet show!

  • Cut celebrity pictures from magazines and stick them onto thin card. Attach a length of card or a smooth stick to maneuver them with. Make up a script and see who can stay with it without laughing! An old wooden spoon with a piece of cloth tied round the neck, covering the handle, makes a great glove puppet. The child simply holds the handle of the spoon under the cloth. Add a face and stick some wool "hair" on for character!

Un-Armed Bandits!

  • Turn a medium-sized box on its longest edge, and on the inside of this edge, draw "target" areas. These could simply be strips of different colors with numbers or large and small numbered circles. Don't make the numbers too high. Up to 10 will do.

  • On the base of the box, at the "top" edge, cut two slits large enough for a coin to pass through.

  • Cut out coins from cardboard or use plastic counters. Be sure to make enough so you don't run out!

  • The child should push their "coin" in one slit, and if it lands on a target clear of lines, the child wins the number on the target in "coins." There's room for diplomacy here. If the young player is getting to the end of his coins, an extra bonus wouldn't go amiss.

  • The "winning" coins are posted back through the second slit, much to the amusement of the child, especially if you are slightly hidden from view!

These are just a few of many creations you can make in Box-Land! How about making a dollhouse as an ongoing project, slowly adding matchbox furniture and pipe cleaner dolls? Or build a complete miniature model village around a village green. Expanding on the puppet theatre, find new ideas for puppets, such as finger puppets. Or write some funny scripts for the characters.

Box-Land is a world of fantasy and imagination. Have fun with the children and enjoy the creation process with them. When the box finally gives up its struggle to survive under such heavy play conditions, make something else. After all, you haven't wasted a penny!

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