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Early childhood education has been my life for over 30 years. I have taught all age groups from infants to 5-year-olds. I was a director for five years in the 1980s, but I returned to the classroom 22 years ago. My passion is watching the ways children explore and discover their world. In the classroom, everything starts with the reciprocal relationships between adults and children and between the children themselves. With that in mind, I plan and set up activities. But that is just the beginning. What actually happens is a flow that includes my efforts to invite, respond and support children's interface with those activities and with others in the room. Oh yeh, and along the way, the children change the activities to suit their own inventiveness and creativity. Now the processes become reciprocal with the children doing the inviting, responding and supporting. Young children are the best learners and teachers. I am truly fortunate to be a part of their journey.

Saturday, March 1, 2014


I usually do not post detailed instructions about how to build an apparatus.  However, I have had a couple of inquiries lately asking how to make a construction that is not easily destroyed. Because of those inquiries, I decided to recreate one of my first apparatus so I could document how I built it strong enough to withstand the onslaught of the ultimate testers, the children. The apparatus is a Box Tower and you can see the original post here.

Let's start with a picture of this year's finished Box Tower.  There are two boxes.  One is tall and the other is a rectangular box which serves as a base.  The tall box is embedded in the base box.

First, I place the tall box on top of the base box so I can trace its bottom dimensions onto the base box. The tracings mark the square I will cut so the tall box will fit into the base box.

I cut out the square on the base box.  As you can see below, there are inside flaps that the utility knife does not cut.  Those inside flaps are important for the strength of the box, so I do not remove them.

Rather, I notch the inside flap so it matches the opening and then I tape it to the top piece of cardboard thus increasing the structure strength at this level.

Since I have the opening in the base box, I tape down the flaps on the bottom of this box.  They are easy to reach at this point in the construction.  One reason to tape the flaps on the bottom down is to give the box strength.  In addition, by taping those flaps down, the medium---sand or whatever---will not get caught under those bottom flaps.

The next step is to cut holes on two sides of the tall box at the bottom.  Since the children will be putting stuff down the holes of the box tower, these holes will serve as outlets.
This hole is cut before dropping the tall box into the base box.  Notice that only three sides are cut out and that there is a flap that hangs over the box.

I trim the flap so it does not hang over the edge because when I drop the tall box into the base box, the flap will fit inside the structure.  I then tape the edge of the flap to give it strength and tape the bottom flaps of the of the tall box.

Before dropping the tall box into the base box, I cut holes in the bottom sides of the base box to correspond to the holes of the tall box.  Again, the hole is only cut on three sides so there is a flap the comes out.  These flaps that fold down and out from the holes are important because they are used to tape the box down firmly.

When the tall box is dropped into the base, an inner chamber is formed.  At this point, the flap of the tall box is taped to the bottom of the base box making it firmly attached to the base box.

With the tall box inside the base, I cut a hole in the tall box where it meets the base box.  The hole is only cut on the top and two sides.  At this point I have not taped the top of the tall box so I can reach in and push out the cut hole out from inside so there is a flap again.

I tape the new flap to the top of the base.  By doing that, the embedded box is secured for a second time onto the base box.
As you can see, it is possible to tape the top of the tall box shut at this point.

I make one more cut on top of the tall box.  Since children will always find the highest level of any apparatus, it is important to have a hole on top for them to drop things into the Box Tower.

The box tower is now ready to be taped to the table.  I use the flap from the bottom hole to offer more surface for taping the structure securely to the table .  Tape is also used all around the bottom of the apparatus.

Here is another view of how the sides of the base box are taped to the table.
This makes a surprising stable apparatus even though it is oriented on a vertical plane.  Children can put a lot of force by pushing the top of the box, but this thorough taping keeps it in place.

Now for the provisions.  This year I used wood shavings that a parent donated.  I also added farm animals. The invitation to play is complete---and strong and secure.

If you want to see another version of the Box Tower, check out Box Tower 2.  This version is also strong, but built differently.

My hope is not that you build the exact same Box Tower.  Rather, take the ideas for connecting and taping the boxes together to make your own apparatus strong and secure.  When you start to build, you will see there is no one way to put the elements together.  The fun begins when you connect the properties of the materials with your imagination.

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