Learn Through Play, Stimulate Innovation, Create a “Not-a-Box”

What better way to learn than through play? Want to encourage your students to think outside of the box and utilize their problem solving skills? Read about my “Not-a-Box” challenge and consider doing it with your kiddos.

Last week, my 5th graders were innovators. It began with reading the picture book Not a Box . After receiving a little inspiration from the book, my 5th and 6th graders were presented a 25 minute challenge. With limited supplies, they had to think “outside of the box” to create their own “not a box”.

Guidelines Given to Students

  1. Use your box to create or invent something.
  2. You may use as many or as little of the supplies provided. Supplies provided: construction paper, tape, glue, scissors, yarn.
  3. You may only use the supplies provided.
  4. As long as you are following the first three guidelines, my answer to every one of your questions will be YES. (This is the most critical guideline as it is this freedom that best encourages creativity. Without it, many students will aim to please the teacher or shape their projects based on teacher feedback. This is a rule I use for all of my creative writing assignments as well. )

Note: Students were asked to bring a box to school ahead of time, but they weren’t told what it was for. They were told the box could be as small as a jewelry box or as big as a refrigerator box.

My students were encouraged to be creative and they delivered! Many came up with something original, an invention of their own. After the allotted time expired, we turned the room into a museum. Students were given a piece of folded card stock on which they wrote the name of their creation to display in front of their box.  The students then took took turns touring the museum and showcasing the “not a boxes”. This performance task provided students with a fantastic opportunity to sharpen targeted skills.

You can use this video read aloud of Not a Box if you’re unable to purchase the book.

Of course you do not have to present this activity as a timed challenge, but for me, it added to the excitement and required students to use even more of those problem solving and decision making skills that some of my kiddos so like to keep locked away. My students do not have a lot of timed experiences so I felt it was a needed addition.

Here are a few pictures, shared publicly through the school Facebook page, that show what the activity looked like in action.


Students are hard at work as they start on their “not-a-boxes”.


Creativity at work!


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