Is a Cardboard Box the Greatest Tool for Creativity Ever?

16 Apr

Cardboard boxes, usually reserved for camp building materials or the recycle bin, have experienced a resurgence in popularity as a tool for sparking creativity.  Two years ago, “Caine’s Arcade” – a video about how a nine year old named Caine created a cardboard arcade in his dad’s automotive shop, went viral.

That sparked the creation of the “Global Cardboard Challenge” where kids of all ages use cardboard boxes to create whatever they want–the only limit is their imagination.  Check out this functioning cardboard piano, made by Hannah Jenkins at the Denver challenge:

And it’s not just kids getting in on the cardboard fun.  Cardboardboxoffice, a blog now up for a 2014 Webby award, is a series of photos recreating famous scenes from movies using just cardboard and common household items.  Some of my favorites are:

back to the cute-ture, from cardboardboxoffice.com

back to the cute-ture, from cardboardboxoffice.com

Castababy, from cardboardboxoffice.com

Castababy, from cardboardboxoffice.com

wah wars, from cardboardboxoffice.com

wah wars, from cardboardboxoffice.com

Lilly and Leon, the creators of cardboardboxoffice.com say the project came about because they had just moved (hence a lot of cardboard boxes) and had a new baby (somewhat housebound.)  Creativity does often spring from necessity!

There are even Pinterest boards devoted to cardboard creativity, like 101 things to do with a cardboard box, and, for the really advanced, cardboard.

I love cardboard projects because they grow a lot of skills that we often teach separately in school and at home.  Just think about Lilly and Leon’s cardboard movie scenes, or Caine’s arcade.  To accomplish those projects, they needed to:

1. Think flexibly – use the materials available to them.

2. Make a plan

3. Persevere over many hours or days

4. Develop construction skills (sizing, cutting, combining, etc.)

5. Think about the user or viewer (develop perspective)

6. Troubleshoot their designs.

and for parents out there…when children play with cardboard they develop ways to entertain themselves.

Cardboard is the exact opposite of many of the toys and tools for children (and adults) that are marketed nowadays.  It’s non-specific–it doesn’t have a set purpose or application.  It’s not particularly technical.  And it’s cheap. These three qualities–adaptability, simplicity, and economy, allow people to tinker and play with cardboard in a way that’s not possible with a lot of current educational or recreational products.

Of course, cardboard’s not the only material you can do this with.  Anything that is adaptable, simple and cheap will do.  I have a friend who said his greatest toy as a child was a stick.  That stick could do anything–be a wand, a support structure for a tent, or a tool to terrorize his younger brother.  Endless possibilities.  And check out the amazing things one child (and her mother) accomplished with cardboard’s cousin–paper.

@2sisters_angie, from thehuffingtonpost.com

@2sisters_angie, from thehuffingtonpost.com

 

We have more and more gadgets and super-duper-fancy toys today than ever before.  Looking at what all of these kids and adults have done makes me wonder if we need less of that stuff and more of the good-old-fashioned cardboard + imagination.

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