In this day and age of electronic games, computers, and an overabundance of every kind of toy, Chabad’s Gan Chamesh preschool embarked on a unique and creative learning opportunity. Toys in the classrooms were replaced by boxes of every shape and size for the duration of “Box Week.” They took inspiration from the award-winning book Not a Box by Antoinette Portis and The Happiness Box by Bracha Goetz, and they let the children’s imaginations soar as they turned the boxes into anything from a train, spaceship, garage, castle, puppet theater, to just super-sized blocks for building massive towers. Even empty food boxes filled the shelves in the dramatic play areas and children cooked up delicious imaginary meals using “ingredients” from the boxes at hand.
From experience, we have all seen when children are more excited about the box than the actual toy that comes inside it, and they will play with the box for hours. As educators, the staff at Gan Chamesh wanted to give their students the endless opportunities to create different scenarios revolving around the boxes and to think like architects and engineers. Children were able to problem-solve together as discussion sprouted about how to build certain things or agreements had to be reached when the same box was being used as a cave and as a boat. Teachers reported that it was amazing to see the transformations in the dynamics of the class as certain quieter children took on more leading roles. The teamwork that was involved in the box play was very different than while using conventional toys. Teachers and children both said that one week is not enough, and classes have decided to continue with their box exploration. v