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Yes, toddlers enjoy playing with the box

Columnist Dan Conradt wraps his head around Winnie the Pooh books that come with a colorful box.

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It was either 36 or 37 -- I’d lost count. I made an exaggerated look of surprise, like someone who unexpectedly found a box on his head.

Steven giggled like it was the funniest thing he’d ever seen. It might be the best sound in the world.

“Again!” he squealed.

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

I was still learning the nuances of being a dad and, with three school-aged kids of his own, my friend Gary had become my source of parental wisdom; he was a strong proponent of the “Five Second Rule” of dropped food, and said that he’d discovered that Pink Floyd has a remarkable calming effect on little kids (Led Zeppelin, not so much).

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

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

The glossy brochure arrived in the mail, along with a complimentary copy of a parenting magazine and a coupon for $2 off a package of Pampers. The flyer offered three Winnie The Pooh books for $4.95, and a new book … “for a small fee, plus shipping and handling” … every month.

“Cancel any time” the brochure said, so you weren’t obligated to buy 200 Pooh books by the time your child went off 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 middle of a story about how Pooh had gotten his nose stuck in a jar of honey, Steven got curious about how dad would look wearing a colorful box on his head; it was just the right size and apparently looked hilarious, and “The Box” was born.

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

It became part of our daily routine: I’d sit on the couch, he’d stand on the cushion next to me and, with an impish smile, he’d put the box on my head. I’d make a silly face or gasp in surprise, and he’d laugh that toddler belly laugh. Then we’d do it again … on dad’s head, and off. On and off. On and off.

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Thirty times in one sitting. Then 35. Then 40. Eventually I’d lose count.

For such a low-energy activity, it was exhausting.

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

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

“The Box” eventually became so tattered and covered with pureed sweet potato and whipped prune stains that it quietly disappeared as a potential health hazard.

The books are now 20 years old, and they’re in surprisingly good shape.

But there are still times when I’d give anything for one more chance to hear the sound of a little boy giggling while I sat on the couch wearing “The Box.”

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

Related Topics: PEOPLEDAN CONRADT
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