Cardboard Challenge: Promoting Creativity Year Round


How many people do you know could take a simple piece of cardboard and transform it into a space station, pod-racer, or a dinosaur? Probably not many.

This is what makes Imagination Foundation’s Cardboard Challenge so incredible. Each year since 2012, thousands of kids from all over the globe take part. For parents, it’s a way to tie together learning and fun. For kids, it’s an opportunity to let their imaginations run wild, explore their passions and discover new ideas.

The idea behind the Cardboard Challenge is to encourage kids and adults from all around the world, to come together for one day and use their imagination to transform simple materials into something incredible. The concept all began following the overwhelming success of the short film, ‘Caine’s Arcade’, the story of a 9-year boy and his elaborate cardboard arcade:

Hosting a Cardboard Challenge event is a simple way for parents to encourage creativity while fostering a sense of community. Last year, Getting Smart Director, Mary Ryerse, hosted her own and shared a few of her observations:

  • I loved that the kids were doing something tactile that didn’t involve electronics!
  • Seeing the boys being creative, putting together a plan and executing in a short amount of time was awesome.
  • I loved seeing the creativity, salesmanship, and building something with their hands…and no electronics were involved!!!
  • I liked fun without technology.
  • Hanging out with the parents while the kids were occupied was fun.
  • It was great to see the boys use their imagination and not even think about electronics!

It is important to keep the creativity flowing by promoting it year round. Start by participating in Day of Play and look to build off of it with one of the five suggestions outlined below.

5 Ways to Promote Creativity at Home

Focus on Interests. If you want to promote creativity at home start by finding out what your child is passionate about and allow them to embrace it. Are they passionate about science? Ask them to design a homemade science project you can work on together. What about music? Have them teach you an instrument or write a song together. By showing interest in what your child is passionate about you help instill a sense of confidence in them. This confidence leads them to explore deeper into their passion and find creative ways to share it with the world.

Each child is unique in that they have their own, personal interests. Don’t be afraid to make them your interests as well.

Utilize an Idea Board. Have you ever had a great idea only to forget it shortly after? The same is true with kids. With so much going on around them, an idea board is a great wait to channel all of their thoughts.

Challenge Your Kids. One aspect of the Cardboard Challenge that is so great is the way it takes something as simple as a cardboard box and challenges kids to use their imagination to create something extraordinary. Think about other items you have lying around the house—a shoebox, old shirts, trash bags, paper plates, etc.—throw it into all into a pile and work alongside them to turn that pile of trash into a pile of triumph.

Make Reading Fun. According to Scholastic, “half of children ages 6–17 (51%) are currently reading a book for fun and another one in five (20%) just finished one.” Promote imagination and encourage your kids to read by participating. One way to do this is by starting a “mini” book club. Make sure to ask a ton of questions and hear their thoughts about the characters, plot, and setting. Want to take it one step further? Encourage them to create an alternate ending, write their own short story around one of the characters or have them draw out each chapter based on how they pictured it.

Put Them in Charge. Recently, Tiffany Wycoff wrote a post about letting students “co-create” the classroom and talked about how it is one important way for teachers to instill agency. That concept holds true at home as well. Agency in kids is crucial in order to help them develop a strong sense of identity. When you empower your kids you help give them a voice and show them that their voice matters. Let them learn by doing and allow their imaginations to run wild.

Creativity stands as one of the most critical 21-century skills for kids as it helps them approach problems from a different perspective. As the Imagination Foundation notes, “The future requires people who can problem-solve, adapt and communicate in workplaces and environments that are increasingly complex. Creativity creates jobs, drives economic growth and provides answers to societal needs.”

This year, the official Day of Play falls on October 6 so don’t forget to make the pledge and join today!

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