This month’s picture book favorites demonstrate how easily a child’s imagination can change something ordinary into something fun. Creative play prepares children for the future by helping them build self-confidence, while also developing other valuable life skills such as concentration, problem-solving, patience, and sharing. The next time you hear the dreaded words, “I’m bored,” consider it an opportunity to encourage young imaginations to dream up some new, creative ways to play. Enjoy!
“National Regular Average Ordinary Day” written by Lisa Katzenberger and illustrated by Barbara Bakos (Copyright 2020, Penguin Workshop) is the story of a boy named Peter, who becomes bored with playing the same familiar games. Since he loves holidays, Peter thinks he will have more fun if he celebrates a new holiday each day. Things are going well, until the day comes when he has run out of holidays to celebrate. He solves this problem by using his imagination to make up some new ones. Eventually, Peter grows tired of holidays altogether and is bored once again. As he is sitting in a cardboard box, doing nothing, his imagination takes over, transforming the box and sending him on a variety of fun-filled adventures. Later, when a friend rides by on a bike, Peter decides to join him and the neighborhood kids for some “regular, average, ordinary games,” and soon finds that ordinary days can be worth celebrating too. This colorfully illustrated story highlights the value of imagination and creative play in the celebration of life’s ordinary days.
“What to Do with a Box” written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Chris Sheban (Copyright 2016, by Creative Editions) is described as “Jane Yolen’s poetic tribute to the humble box.” Since a box is just a box, until a child’s imagination gets involved, I think this book is also a tribute to children. When a boy, a girl, and a dog come across an empty cardboard box, magic happens. This rhyming story is complemented by cardboard-themed illustrations that show a child’s imagination turning the simple box into a portal for adventure, becoming such things as a library, a palace, a nook, a canvas for coloring and painting, a tea room for dolls, a sailboat, a race car, and a magical flying machine. For those of us who’ve ever bought a gift for a child, only to discover that they’d rather just play with the box, this story is a reminder that imagination is the greatest gift a child will ever receive.
“Bobby’s Magic Blanket” written by Helen Frances Stanley and illustrated by Haris Petie (Copyright 1973, Rand McNally & Company) is the classic vintage story of a boy, a dog, and a blanket. Bobby’s imagination brings fun and adventure as his “magic blanket” becomes a canoe, a raft, a magic carpet, a tepee, and a cave, while also helping Bobby pretend to be a caterpillar in a cocoon, a butterfly, a bird, a jet plane, and a super hero. At the end of Bobby’s day, after the blanket has been used as a knapsack for picking up his toys, it keeps him warm while he dreams of having even more adventures. I love the way Haris Petie’s beautiful illustrations show the relationship between Bobby and his pet dachshund, who seems to thoroughly enjoy being there, and ends the day curled up on the blanket next to Bobby. Although this book probably isn’t found in libraries anymore, I did see a few copies available for sale online. As you can see in the picture, my forty-seven-year-old copy isn’t in great shape, but it is still worth sharing as a timeless example of creative play.
If you have a favorite picture book that encourages creative play, I’d love to hear about it.
Happy Reading 😊