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Something is building at Kids Co.

(This story was originally published in installments through email from Giving Tuesday through the end of 2022)

Something is building at Kids Co.!

For Giving Tuesday in 2022, we told a very special story. We wanted to illustrate the meaning of high-quality child care in a way that was fun and easy to understand. To do this, we chose one of our kids’ favorite projects. Through our Giving Tuesday campaign, with the help of a matching gift from an anonymous supporter, we were able to raise more than $10,000! Here is the story, in case you missed it, or would like to enjoy it all again.

Something is building at Kids Co.! And we are giving you a peak behind the curtain and sharing the story of Kids Co. like never before.

Are boxes piling up?

Are boxes starting to pile up? While online shopping can be super convenient, the cardboard clutter might be getting to you! But don’t worry, we’re about to turn that cardboard zero into a cardboard hero. So, get ready to see your cardboard clutter from a whole new angle!

This is the story of the Kids Co. experience as seen through one of our most loved activities. It is a story of resourcefulness, a story of growth and development, and a story of good old-fashioned fun.


When you give a kid a box…

Have you ever noticed how young kids often love the box the toy comes in more than the toy itself? Why is that? It’s because when kids are young, they see possibility everywhere. A box isn’t just a box. It’s a starting point for a million different fun projects and adventures.

At Kids Co. we encourage and inspire a lifetime of curiosity, creativity, and wonder. We never want our kids to stop seeing the possibilities everywhere they look, and we foster that mindset in our staff too. That’s why, when we look around our centers, we don’t just see the wonderful, smart, creative, funny kids we care for each day. We see future engineers, architects, designers, builders, carpenters, politicians, civil servants, city planners, and so much more.

Fostering these future society builders means giving them safe places where they can play, learn, grow, experiment, and explore. Just what are these kids up to? And what is the deal with all that cardboard?

Play together, work together

We’ve introduced you to our future engineers, architects, designers, builders, carpenters, politicians, civil servants, city planners, and more. Our young society builders are so excited to dive into a fun and exciting project, but first…

Are you at work right now? Look around. Who do you see? Not at work? Think about your coworkers, co-volunteers, or members of your community. Are they all the same age? Of course not! Workplaces, volunteer groups, and communities are made up of a mix of people from all different backgrounds and all different ages. Each person contributes to the collective, strengthening the community with their individual contributions. Older members often bring experience and life skills, and younger members can bring new perspectives and fresh energy.

At Kids Co., we see so much value in having kids of all different ages working, playing, and learning together. That’s why each center brings all kids, from age 5 to 12, together. We encourage them to interact across age groups and to recognize that each individual, no matter their age, can bring something to the table.

For a project this BIG, our kids are going to work in teams. As they split up, we are so excited to see them mix it up across age ranges. Some of the older kids have done this project before. They are so excited to show their younger teammates how it’s done. And the younger kids’ minds are going a mile a minute as they think of all of the possibilities.

We’re building teams. We’re building community. We’re about to build something really BIG! Just what are we building?

Drum roll please…

Our returning kids have been waiting in anticipation. Remember all those cardboard boxes? With just a few supplies and a whole lot of imagination, we are about to build a thriving cardboard city right here at Kids Co. For something this big…

It starts with a plan…

When we think about activities at Kids Co., we always start with the intention. What outcomes are we striving toward? What do we want our kids to learn? Once we know where we want to go, we can figure out how to get there. For example, we wanted our kids to explore science and engineering, while also building social and emotional skills, such as teamwork, initiative, and problem-solving, and the Box City project was born.

We encourage our kids to take the same approach. Our teams are thinking about what type of city they want to build. Will everyone build a commercial building? Will there be residential buildings too? Do we want a balanced city with different services? Or do we all want to build the same type of building, like different types of restaurants?

Build it tall, build it wide

Now that we have a plan, we are just getting started. Let’s talk about choice. As adults, we make so many choices throughout the day. These choices, big and small, lead us down different pathways. Some choices are easy and others are more complicated. For kids, choices are a lot more limited. Parents, teachers, and other caregivers often limit choice because they feel it makes it easier for the kids and removes some of those “adult” responsibilities. However, choice is important in youth development because it:

  • Builds self-confidence, by showing kids adults trust and value their thinking, which facilitates healthy relationships between kids and adults.
  • Empowers kids to take responsibility for their actions.
  • Allows kids to develop and practice their decision-making process.
  • Provides opportunities for kids to learn from successes and mistakes in a safe environment.

At Kids Co., we build kids’ choice into activities, incorporate kids’ feedback into activity planning, and always give our kids the choice to opt out of our activities.

When building something as BIG as our box city, there are many choices to be made. Our teams are choosing the type, shape, and size of their buildings. Some are tall and pointy, others sprawling and boxy, and there are so many variations in between. Besides design choices, our teams also must decide how they will compromise, divide up tasks, and work together in harmony. Teachers are there to support teams throughout the process, especially as our kids face challenges.

Overcoming challenges

Things are really starting to shape up with our Box City. Our teams have been working hard putting up walls, building roofs, and more. With the help of the building supervisors (teachers), our buildings have windows, doors, and even some secret passages (shh!). We’ve been having so much fun, but that doesn’t mean everything has been easy. From the limitations of the building materials to engineering obstacles to group conflicts, there have been some challenges along the way.

At Kids Co., we embrace the challenges as learning opportunities. Tackling challenges in safe, supportive, low-stakes environments is a great way for kids to develop and practice initiative, problem solving, and responsibility. These social and emotional (SEL) skills are critical and foundational to success in school and in life. Here some challenges our teams faced and how they tackled them:

  • Two teams each wanted to build a big castle but they didn’t have enough cardboard. After talking through their options, one builder came up with a great idea. The teams combined their resources and built one REALLY BIG castle together! With their combined resources, they made a grand design, with plenty of space for everyone.
  • One team designed a really cool slanted roof design. It looked great, but it kept falling down. The team tried building supports, thinking about designs they’ve seen in different buildings, but no matter what they did, the roof wouldn’t stay up. After some experimenting, the team realized the tape they were using wasn’t sticky enough to hold up the roof. So, they talked to the project supervisors (teachers) about sourcing some stronger tape. Soon their roof was standing tall!

It is always exciting to see kids facing challenges head-on. We know these experiences will help them throughout life, and we’re pretty sure at least one of the kids in the second group is going to be an excellent engineer one day. We’ve built the foundation, but we’re not done yet.

Make it our own

Throughout the year, there are many opportunities to gather with family, friends, and neighbors. As you meet up, you probably encounter all of the joys and challenges of different personalities coming together. The diversity of character is one of our favorite things about Kids Co. Each child is unique and brings something special, and these individual personalities blend together to build vibrant communities of learning.

Did you ever notice that cities, neighborhoods, and even individual buildings have their own personality too? One of my favorite parts of visiting a new city, is walking around and soaking in the character of each neighborhood. So, now that the basic structures are built, it’s time to make this city our own. Each team is free to use whatever materials they can find to embellish and add flair to their buildings. We can’t wait to see what the finished buildings will look like!

One of our teams is working on building a menu for their sushi restaurant. They’ve decided to make different sushi dishes using air dry clay. The rolls and sashimi look almost good enough to eat.

Another group is decorating butcher paper and plans to paper their walls with their own unique design, and another is painting the exterior of their building to make it look like it is made of brick.

This city is really turning into something special. And now that each team is finishing their design, our society builders are starting to think about some BIG questions.

The BIG questions

Our city has really come together! We’ve got tall skyscrapers, sprawling restaurants, and everything in between. And we can’t forget our castle, watching over everything with its turrets and stone façade.

All of this work has definitely gotten the wheels turning. Kids are naturally curious, and at Kids Co., we encourage them to stay that way. We want them to explore and keep asking the BIG questions (and the small ones too). That’s why our lessons and projects are only starting points for learning and discovery. Each activity leaves room for our kids to explore different ideas and pathways.

Questions around city regulations, zoning, and market saturation are a few of the subjects we’ve explored.

For example, while they were designing their restaurant menu, one of our project supervisors (teachers) asked our sushi makers if taxes were included in their prices. This led to a deeper conversation around tax structure, and how it varies from place to place.

All of these discussions allow our kids to explore subjects that interest them and model the world around them through play and are outside the scope of the classroom curriculum. Not only does this make for a more balanced education, but it also helps our kids make sense of the world they live in and find passions they may not have known about before.

Look what we built

We have created entire city out of cardboard, tape, markers and whatever embellishments we could find. We have an imposing castle, a sushi restaurant, a post office, and more. We are so excited about what we have built together, and the learning doesn’t stop when the paint dries.

At Kids Co., learning is a continual process. Even after the project is completed, there are so many things to learn and discuss. Now is the time for the teams to see what the others have built and to learn from each other.

We are exploring our new city together, learning from what others have done, sharing our challenges and solutions, and getting inspiration for our next project. The learning continues.

Mine to ours

We’ve all heard the saying “sharing is caring”. By adulthood, we’ve gotten pretty good about sharing our toys, but it can still be hard to share the big stuff.

Being part of a community means sharing spaces with people from all different backgrounds, most of whom you don’t know very well. It can be difficult to navigate.

At Kids Co., while we nurture each child as an individual, we also know that each of us is part of different communities. This is true for our Box City too. While each building was constructed by an individual team, they are also parts of a whole.

Our young society builders are learning what it means to be part of a community and to share spaces. They are discussing how the city will be shared amongst all of the teams. They are setting up rules and expectations around building usage.

The teams are exploring questions such as, “Who has access to the different buildings?” and “How will we make sure the buildings stay intact during usage?” Now that we have made the shift from “mine” to “ours”, we can really start enjoying the city we’ve created.

Enjoying our new city

We’ve spent the last month building a city from the ground up. Our young society builders started with just cardboard, tape, and markers. They’ve formed teams, drawn up plans, constructed and decorated unique buildings, explored some big questions, and learned to work together in community.

Now that the hard work is done, it’s time to enjoy this beautiful thing we’ve built together! Our sushi restaurant is open for business; our castle is the perfect stage for royalty to gather; our post office is busy delivering mail; and our nooks around the city have become perfect spots for quiet reading.

This may sound like the end of the story, but there is still one more part of the tale to tell.

It doesn’t end here

Every ending is also a beginning! Our cardboard city provided our community with so much learning and fun, and now it’s time to say goodbye. While we are sad to see it go, we know it doesn’t end here!

The cardboard we used to make our city isn’t ready for the recycle bin just yet! Our society builders are brimming with all kinds of ideas about how to give it new life. They are building cardboard robots, crafting cardboard creatures, forging cardboard shields and swords, and so much more. Like we said at the beginning of our story, there are a million things you can do with cardboard.

This is the end of this Kids Co. story. We hope you have learned a little bit more about what we do and what a special place each of our centers is. We are so grateful to have you as part of our Kids Co. community. Together we can ensure that our children continue to experience the wonder, joy, and learning that comes from projects like this.

About high-quality Child Care

A high-quality child care center is a safe, nurturing environment where teachers support the development of the whole child. Teachers encourage curiosity, exploration, and learning through play. They are intentional in their planning and responsive to individual needs.

At Kids Co., our communities of learning help kids explore academic subjects like math, science, literacy, and the arts; develop social and emotional skills like responsibility, empathy, and initiative; and build strong, healthy, and meaningful relationships with other kids and adult mentors.

(This post was originally published in Nov.-Dec. 2022. It was updated in September 2023.)