Book boxes use all the skills of a book with the fun of a box. This 3 year old plays with “From Head to Toe” by Eric Carle.

Note: This post was originally published on Wiser Kids in 2015.

My kids and I have made many things with empty cardboard boxes- vehicles, mailboxes, guitars- but we’d never heard of a “book box” until recently. Library patron Star Erickson came to the reference desk one morning last spring for help finding books that encourage kids to be actively involved in the story. As we talked further, she explained she was making new “book boxes”. I was curious, so she offered to bring one in. I’m enamored by this simple and cheap idea for having fun with your child while learning skills such as shape and number recognition, narrative skills, print motivation, language acquisition, and more.

I asked Star if I could interview her and share the idea with others, and she generously agreed. She has a B.A. in Mandarin from BYU, led a non-profit called Dayton Task Force for four years, and is a mother of four children. See our conversation below, and enjoy making your own Book Box to use at home or in the classroom! -Rebecca

How do you make a book box?

Using a box, brown paper bag, contact paper, packing tape, a bell (if you want noise) and copied pages from a book. Place the noisemaker inside the box. Cover the box with a plain brown paper bag, and using contact paper and packing tape, secure one book page to each side.

What ages do you use these for?

SE: They may be intended for Pre-K, but I find older kids have just as much fun with book boxes!

What do you consider when choosing books?

SE: I like books that encourage movement or include animals they could imitate (like Eric Carle’s From Head to Toe) Perhaps it’s better if the book doesn’t require being read in a certain order to understand its content. The size of the book is a consideration, depending on the box available.

What are examples of books you’ve used?

SE: I’ve used several Eric Carle books, a book teaching seasons, a chunk book teaching baby yoga, a Spanish book with various pictures and the Spanish word for them.

Where did you get the idea?

SE: We recently moved from Nevada where I ran a non-profit for Lyon County. Among our many services, we offered free workshops for teachers to obtain their continuing education credits, but available to anyone. One of our workshops taught creative reading methods and the book box was one of the methods taught.

How do you use it with kids? Does it help them with certain skills?

SE: A book box uses all the skills of a book with the fun of a box. There are infinite possibilities depending on the purpose and an individual’s imagination. Personally, I like to make up games with them. For example, “Roll the box (like dice) and act like the animal on top- hop three times like the frog!”. If there are a few boxes they can stack them. It’s even just a fun way to sit and read a book together. It expands literacy and reinforces other aptitudes for colors, numbers, foreign language learning, alphabet, animals, coordination, etc.

(A special thanks to Star Erickson for your time).

Try these titles:

Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? by Eric Carle

Can You Growl Like a Bear? by John Butler

Clap Your Hands by Lorinda Bryan Cauley

Dr. Seuss’ ABC by Dr. Seuss

You Are a Lion! And other fun yoga poses by Taeeun Yoo