It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Barf and death and baby brothers: the world according to Emily

Emily chatters. Chatters and talks and babbles and discourses. Explains and complains and explicates and expounds. Ceaselessly. Well, except when she sleeps, thumb planted firmly in her mouth.

But apart from that? Oh, how the words flow.

For richer:
“Did you have a Christmas at your house, Anna? You did? That’s good. So did I. That’s because we are rich, and we have lots of money for special Christmas things.”

For poorer:
“Some people doesn’t has lots of money for Christmas. Like the little piggies. One little piggie was going to build a house out of straw, but that was a dangerous house for the Big Bad Wolf to blow down, and he bought it because he was poor and didn’t have no money for a strong house.”

In sickness:
“And when I frow up inna night, my mummy brings a bowl so I can get it all inna bowl and not inna bed. And she takes the frow-up and frows it inna toy-yet.”

And in health:
“My baby bruzza didn’t frow up yet. My mummy has a bowl in his room, just in case, but he isn’t frowing up in it yet.”

To love and to cherish:
“And that is good, because I don’t want my poor baby bruzza to have to frow up like I did because he is just a baby.”

Till death do us part:
“When you gets very old and you gets sick and you will die and be gone forever. And then sometimes that makes the other people sad, because they will miss you lots and lots and lots and it’s okay to cry if you’re missing someone, but they are not sad and hurting any more.”

I wasn’t even at a wedding today, but I got all teary anyway.

January 7, 2009 Posted by | Emily, health and safety, the things they say! | , , , , | 10 Comments

Non-toy playthings

When my eldest was three, she had a “doctor box”. I’m not quite sure how it earned that name, but that’s what it was.

The doctor box was in fact a shoe box, filled with … oh, this and that. A lot of it came from the kitchen: plastic measuring cups and spoons, a funnel or two, a mesh strainer. There was often a (carefully washed) pill-bottle or two in there. (Maybe that’s where the name came from?) Fabric scraps, a belt buckle, a handful of jigsaw puzzle pieces, a couple of polished rocks, a feather. You get the idea. It was just a collection of interesting stuff. Interesting to a three-year-old, at any rate.

The contents of the box were not static. Some things were returned to their orginal spots, or used in crafts, or just lost somewhere. Other things were put in.

Whatever its contents, the doctor box was the favourite plaything for months and months. I could take it on car trips or trips to the doctor (maybe that explains the name?) or anywhere there’d be an otherwise boring downtime, knowing that the wonders of the doctor box would keep her happily occupied for as long as necessary.

Sometimes she was a doctor (name?), sometimes she was a chef, sometimes she was a fireman. (Not “fighter”. She was a fireman.) Sometimes the items in the box had personas and characters: they tended to squabble amongst themselves a lot, the strainers and the feather and the rocks. A lot of chatter, a lot of imagination, a lot of very happy hours were passed with the doctor box.

It was the best money I never spent.

I take a similar approach to the daycare. People often assume that, as a daycare home, I must be overrun with toys. It’s true, I have more toys stored in my dining room than the average mother of teens and a twenty-something! But I’m quite, quite sure I have far fewer toys kicking around than many (most?) homes with only one toddler. In part, that’s simply practicality: I have a small house. I do not want piles of multi-coloured clutter toys littering my home. I do not want them, but, even more to the point, children do not need them.

Children do not need great mounds of toys. I am convinced that children with shelves and closets and cupboards full of toys are poorer at amusing themselves, and more in need of distraction, than children accustomed to fewer toys. Just because they have fewer toys does not mean they play less! They just play differently. One might argue, more creatively, using more imagination.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s discovered the glories of the non-toy. I know I’m not because the writers and commenters over at Unclutterer have come up with a lovely long list of toy alternatives. Don’t stop with the post. The commenters have a ton of good ideas!

One might note that a significant number of these non-toy playthings look to the adult eyes like work: sorting socks, making cookies, straightening the fringe on the carpet. Not to the child! With these kinds of activities, the children’s play is not something remote and unconnected with the Real Life of the household, but is, instead, part of it. This sort of children’s play models adult behaviour, helps children feel part of the family, gives them real, productive tasks in which to take pride. It builds self-esteem.

It is we adults who have decided that “play” is by definition frivolous, with no agenda but the activity itself. For children, play is how they make sense of the world around them. Everything and anything is play fodder: colouring, singing, sorting socks, putting dirty dishes in the sink (non-breakable, at this age!), blocks, puzzles, washing the car, counting to ten, sweeping up the dried leaves that fell off their leaf belts. Play is not frivolous, it is practicing life.

Life. Work, recreation, even conflict. It’s all fodder for play.

My, I’ve wandered from my original idea… All right, given that we needn’t feel guilty for “only” baking with our kids and “only” letting them help with chores, rather than playing with them; given that you can choose not to spend a heap of money on a mound of toys… Given all that, how does this manifest in your home? What are some non-toy playthings or activities that your child particularly enjoys?

October 9, 2008 Posted by | crafts, daycare, Developmental stuff, socializing | , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments