With the constant presence of television and video games, children don’t get many opportunities to play and enhance their imagination. Pretending and using the imagination is an important part of growing up and helps children develop useful skills. When you run a daycare center, it is important to make sure the children who attend get lots of play time instead of just plopping in front of the TV. Prop boxes can encourage imagination and prompt the children to come up with scenarios to pretend. Prop boxes are a lot of fun for the children, and they are easy to make.

How to Make Prop Boxes

Cardboard box
••• box image by Olga Shelego from Fotolia.com

Collect several large boxes of the same size; storage boxes work nicely.

Little girl dressed as a cowgirl
••• little cowgirl image by Lisa Eastman from Fotolia.com

Come up with a theme for each box, such as restaurant, library, firefighters, veterinarian, kitchen, grocery store, fairy tales, the old west, or anything else that is age-appropriate and that you think will be fun for the children.

Little boy with a fireman hat on
••• playing boy with uniform of fireman image by Oleg Berlov from Fotolia.com

Search for objects for each theme, and place them in the correct box. You can look for these items in the attic, garage sales and thrift stores. You can ask parents or businesses to donate items. Don’t always use toys for the props; children like to use the real things when they are pretending. Suggestions for your prop boxes could include various hats, old uniforms, books, backpacks, cereal boxes, and paper or canvas grocery bags.

Child drawing
••• drawing at home image by Renata Osinska from Fotolia.com

In each box include a few kinds of literacy props, such as junk mail, maps, notepads, menus, pens or keyboards.

Little boy playing with a calculator
••• junior boss. image by Einar Bog from Fotolia.com

Include various types of mathematical or number props in each box, such as calculators, registers, play money, rulers or tape measures.

For older children, you can include activity binders with suggestions of scenarios they can act out, or you can put pictures of the theme from magazines in the binders. For older kids, you also can enhance education by putting reading material about each theme in the binders. For younger children, you can put in coloring pages and activities that relate to each theme.

Decorate the boxes with pictures of the themes and a title of the theme using glue and pictures from magazines. Or you can let the kids decorate the boxes; that can be one day's activity or lesson.


Ask the kids what types of objects they would like in their prop boxes or what types of themes they would like to act out.


Make sure the items are age-appropriate. For example, do not put tiny beads, strings or any small objects in a prop box intended for toddlers.

Related Articles