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5 Apps with "Cardboard Box" Appeal

Let's consider the boundless pretend that children experience with the arrival of a new cardboard box. The Toy Hall of Fame at the National Museum of Play reminds us, "Inside a big cardboard box, a child is transported to a world of his or her own, one where anything is possible." The cardboard box was officially inducted into this Toy Hall of Fame in 2005, and each of us can probably see why. The endless play value and universal appeal of this "toy" have made it an iconic plaything.

When selecting iPad apps for kids, why not include those that relate to cardboard box play?

Speaking as a retired preschool teacher turned app developer, it's a well-rounded approach to offer children touchscreen investigations that align with real-world explorations or playthings. Hands-on tactile play with manipulatives can dovetail nicely with touchscreen learning opportunities. I enjoyed finding this group of 5 iPad apps that relate to childhood "make-believe in a box." As a set of cardboard box themed apps they offer open-ended creativity, interactive stories, scientific inquiry, a sense of mystery, and loads of play appeal. They're very fun!

1. Cut the Rope (by Chillingo) is the wildly popular kids app that delivers fun with physics. In it, a large cardboard box arrives at the door containing a uniquely adorable monster who craves candy. Child players delight in feeding this creature through contraptions that require cause-and-effect logic. Offer this app alongside a cardboard box, roll of tape, and ball of string to see what gizmo your child will invent.

2. Toca Cars (by Toca Boca) emulates the type of toy vehicle play that happens in child-made cardboard "towns." Players quickly discover these unruly cars will topple cardboard box buildings unless they can figure out the controls of this charming app. With all of the action and adventure of childhood play (and driver's ed) Toca Cars is a treat for all those who love figuring out how to stay on the roadways and move forward with care. Offer this app alongside small recycled boxes so kids can build their own cardboard cities.

3. Penguin Toddler (by Mrs. Judd's Games) gives children open-ended fun with cardboard boxes that are tethered to hot-air balloons. Players create unique scenarios for cute penguin characters within themes of sledding, flight, and endless pretend with boxes, props & dress-ups. Will kids use the pilot and astronaut costumes for airborne ideas, or the princess and tiger costumes for a ski-slope adventure? The possibilities are limitless. Definitely try this app on days when kids are playing with actual cardboard boxes or balloons,
and watch their imaginations soar!

4. The Box & I (by Little Bahalia Publishing) is a clever interactive book on iPad in which a tike's cardboard box becomes a submarine, race car, spaceship, fire truck, helicopter, pirate ship, train airplane and more! A dreamy cloud swirls whenever players transition to a new page or idea. Its written and narrated text encourages rhyming literacy development, and imaginative play. (Tip: turn your iPad setting "OFF" for in-app purchases when kids have access to your device. Some apps, such as this one from Little Bahalia, contain un-gated links to the App Store.)

5. What's In the Box? (by Paul Hudson) promotes listening skills and player curiosity in an animal-theme guessing game. The colorfully decorated cardboard box in this app contains hidden mystery animals. A snake's "hiss" or lion's "roar" is the type of auditory clue that comes from inside the box. Players proceed at their own pace to match sounds with animals. This app encourages a trial-and-error approach that's fun. Many Pre-K teachers use "mystery box" guessing games at school to promote this type of inquiry and learning. They will love this app!