Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Fond Memories of My Children’s Imaginative Play

I am feeling a bit better (with the suspected Lyme Disease) but I still need to rest a lot. Yesterday I decided to sit in the playroom (a converted fourth bedroom) which was a disaster area. The goal was that my children tidy up the room a bit while I mostly watched from my restful place on the couch. I was too grateful for feeling better and for feeling in a right mind (no longer feeling dizzy, etc.) to feel resentful of the mess that lay before us.

We had decluttered and purged toys so many times over the last two years that there was not a lot of cr*p in the room (meaning junky stupid toys). However in May we did move the toy kitchen pieces up there (moved up from the family room) as it was not being played with any longer. It is a lovely set from Elves and Angels (made in Maine, USA) and we have no intention of getting rid of it. I couldn’t bring myself to put it into storage in the basement so up it went to the playroom. (I figure that younger children guests will still like to play with it when they visit).

My younger son asked if we could rearrange the kitchen pieces in some way so that all the pieces are together. To achieve this I had to rearrange the room. The room is set up similarly to learning centers in a Kindergarten classroom. I removed the wooden castle and wooden dollhouse from a corner and made a kitchen out of the corner.

It was so cute to see my younger son want to organize everything. This child is very organized and neat and wants everything in its right place. So we began placing the toy foods that should be frozen in the freezer, etc. He then asked for a shelf system of some kind for the dishes. I had recently received a scrapbook paper organizer from a Freecycler and went to fetch that and it is now part of the play kitchen. For the rest of the day the food play took place. It was a nice flashback to what used to be a daily occurance in our home.

The kids picked up all of the Thomas train track from the floor. They had made this layout last month when friends were visiting. I continue to be amazed that children up through the age of 12 want to play with the wooden train set and make elaborate layouts. I hesitate to move this wooden train set to storage, even though it is rarely played with any longer. Visiting younger relatives love to play with it on each visit, so for now I do plan to leave it out (put away on shelves and in the storage units).

I rounded up all the Rescue Hero toys and got them out of the room. I am taking them to my mother’s house so my younger nephews can play with them while they are there on their very frequent visits. My children will also be able to play with them when we visit there. They are not being played with at all anymore here but my younger son got upset at the idea of giving them away, so this compromise to put them at my mother and father’s house was the decision that I made.

All the little die cast cars and vehicles were gathered up and put in their bins. I weeded out some to give away.

We picked up the toy farm and lots of little animals and put them in the bin of little animals.

We picked up the plastic dinosaurs and I weeded out some of them to give away.

All in all there are two paper grocery bags worth of toys that we are getting rid of.

Toy musical instruments were gathered up and placed in their bins where they belong.

The dress up toys were gathered (some more tidying up needs to be done in that corner).

I also unearthed a few pairs of dirty socks (belonging to my sons, of couse). Yuck.

I was not feeling very overwhelmed as I don’t think at this point that we own a lot of garbage toys. What is left in that room will probably be saved (in the basement) for use with our future grandchildren. The things that are left are store-able and high quality or else are highly sentimental (either to my children or to my husband or me). Since we have the room to store it, I don’t think it is problem to save it. (On the other hand if we didn’t have the space or if we had to move to a smaller living space we’d be forced to do some more purging of the toys.)

What was most fun of all was that as the toys were sorted and put away, I saw my children playing with them and having fun with them. There was no looking down upon the toys as “they are baby toys” (things I’ve heard other kids say).

My computer used to be in the playroom and one year I did a huge volunteer job that took 10-20 hours of work on the computer each week (plus I had other duties and other online work to do). I would use the computer while they played right there in the room with me. I have many hours of fond memories of seeing them and hearing them build elaborate layouts with their wooden train set and acting out long dramas with the trains.

As the day ended, even though the job was not 100% finished, I was left with a happy feeling. I had many flashbacks of good memories of fun times that my children have had growing up. One thing that homeschooling and not using preschool has done is given my children lots of free time to play. As a parent I have chosen to also give them lots of unstructured play time. I credit my children’s vivid imaginations and their high level of creativity to the years of freedom and being given unstructured play time.

I wish that all mothers were able to raise their own children and to develop the close relationship such as I have with my children. I wish that all children could have unstructured free play time, rather than being forced to do this or that by their parents or the adults who are their caregivers. There is nothing like the gift of time, the gift of a parent being home to raise a child and the gift to allow a child to direct their own play and to have a free schedule (not over-scheduled with activities).

I hope you take some time today to play with your children today. It is good for the soul (the soul of both the parent and the children).

Some books which I have read cover to cover and that I can highly recommend are:

On the importance of free play and ‘being a child’ in the early years:

Teaching Your Child Creativity by Lee Hausner PhD (secular)

Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk by David Elkind (secular)

Please Touch by Susan Striker (secular)

On using play as a bridge to form bonds between parent and child:

Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen PhD (secular)

Books about protecting child’s innocence and letting children be children:

Saving Childhood: Protecting Our Children from the National Assault on Innocence by Michael Medved and Diane Medved, PhD (secular)

Home Invasion: Protecting Your Family in a Culture That’s Gone Stark Raving Mad by Rebecca Hagelin (light Christian content)

My children still play a lot now, but with different things. My older son would be happy to play LEGO for 6-8 hours per day. My younger son prefers to play with toys tied in to the Star Wars movies. In the last couple of weeks my older son has been playing with the K'Nex that he received in the past but was not interested in playing with much (so they sit in storage bins in the playroom in a corner). More and more my children are spending their free time reading books to themselves (Calvin and Hobbes comics, chapter books or non-fiction books, not picture books). My younger son continues to press and beg for a video game system for the television and for the newest handheld gaming contraption. They are playing the educational computer games more lately and also the computer chess-instruction program. Board games and card games are played more often now. The little die cast cars and other vehicles are seldom played with. If I had to pare down the toys, books and games in the house I could do it down to the things they play with most often. However, I am not yet ready to put away the little Hot Wheels cars and definately not the Thomas trains! I just can't do it yet!

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1 comment:

Mary Ann said...


Thank you for putting my own feelings into words. Even as I trip over the legos on my floor, I see no reason to alter my current living room - one that resembles the local toy store. And, thanks for confirming the joy in the life of a stay at home mom. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Mary Ann