It was Christmas Day 2008, a significant milestone for my wife Jodi and me. Earlier that year, we had been thrown into the proverbial deep end as first-time parents of beautiful twin daughters, so this would be a Christmas like no other.

The decorations were divine, we had food with all the trimmings, and the precious presents were beautifully wrapped (by my wife, of course) all ready to go. It was perfect.

Joy overflowed, but to our great surprise, once all the presents had been unwrapped, our darling daughters proceeded to play with the torn paper and empty present boxes for the rest of the day. They gleefully spread paper from one end of the living area to the other, and imagined all types of games with the boxes. How could this be? I had mistakenly thought one needed to spend lots of money to entertain one’s young children. How wrong I was!

Developing Through Play

These days, Jodi and I quip that we could have saved some money and just wrapped empty boxes as presents for our gorgeous girls, but the lesson was learnt. To quote one of the greatest scientists, Albert Einstein: ‘Play is the highest form of research.’

Others much smarter than me agree. Kathy Hersh-Pasek and Roberta Golinkoff, contemporary American psychologists, wrote, ‘Play is the primary way children were designed to learn.’ Susan Linn, a contemporary American psychiatrist, explains, “Play is the foundation of learning, creativity, self-expression, and constructive problem-solving. It’s how children wrestle with life to make it meaningful.”

Since that Christmas Day in 2008, I’ve been learning firsthand from my daughters the immense importance of play…

Imagine the Possibilities

… Last week, we had a shiny new dishwasher installed. As the plumber wheeled away the broken-down dishwasher, he queried, ‘Do you want me to take that big box away too?’ I started to say, “Thanks, that’d be great, mate!”, but a keen voice stopped me in my tracks: “Please don’t take the big box!” It was daughter number 4. She already had grand designs in mind for that box, and her dad clearly had more lessons to learn.

After helping the plumber lift the worn-out dishwasher onto his truck, I made my way back inside to find all 5 daughters busily cutting, colouring and generally beautifying the big Westinghouse dishwasher box. Arched doorways and coloured cellophane windows were taking shape. The interior was lined with lounge cushions and intricate jewel-like creations were being strung up.

Racing out the door to a meeting, I called out encouragingly, “The house is looking great, girls!” To which daughter number 5, with ever so slight disdain, replied, “It’s not a house, Dad, it’s a princess carriage!”

“Of course, I should have known that. Well, it’s looking beautiful!” I sheepishly replied. Yep, this dad still has more to learn.


If you can, encourage and facilitate free-flowing play for your kids.

It doesn’t need to be expensive — click here for some great ideas.

Yours for Big Boxes and the importance of play,
Nathaniel Marsh


Photo by Mart Production.

About the Author: Nathaniel Marsh

Operations Manager and Qualified Trainer for Dads4Kids, Nathaniel is passionate to see hearts turn to the Father. As a professional filmmaker, Nat worked in advertising and television for 20 years and has been helping Dads4Kids behind the scenes since 2002. Nat has been married to Jodi since 2004, and they have five daughters.

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