When I finished building the Box Tower, I thought: What in the world are the children going to do with this thing? To me it looked pretty boring.
So what did the children do with the it? Well, they put sand in the holes that were higher on the apparatus and dug sand out of the holes on the bottom. They also put objects in the higher holes and retrieved them from the bottom holes.
So what is it about holes that compels children to put stuff in them---and take stuff out of them? I have two theories. The first one is that holes for children are magical. If you drop something down a hole, it disappears. (This type of magic is especially true for the younger children.)
Things disappearing and reappearing fits the definition of magic pretty well for young children. If that is not magic, then what is?
My second theory is that children animate the holes; through the the children's imagination the holes take on a life of their own. For the Box Tower, what that usually means is that the apparatus is a machine and by putting stuff in the holes, the children can make anything they want. The only limit is their imagination---which is not very limiting. I wanted to record some of their fabrications, so I put large sheets of paper on the wall next to the Box Tower to record what they said. Below is a picture of those recording sheets.
From this example, you can see that children animate the holes the same way they animate any inanimate object. People, animals, and cars come alive in children's minds and hands. So do holes. As adults, most of us have lost that ability to animate the inanimate the way we did as children. The point is that children make the holes come alive because they can---and in ways only they understand. It is best to join them for the ride.
Do you have any theories about why children like to put things in---or take things out---of holes?