We’ve all had that empty box experience – you know, when you purchase an expensive gift for your child and she ignores it and plays with the box. From my own childhood to my children’s I’ve observed that it’s often the simplest things that truly capture a young imagination.
Here are a few of the oddest and most creative playthings my family has enjoyed.
The Sears Catalog and a Paper Bag
My grandmother was a potter – she even had her own kiln – so her games were usually inspired. My favorite involved a pretend house made of a paper bag you would cut open to make a long, albeit oddly shaped blank canvas.
We would cut people out of the Sears Catalog to live in our house, and give them lots of clothing, toys (naturally) and whatever else we thought they needed (that was sold at Sears, of course). We could play for hours, imagining their lives. It was really just a poor man’s paper dolls, but we loved it.
Sears doesn’t put out a catalog anymore, but you can use whatever catalogs you have at hand or even the color ads from the Sunday paper.
Seeds Are For More Than Planting
My grandparents had a large Mimosa tree in their front yard. It’s sort of a tropical looking tree with fluffy pink flowers that resemble a small pompom. I loved to play with the silly things. Even better, after the flowers dropped off they made these long brown seed pods.
I used to collect the pods and empty out all the seeds into a coffee can. Just collecting them occupied quite a bit of my time, and afforded me the opportunity to study the structure of the pods. Once my coffee can was full the fun really began.
There are a virtually unlimited number of games you can play with seeds. You can make art on the driveway, organizing them into rows, circles, trees, whatever you like; or divide them into piles according to size or color variation, and then count the piles. You can drive them around like cars (with your hand, of course). When you get tired of playing with them you can glue them to a piece of paper, paint them, and give the resulting masterpiece to your mother as a gift.
Rockin’ the Play Ground
My kids always seemed to gravitate towards rocks. We had boxes of them all over the house. Half the fun was finding them. They brought rocks home every time they went anywhere, the park, the pool; they even found rocks in the mall parking lot.
The rocks were included in many of their games. They drove their matchbox cars around and over them. They painted them. They used them as a kind of currency, trading them for army men, small animals, figurines – even Pokemon cards.
It was a sad day when my youngest son put all his rocks in the donate box during a routine room clean out. I hope some other child enjoys them as much as he did.
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