The Cardboard Worlds of Providence PlayCorps

Each PlayCorps team is equipped with, among other things, a collection of card board boxes: some large, some small. Some beat up, some brand new. Most people don't look twice at a cardboard box. At PlayCorps, however, we know the adage is true: kids often play more with the box the toy came in than the toy itself.

PlayCorps teams routinely find that as long as kids have some boxes and some tape, and maybe some drawing implements, entire worlds and games can evolve. Here are a few of many highlights from the parks:

At HARRIET & SAYLES park one day, kids had the idea to tape two boxes together. Before long, a group of kids had crafted an entire cardboard city, equipped with an "ice cream shop" that was active throughout the rest of the day.

Not all cardboard play is, or should be, communal. Oftentimes, children recede into worlds of their own to play. And each PlayCorps team is trained to foster individual imaginative play as well as group play. Near the cardboard city at Harriet & Sayles Park, one girl sat down decidedly inside a cardboard box. She didn’t get out. Instead, that box became her moving house. She would pick it up and walk with it still around her, or she would set it down and it would become a fixed dwelling. It became a versatile, safe space where she could explore her own fun.

At PASTORE PARK, kids stumbled upon an incredible game all on their own — a kind of golf without clubs, and with cardboard boxes as the holes. Kids placed a perforated square slab of cardboard on top of a giant cardboard box, and they then attempted to toss mini colored balls into the holes on the square and into the box below. They were enthralled with the game and played it right up until clean-up time. It had never occurred to the team to combine those materials into such a game, and the episode revealed kids’ capacity to not only create worlds out of boxes and objects, but also brand new competitive games with their own specific rules and goals.

At CAMDEN AVE PARK, PlayCorps program manager Jillian Finkle dropped off an enormous cardboard box she was given by a local furniture store. Before long, with the help of the PlayCorps team, some kids had not only turned it into the box into a huge hallway connected to a series of other box rooms, but they also started painting murals on the inside and outside of the box to which other children could contribute. 

These are just a few examples of everything that kids are doing with cardboard boxes in the parks every day. And it doesn't just have to happen in the park! Looking for something fun and cheap to do with your kids at home? Just find some big boxes, and let them loose!

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