When I look around at the piles of toys and books all over the house I usually have one of two reactions. I either feel happy to see evidence of all the fun my kids have had or I feel frustrated by the clutter and wonder, "what ever happened to playing with an empty box?"
Sure, lots of parents and caregivers remark at the possibilities for using an empty box as a chassis for building trains, trucks, or rocket ships, or as the skeleton of a fabulous and customizable toddler-sized house. But for a preschool engineer the opportunity for pretend play isn't nearly as interesting as the opportunity for learning mechanics.
The empty box can be broken down into its two-dimensional form and then reconstructed as a three-dimensional container. For toddlers and preschoolers this project may seem nothing short of parental magic and it needn't be anything more. Inviting them to observe and pull and push the pieces on their own might just be enough.
Investigating the actual container is not the only way a preschool engineer will delight in an empty box. It is also a wonderful tool with which to work. It can be filled, dumped, filled again and pushed or pulled around the house. Doing these types of experiments the preschool engineer will learn pre-physics lessons about density, friction and work and pre-math lessons about weight and volume.
A Simple Book
As always, I would like to give a nod to a book that I find inspiring. Thank You Bear by Greg Foley is a story about giving. I include it here because the gift is an empty box. I love this book because of the message about giving and receiving gifts but also because, in between the lines, there are opportunities for discussing the qualities of an empty box.