The magic box: a method to improve relationships with children

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The magic box: a method to improve relationships with children

La magic box offers the child the opportunity to immerse himself in his own inner world, to observe the other and to enter into a relationship with their own emozioni, even those negative. An object that the educator, the psychologist but also the parent, can easily learn to use in their own way, starting a new relationship process with the little ones, facing any topic and encouraging their ability to express themselves. Giovanna Parimbelli, psychologist, educator and coordinator of the La Stellina nursery, has been using it since 2005 as a daily work tool. In the book "The magic box", published by La Meridiana, explains its meaning and use.

In this article

  • The magic box: what it is
  • What to put in it
  • How to use
  • Help to deal with painful situations
  • Magic box and psychological approach
  • How it looks and how soon to remove the objects
  • Magic box: practical advice for parents

The magic box: what it is

What is the magic box?

"This is a very valuable tool for several figure educative. The magic box, as I understand it and use it, is not an entertainment or animation tool, but a vehicle for report, for an activator of critical thinking it's a facilitator di relations. In concrete terms, it is a simple box. Any box can become magical. Mine is made of wood, so you can't see the contents: inside there are many objects that I partly collected during mine travel, In the markets, there are the toys of my children and objects that friends and acquaintances have given me ".

What to put in it

What should you put in it, even according to the age of the children?

"Anything. There is no list of objects or a type of objects more suitable than others. The composition of the magic box must start from narration you want to activate and, when necessary, give it topics that you want to deal with, as I will explain when talking about its use. In general, I choose objects with which children can become familiar. Puppets, puppets, pets, puppies, perhaps with some particularities from which to start to explore even complex topics such as integration, the separation, diversity, the disability. The concept is that everything can be accepted. "

Read also: The importance of the game to "learn" emotions

How to use the magic box

How is the magic box used?

"I use it in different contexts: it has to be adapted according to the purpose and also to who uses it. Normally, I extract an object and start telling a story. For example, during the quarantine I used a small dog closed in its kennel: it could only look out the door, or take a stroll outside depending on the epidemic. In the months of lockdown I have chosen to be daily online using the magic box to talk about many complex and tiring issues that we were living closed in our homes, and the feedback was very positive. In the magic box, for example, I have a puppet of an adult with two puppies to help a child cope with it separation of parents: the little ones live in the home of their father and mother, who are in separate houses, but their love for their children always remains. Still, a little mouse with a damaged ear allows me to talk about the sign language, a sad puppet helps me to touch the subject of emozioni, not just the positive ones, and one more monster I need to legitimize the fear".

Help to deal with painful situations

How can the magic box help deal with painful situations?

"The magic box offers positive, pleasant sensations, amazement and discovery even by talking about tiring and painful situations: the hope is that the child will find gods emotional mirrors in the objects narrated. This pedagogical device allows adults to also talk about mourning or of disease, because children need to clarity e authenticity but things must be explained so that they can understand them. So, for example, to touch on these issues you can use an object that deteriorates a little at a time and explain that, in a while, they will no longer be there. The children empathize with that pain, which becomes thinkable and real, but at the same time they experience that an object extracted later brings back serenity and amazement: the pain is there, but then there is also a way to make it go away ".

Read also: Magical thinking in children: what it is, how it works and why it matters

Magic box and psychological approach

How is it used, however, in the psychological field?

"When I use the box as a psychologist and psychotherapist in training, I try to direct the dialogue towards the issues that need to be addressed, stimulating the child to make up a story, to start a narration based on the object extracted. There are no age limits, it's like reading a book that every day allows endless narratives. With very young children it also works as a moment of amazement, calm and sharing. With i boys allows you to tackle uncomfortable topics and overcome them stereotypes in a safe context ".

Here are some practical examples of "narratives" that we find in the book (page 49)

Elephants to address the issue of separation. "Paolo is 2 years old and he is living the separation of his parents. To support him I used the elephant puppet (two puppies and an adult) and extracting it daily I started the narration: "Today my two puppies friends are at their mother's house. Yes, because their mother and their father live in two different houses. , but mothers and fathers continue to love us even if they are not with us. Our two friends can also call dad when they are with mum (and vice versa) if they miss him, they have two different rooms and play different games but love of mum and dad remains forever ".

The spider to talk about inclusion. "A little spider with eight legs of which a shorter one allows me to talk about inclusion, all with the song of "Willy the spider". It is a bit like underlining tiring aspects with pleasant and routine sensations therefore reassuring: Caterina has a muscle problem in a limb and extracting Willy the spider from my box I underline how he too has a shorter leg, but singing the song I highlight that "Willy the little spider makes it anyway and climbs up and we don't see him anymore ": he made it too".

How it looks and how soon to remove the objects

"In education I sit in land, on a carpet, with the children around me, and I take out one object at a time. The attention time it is quite prolonged, the story that starts from an object can last even more than half an hour. It depends on the situation, but in any case it is important to leave room for the narrative and the development of a thought. The timing of the reorder: the objects must be put away one at a time, in order, then the box is closed and put away ".

Read also: Parents and children: how to communicate through lateral listening

Magic box: practical advice for parents

"Every year in my facility, parents are invited to decoration without falling into gender stereotypes the magic box for their children who can propose it again to comrades, at home or even in complex moments such as hospitalizations. Moms and dads are advised not to choose their content but leave the child free to fill it, because in this way he will develop a critical thought in choosing an object that he will be able to tell a story. In this way the object also becomes an important activator of theidentity of the child: the parent takes a step back and leaves freedom of choice. Sometimes it's the parents too build it at home and use it with your children, with the desire to talk about complex topics (such as multiculturalism orinclusion) facilitated by the "magic" that this container carries with it. The magic box becomes a kind of renewable book which allows us to tell many stories, even the most complex and painful ones, which we adults have a hard time translating in a way that children can understand ".

The interviewee

Giovanna Parimbelli, author of the book "The magic box", published by La Meridiana, she is the mother of Giulia and Filippo and she is also a clinical psychologist, systemic psychotherapist in training, a graduate in education with a focus on childhood, she is a pet therapy operator and practical, according to Arno Stern's thinking, in the game of tracing. She coordinates the Montessori-inspired La Stellina nursery ( and is a training consultant in various educational services for children. Since 2005 you have started to use and deepen the magic box to make it a daily work tool. 

  • educate to emotions
  • talk to children about death
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