Families who visited the Naperville museum's art studio joined in the far-reaching, simultaneous events by playing with cardboard and turning it into drums, space ships, Halloween masks, "Star Wars" characters or whatever their minds could imagine.
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The museum participated in the Day of Play and the Cardboard Challenge as a way to encourage critical thinking and creativity while playing, said Marcia MacRae, interdisciplinary arts specialist.
MacRae and art studio staff provide all the materials for kids who come to create projects, but she said it's often the simplest ingredients that turn into the most inventive masterpieces.
"The week we put out newspaper and masking tape with scissors, we get more creativity than we will any other week of the year," MacRae said.
Simple but adaptable building blocks also let kids develop basic engineering skills.
"The critical thinking skills that something like this builds are key," MacRae said.
Luke Brand, 6, of Elk Grove Village was building an Imperial Walker from "Star Wars," so MacRae said he had to employ analytical thinking about how to build the vehicle's legs and attach them to the large cardboard box he used for its body. Luke cut holes in the bottom of the box, inserted paper towel rolls into the holes to serve as legs, and used tape and glue to secure them.
Meanwhile, his 3-year-old sister, Vivian, turned a cardboard oatmeal container into what she called "a drum collage" by cutting and gluing several vertical sections of patterned fabric onto its exterior.
Friends Marcie Sprawls of Aurora and Selena Carter of Montgomery brought their daughters to the museum's art studio, where their cardboard creativity spawned Halloween masks.
"It's scary," 2-year-old Taylor Carter said as her mother held up a completed mask with crayon-drawn lips and eyes and a few colors of yarn for hair.
Even when it's not Worldwide Day of Play, MacRae said, parents should remember elaborate toys aren't always necessary to spur a child's imagination.
"We want parents to get the idea that you don't always have to go out and buy something fancy," MacRae said. "Sometimes you can use cardboard, and you have this at home."