Car. Turn a medium-size box right side up and cut off the flaps. Attach a round plastic lid to the front inside of the box with a nut and bolt, and you've got a steering wheel that really turns. Cut out a side door so your child can get in and out, and install a small chair for your toddler to sit on. Ask your child where he is going and who he will see. Will he bring a suitcase? Who will he take along for the ride? Beep, beep!
Wagon. Take a medium-size box and cut a small hole in one end. Thread some strong yarn or clothesline through the hole and tie a knot to secure it. Invite your toddler to load the box with his stuffed-animal friends, or take him for a ride.
Train. Follow instructions for a wagon, using several boxes and hooking them together. Your child will enjoy shouting "All aboard!" and collecting tickets from his passengers.
Play table. Cut out a medium-size box on one side so your baby in an infant seat or on the floor, or your toddler in a chair, can sit with his legs underneath. Cover the top with contact paper. Your baby can sit at his play table with some toys or eat a snack of finger food; your toddler can draw a picture, read a book, or pretend to write a letter at his desk.
Stove. Turn a medium-size box on its side and tape the back shut. Cover the top with white contact paper and use black markers to draw four burners. You can draw on knobs, or screw in some round wooden drawer handles. Cut out an oven door that opens and shuts.
Sink. Cover one end of a medium-size box with contact paper to protect it from spills. Cut a hole in that end just big enough for a plastic bowl, and rest the bowl in the hole.
Peekaboo playhouse. Cut windows and doors out of a large appliance box so your baby can crawl inside and play peekaboo. Your toddler will enjoy inviting you into his house or store to join him in pretend play.
An ordinary cardboard box can be an extraordinary way to stimulate young imaginations. Pretend play is a very effective way for children to learn about the real world.