Treat yourself and your family to endless, active indoor fun with this DIY Activity Box!
A few weeks ago I was trying to think of some ways to introduce new activities into my routine, and came up with this Activity Box. It’s incredibly easy to do, and a great way to make new and fun experiences. My friends are in various degrees of lockdown, and recently friends and family in Oregon had to spend extended amounts of time inside, not due to Covid, but because of the awful air quality from the fires. When I shared the idea of the Activity Box, people were really excited, so I thought I would post it here as well.
How to Make an Activity Box
To make your own DIY Activity Box, you will need:
- A box. It’s best if the box is pretty, so that opening it feels a bit exciting, like opening a present. The featured image for this article is from Kashmir Box, but you could use any box and even decorate it yourself.
- Slips of paper. There needs to be two different colors of paper, large enough to write on. You could also print or write on colored paper and cut them into strips afterward.
How to make the box:
Separate the box into two compartments. You could use a piece of cardboard to divide the box in half, or simply use the two colors of paper to differentiate the activities. Personally, I have done both: I used cardboard and tape to divide my box in half, and have one color of paper on one side, and the other color on the other side.
Write out characters. On one color of paper, write or print out as many characters as you can think of. These characters should be distinctive, and have a distinct attitude and way of moving. Some of the ones I have used are:
- Old lady
- Circus clown
Write out activities. On the other color of paper, write or print out as many activities as you can think of. These should be distinct, recognizable, physical actions (reading a book or looking at your phone are no good). Here are some of my activities:
- Basic military training
- Walking in honey
- Riding in a rodeo
- Taking a sobriety test
- Walking on hot sand
- Catching a helium balloon
Once you have written as many characters and activities as you can think of, cut your paper into strips and place the characters on one side of the box, and the activities on the other.
How to Use the Activity Box
A couple times a day, when I need a break, I shake up the box and draw a random character and a random activity. I put on a song I like, and then, for the length of the song, I act like that character doing that thing. It’s pretty silly looking, but it’s also fun.
Why Make an Activity Box?
Although the box is simple, there’s some powerful research and reasoning behind it. By mixing up these random characters and activities and acting them out, you accomplish several things at once:
- Healthy play. Decades of scientific research show the benefits of play for people of all ages. Play promotes creativity, spontaneity, curiosity, and pleasure that affects how we evaluate and approach all situations in life. In adults, playfulness promotes an open mind and helps people find original solutions to problems. In families, play has a critical role both in healthy childhood development, and in creating important social bonds. And there are distinct benefits to physical play (as opposed to sedentary play). Physical activity play has both physical and cognitive benefits, improving attention and visual-spatial skills.
- Introduce random activities. The body adapts to our habitual movements and exercises, allowing us to lose strength, endurance, and flexibility in lesser-used muscles or for less-common activities. There are also distinct benefits to doing activities that are unusual, asymmetrical; they help to prevent muscle overuse and promote increased strength and flexibility in lesser-used muscles, reduce boredom, and improve overall fitness and reaction times.
- Challenge the mind. The Activity Box invites you to imagine and embody the way that the character would complete the action. This engages the mind as well as the body, which helps to preserve and improve cognition.
- Break up the routine. Not only are short breaks of activity great for your productivity and focus, but the nature of the Activity Box means that you can’t really anticipate what your activity will be. It’s unexpected and more engaging than activities like doing X number of jumping jacks or sit-ups.
- Create anticipation. Ideally, if the box is attractive and has some of the emotion of opening a gift, and if you are playing a song you like and want to hear, then Activity Box breaks are welcome and enjoyable, something you look forward to and WANT to participate in. It should be designed to simulate the emotion of a kid having recess at school, not of an adult going to the gym.
While I live alone and use the box by myself, I can easily see it being a fun and funny group activity. If I were doing it with other people, I would suggest having everyone put characters and activities into the box without sharing them, to heighten the sense of mystery and wonder. There are no age limits on using the box, and it really is fun.
So here is an idea for a potential quarantine, lockdown, stay-at-home DIY for kids and adults that is fun, funny, and healthy. If you make your own Activity Box, please share your experiences in the comments below.