It's never just a cardboard box

I am constantly amazed at the creativity of young children to see the possibilities in ordinary things. Various recyclable materials and other bits of "junk" can be magically transformed into imaginative worlds and crazy new characters.

A while ago, Miss M's school books arrived in a cardboard box, measuring about 60cm x 40 cm x 5 cm high (plus an identical lid), and I thought to myself, I can't just put it in the recycling bin, surely we can make something out of them! They were the perfect size for creating a small world, so that's exactly what we did.

The Plan

First up, we needed a plan. This is a crucial step in the design and technology process. What was going to be our theme for each box? What kind of small world did Miss M want to create? Her first idea was a doll's house for her dollies. So she mapped out a floor plan with each separate room of the house - bathroom, bedroom, play room, kitchen etc... (this was great for teaching her about the concept of a "bird's eye view"). Next we chose some pastel colours to paint each room (colour mixing is always fun!). When it was dry, I outlined the sections with a black permanent texta to make them show up a bit more. Finally it was time to add decorations and furniture ready for the dolls.

The plan for the second box was to be a "jungle" small world. Again she planned out each section of the box including a pond, a desert, mud and trees/grass, painted them, and added details. We glued pebbles around the edge of the pond and added salt and glitter to the blue water. The "sand" turned out so beautifully as a mixture of real sand and yellow/orange glitter. I bought some fake greenery to stick to the edges of the forest as well as chocolate brown play dough for the mud. I could have also used some fake grass, but we didn't really need it. 

The Play Experience

Again I was amazed at the creativity and story telling that came about when Miss M began to play with her finished small world. She decided to hide the "treasure" (just a few green gems and pom poms) inside the play dough jar, and used the pop sticks to create arrow shapes for the animals to follow and find the treasure. Once the animals all made it to their destination, she divided up the treasure equally, but discovered there was one left over so she said "there is one piece for you to share". Did I hear you say "MATHS!"!! Learning through play at it's best people. This activity was art, design, technology, maths and geography all rolled into one experience. 

Little Man often plays with the jungle small world as well! But he has turned it into "Dinosaur Land" (as dinosaurs are his current obsession). He likes to make the "roar" noises and put them in and out of the box over and over.

Both of these boxes can easily be updated and changed with the simple addition of other materials and resources. The dolls house could become a hospital, a vet or a supermarket. The jungle could become a playground or a fairy land! I am so excited by all of the possibilities.

So next time you have a cardboard box, milk bottle, cardboard tube from the end of the glad wrap roll - don't recycle it. Keep it and see what your child comes up with!

Lauren x


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  2. I also admire how creative children could be. Of course often they couldn't create perfect things but we value the not for quality and perfection. During moments when to follow up after interview we think only about emotions and feelings we face. We value their efforts and sense they put in their creations.

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  5. When the animals arrived at their destination, she divided the treasure equally, but there was one piece left over, so she added, "There is one piece for you to share." Did I just hear you say "MATHS!"? People who learn best through play. This project combined art, design, technology, math, and geography into a one experience. Continue your fantastic effort! I hope to see more intriguing factoids from your perspective in the future. Thank you so much for your contribution!


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