Creative Cardboard Play – Favorite DIYs of 2013

cardboard train collage

My daughter goes to an awesome co-op preschool, and I am fortunate enough to have the pleasure of being co-editor of the school newsletter.  In the Spring I wrote an article for the “Out & About” feature, which I am excited to share with you here…

It’s April in San Francisco, which means you could be reading this on your tablet in the glow of the sun on a warm patch of green park grass, or in the darkness of the mid-afternoon while listening to a gloomy downpour outside your window.  I love San Francisco despite the manic-depressive weather, and that means having the sand toys at the ready and having sanity saving solutions to spending the day inside as well.  This “Out” & About is brought to you with the latter in mind.

In January/February the Goldfish class had been exploring Things That Go.  One lovely Thursday while focusing on trains the Teacher challenged us to get out and ride a train that weekend.  With the plethora of public transportation and kids destinations in the Bay Area it’s not a hard task.  That weekend, however, Penelope started to become under the weather, and I wanted to try and keep her sequestered in an attempt to nip it in the bud.  So I tried to think of ways we could still explore the fun of trains while staying warm and cozy in our own abode.

Boxes!  A train has got to be one of the easiest things to imagine a box to be, and a great introduction in to the world of cardboard imagination play.  Having just made a Costco run, we had some leftover boxes in the garage to work with.  Now I consider myself to be a crafty mama, and had big dreams of paints and glue and decorations to really make the train quite train like and unique, all things I look forward to doing with Penelope more and more as she gets older, but she’s not even two, she doesn’t care about it being a sharp looker, she just wants to chug around the house, so we got out some heavy-duty duct tape, linked three boxes together, loaded them up with “passengers”, and called out “All Aboard!”

I probably needn’t say much more than that was 2½ months ago now and that train is still sitting along our living room window full of many of its original passengers.  Her wooden train tracks now live in the engine box, and her train whistle is at the ready in the car where she rides.  As that afternoon went on I added an old cardboard tube to the front with some duct tape and stuffed it with a skewer holding up some puffs of steam (pillow batting), and added a “The Penny Express” sign, but aside from that it’s remained its brown Dixie cup/peanuts/orange juice cardboard glory.

Coincidentally we had a book in our Book Tree bag that month called Birthday Box by Leslie Patricelli.  It’s all about a little boy who is given a box for his birthday that happens to have a dog stuffy inside.  Together they turn that box in to all kinds of magical things.  It was a simple book for Penny to sit through, but can inspire so much creativity.  If you’re looking for a way to launch in to some good ol’ fashioned cardboard play time, this book could be a simple place to start.

One of my favorite things about this off hand project was the way it turned a very tangible object and interest in to a creative based activity.  I love that we can ride on all kinds of trains, and read about trains, and draw and color trains, and play with toy trains, and still find room to use the imagination in our train play.  I look forward to seeing how we can turn other emerging interests in to so many different experiences as well.

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