This is a Wii for those "no-screen-time" times when you just have to play.
This is a Wii for those “no-screen-time” times when you just have to play.

I read somewhere that the only enrichment that gifted kids truly need is paper and implements to write or draw with. I don’t really believe that, but it is a great beginning.

At my house, we have lots of toys, too many toys: computers, video game systems, Legos, blocks, dolls, costumes, and more.

If given the choice, they will almost always pick some form of screen time. But, when told that screen time is not an option, they discover creative resources within themselves.

Books and CDs are sometimes popular, but most of the time, the kids are pulling out cardboard, paper, scissors, tape, string, glue, markers, etc. and making things.

Often, they make books. Comic books are particularly popular with the younger boys, my daughter likes to make activity books, and my eldest has started writing a chapter book. But cardboard is what they really love.

Not long ago, they turned three cardboard boxes into space ships. Of course, space ships are flown by astronauts who need space suits, so one child set out to make space suits out of plain white paper. The most interesting space ships fly to the moon or planets, so another child drew planets and moons and taped them up all over the house. The other children decorated the ships, cut them to fit their pilots, and made sure they were comfortable for passengers (small, stuffed animals).

After a day or three of flying their space ships to the celestial bodies, they tired of that game and the boxes were available for other uses. Before the boxes were ready for recycling, they became robots, helmets, masks, guns, wii controllers, laptops, tablets, phones, spy gear, and pieces of an invented board game before being cut apart to the point that the kids could no longer see possibilities in the remaining pieces.

Jonathan H. Liu wrote a column for GeekDad a couple of years ago called The 5 Best Toys of all Time featuring the classic toys: Stick, Box, String, Cardboard Tube, Dirt. At my house, Box is in a class by its own.

My husband and I know that we are simply not allowed to throw away a cardboard box until the kids have exhausted all its possibilities.

Kate writes about creativity and story-telling as tools for making sense of the world at


3 thoughts on “Never Throw Away a Cardboard Box

  1. I have been a gifted educator for over five years. One of the schools I worked at was connected to a convenient store. The store employees would break down cardboard boxes everyday! You can imagine how rich we felt! All I had to do was was pop out to the back yard for an endless supply of cardboard. This was probably my favorite school to teach at, based on this alone.

  2. On our last road trip, the 11 yo designed an “aPad” complete with a “stylus you can use to write on it and delete even” (otherwise known as a pencil) and several “pre-loaded” games to play (tic-tac-toe, hangman, and a maze). Then they designed the worst ever cereal boxes and advertising (“caffeinated high-fructose bombs now with more sugar” anyone?) I credit this with the fact that we travel without electronics but lots of paper and colored pencils.

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