The power of simple playPosted: 06/06/2014
There is a cliché that a child will receive an expensive toy and spend more time playing with the box it came in.
As is often the case, the cliché has sprung from a universal truth. While ToddlerGirl has quite a few toys, and she has lots of fun playing with them, I have definitely noticed that she will often be most absorbed in a game when it involves ‘non toys’: items or treasures that she has come across and seized triumphantly to incorporate into all sorts of interesting games.
This is most obvious when we are playing outside. On our recent holiday, she found three differently shaped leaves while we were around the pool. A long frond from a palm tree was turned into a bracelet amongst other things and the smaller two leaves became a mummy and a baby. This kept her busy for a good fifteen minutes or so! We then had to take the precious leaves with us to lunch as she couldn’t bear to leave them behind…
Back at home, she has been enjoying playing outside with a small selection of wooden blocks, off cuts from a project her Daddy is working on in the garden. They are rough, cheap wood and really not much to look at, yet earlier this evening she was happily occupied with them out on our decking for a good while after dinner.
During this time, she played with them in several different ways:
First, they were placed in a long line and she tried to balance on them.
Then, they were carefully stacked to make towers. She was incredibly pleased with herself when she managed to make one that was seven pieces high, and she even counted them all out herself, much to the delight of her mummy and daddy!
Once she was done making towers, she set the blocks up to make “a little family”, naming her own family members in the process. (I’m sure her aunt would be really pleased to find out she was assigned the slightly wonky block…!)
And after this, she laid them out to make “mick-mack” patterns. What “mick-mack” is I have absolutely no idea, despite her explanations when I asked! But it was interesting to see the symmetry forming in the patterns as she carefully placed each block.
I realised that, in a relatively short space of time, these wooden off cuts had been used by her for all sorts of different play, both imaginative and physical.
Of course, I’m not going to suddenly ditch all of her actual toys! But it did strike me that these non toy objects give ToddlerGirl something extra: the opportunity to take them and transform them through her own imagination into whatever she likes. And the power of such simple play really is quite fascinating and wonderful to watch.