Thursday, August 15, 2013


Many years ago they sold laundry detergent in boxes that had a nice plastic handle.  That’s when my college students and I first came up with the idea of “happy boxes.”  We would decorate the outside of the box and then fill it with self-contained materials that children could do independently.  As most things do, this concept circled back to me at a workshop recently when a teacher asked if I’d come up with ideas for “busy boxes.”  Her description of a busy box turned out to be the same as our happy boxes of the 90’s.   I’m going to do an extensive article about these on my October website, but I’ll get you started with a few you can create to start the school year.

Why?             Executive function  (task initiation and completion)
                        Common Core Skills (math, phonics, word work, writing)
                        21st Century Skills (perfect for partner or small group work to
                        encourage communication, cooperation, and collaboration)
                        Differentiated instruction
                        Brain Research (multi-sensory and hands-on)

WHEN?          Children can use these if they finish their work early.
                        Children could check these out and take them home to do with 
                        their families.
                        Children could do these if they arrive at school early or if they have 
                        a late bus.
                        Children could do these with a partner or small group.
How?             You could store these on a shelf for children to choose.
                        Number the boxes.  Give children a numbered index card where
                        they punch the number as they complete the activity.
                        Put a class list in the box so students can cross through
                        their name as they finish the task.

What?           Shoe boxes, plastic tubs, cloth bags, lunch 
                       boxes, pencil boxes,  wipe boxes, etc. could
                       be use to create these activities.

Concept Boxes –Put objects that are the same color, shape, beginning
sound, etc. in a box.  Children could explore the items and then explain (draw, dictate, write) what they have in common.

Writing Box – Put paper, envelopes, sticky notes, pencils, pens, colored pencils, stickers, scissors, glue, and other writing paraphernalia in the container.

Math Whiz – Add a calculator, ruler, minute timer, counters, toy money, tablet, pencil, calendar, and other math related objects to the box.

Science Lab – Add paper, pencils, a magnet, magnifying glass, safety goggles, and science books and magazines to the box.

Sew and String – Fill a box with sewing cards, shoe laces, wooden beads, pasta with holes, and other things that you can sew or string.

Art Smart  - Put crayons, markers, paper, glue, scissors, hole punch, etc. in a box.

Common Core Standards in a Box!

RL.K.5.  Recognize common types of texts (e.g. storybooks, poems).
Book Shopping List - Put order forms from book clubs in a box, along with scissors and glue.  Add a "shopping list" where you ask children to find different types of books.  The list might include a poetry book, two books by the same author, a nature book, a book where you could learn how to do something, and so forth.

Count to tell the number of objects.
4.   a.  When counting objects, say the number names in the standard order, pairing each object with one and only one number name and each number name with one and only one object.
Doing Dots - Download dot cards at  Add math counters (such as bears, buttons, small erasers) for children to match up one to one on the dots.