I do sometimes miss the endless snuggles and complete dependence on mummy, but I find much of wonder to make up for it. After the sometimes-loneliness of being a stay-at-home-mum on and off for 3 years, I do appreciate no longer having conversations where the other side is simply a bunch of gurgles, cute noises or just the odd recognisable word. My daughter holds her own, and indeed full on argues with me often, stringing several sentences together at a time - barely pausing to draw breath. I mean, I may often need Ibuprofen and a temple-rub at the end of a (very) long day, but the day has been interesting and I have more tales to tell my husband about the funny little things she has said than ever before. And her vocabulary, I couldn't be prouder of how she is developing- in fact, I love it!
But the most amazing thing of all for me is the advent of imaginary play. It started out simply enough - cuddly toys began having tea parties and baths. And when her Peppa Pig figures got castles, dance studios, playgrounds and more on her third birthday, well... her imaginary world expanded alongside the exploding mess that was taking over of my carpet. Now it's all tents, dressing up and Thomas and his friends acting out little stories on her Trackmaster set.
Babyzoid's father and I both have rich inner worlds and we are both drawn to music, literature and mental creativity (as opposed the practical creativity that seemingly helps one be good at crafting and DIY, alas). We're both thinkers, rather than doers, which might be a reason why we have both more often than not eschewed social/sporty activities for more typically nerdy pursuits (only one of us used to play the role-playing Dungeons and Dragons card game though and that was not me! :))
So how to nurture this burgeoning imagination?
One thing I am keen to do is make sure that my daughter gets plenty of downtime as free-play encourages imaginary play. Crafts, groups and sport (swimming and soon possibly dancing) have their place, but I don't want to over-organise my daughter's time. After all, if she's anything like us then she will need to recharge from activities. Having said that she could completely go against her gene pool and be a total extrovert and social animal and that will be absolutely fine. Her time at pre-school and play dates with friends ensure that she is not pushed along a particular path of her anti-social parents choosing! But signs are that she's a little bit of a homebody who likes to snuggle, read, and make up her own little stories.
Pretend play is of course not only useful for encouraging creativity, it is also an extremely useful tool for developing her vocabulary and numeracy and learning about the way the world works - and as a trained teacher I appreciate anything that has a bit of the cross-curricular about it. One of our favourite props this week has been the pretend money and shopping basket, complete with groceries from the Something Special magazine. Babyzoid finds it great fun to 'go shopping' and pay for the ingredients that she will then use to bake an imaginary birthday cake for one of her friends. We then all have an imaginary tea-party before playing imaginary party games.
Some of our other favourite activities at this point in time include:
- Playhouses built with large cardboard boxes and tubing
- Tents built from dining room chairs, throws, cushions, and old curtains
- Acting out scenes from her favourite shows and making up new stories (with or without toys)
- Making up silly songs, using her keyboard or Daddy's guitars
- Animal hospital with cuddly toys as inpatients
- Increasingly sophisticated and longer bedtime (and nap-time!) stories that explore a more complex world.
What games and activities do you and your pre-schooler play to encourage their world of pretend?