Last week my daughter was “Star of the Week” in preschool. She was second to last to have her turn, so she had been planning for a long time. The “Star” could bring in whatever and whomever they wanted – and their time to share would preempt all other planned activities. One of the many things she wanted me to come in and do with her and the class was read Not a Box by Antoinette Portis. This book is beautiful in it’s simplicity. It goes through the many things the little bunny imagines the box to be, such as a mountain peak, hot air balloon, and robot costume. We brought in an actual box so that she and her classmates could imagine the box into their own creation. (The most original idea was that the child was a book inside the box, which was a shelf!) My daughter was adamant that we send her friends home with something, and since I didn’t want to bring in 11 boxes, we sent each child home with a paper towel roll. As the class was dismissed and each child walked to their respective cars with their parent, I apologized as a symphony of horns and megaphones erupted. Luckily, it seems that all the other parents appreciate good imaginations – even when they get loud.
Another way I recycle cardboard in our house is to give my kids actual food containers to use in their play kitchen. Their favorite is the Quaker Oatmeal cylinder, which my mom used to give to me when I was little. It’s such a fun shape. My little ones use it for the play kitchen, but also make it a drum, log bridge for their block buildings, or a container for small toys.
When your child is done playing with your boxes and containers, turn them into a book. We see our children identify branding before they can read the label – especially with food. My daughter shocked us when she identified Starbucks as “the coffee store” since we rarely go there. But she knew that everytime we went into the store with the green letters and “fancy girl” logo, we came out with coffee. Many kids can identify their favorite cereal boxes. Just as they can identify that a Stop sign says “Stop” before they can read, it is an important step of reading to assign meaning to groups of letters, especially when those groups of letters are in their daily environment. Cut the front side off of your Cheerios box, put it inside a slip page insert, and pop it into a binder. This book is one your child can read to themselves and you can continually add to it making it fresh and new. A fun thing to do is have them read it out loud to you. Do they identify the brand name (Cheerios) or the items (cereal, milk, etc.)? Do they tell a story with each page (This morning I ate Cheerios…)? Maybe they identify the letters they see and ask you what they spell.
Recycling cardboard in these playful ways can be enjoyed by all ages. What are some ways you reuse your cardboard for play?