“Not a box”

“‘Not a Box’ is a classic playgroup story that can usually be found in the building area of the classroom. It was a favorite of my son, even though he never wanted to act out the book or use a box in a creative way. Ever.

Creations showing how a box could be anything are all around playgroup. We painted boxes to use as blocks, covered them and made toy cars, used them as tunnels. And I was determined to bring this aspect of playgroup to our home.

Every time we received a package I would leave the box out. I would try to prompt my son in different ways. ‘Would you like to turn this into a racecar? Should we paint the box? Should we draw all over the box? Glue on the box?’ And every time I was either ignored or told no. After a few days my husband would would get bored of having a cardboard box in our living room and I would reluctantly tell him to break it down and put it out for recycling. This went on for months.

My son has developmental delays that make this type of creativity more difficult for him. Tasks that are very linear or with very literal toys are much preferred. However, I really wanted this for us.

Then we went to Ikea (another playgroup favorite) and my son picked out a small dollhouse furniture set. That day we received some good size boxes. This was it! A perfect opportunity to try out a playgroup style box project.

By myself, I cut the box to look like a house with a dollhouse style open side. The next day I showed my son and asked if he would like to glue on a paper roof and maybe set up his new furniture. He jumped at it and played happily with his box house. Success!

But then to my surprise, we got more packages the next day. Without prompting he told me he wanted to make a ‘country house’ next and we set to cutting and glueing together. Then he stacked some other boxes to make an ‘airport’ for his toy planes. I was in such a happy state of shock to see all this creativity flowing out of my child. Everything he experienced at playgroup really was sinking in!

And it reminded me that while playgroup gives us parents many ideas of how to use different materials in unique ways the main foundation is allowing the child’s interests to guide all that you do. In this case, it was expanding his interest in some miniature furniture into building and dramatic play projects. Once you can grab on to something that truly interests your child they will often surprise you with all they can do.”

– A Playgroup Parent