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Early years

22nd Jun 2021

Experts reveal why it’s actually a good thing if you buy your child a toy and they only want to play with the box

Laura Grainger

play boxes

Turns out it’s a surprisingly educational activity.

Have you ever splashed on a new toy for your little only for them to play with a cardboard box instead?

While babies and toddlers’ fascination with boxes – and the entertainment they seem to get out of them – remain a mystery, it turns out messing about with a box is actually a good thing for your tot.

According to child development experts, your baby or toddler is actually learning every time they play with boxes.

When little ones throw stuff in boxes and loudly dump them back out only to refill them again, they’re realising they can affect their environment.

The fill-dump-refill routine aids with both cognitive and motor development.

“They’re beginning to learn how objects relate to each other and cause and effect. What happens when I do this?” Adria Barnett, OTR/L, occupational therapist at Children’s of Alabama tells Romper.

play boxes

“Repetition is something that helps them learn, and it’s fun for them to see what happens when they do something.”

However, it’s harder for them to put back in than it is to dump. After dumping and refilling for a while, they’ll probably leave the dumped toys all over the floor without putting them back in as they’ve already pushed their motor skills to the limit.

“There’s not as much visual feedback when you’re putting things away, and putting things in is harder, so they’ll walk away and leave it because they’ve pushed to the edge of their ability,” Jana Beriswill, MOTR/L, occupational therapist at Wolfson Children’s Hospital of Jacksonville says in the same interview. “We’ll often have to teach ‘in.'”

Parents can help their child further develop these skills by not only giving them boxes and baskets to practice dumping with, but by making a game out of the clean-up afterwards.