It’s a drizzly, dreary afternoon. The blocks have towered and the cars have raced and the crayons have drawn. But it’s still drizzly and dreary.

Cue the whining.

My son’s new favorite I’m-bored-phrase is “but who will play with me?”

That’s when it’s time for the box. You don’t need movies or video games or intricate lego creations. Just a box. Though fancy fandangled toys can be fun in their own right, I’m always pleasantly surprised that when I strip down the colors and the noises and the provided-for-you entertainment, my son’s creativity shines.

Hand him an empty box or two, a pack of crayons or markers, some tape to hold it all together, and bam! We have a race car. We have a parking garage. We have a boat, an airplane, a crazy hat to wear as we parade around the house. It’s a hiding spot, a package for Grandma, or a home for his stuffed animals.

Recently I mailed over 200 books for our Children of Prison Inmates program. I delivered the individually packaged books to the post office so they could travel to the hands of the children whose fathers are at the New Hampshire State Prison for Men. When I arrived at the post office, I poured the packages into a large cart for our friendly postmaster to sort and loaded the empty cardboard boxes into my car.

Upon my return home I realized the boxes could now serve a new and exciting purpose. So I hauled them all inside and invited my son to create.

What did they become? Well, a plane/train, of course! From one side it was a train with three cars for sitting or hauling, but if you sat at the other end, you were transformed into a brave pilot ready to take flight. We had wings and a steering wheel, some colorful decorations, and even his hand print!

I don’t have the heart to recycle his creation, and, frankly, I want to clear enough space in our home to build more! Why pass the winter glued to the television when we can build castles and vehicles and whatever else our imagination might design?! In fact, an article posted in the New York Times this week shared evidence that play is essential to learning, so let’s keep playing!

For more inspiration check out Henry and Mudge and the Long Weekend to witness the building of a large cardboard castle. And for some smiles (and probably a few tears!), definitely pick up a copy of Little Boy, which so perfectly captures the chaos and beauty of days with an adventurous kiddo and his big cardboard box.

Happy building!

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