We are always talking about "thinking outside the box." But perhaps it's time we start thinking "inside the box."
The beginnings of the cardboard box dates back to China during the first and second century B.C. The Chinese would use sheets of tree bark to wrap and preserve foods. From there, cardboard made its way west through the trade routes.
The first documented use of a paper box was in 1817. It was created to hold a German board game called "The Game of Besieging," which was a popular war strategy game.
Fast forward to 1856. Edward Allen and Edward Hearley were hat sellers. They were looking for a material the hats could be placed in and still keep their shape. They invented corrugated paper for this.
"Cardboard" continued to advance in 1871. Albert Jones of New York was awarded a patent for packing with paper. The material was corrugated paper; crimped to present an elastic surface.
And then in 1879, Robert Gair, who owned a paper bag factory in Brooklyn, found an affordable way to use the corrugated paper into mass produced, fold-able boxes...in other words, cardboard boxes.
At first, the boxes were used to pack small items like tea, tobacco, toothpaste and cosmetics. Then he got a two million unit order from the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) to provide boxes for crackers. From that order, sales of cardboard boxes exploded.
Fast forward to now. Cardboard boxes are part of our every day lives. We use them to ship things, receive things, store things, move things, etc.
We often joke about how kids will get a gift and then ditch the gift to play with the box that it came in. But did you know that the cardboard box was actually inducted into the U.S. National Toy Hall of Fame in 2005.
Play that incorporates boxes is more popular than ever.
You can see this reflected through YouTube. Papa Jake, a popular 22-year-old YouTube star with over 4 million subscribers, shows kids how to make cardboard box creations. He shows kids how to build space stations, cars, houses and more.
You can also find tons of internet sites dedicated to playing with cardboard boxes. Kids are shown how to make everything from cardboard drawers to party decorations to fishing rod racks.
Major companies are thinking inside the box as well. Nerf is promoting their toys showing kids how to survive box fort battles with their friends. Pizza Hut is showing kids how to turn their pizza boxes into functional DJ turntables and solar eclipse viewing devices.
Box Play for Kids and Paper Box Pilots are companies that offer colorful, themed stickers kids and their parents can use to turn boxes into toys. And then there's Nintendo, who has introduced Labo. Labo offers different cardboard construction kits designed to fit on and play with the Nintendo Switch. Kids can use Labo to build things like a motorcycle console, piano, wearable robot suite and more.
Perhaps children's ministries should start thinking inside the cardboard box more often.
How can you use cardboard boxes to engage kids with God's Word?
How about letting kids use cardboard boxes to create and act out Bible stories?
"With nothing more than a little imagination, boxes can be transformed into forts or houses, spaceships or submarines, castles or caves. Inside a big cardboard box, a child is transported to a world of his or her own, one where anything is possible."
National Toy Hall of Fame
Noah's ark? The disciples lowering the man through the roof of a house to be healed by Jesus? Moses crossing the Red Sea? Create the Tower of Babel? Paul and Silas in jail? There are so many possibilities.
How about using cardboard boxes to teach kids Bible truth?
Create the ten commandment tablets out of cardboard and use to teach kids the commandments? Create something from each day of creation and teach kids about how God created everything? Nehemiah building the wall and having the courage to obey God?
Provide supplies they can use to turn the cardboard boxes into creative Bible-related items. Supplies like...
different sizes of cardboard boxes
Then watch the fun and learning begin.
How about having a family contest to extend your teaching into the home? Have kids and their parents work together to create Bible scenes out of cardboard boxes? They can create the scenes at home during the week and post pictures online. This can spark faith conversations at home.
Your turn. Do you use cardboard boxes in your kidmin? Share your thoughts, ideas and insight with everyone in the comment section below.