I can’t tell you how many times I hear from parents and friends that they bought their child a wonderful new toy, and the child was more fascinated by the cardboard box. My father, beaming with pride, recounts the story of buying a new refrigerator in the late 1970’s and giving my ecstatic brother the box to play with. Surely that was the start of his later architecture career! I am a constant proponent of simplicity in children’s toys. Toys don’t need bells and whistles, though they can certainly be fun, novel and exciting. But as so many of us strive to help create a “greener” world, I think about what is available to us on a day to day basis that can help support our children’s development. With that in mind, I give you my “Top 5 Ways to Use a Cardboard Pizza Box with Young Children.”
1. Art Activities- Turn that old, or new, pizza box inside out and upside down to make an easel. Tape paper to one side and let your children paint or draw at their very own tabletop easel. Or create a collage. You can put chalkboard contact paper on one side so that children can use chalk. Cut out the shape of a picture frame and let your children create their own gift for someone special. Lay the box and you have a disposable messy tray that keep glue, paint, and materials in a contained spot. Terrific for very young children as they are introduced to art materials and play dough. The possibilities are endless!
2. Make a Tunnel- Children will love driving cars, trains and other vehicles under and through and upside down pizza box. They can paint or color the outside to decorate it. A great way to expand your child’s play.
3. Storage- How many pieces of artwork do your children come home with each day? And where do you store it? Pizza boxes are the perfect place to put drawings, collages and other artwork so that they don’t get crushed. Simply label the outside with your child’s name and the year and put it up on a shelf. You can stack them year after year. You can also store rubber or foam stamps, as well as are projects that need to be completed at another time.
4. Special Needs- Cardboard boxes are being used to make adaptations for children with special needs. From slant boards to inserts for chairs, cardboard from a pizza box is an inexpensive way to support your child’s development. Read more at: http://earth911.com/news/2010/10/07/innovative-cardboard-designs-benefit-special-needs-children/
5. Dramatic Play- The uses of a cardboard pizza box in this area are endless. Children can make paper pizzas and create their own restaurant and delivery service. Pizza boxes can become building blocks or roofs, ramps and floors for structures your children have already built. You can even create a puppet theatre for and with your children by cutting a window in one side of the box. Add curtains and let the children decorate it. This works particularly well with finger puppets.
*Bonus Activity-Cut circles or squares in one side, big enough for a bean bag or small ball. Turn the box upside down, let your children decorate it and you’ve created your own toss game, like one you might find at a carnival!