Mini Topic: Boxes

A dozen games and activities using empty boxes are packed up by Kevin Kelman for fun early learning

Try some of our fun ideas with boxes of every shape and sort. Check that there are no sharp edges or staples in the boxes before using them.

Babushka boxes

Find ten boxes that fit inside one another from, say, a matchbox to a television box. Make sure that the matchbox fits into the next sized box and that those two fit into the next biggest, and so on. The children will enjoy nesting the boxes one inside the other or lining them up from smallest to largest. IKEA sells a set of coloured round gift boxes that are ideal for this activity.

Empty box blocks

Use empty boxes to make blocks - dishwasher and washing machine tablet boxes are pretty sturdy. Tape the tops closed and wrap them with different colours and patterns of paper.

Alphabet boxes

Ask parents to save empty nappy-wipe boxes. Write each letter of the alphabet in lower case on a different box using a permanent marker. Fill each box with items that begin with that letter. Laminated pictures may also be added. Mix the contents of two boxes and challenge the children to sort the items into the correct box.

Architect tubes

Collect empty crisp tubes. Remove the lid and pierce a hole near the bottom of the tube and one near the top of the tube. Thread string through the holes and knot them, so that the children can carry the tube over their arm. The children can use these carriers to take their artwork home.

Easel box

Ask your local shop for a sturdy empty cardboard box. Cut off the flaps and turn it on its side. Cut diagonally from one corner to the opposite corner, and the same on the other side. Turn the box over, place it on a tabletop and use it as an easel. Sheets of paper can be taped or pegged with a clothes peg to the easel.

Where's my partner?

Gather boxes and the items that belong inside them - for example, a roll of film and a film canister, a toothbrush and a toothbrush box, toothpaste and a toothpaste box, a pair of shoes and a shoebox, a pack of Jaffa cakes and a Jaffa cake box and so on. Have children put the items into their correct boxes.

Matching lids and boxes

Spread out a variety of boxes and lids. Invite the children to match the box to the lid that fits. Try using a shoe box, an ice cream tub, a gift box, a ream of paper box, a biscuit tin and so on.

Box cars

Get a box big enough for a child to fit in from your local electrical store. Tape the lid and then cut a circle large enough for the child to fit in. Paint the car the colour of the children's choice. Make a number plate from a polystyrene meat tray. Make a steering wheel from a paper plate and use aluminium pie dishes for the wheels. Attach the different parts with paper fasteners.

Two of a kind!

Collect pairs of empty boxes for grocery products and place them in a black bin bag. Give each child an empty carrier bag. Invite the children to take turns at selecting two of the boxes out of the bag. When they get two that match they can place them in their carrier bag. The child with the most pairs wins the game.

Egg box train

Gather six egg boxes and paint each egg box a different colour. Join them together with string, with a string at the front of the train for the children to pull it around. Encourage the children to find 'freight' from around the room and put it in the appropriately coloured carriage.

Song cube

Create a large cube by sliding two square boxes together. Write the name of a song or finger play that the children enjoy on six different sheets of paper, and draw a matching picture on each sheet. Stick one of these sheets on each side of the cube. Have the children roll the cube and sing whatever song it lands on. Change the songs to correspond with your theme or season.

Alternatively, make an extra large dice by painting on dots or numerals, for playing other games.

Beanbag box

Cut off the tops of five different boxes. Let the children decorate them using paints and collage materials. Paint the numbers one to five on the front of the boxes. Invite the children to throw beanbags into the boxes.

Use this activity to reinforce positional vocabulary like inside, outside and beside, as well as early maths skills.

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