COMMENTARY: Cardboard Playhouses Help Kids Think Inside the Box

It’s almost Christmas, and for me, that means logging onto Netflix and making sure that a DVD of the 2004 film, Millions, is in the mail in time to reach me by next Wednesday. If you’ve never seen Millions, you should totally make it part of your holiday viewing, as it is a wonderful movie. Directed by Danny Boyle (of Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire fame), it’s not a saccharine-fest like a lot of other Christmas-themed fare; however, it is set around Christmas and packs messages about the importance of charity and human kindness, and of the power of familial love. Watching it reminds you of what the holidays can, and should, be about.

Millions is also a celebration of a child’s imagination, and one of my favorite parts of the film is near the beginning, when one of the main protagonists, 7-year-old Damian, is sitting in his backyard kingdom that’s made out of discarded cardboard boxes. Thanks to Boyle’s whimsical direction, the viewer gets to experience how something as simple as a box fort can become a source of great play potential: At one point, Damian’s entire universe trembles as a nearby train thunders by. He also has one-on-one chats with various Catholic saints, who drop by for darkly humorous interactions, and to relay messages about the boy’s recently deceased mom.

Calafant, Cardboard playhouseIt was because of Millions that I wanted to put together a list of cardboard playhouse toys. Now if you’re like me, you got your first taste of them when you were younger, shortly after a new refrigerator, TV, or bathroom fixture was unpacked at your family home. Today, anyone can still acquire a large box from pretty much anywhere and use it for playhouse-building; however, clean surfaces, such as the ones on the following products, do present an advantage for decorating. There’s another reason why I chose them: They all utilize recycled cardboard, meaning they take something that might otherwise end up in a dump and turn it into a item that creates enjoyment. Since it’s the holidays, if you’re going to give a present that encourages a child’s creativity, why not one that’s friendlier for the whole planet, which serves as every kid’s playhouse? [Read more...]

Kid Playhouse Competition and Design Showcase Names Winner

KidPlayhouseSpillman Farmer Architects has won first place in the inaugural Playhouse Competition and Design Showcase, organized by the American Institute of Architects Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter (AIA EPA).

AIA EPA, ArtsQuest, and Christkindlmarkt sponsored the competition, in which leading Lehigh Valley architects and student teams designed and built one-of-a-kind children’s playhouses. The structures, on display during Christkindlmarkt in Bethlehem, are currently being raffled off on behalf of the Pediatric Cancer Foundation of the Lehigh Valley.

Spillman Farmer’s winning concept, SlatHouse (pictured), was inspired by the kind of minimal shelters that kids build out of cardboard boxes, table tops, blankets, or string. The house is constructed with thermally-modified, chemical-free wood that is insect- and mold-resistant.

Other participants included Ryan G. Welty Architecture & Design of Whitehall, P.A., with its Playhouse; and the Lehigh University Department of Art, Architecture and Design, Bethlehem, with its Imaginarium.