One Giant Cardboard Box – Ten Ways To Play

Everyone knows the joke: you buy a child an expensive gift and they end up spending hours playing with the box that it came in. Well, it may be a cliché but it is entirely true. Cardboard boxes are fun! We have had a few good boxes around lately from various deliveries and I’ve been getting creative in using them with ToddlerGirl before they head off for recycling. But we have had the most fun of all with the giant cardboard box that came with our Lakeland heated airer. It may just be one box but we have got multiple play activities out of it!

1. It’s a… cardboard box
Yes, to a 15 month old, a cardboard box is inherently interesting even in its plain old form. We opened the box out and spread it on the floor and, before we had a chance to do anything else with it, ToddlerGirl was having fun running across it, sitting on it, rubbing her feet on it, stamping on it, lying on it. The smooth texture and the sound her feet made on it proved fascinating!

2. It’s a… giant canvas
Next, I laid the opened out box in our dining room, got some crayons and let ToddlerGirl sit on it and scribble away. She absolutely loved this. There is something very appealing about being able to draw all around yourself and on such a large scale. I joined in and did a few pictures too; my drawing skills are not that great but ToddlerGirl recognised my attempt at an elephant and every time she sees it now, she does her elephant impression! So it just goes to show you don’t need to be an artist to have fun drawing with your toddler. They will be very appreciative no matter what you draw!

We have kept the giant canvas around for a while and I pull it out every couple of days. ToddlerGirl is actually fairly obsessed with it and if she spies it standing up in the corner, she will point and make her ‘Mummy I want it’ noises until I get it down! We have managed to use it for a few other activities while preserving the giant canvas aspect, though.

3. It’s a… fort
Forts are just the best. Cardboard boxes were made to be used for forts! I opened out the box and stood it on its thin edge and then leaned it against our sofa to make a covered space in front of the sofa. Then all it took was a throw draped over to create a tent-like entrance and a few cushions inside to make a cosy den. ToddlerGirl was immediately crawling in to investigate, popping out and returning inside again. After a while, we just sat inside, enjoying the feeling of being in our fort. We read a few books, invited some of her soft toys and had a tea party. I brought down her ladybird nightlight which projects stars and her flashing Halloween ball and we looked at the light effects inside the dark den. The cardboard fort has been reinstated several times, sometimes with slightly different features, always popular. One day, D added ToddlerGirl’s pop up tunnel to create a more exciting entrance into the fort, which went down very well!

4. It’s a… slippery slope
I set the box up against the sofa in a similar way to the fort but squished it in a bit more so that there wasn’t really space inside – but a great slope to roll things down on the outside! I gathered up a basket of our ball pit balls and we spent some time rolling these down the slope, running around the room to collect them and then doing it all over again! This progressed to cars, with equally fun results. We’ve experimented with different gradients for the slope and ToddlerGirl found it especially hilarious when her Daddy came in after work and we rolled the cars between the three of us.

5. It’s a… slide
A natural progression from rolling the balls and cars down the slope! This was another game the three of us played one weekend, with D holding one end of the box up slightly on his lap to create a gentle slope to act as a slide for ToddlerGirl. This was the best fun ever judging by her delighted squeals and her insistence of going again and again and again. Eventually, a few of her soft toys joined in and she pushed them down the ‘slide’ with a ‘weeeee’ before clambering on herself.

6. It’s a… tunnel
Of course. You can’t have a giant cardboard box and not eventually prop it up to make a tunnel. That was it, no embellishments but irresistible to a toddler. We spent one afternoon with ToddlerGirl crawling backwards and forwards through the tunnel and Mummy trying to ‘beat’ her by crawling round the outside.

7. It’s a… tunnel (again)
The other day, we set up the tunnel again but this time had some fun rolling balls of all different sizes through from one side to the other, which ToddlerGirl was pretty good at. We then tried rolling a selection of cars through which proved a lot more challenging for her to do (they kept getting stuck half way or careering off into the side!) but she enjoyed it when I rolled the car all the way through to her on the other side.

8. It’s a… puppet show stage
I collected up some of ToddlerGirl’s soft toys and her two hand puppets (a duck and a gorilla) and hid out of view behind the box and popped the puppets and toys over the top. She found this really funny and giggled away – but lost interest relatively quickly. The more physical activities definitely captured her attention more effectively but I think this would be a lovely one to revisit when she’s a bit older.

That’s as far as we’ve got for now but I have seen some great ideas for squeezing even more play value out of our giant box. We shall be trying these two over the next couple of weeks:

9. Souped up tunnel from The Imagination Tree. What a great idea: hang a number of pairs of tights in the tunnel to create a sensory element when crawling through it.

10. Toddler Monster Ball from A Mom With A Lesson Plan. I love this idea to try to roll balls into various holes in the cardboard box.

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