MarliBox: A DC Non-Profit Story

Have you ever made play dough? I was that mom fully content to buy it at Target, I had no idea it was so much work.

In the dead of February, DC’s coldest month, Bianca was wearing a tank top on our zoom call. She was literally done rolling up her sleeves, the work of kneading and mixing pigment into dough required a simpler uniform. She kept the video on as members of the Board spoke, listening while kneading in her little Zoom square, stopping occasionally to walk to the computer and share her thoughts with us in our little squares.

She has been so busy preparing these boxes, 150 of them, for the drop we made to Early Childhood Academy earlier this week. She does not want her non-profit tasks to interfere with her days with Marli and you can’t easily assemble volunteers indoors during a pandemic so the work creeped into every weekend and evening. Parenting a young child in a pandemic is already exhausting, MarliBox is a true labor of her love. I literally haven’t seen her not-kneading since December!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. When Marli was 18 months old she was diagnosed with a Sensory Processing Disorder, you can read more about her story here. They worked on incorporoating daily sensory play into her routine and found that playing with dough had a calming effect that helped Marli manage her anxiety and night terrors. As an early childhood specialist herself, Bianca knew how important this play was for all children but especially kids like Marli. But not everyone would have access to occupational therapists or the tools to help their child explore coping mechanisms. Many would be labeled as having “behavior problems”.

Bianca wanted to make sensory play therapy and social-emotional learning tools more equitable and genuinely inclusive, this is how MarliBox was born. Each box includes a book, a sensory kit and 2 crafts as well as a parent guide. The box is designed for independent, open ended imagination play.

Taking these photos safely during a pandemic meant using more long lens photography than I ordinarily would as well as many costume, location shifts and short spurts of playtime. But we did it because Marli is a trooper, a joy and even my buddy! We collected some images to start a website with and to give donors an idea of what the boxes include and, more importantly, how they are used.

How amazing is MarliBox? Check out out the website at to read more about the boxes themselves, how to donate and how you can get involved in making sensory play more equitable, especially in these educationally troubling times. Our youngest learners are so vulnerable without the community of their classrooms and without teachers and specialist care.

More on how she raised the money to make all that playdough, and where it went, very very soon. The story continues, as all the good ones do!

Do you have a small business, non-profit or service that could use imagery for helping your audience better understand what you do and how you add value? Reach out to me because I would love to help you tell your story.

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