Sunday, October 01, 2006

Activity Boxes

An activity box can be a mom’s best friend. It’s time to make dinner or the kids are restless or you’ve all simply run out of things to do on a rainy day. Pull out an activity box and voila! Instant fun! Following your child’s lead while exploring the box together gives the child the opportunity to experiment and learn in a natural play-based way.
Activity boxes are deceptively simple. All you need to make one is an empty container (a shoebox will do) and a theme. You can create a box that caters to your child’s interests, or create a box that encourages exploration of new concepts. A box full of different items that are red, or items that are round, or items that are soft can be used to introduce colors, shapes, or textures to a young infant or toddler. A preschooler might enjoy an activity box with magnets and metal objects, or with magnifying glasses and shells, rocks and other interesting finds.
As you explore together, the activity box offers a natural opportunity for parents to introduce new words and to facilitate language and concept development. It’s important to allow children explore and direct activity box play, even if you’re sitting right there playing with the box too. Giving children the opportunity to engage in open-ended play with play materials that can be used in many different ways helps to develop problem-solving skills and encourages abstract thinking.

==========Sample Activity Boxes==========

Colors and Sizes Box
This box encourages sorting by color and/or size, matching items, comparisons.
A variety of green and red items of different shapes and sizes.

Things That Measure
This box encourages problem-solving and development of early math skills.
A measuring tape
A small ruler
Measuring cups and spoons
String or yarn (One fun activity with the string is cutting it into the length of your child’s hand, arm or entire body and seeing how many things are longer/shorter/the same)

Sensory Exploration
This box allows for sensory play and problem-solving skills like sorting, pouring and measuring. For this box, it’s best to have a plastic container with a tightly-fitting lid. Please be aware that some of the materials may not be suitable for very young children.
Beans, rice, cornmeal, flax, or other dry goods. (Play sand is fun too.)
Measuring cups, spoons, small bowls
Puzzle pieces, small plastic animals or cars, or other small objects to hide.

More ideas:
Quilt box: Fabric scraps in squares, with snaps for children to snap together.
Ice blocks of different shapes and sizes with objects frozen in the ice, along with bowls, spoons, washcloths.
Texture box: Fabrics and other items of different textures.
Restaurant box: Pencils, small notepads, plastic dishes, play food, aprons, paper for creating menus.
Boxes with zippers, things that screw together and apart, clocks, musical instruments, things that are blue and yellow.

The possibilities are endless. I’m going to freeze some ice for an ice box right now. I think the fine young gents will enjoy playing in the bathtub with ice.

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