Children’s books + creative play + parental attention = a proven formula to promote health, learning, and bonding.


Language development

  • Reading books aloud to children is a proven, potent means of developing language.
  • Language development requires active participation by caregiver and child, such during play or sharing a book.
  • Children can focus on books as young as 2 months old, by tuning in to a parent’s voice. No age is too young!
  • Reading a variety of books exposes children to a wider vocabulary than they would otherwise see, with a major impact on subsequent success in school.
  • Kids who grow up in homes that value reading are more likely to be readers themselves.
  • Electronic toys and videos are consistently proven inferior to interaction with real people.
“As technology advances at a broadband clip, carrying with it expectations for kids to learn and develop faster via all manner of gadgets, it’s easy to lose sight of their basic needs and nature. blue manatee boxes provide a reminder and opportunity for families to slow down and reconnect with the simple yet fundamental joys of reading, playing, and spending time together using one of the most robust learning tools yet devised — a cardboard box.”
Richard Louv, Audubon Medalist, author, Last Child in the Woods, and chairman/co-founder of the Children and Nature Network, and its blog Field Notes From the Future.
“More than a new electronic marvel, or a new antibiotic, or (heaven help us) a new drug for ADHD, what children really need is a new way to get excited about books and to exercise their creative urges. That’s what blue manatee boxes are. Hat’s off to Dr. John Hutton and Sandy Gross for this fun, timely, and important innovation.”
Dr. Robert Needlman, M.D., Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Case Western Reserve University, revising co-author of Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care, author of Dr. Spock's Baby Basics, and co-founder, Reach Out and Read
“A blue manatee box is a perfect choice for parents and teachers who want to build a child’s learning power. Shared reading opens brain connections for attention, language development, and imagination — enduring gifts for any child!”
Dr. Jane M. Healy, Ph.D., Educational Psychologist, speaker, and author of Your Child's Growing Mind: Brain Development and Learning From Birth to Adolescence, and Different Learners: Identifying, Preventing, and Treating Your Child's Learning Problems.

Cognitive skills

  • Young children learn through real experiences, such as book sharing and creative play (with boxes).
  • Creative play such as child + parent + box stimulates imagination.
  • Creative play allows children to follow their interests, experiment, and explore.
  • Creative play engages all of the senses, and is far more robust than device-focused play.
  • Children skilled at creative play are more able to play constructively with others.
  • “Educational” electronic toys and videos tend to “outsource” the critical role of parents and caregivers, providing a false sense of security that children are learning.


  • Attention is developed through practice, such as children’s book sharing and creative play.
  • Transforming a box into a masterpiece requires sustained attention and effort.
  • Sharing a story requires sustained attention and imagination.
  • Device-centered play stimulates passive attention, inferior for memory and skill development.
  • Children accustomed to electronic toys and videos are less able to initiate play without them.
  • Excessive exposure to electronic media by children is a risk factor for ADHD.
  • Creative play and shared reading are healthy, protective, alternatives!

Sense of well-being

  • Consistently reading and playing with children are among the best ways to show that they are loved.
  • Children who feel loved are more likely to be resilient, happy, and confident, a strong foundation for success.
  • Real, interactive experiences are engaging and fun, the stuff of life-long memories.
  • Children skilled at creating their own fun are more able to self-soothe than those dependent on passive media, reducing stress and conflict — and fueling healthy families!

Research and more information

American Academy of Pediatrics Literacy Promotion Recommendations, beginning at birth
American Academy of Pediatrics Report on the Importance of Creative Play for Healthy Development