Struggling with what to give the little ones this holiday season? One Ohio pre-school teacher has an idea: cardboard boxes.

Peter Kaser decided to remove all the toys and other educational playthings from his classroom because he didn’t think he was getting the imaginative bang for the buck he wanted from them. Instead of tantrums and tears, the children got creative and by all appearances had a lot of fun, too. As Education News reported:

… the kids started exploring the materials and working together to build a variety of creations they dreamed up on their own. They’ve since created an igloo, a pirate ship, a rocket ship, a hotel and houses with makeshift kitchens. Subject matter from previous lessons even came into play when the children fashioned a didgeridoo out of a cardboard tube after learning about the wind instruments while studying Australia.

“I just spent so many years looking at all my teaching materials and thinking that so much of them have a preassigned value to them,” Kaser said. “I wasn’t getting the imagination out of the children that I wanted.”

A toy phone, for example, is going to look like a toy phone and function as a toy phone to most children, Kaser explained. The same goes for a cash register, or a train. But if you ask a child what he or she sees with a cardboard box, you might get 10 different answers and thus, more creativity, he argued.

Kaser said he plans to continue with the box experiment until the children no longer show interest, but so far, he said, the students are still engaged. In addition, several of the shyer children have come out of their shells and taken to leading some of the projects.