One of my favorite new children’s books is Not a Box. Throughout the book, a voice (one assumes it is an adult) asks a rabbit “Why are you in that box?” next to a picture of the rabbit on, in, next to, etc a box. When you turn the page the rabbit replies, “It’s not a box.” This time the picture shows the rabbit imagining the box is a race car, a mountain, an elephant, etc.
It sums up my own childhood perfect – no cardboard box was ever just a box. It was whatever my imagination could make it become.
Typically I read it with children before handing them an empty box and setting them free to create and pretend. Originally, my plan for Joey was different than that. I thought he would like the rabbit’s imagination, and it would give many opportunities for Joey to practice core words, along with some of his favorite nouns (like car and fire engine).
And it was perfect for this. It allowed me to model using the “not” button for Joey, which he does not use often. We worked on prepositions as the adult voice asked why the rabbit was in, on, next to the box, and Joey had the opportunity to predict what the rabbit would do next. It was a simple, fun read aloud with lots of engagement.
After awhile I started to feel bad. It’s hard to read a book about an imaginative rabbit and not give Joey a chance to imagine too. I’d brought empty boxes to play with, but typically I let kids decorate the boxes and get crafty. I hadn’t done that yet with Joey.
So the next time I came back I brought my arts and crafts box, determined to let Joey make something from the box.
This in itself provided us opportunities for natural, back and forth language.
“Should we use the big box or little box?”
“What should we make?”
What color paper should we use?
What shape should the wheels be?
How many should we have?
What color should they be?
So we did. We used the small iphone box, covered it in green construction paper and added black wheels. (Once we started taping them onto the box we decided to stop at 4).
Joey LOVED his car. In fact, he loved it so much he said “love car.”
We got to play car. Joey even made the engine noises as we pretended to roll the car around on his tray. And every time the car fell off his tray?
I could ask, “Where should the car go?”
“What should he buy?”
“Where should he go now?”
It honestly was one of the most fun and playful sessions I’ve ever had with Joey, who usually wants to work or read. And one of the times that he showed such natural five year old imaginative play skills.
Toward the end Joey said “Make helicopter”.
Eeeeek. I’m going back with some more boxes, craft sticks and dowels, but I’m a bit nervous about this…