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A Fascination with Boxes

Why kids love playing with boxes

The other day I was sorting a box of last season's clothes when the phone rang. After answering it, I returned to find the clothes heaped on the floor and my 2-year-old, Madison, in the box looking at a book.

"It's my little house," she said, and she spent the rest of the day climbing in and out of the box, packing as many toys as she could around her. The give-away clothes went into a trash bag.

"The fascination [with boxes] is that they're an open-ended construction material," says Dee Acklie, Ph.D., associate professor of education at the College of Saint Mary, in Omaha, Nebraska. "For preschoolers, something becomes real just because they choose to use it that way. A box can be a car, a clubhouse, a spaceship, a cave."

And a box allows kids total control over their own space with everything they love close at hand. Rooms can seem overwhelmingly large to someone 3 feet 3 inches tall.

"For some of us that never really goes away," Acklie adds, pointing out that adults love their favorite chairs outfitted with cup holder, remote control, and an afghan crocheted by Mom. I'm sure Archie Bunker felt the same way about his first box.

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