August 24, 2004

Imaginary Play

I think the world of imaginary play is so important and am glad that my kids enjoy spending so much time there. I am always amazed at how creative they can be. During the winter months they often spend hours in a day together in their imaginary worlds. During the summer we find that time is a bit less as they focus more on active play. Still Rhiannon dresses up nearly every day and during their forced downtimes they often spend the time in creative play.

Our children wake up sometime between 6 and 7 am each morning. Ciaran is usually around 6 am like clockwork and Rhia seems to enjoy her sleep more and will sleep in until nearly 7am. We recently instituted the rule that they must stay in their rooms until 8am no matter what. They can come out at 8am once their rooms are picked up. This time has turned into some of their more creative times of the day.

This morning I could hear sounds of a fire rescue and a scene from Star Wars being acted out with his fire engine and darth vader figure. He typically enjoys cars, trucks, little people and blocks during this time.

From Rhiannon's room sounds of Areil's song wafted through the air. She has been in a doll mood lately and spends much of her quiet time playing with her Princess dolls (grandparents actually found non-barbie princess dolls) and her new beautiful American Girlish doll with her wardrobe of clothes.

It is interesting to me the choices they make. When we first had kids we thought the whole gender thing was learned. For the most part I now disagree, some of it may be learned but most of it appears to come hardwired. We raised our kids in a pretty neutral environment. Rhiannon had few dolls and we tried to focus on blocks, books, and more neutral toys. We had cars, trucks, balls and dolls for her. She would ignore the cars and trucks and balls and enjoy the dolls and dress up. When Ciaran was younger we also made sure his toys were not heavier in one than the other, but he soon was drawn to typical little boy toys. As they have grown we have let them focus more on their interests and typical gifts for Rhia seem to include dolls and dressup and for Ciaran trucks, frogs and balls.

Don't get me wrong both play dress-up, run cars around the house and play with dolls. They both enjoy musical toys, art, and toys that spur their imagination such as blocks, toy animals, and puzzles. Yet I can not help but notice that their is a natural inclination even in the types of imaginary and creative play they choose. I am not going to fight it I see no reason to. We encourage all types of play and they participate in all types of play and have a wide variety of toys to choose from and utilize. They should be free to explore and focus on some of their favorites more. As adults we do those very same things.

We do have two rules in our house that we have stuck to so far. No Barbie or barbiesque dolls and no guns. We feel pretty strong about these and I do not see the rules changing - however you can see versions of even those in our home. Rhiannon has non-barbie Disney princess dolls that she plays some similar games with and Ciaran has Star Wars figures that I know he acts out some of the same types of activities with. Still there is a difference in their play and the level of that type of play that goes on.

All in all we need to just let the kids be kids and have fun. Offer them things to spur and encourage their imagination and creative side and watch what they do with it. Give them quiet time that they can focus on this and watch them blossom. Off to make breakfast.


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