Children love box play. There’s something about a cardboard box that gets students’ imaginations flowing. Even the youngest learners are fascinated by boxes large and small. With online shipping for almost everything, boxes are never in short supply…so why not use box play to add interest and fun to the block area?
The Block Area
The block area is an integral part of a preschool classroom, as it helps to develop a child’s motor skills and spatial understanding. It also helps children learn problem-solving skills, social interaction, and communication. Block play can be used to teach a variety of topics, such as shapes, colors, numbers, and letters. It also encourages creativity and imagination in children by allowing them to create whatever they can think of with the blocks. There’s a reason the block center is one of the main areas found in every early childhood classroom!
Setting up a box play area in the block center can be a great way to encourage children to use their imagination and creativity. Areas like this allow children to build, explore, and create with blocks of all shapes and sizes. Here are some tips on how to set up a box play area in the block center that will keep kids engaged for hours!
How to Set Up Box Play
Setting up a box play area in the block center is fairly simple. Of course, various boxes in all sizes and shapes are necessary. Ask parents ahead of time to collect boxes, reach out to local stores, and, if absolutely necessary, some boxes are available to purchase at moving companies (although they might have some used ones they are willing to donate). No box is too big or too small!
Add these easy extras to really make the box play even more exciting and educational for the students:
- Washable markers
- Plain tape
- Colorful craft tape
- Books about architecture and boxes
Let imagination be their guide
Most students won’t need any prompting when it comes to constructing castles, forts, pirate ships, and more out of the boxes. This center might require a few days for students to complete their construction, so get the “under construction” signs handy!
Books about Box Play
A few students might need a little inspiration to get their imaginations flowing. Thankfully, children’s authors have it covered with some great stories about box play. Here are some titles to add to the block center:
- Beryl’s Box by Lisa Taylor
- Not a Box by Antoinette Portis
- Pete the Cat’s Groovy Imagination by James Dean
- My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes by Eve Sutton
- Boxitects by Kim Smith
- Whatever Next by Jill Murphy
- What to do with a Box by Jane Yolen
- The Box by Axel Janssens
- Grace and Box by Kim Howard
- Jessica’s Box by Peter Carnavas
Why Imagination is Important
Preschool students learn with a hands-on approach. Imaginative play allows children to try on various roles and situations in a safe environment. Students mimic the adults in their everyday lives or go on fantastical adventures, but it all serves the same purpose – learning through play!
Grasping social skills can be challenging. However, children have a natural way of relating and connecting when they play. They learn to take turns, share, and work together through interaction. As children engage in imaginary play, they begin to understand relationships, rules of conversation, and how to be a good friend.
Imaginative play grows empathy and emotional awareness. When a child pretends to be a doctor, a teacher, a parent, or an astronaut saving the planet, they practice caring for others. This helps enrich their empathy for others, a huge step from the egocentric toddler years!
Experimenting with new vocabulary happens naturally when preschoolers are using their imaginations. While playing pretend, they “try on” new words nearly as often as they try on dress-up clothes. Sharing in imaginative play with others requires constant communication, compromise, and sharing ideas with other children.
Box play provides an environment where trial and error are almost guaranteed. How will the tower stay standing tall? Can students balance the boxes, or do they need tape? How can they make a door to get in? By engaging in creative play, students exercise their creative problem-solving skills in a hands-on, minute-by-minute scenario. And if things don’t work out and the tower topples? Children get to practice growing their frustration tolerance, otherwise known as “grit,” and try again in a different way!
This piece by NAEYC on the importance of creative play is fantastic to share with parents struggling to understand all the learning happening in a creative center like box play.
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