Bringing Function to Playtime


Sonotubes are a particular brand name of cardboard tube that is used as a concrete form for the construction of buildings and bridges. A sonotube is placed into the ground where the desired concrete column is wanted. The tube is then filled with concrete, which is allowed to dry. After the concrete hardens, the tube is cut away to reveal the molded concrete column. Concrete columns created by sonotubes are surprisingly sturdy and resistant to a variety of impacts and vibrations, and can even resist earthquakes and other shifts in the earth.

While a sonotube is typically used for construction applications, one toy designer found a new use for the tubes as a children’s plaything. Entrepreneur Jeff Freeland Nelson was given a cardboard box as a birthday gift one year. Rather than resenting his parents for the gift, he considered it the best gift he ever received. Everyone knows the saying that children often prefer playing with a toy’s packaging to the toy, and Nelson was no exception.

When he grew up, he realized that there could be a huge market for selling cardboard products to children as the building blocks for large-scale creative play. He founded the company Play From Scratch, which sells cardboard box and tube packages containing a variety of cardboard box shapes and sizes. The company sells a variety of cardboard boxes with shapes cut from the sides to build forts and tunnels, and also sells round sonotubes and other cardboard tubes to create a variety of other projects as well. If children are stumped creatively, they can purchase a card game that offers suggestions on what to build, such as a robot head or life-size castle.