But Mommy, little girls DO exist!

It was without any planning that our most recent trip to the library resulted in reading bedtime stories that assume the wonderful imaginations of our children are based more in reality that those of  their parents.  My eldest is definitely at the age where he is constantly at war within himself, trying to figure out what is real, what is play-play and what is in his best interests to believe in (i.e. Father Christmas and the Tooth Mouse).

We came home with two wonderful books:

  • “I want my light on!” by Tony Ross
  • “There’s no such thing as a dragon” by Jack Kent

I want my light on! is the story of a little princess who doesn’t want to go to bed, because she believes there are ghosts in her room, despite all the palace staff trying to convince her otherwise.  In a lovely twist, the book ends with the little ghost convincing his mom that little girls are real.

There’s no such thing as a dragon is of a similar theme, although perhaps with a slightly more poignant theme for us to take note of. The little boy’s dragon grows bigger and bigger, eventually carrying the family’s house away on his back, just so that he will get noticed, taken seriously, and that the parents will believe he is real.

These books highlight the role of imagination in early development, specifically in toddlers and preschool children.  Reading plays a vital role in the development of imaginative narrative, that the children then play out in their play routines.  While dragons, fairies, ghosts and the like show evidence of the child’s community’s beliefs, they also play a significant part in shaping the child’s world view.

What should imaginative play look like?

Between 18 and 24 months toddlers will start to play their first pretend games, acting out things that they see the adults in their lives do.  This may include talking on the phone, cooking, driving a car.

By two years, they understand that an object could stand for something else e.g. this spoon could be my “phone”.  They also like to pretend e.g. that they’re eating.  I couldn’t believe it when my husband taught my toddler to fake sleep, eyes closed and snoring and all!  It was definitely his first demonstration of understanding “play-play”.

As the child nears their third birthday they will really enter the world of imaginary play.  You can look forward to more complicated scenes: boats and railways, tea parties, fight scenes and careers start to emerge.  By age four they’ve moved from action and sound effects to complicated story lines and character traits.

So how can you as a parent foster this vital form of play in your child?

  • Read read read! Books are a wonderful way to develop imaginative skills, abstract thinking and an understanding of story lines.
  • Provide your child with props for their play time. These need not resemble anything in particular.  Old curtain rings, wooden blocks and pieces of material can be used to create all sorts of scenes.
  • Keep some old clothes for dress up and role play. These could be specific outfits from a school dress up day such as a doctor or princess, or a collection of hats, jewellery and shoes that they can use as their hearts desire.
  • Get on the floor and play! There’s a fine line between teaching your children to play on their own, and promoting their play by acting as their play partner.  If your child invites you into their story, by all means play along.  Ask questions: What happened next?  Who is this?  Who am I?

Imaginative play is such a wonderful phase of development.  Your child will develop their cognitive and social skills, as well as test out their own theories of how the world works.  It is their safe space to explore interactions, sequences and consequences.

 

The information provided in this article is intended to foster a playful spirit in homes and to provide parents with ideas.  This blog cannot replace a consultation with a health professional.  If you have any concerns about your child’s development please seek individualized advice.

Railroads and helicopters: the vehicles of bad parenting

There’s a quote up on the wall in my therapy room: “Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child”.  It’s an old folk wisdom saying.  Yes be your child’s advocate, but to what extent will they be able to cope when you’re not around?

Here’s some interesting reading for those of you who enjoy commentary on the world as it stands, and more specifically how that might be affecting the development of our children. One such book is “The Coddling of the American Mind: how good intentions and bad ideas are setting up a generation for failure” by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt.  While I must admit that I have not read the book myself yet, this is why Mark Manson’s comments interested me:

  • The book describes why kids who grew up with smartphones are emotionally stunted, overly fragile and exhibiting mental health issues at alarming rates.  Yes, mental health.  Not just square eyes like our parents told us we’d get from watching too much tv. One of our previous posts commented on this specific issue.
  • The book focuses on cultural shifts that have happened over the past few generations, and doesn’t just jump on the band wagon of why “social media is so terrible and ruining our lives”.

According the  to the review (profanity warning!), Haidt and Lukianoff argue with a lot of convincing data that adolescents today are maturing emotionally and psychologically at lower rates and later than ever before. Their main targets are:

  • The ballooning dysfunction of school bureaucracies, who are now treating kids as customers rather than students.
  • The trend of “helicopter parenting,” where paranoid parents are coddling their children, protecting them from everything that is uncomfortable and/or potentially threatening.
  • Of course our favourite: The heightened expectations for academic achievement — most childhood development happens through playing with other kids. Kids these days play less than ever before, and when they do play, they are often isolated. Instead, they’re busy doing homework and prepping for college applications, sometimes as young as kindergarten.
  • There is also the obligatory “social media is ruining everything” chapter that we all know and love.

Gwilliamsfamilyeye also reviewed the book and had the following to say: “Lukianoff and Haidt are college professors who are watching how students act and the responses of the administrations. The authors are concerned about how “safetyism” is interfering with the ability of colleges to fulfill their mission. Safetyism shields young people from the experiences which will be uncomfortable in the short term but are necessary to develop the character and antifragility necessary to handle the challenges that life will present to them. The authors recognize that life is now more stressful for children than it was in the past and that true trauma can be disabling, but the definition of trauma cannot be allowed to creep until everything that someone doesn’t like is considered trauma.”

Safetyism.  Now that’s a new term for me but one that makes so much sense, especially in terms of all I’ve been reading about how we don’t let our children engage in enough risky play.  I’m a boy mom and guilty as charged.  I hate to see them take risks.  Maybe the trick is to watch over them a little less closely.  Is it even responsible parenting to say that?

Now you might not like doom and gloom predictions, the tech vs traditional upbringing decisions you have to make for your children on a daily basis, but take the time to read the excerpt below:

 “From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty. Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted. I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either. And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then, your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship. I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion. Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes.”

To what extent does your child’s environment get adapted to cater for their needs on a daily basis?  To what extent are they being protected from risk and “trauma”, perhaps at the expense of becoming a well-functioning adult some day?

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The above article is intended to keep us open-minded as we navigate childcare together.  We all want the best for our children and find ourselves in unchartered waters.  We’d love to hear from you, but please be nice.  Any defamatory or discriminatory comments will be removed.