Monday, November 09, 2009


This is a post about the single most useful and simply elegant pieces of equipment at the Woodland Park Cooperative Preschool.

If you’ve been following this blog, you might have noticed that most of the pictures from our classroom have included these objects (for instance, here and here):

They are made from wood and are approximately 18”X24”X36”. These boxes with two open ends and handles cut into the sides have proven to be remarkably versatile to the point that I wonder how anyone runs a classroom without them. I currently have 8 of them, but I could easily use a dozen.

On their sides, as shown above, they're the perfect height for children to stand and work, or we can give them a turn to make them higher for taller kids. We use them singly or push several together for a larger surface. Of course, we have regular tables and chairs in the classroom, but these are great for temporary stations of all kinds.

They’re sturdy enough to stand on, so they often turn up in our large motor play. For instance, they make great tunnels and kids love to challenge themselves by jumping off of them. Sometimes I stack them on top of one another, using duct tape to secure them together, and we have “condominiums,” “cubbies,” or a “bee hive” for climbing into. These are the boxes we use under the gym mats to create the “full body sensory experience.” I often arrange them on our large blue rug to create roads for driving our push trikes. Many of the children enjoy the fact that they can move these large objects on their own, or with the help of friends, and spend time and energy just pushing them around the room. When it’s clean up time, these are particularly popular objects to “clean up,” because they need to be pushed to the wall and it’s a fun, muscular way to be helpful.

These boxes make frequent appearances in our block area. When we’re using larger wooden or cardboard blocks, they tend to become parts of structures. When we’re using smaller blocks, like Legos, they provide elevated building surfaces so everything doesn’t have to happen on the floor. Sometimes after we’ve been playing with the same thing for a couple days, I just throw a few out to change the environment and divert the play in a new direction.

I use them all the time as teaching aids. They’re a good height, for instance, for demonstrating science or art projects for groups of kids. I turn them on end and temporarily store items I want to have handy for my use, but out of the children’s hands. When I’m hanging things high up on the walls or on the ceiling, I often use all 8 boxes to form a sort of scaffolding that allows me to accomplish the job without repeatedly moving chairs or stools.

Parents have often used these boxes as seating.

Several of them turn up almost every year as set pieces or props in our annual Pre-K play.

The uses for these boxes are endless and I find new ones almost every week.

The original 5 boxes (blue and green) came with the school, while the 3 orange ones were made several years ago by Conail’s dad Joe, who heard me lauding the boxes one day and asked if we could use more.

If anyone’s asking, I’d love 4 more. Ahem . . . Once a bag lady, always a bag lady.

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MOM #1 said...

I love reading your blog. You make something as simple as boxes seem almost poetic. It's a gift, I tell ya!

Preschool Playbook said...

Teacher Tom you have a great site and I must tell you I was so excited to see that you teach Pre-K I was so excited. It is just wonderful to have a male in the early childhood profession. I so wish there were more out there like you. Keep up your marvelous work!

Michelle said...

Ahhhhh... to have all that space to move them, store them, and play with them!! I'm jealous!! Keep up the great work!!

Floor Pie said...

Reminds me of one of our favorite books - Not a Box by Antoinette Portis.

Life with Kaishon said...

Oh, I just adore a nice box. All wooden and stuff! So cool : )

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