101 things to do with a card- board box, by Cooper, aged 6

When his grandson came to visit him, Trevor Laffan was surprised when an empty box became the focus of his attention
101 things to do with a card- board box, by Cooper, aged 6

PLAY TIME: Trevor Laffan’s grandson Cooper using the cardboard box as a tank.

I COLLECTED my grandson Cooper from primary school before Christmas. I hadn’t seen him for a while, so we were both a bit excited.

When he got into the car, he told me he’d like to come to my place for a bit, so off we went.

We chilled out while he brought me up to speed with the many developments in his world and then I gave him his dinner.

It’s compulsory to have some treats afterwards, and one of the advantages of being a granddad is that I don’t have to be as strict with him as I was with my own children. I’m not as responsible as I used to be. Anyway, he knows all the hiding places by now, so he’ll help himself whether I give them to him or not.

I was expecting a delivery by courier that day, so we couldn’t go too far. We hung around the house until eventually, a truck arrived in the driveway and a large box was plonked at the front door. It was a rowing machine, but that’s a story for another day.

These delivery guys are only paid to drop it outside and that’s fair enough, but I needed to get it into the house before it rained. The box was about 4ft tall and wasn’t exactly lightweight and while Cooper was very willing to help me, I was afraid, if it fell on him, the poor child would be no more. That would lead to an uncomfortable conversation with an irate daughter, so I did my best to keep him out of it.

My back isn’t great at the best of times, but I persevered as carefully as I could. There was lots of groaning and grunting and it didn’t take me long to get it wedged in the doorway. Cooper, who is a six-year-old going on twenty, offered many solutions and between the two of us, we got it into the hallway.

The next step was to free the machine from the packaging. 

Cooper was very keen to tackle it with my stanley knife but then thought that blowing up the box might be quicker.

Grateful for all his suggestions, I ploughed ahead, and we eventually succeeded in removing the machine from the mountain of cardboard, polystyrene, and plastic. Cooper had been full of anticipation up to this point and couldn’t wait to see it in action. He insisted that he should have the first go on it to show me how it worked. I’m very fortunate that Cooper knows everything.

I was about to explain that, before the machine could be assembled, there was the tricky business of getting it up into the attic, but I had lost him by then.

The big empty box had now become the focus of his attention. He brought it into the front room and turned it on its side to make a camp out of it. He filled it with cushions, some toys, a torch and a book until it took on the appearance of a survival shelter.

When he realised the world wasn’t about to end after all, he gathered some extra pieces of packaging and turned the camp into an army tank. I had to cut a hole in the top to make a turret and no sooner had I done that when it was transformed into a shop.

Cooper with his 'shop'.
Cooper with his 'shop'.

I had long since given up any hope of trying to concentrate on the instructions for putting the machine together. I was now fully occupied with being a target for a tank gunner, a passenger in a space rocket and a full-time customer at the new shop, but it was very entertaining watching his imagination run wild. He was having a ball.

I have an old spare smartphone that I keep for Cooper. It’s connected to the internet so he can watch kids’ Youtube and I keep it charged for when he calls. He took the phone to his shop and wedged it into a piece of polystyrene packaging until only the screen was visible. Then he told me to swipe my card on the screen when I was buying something.

I was gobsmacked. When my kids were playing shop, we had to give them a supply of loose change, but this guy had gone high tech.

Cooper is only six, but his world is already so far removed from what my own kids were familiar with at his age. 

It’s frightening to see technology advancing so quickly, but these kids have no problem keeping up. They take it all in their stride, unlike us old codgers but yet, for all the modern technology, it was an empty cardboard box and his imagination that kept him amused for an entire afternoon.

Cooper in his space rocket.
Cooper in his space rocket.

Children can adapt to any situation and they’ve already discovered at their young age that things can change quickly. Covid-19 is something new they have to deal with, but they will cope.

My wife recently called to see my daughter who was at home with her two children. She was confined to barracks after having had recent surgery and her partner was at work, so Gaye delivered some essentials to her. She was only popping in for a minute and she had her mask on.

Naturally, the kids were delighted to see her, and the two-year-old guy didn’t want her to leave. He told her to stay and take off her coat. He wanted her to put her keys away then he got her to sit down on the couch. The one thing he didn’t ask her to do, was to take off her mask because face coverings have become normal to him.

Sad to see that, but hopefully it won’t be for too much longer.

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