Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Boredom Box

By Christina VanGinkel

Wintertime will often find those with young children stuck indoors, due to cold temperatures, or heavy rains and snow. If you find these times stressful, because your child is quickly bored with their toys, even when they have every new toy on the market, remind yourself that what they may really need is just some structured play time to get their activity level on an even keel.

When my kids were small, I made up a box, which I referred to as the Boredom Box, for days just like that. I stuck it up on my own closet's shelf, and would pull it down just for those times when they (or me!) could not stand to watch one more cartoon, or I would see them becoming bored with their various playthings. Some of the stuff in the box was identical to things they played with on a regular basis, such as crayons and color books, but much of it could only be found in the box, such as glitter. Part of the appeal to the box was that it could not be played with by them alone either, a parent or caregiver had to play with them, with it.

In our box, we had the prerequisite crayons and color books. We then added colored pencils, chalk, glue, glitter, a bag of craft feathers, pompoms, scissors, pinking shears, cardboard, Popsicle sticks, grey tape, and old birthday and Christmas cards. We also had stencils, stamps, yarn, inkpads, small plastic bottles that we salvaged from here and there such as empty dish soap bottles, gently used sock singles to make our own puppets, and any other craft item we found that we thought would be interesting to play with.

My kids loved this box, in part because they always ended up making something cool each time we pulled it down, and as they got a little older, the Boredom Box did not lose its appeal as we just altered the contents a bit. We also found ourselves adding things that might otherwise been lost in a junk drawer or tossed in the garbage. We added a stapler and die cuts for the makings of their very own books, which they wrote, illustrated, and assembled. The sock puppets that we seemed to make year after year became more detailed, with details such as embroidered eyes instead of glued on button eyes. My youngest son even constructed a wallet out of Duck tape, after he saw one in a magazine for sale for $20. He asked me if there was any of the grey tape left in the box, and when we looked, we found that, my husband had tossed a half of a roll of Duck take in a camouflage color in the box. My son toted that wallet around for months, and he was so proud of it he even made his older brother one, which he actually used!

Make your own boredom-busting box today, before you need it, and stock it full of things that you think will appeal to your own children. Remember though that the most important ingredient of the box is the fact that it can only be played with when there is a parent or other adult around to play with it with the child. If you just hand it over to be played with on its own, it will quickly turn into just another toy.

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