Yes, toddlers love to play with the box

Steven chuckled like it was the funniest thing he had ever seen. It might be the best sound in the world.

“Again!” he cried.

It’s not often that you start wishing for a diaper change, but by then it would have been a welcome diversion.

I was still learning the nuances of being a father and, with three school-aged children, my friend Gary had become my source of parental wisdom; he was a strong supporter of the “five second rule” of abandoned food, and said he had discovered that Pink Floyd had a remarkable calming effect on small children (Led Zeppelin, not so much).

“At Christmas,” he said over coffee one morning, “just wrap an empty box. At that age, give them a toy and they’ll spend two minutes playing with it and the rest of the year playing with the box.

I had come to learn that Gary was wise in many ways.

The glossy brochure arrived in the mail, along with a free copy of a parent magazine and a $ 2 coupon on a packet of Pampers. The flyer featured three Winnie the Pooh books for $ 4.95 and a new book … “for a small fee, plus shipping and handling” … each month.

“Cancel anytime,” the brochure said, so you don’t have to buy 200 Pooh books by the time your child goes to college. And to sweeten the deal: “Your first shipment comes with a colorful box to hold your collection. “

We signed up.

Two weeks later, in the midst of a story about how Pooh got his nose stuck in a jar of honey, Steven became curious about what Dad would look like with a colorful box on his head; it was just the right size and seemingly hilarious, and “The Box” was born.

– Again, said Steven. Number 38, or was it 39?

It was part of our daily routine: I would sit on the sofa, he would stand on the pillow next to me, and with a playful smile he put the box on my head. I grimaced or gasped in surprise, and he laughed that toddler belly laugh. Then we would do it again… on daddy’s head, and off. On and off. On and off.

Thirty times in one sitting. Then 35. Then 40. Eventually, I would lose count.

For such an energy-efficient activity, it was exhausting.

“I think it’s time for a nap,” I suggested.

“No!” Steven would cry. He apparently thought I wanted HIM to take a nap.

“The Box” eventually became so ragged and covered in mashed sweet potatoes and whipped prune stains that it quietly vanished as a potential health hazard.

The books are now 20 years old and are in surprisingly good condition.

But there are still times when I would give anything for one more chance to hear the sound of a little boy chuckling as I sat on the couch carrying “The Box”.

Dan Conradt, a longtime Mower County resident, lives in Austin with his wife, Carla Johnson.

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