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MONDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Batteries not included, but this toy needs none

One of the latest additions to the National Toy Hall of Fame is about as far as you can get from the high-tech, multitasking and sometimes expensive gadgets many children will find under Christmas trees this season. But it will be under those trees, right beside the fancy playthings — or rather, enclosing them.

The museum in Rochester, N.Y., on Friday added three toys to the 31 previously enshrined in its collection: Jack-in-the-Box, Candy Land — and the cardboard box.

That's right: the packaging, not what's inside.

"I think every adult has had that disillusioning experience of picking what they think is a wonderful toy for a child, and then finding the kid playing with the box," said Christopher Bensch, chief curator of the Strong Museum. "It's that empty box full of possibilities that the kids can sense and the adults don't always see."

A Brooklyn printer, Robert Gair, gets credit for inventing the corrugated cardboard box in 1890. It quickly became popular for shipping, but perhaps Mr. Gair's inventiveness did not equal that of children.

The enduring popularity of the cardboard box tells us that one key to enjoying life and succeeding is to use your imagination. And the best thing a toy can do is to stimulate a child's imagination.

A child who converts a plain box into a make-believe spaceship could one day turn an idea into a novel, a painting, a play, a teaching plan, a computer program, a ministry, a consumer product, a small business or a giant corporation. Many of them already have, no doubt.

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