BigBoxPlay! Helping Children on the Autism Spectrum Improve Their Imagination

As a child, my brother and I would get super excited when my parents would purchase a new appliance, the bigger, the better. It wasn’t that we were happy the family was getting a new refrigerator with an ice dispenser in the door or our first dishwasher, it was because that new refrigerator and dishwasher each came in a big box!

BigBoxPlay has taken the love children have for playing in and with boxes and turned it into an Award Authenticated STEM Trustmarked play system. The BigBoxPlay system includes a combination of customizable boxes and tunnels made from durable double-wall corrugated cardboard, castle-themed and dry-erasable panels, and large connectors.

Although most children will need some guidance, following the directions to build BigBoxPlay is as exciting as using it! Before COVID-19, the company visited schools, daycares, community centers, therapy centers, and churches to host STEM events, teaching children essential skills such as creativity, collaboration, and social interaction. Groups of children worked together to build and decorate their BigBoxPlay and then let their imaginations run wild!

My Son’s Experience with BigBoxPlay at Home

Imaginative play is critical for children’s development. It boosts language skills, positive social interactions, problem-solving skills, emotional regulation, gross and fine motor skills, and so much more. These are skills that are difficult to acquire passively sitting in front of a screen, which, unfortunately, is where many children today, especially during the pandemic, are spending their time.

My five-year-old son has Autism Spectrum Disorder, and children like him impacted by ASD often struggle with imaginative play. For this reason, I am very selective about what we bring into our home for him. When I found BigBoxPlay I knew this product immediately would pass my screening.

He eagerly assisted me in building what he called his “box maze.” Fortunately, the connector knobs are large enough that even children with fine motor challenges can successfully help with assembly. Once his “box maze” was complete, he wasted no time climbing right in, and the fun began!

One aspect of BigBoxPlay that I was grateful for was the short animated music videos on BabyFirst TV. Even though we limit passive screen time, often, children like my son need to see examples of how to play with an item correctly. Each lively and engaging short music video shows different ways to use BigBoxPlay, such as pretending it is a castle, a spaceship, a pirate ship, or a submarine. Once he saw each video a few times, he was able to use his imagination to create original storylines.

My Son’s Experience in Behavior Therapy

After we enjoyed BigBoxPlay in our home for a few weeks, we donated it to my son’s behavior therapy center, and it was assembled in their sensory room. The therapist told me he was very excited to show his “box fort” to another child at the center. During their initial exploration, the two played a game of hide and seek and pretended to trick or treat for Halloween using each box as a different house, proof that even children on the autism spectrum can develop their creativity with BigBoxPlay!

BigBoxPlay is also utilized in the therapy sessions. One way the therapists have gotten great use of the product is during “tacting,” which is labeling objects. The therapist hides pictures of the items the client is learning inside BigBoxPlay, turns off the lights, and has the client use a flashlight to go on a scavenger hunt to find them. Each day they are finding more uses for BigBoxPlay in therapy, and client engagement, participation, and success has improved.

Why BigBoxPlay is Perfect for Children on the Autism Spectrum

Part of BigBoxPlay’s mission statement reads, “BigBoxPlay focuses on teaching the life skills children need to succeed in the 21st Century, including creativity, collaboration, communication, and social skills.” When I read that, I realized these are the skills where children on the autism spectrum, like my son, often experience the most struggle. These are the skills I know my son needs the most help in developing. But now, I am confident that his engaging with BigBoxPlay will help him get one step closer to achieving his optimal level of success!

Thank you, BigBoxPlay!

Give children toys that are powered by their imagination, not by batteries. – H. Jackson Brown

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Amy Nielsen

Amy Nielsen is a former children's librarian of nearly twenty years. She now spends most of her time obsessively pounding on a keyboard. She is the author of It Takes a Village: How to Build a Support System for Your Exceptional Needs Family, Goldilocks and the Three Bears: Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder. Her upcoming YA Worth it debuts in May of 2024. She is also a freelance writer for The Autism Helper. When she's not writing, she and her family are most likely crusing the waters of Tampa Bay.