Monday, August 2, 2010

A Cardboard Box

For the holidays, I would get my children gifts like any other parent. What was concealed and wrapped never mattered half as much as the number of wrapped gifts one got or who had the largest one. Granted, the ones that came in very big boxes always were the best. And without a doubt, the one thing that always caught my attention was how after all the dust from unwrapping their presents would settle, the hot item was the box itself. Yes, the empty cardboard box!

Cardboard Box

Initially, I remember being slightly upset and even a tad offended. After all, I just spent a small fortune on their gifts. One year, however, I saw how much they enjoyed the big cardboard box and was happy that they were happy. At that moment, I recall reflecting back on how much I enjoyed playing with cardboard boxes when I was a kid. The same is just as true for my children today as it was for me 30 or so years ago.

The open end up on a cardboard box acts as a castle, a fort and even a hideaway. Even more, it's a ship, a sled (in snow) or even a tent. Flip it to where the open end is facing down and it's now a house, a turtle shell or even a trap (mind you, for one of the other siblings). Never mind when you put a hole through the box and made it a window, which later turned the box into a wearable armor or a robot. As an adult, I've used sturdy boxes as a temporary table, a desk, etc. So I can only imagine how creative a young mind views the object --The very same object that's about to be bent flat and disposed of. The inherent options seem limitless.

Cardboard Box House
As an artist, my mother enhanced the idea of a box as a toy. And she did so with painting it as a house, or a boat or whatever. At one point, I recall us putting a steering wheel on the face-down box and it became a car. We had to add another on the other side and it was like the car version of Battleship ... from/on a cardboard box! The children (and some adults too) have wore a box for wrestling, for mobile deflection when playing with nurf guns, etc. On the less physical side, cardboard boxes have become design artifacts, canvases, targets, amateur architecture tools and a whole lot more. Even the cardboard tube from a finished paper towel roll becomes a telescope, a fishing rod, etc. It's just amazing how a cardboard box offers an unreal amount of entertainment hours. The house pet, a cat in our case, enjoys playing in a cardboard box, laying in one, etc. We've used one as a temporary litter box, a temporary pet house and even a stepping stool for our pets. And when it's all said and done, the children usually flatten the old cardboard boxes and use them floor panels (instead of being on the ground/grass, for example). Personally, I like using them in the garage, but that's for a different post.

While my focus is mostly on children and their entertainment around a cardboard box, the functional uses are sure to be many. It never seizes to amaze me how cardboard comes up in so many applications. "Danboard" has practically become a symbol of certain types of photography, and it's nothing more than a cardboard doll.

Cardboard Box Wrestling / Sumo

In today's economy where families are adjusting their spending habits and re-evaluating what they value or not, reverting to simplicity is key. I'm not saying go out and buy your children a bunch of 50 cent cardboard boxes; instead, I'm simply saying that toys are not always the highlight of a child's gifts. Spending time and creating your own tunnels with a bunch of cardboard boxes and then asking the kids to decorate them is likely to go a lot farther than expensive gifts.

Cardboard Box Toy
Speaking of simplicity, every adult ought to consider reflecting on those simpler times of their childhood. Times when playing outside with a tire, a stick or chalk; or inside with notebook paper & a pencil, origami, a family puzzle or a cardboard box resulted in reflection, contemplation, creativity, team work, problem-solving and the use of most of our senses. Yes, most Generation-X'ers, and even older parents, have spent their fair share of time on arcades, TV games and hand-held games, and I'm not trying to take away from that entertainment, but there's real tangible fun, education and enormous benefits from those simpler ones. The physical activity alone may tip the scale in their favor. There's absolutely nothing wrong with us adults re-visiting the simpler child in us and playing "box" with our own children.  ▣

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