Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The Power of Play

A friend and I were discussing this book the other day. She has no children of her own right now, but she is a preschool teacher and was very interested in what Dr. Elkind had to say. Having not read the book, I couldn't comment on it, but the discussion we had was very enlightening.

She told me that her students don't know how to play.

What do you mean they don't know how to play? They are four year olds...isn't that their job?

These children don't know how to play she insisted. They don't create games in their heads. They don't invent stories. If they do act out a story, it is simply a recreation of a cartoon they saw. They have no imagination.

To say that my mind was instantly filled with sympathetic thoughts for these poor neglected babes would be well,... a bold face lie. To be perfectly honest, at this point, I was doing a little mental check.

Do my kids know how to play? Do they create games on their own? The oldest three have traipsed through the trimmed branches in the backyard pretending to be Peter, Susan and Lucy traveling through Narnia (poor Edmund gets the raw end of the deal doesn't he?). Does that count? They haven't all read the books but they have watched the BBC productions. Is that the same thing? Oh great, I've ruined them already! Well that didn't take long. What do I do now? Help!

This Mental Breakdown Moment was brought to you by the makers of Anxiety and Worry and now... back to our regularly scheduled sanity.

My kids play! Oh, boy do they play. The fact that they play all over the place is often times the greatest source of frustration for the Donna Reed who lives in my head. Yeah, she's in there. OK, so she spends a lot of time locked in the dungeon but she's still there with her pearls on vacuuming the place in high heels.

One of the Easter surprises awaiting my kids are the little doodads you see here:
"What are they?" you might ask. No? Well, I tell you anyway. They are hand puppet accessories. Crazy hair wigs, silly hats, crowns for the nobility, Easter hats, a cowboy hat and two little mustaches that could be sinister or dignified depending on the circumstance.

You see...my kids have created a whole imaginary world called Hand World (all right, not the most creative title) where their hands talk and walk hop, play games and act out stories. They have created a multitude of characters with unique personalities and different ways to express emotion by changing the position of the last two fingers. It was actually Shortcake's idea and the other two have run with it. Even BigBoy will make his hand "puppet" talk and do silly tricks.

At first, I thought it was cute. Then...it got a little annoying. We gave them some lovely "real" puppets for Christmas that we thought would make them stop direct their creativity in a new way. Didn't work. We are constantly being instructed on the variations. The Professor has all sorts of rules for hand puppet battles; how they explode, what happens when they fly too close to the sun, etc....Then my daughters started taking their doll clothes and creating costumes for their hand puppets. They even use their dolls' hair to make hand puppet hair by holding the doll upside down on top of their hand.As the old saying goes...if you can't beat 'em, join 'em! I just know they are going to get a big kick out of these little doodads. It has taken every ounce of strength I can muster to keep them hidden.

I have to admit that I had a lot of fun coming up with the ideas for the accessories and then trying to figure out how to make them. I got a kick out of being creative and spent a lot of time tossing designs around in my head. I really enjoyed scouring the stores looking for miniature things and trying to envision how to attach them to a tiny hand. When I finally sat down to transform idea into reality, I felt a bit like the shoemaker's wife with needle and thread, creating something, performing a little act of love, for the tiny people who have given me so much.

That is the power of play.


  1. I love that book! Actually I love all his books!! Its a shame that childhood as changed so much that playing has to be safeguearded. Another reason why I homeschool!!

  2. Oops, I really should proofread first. I meant "has" changed and "safeguarded." ;-)

  3. Adorable!What a great (if potentially annoying) game your kids have going!Love the accessories!

  4. Theresa,
    We have set limits on when the hand puppets can join us and when they can't. That seems to have cut down on some of the annoyance.

  5. Great - now I'm wondering if my kids know how to play. The Anxiety and Worry monster has entered the building!

    BTW - looks like your kids will have lots of fun.

  6. So creative! Love it! Your children do indeed know how to play!

  7. How could your children not know how to play when they have such a fun, cool mom? But that comment of your friend's is very sad.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts and yourself!