We’ve all seen a child who receives a thoughtful, sometimes expensive gift, only to play with the box or packing materials instead. During the holiday season, many families receive packages filled with packing peanuts and other materials. Instead of throwing away the debris, consider giving children the chance to do what they really want to – play with the box (and all the other stuff!) For babies and young toddlers, please remember that packing peanuts can fit into small places (like noses) and then expand, so closely supervise children when using them.
For little ones still crawling through toddlerhood, packing peanuts provide a wonderful indoor sandbox. Simply make a pile on the floor and hide some of your child’s larger toys in the pile. Then help your child search for the treasures! Small children also enjoy throwing the peanuts into the air or watching the peanuts as you toss them up and they float back down on top of children’s giggling heads.
For children three and older, packing peanuts can be used to make a snowperson. Have your child draw a three-tier snowman, helping them if needed. Glue the peanuts into the circles as snow. Draw hats and eyes or make cut outs from construction paper. Actual sticks from the yard or park can be used for the arms.
And what about the boxes? Encourage your child to go on an adventure using an empty box. Provide your child with crayons, pencils or markers and a box, and tell them that the box is NOT a box, and that they can decide what it is! Encourage your child to describe or tell a story about the new object. For example, the box can become a racecar and your child can pretend to drive around a track, with you announcing his or her progress. You may need to model for your child how to turn the box into something else and then tell your own story about the object while encouraging them to “help you” tell the story. This activity develops your child’s imagination through storytelling, and it reinforces knowledge of shapes in turning a box into something else. Although bigger boxes work best, smaller boxes can work well also.
So when that package lands on your doorstep, remember just how many fun and imaginative activities have arrived as well!