I don't believe she ever played with the bear. But she wore out the box.
She so loved that box that I brought home others, one in particular was large enough that she could easily climb inside to play, with room to spare. She directed me to where she wanted windows and doors to be cut, and then decorated the box with random drawings and stickers.
That box became a fixture in our living room for a while, but gradually become ragged and sagging and crusted with food. Eventually, I began to worry that it might harbor disease, but Celeste so loved her box that I couldn't bear the idea of taking it away. I decided to gradually wean her from the box by moving it to less accessible places, but that only made it worse. Instead of just a playhouse, the box became a playmate, since it was now playing hide-and-seek.
When it finally became so nasty I knew it had to go, I dragged it out to the curb on trash day. That evening Celeste made one quick search of the house, then moved on -- to the new box I'd brought her.
There was something fascinating with how she could take a simple box and transform it from ordinary packaging into a castle or a tunnel or a car.
Alison Gopnik, a professor of psychology at the University of California-Berkeley, believes that simple empty boxes prompt children to use their imaginations, and that by doing so, they become more readily able to consider alternatives that aren't given to them. They become better at coming up with their own possibilities and alternatives and develop planning skills.
"Imagining different things a box could be is really an important intellectual feat," Gopnik told the Huffington Post. She said fancy electronic learning toys aren't necessarily any better than something as simple as a box or craft materials.
Anyone who has ever spent time with small children has witnessed children abandoning fancy toys in favor of the packaging the toy came in. Boxes become a blank canvas for their imaginations. A child's mind becomes supercharged by the possibilities, rather than having their play dictated by what the toy is supposed to be, how it's supposed to be played with.
If I had those early Christmases with Celeste to do over again, I'd buy far fewer toys. And bring home more empty boxes instead.
Reach Karin Fuller via email at karinful...@gmail.com.