Some Fun Learning Activities…with Boxes, Junk, and Books
an exclusive feature by Victoria Waller, Ed.D*
Right now, children and adults are on Zoom all day. And then, everyone is so exhausted that adults tend to allow children MORE screen time for games. STOP!
Here is a creative way to involve children with fun activities that involve books, creativity, and building, while promoting the “love of books and reading.”
Here’s what you will need:
- Your child’s favorite book or a book you have read to them recently
- Amazon boxes, cereal boxes, food containers, old cameras or remote controls, old toys, or any junk lying around the house
- Colored paper
- Glue sticks (or a hot glue gun that you can buy online…remember, do not let the kids touch the hot glue or gun, and be careful yourself because they get really hot and you can get burned!)
- Any art supplies that they have or you have around the house like yarn, googly eyes, tongue depressors, shells, clay, plastic spoons and forks, etc.
Believe me, every child has a favorite book or is passionate about a certain animal, or space, Pokemon, or even the Titanic. And, I have never met a child who, when asked, couldn’t think of something to build from a story they knew or something they loved. Don’t you worry about building. Just give a child the “junk” and boxes and make this an activity neither of you will probably ever forget.
Here are just a few examples of what children have created:
–Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola
Big Anthony is told to watch the magic pasta pot that makes noodles while the little old woman goes away. Big Anthony doesn’t listen and doesn’t know the magic words to make the pot stop making noodles, so they pour out all over the entire town. Look at what this fourth grader created: Big Anthony is made out of an old camera with clay ears, googly eyes, a puff for a nose, and clay to create a dish and the pasta.
–My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
This is a wonderful story about a cat who tells a boy to go to Wild Island to save a dragon who is being kept there by animals who make him fly them from one side of the island to the other.
Six-year old boys, Izzy and Sam, built the entire Wild Island on top of a large Amazon box (as featured at the top of this article), and they used all kinds of junk to create all the characters and the island. They used old plastic Easter eggs as the dragon, small cereal boxes as the crocodiles, a toilet roll as the boy, small orange puffs as the oranges, an empty pill container as the lion and they made flippers (an idea in the New York Times ‘At Home’ section) as the trees.
Children love Pokemon cards and stories. I have used Pokemon to teach children to read for over 20 years! It is a passion that comes and goes. All of the crazy names “sound out” and contain vowels, blends, digraphs, etc., so teaching a child who loves Pokemon to read is really fun with the characters. This project came about because I was cleaning out my closets and I found two tiny lamp shades. Hats! Yes, and they easily could be written on. Beginning readers can dictate sentences and you write the words on the hats then they can wear! Julia, a second grader, loves Pokemon and put him on the “hat.” Then she made up a story about Pikachu finding a magic hat!
-The Treehouse Series
This series by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton is loved by every child. It is about two boys who create their own treehouse. (The first book is The 13th Story Treehouse and there are now more books in the series including: the 26th, 39th, 52nd, 65, 78, 91, 104, 117, and 130th Story Treehouse. The books are simple to read with few words on a page, with wonderful illustrations of each level of the houses they build. Gather boxes and have your child choose what they’d like to have on each level of their house. Maybe they’ll put a clothes level, a video-game level, a shark level, a skateboard level, a candy level, or maybe a rock and roll singer level. Their imaginations will run wild and it is soooooo much fun to see what they want on each level of “their own house.”
In all of these projects, you will be amazed what the children create. The object is for children to learn “to love” reading, use their passions, be creative, and get off the electronics for a while!
*As an educator for over 40 years, Dr. Victoria Waller has taught thousands of students to read and write using their passions and strengths: sharks, roller coasters, rocket science, the Titanic and even Pokemon, to name a few. The children learn to read, but more importantly, “love” to read, which lasts a lifetime!