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Monday, October 5, 2009

Pretend Play!

When I was a little girl, I spent countless hours holed up in the basement with my sisters, playing house between several bedsheets strung from the wooden beams in the ceiling. The basement transformed instantly from a concrete cave into the most spectacular place to "play house." Since it was rare that boredom was a good reason to watch TV, we were often shooed to the basement to get lost in a good old game of make-believe.

As a kindergarten teacher, I really feel that our kids lack imagination today, and cannot encourage parents enough to deter their children from the TV long enough to invent a make-believe game that requires more thought than pushing a button repetitively. Who needs to swashbuckle pirates on a game console, when a wooden spatula, old bandana, and a shoebox of old pennies can suddenly make you Ye Pirate of the Blue Sea defending his treasure from his tyrant of a brother? I mean, seriously, we need to encourage our kids to do this kind of stuff.

At a recent education conference I attended, it was called to my attention that children even have trouble independently visualizing an image because they are constantly bombarded with eye-candy from multiple sources. The shows they watch, the games they play, and the digital images on the computer all lend themselves to a lazy imagination. Think about this for a second: if you're waiting in a doctor's office and poor mom had to drag along her school-aged child, is that child enthralled in a chapter book or pecking away at his Nintendo DS, oblivious to his surroundings. I'll take Nintendo DS for $1000, Alex.

And here's the worst: Mom, Dad, and child out to dinner at Bob Evans, and no one is talking as they wait for their meal. Mom and Dad alternate sips of their iced teas, while child avoids all human relation in exchange for beating Mario Kart. That is RIDICULOUS you all.

My point is this: Kids need to play. They long to play. You need to make them play. And by play, I don't mean tethering them to their X Box live where they play virutally with their neighbor three streets away.

Arrange play dates. Encourage inventive behavior. Buy toys that promote imaginative play.

Take for instance the Grande Gourmet Corner Kitchen recently released by KidKraft. How many of you played house or restaraunt? (Me, me, me! Raising my hand real high!) My sisters and I played this frequently - and toys have obviously come an awful long way since I was little (not that I'm old or anything because I'm so not.) Would you not have died to have this little kitchen as your very own?! I mean -wow- this thing is every little kid's dream! From the pastel pink detailing to the cute cloth curtains hung behind the sink, I can only imagine the fun that could be spent preparing pretend cupcakes or pbjs here. You can run a load of clothes in the built in washer/dryer combo, bake a batch of cookies, and boil soup on the stove all at the same time. If looks aren't impressive enough, the wooden construction along with the fact that it can fit in the corner of a room, will surely require a second glance. Plus, cute little metal accessories are included so that your little one can play along with you as you work in your own kitchen.

Playing house is only one of many activities that children could play with this kitchen - think restaurant, lemonade stands, or bakery! The possibilities seem endless, and I really think that this type of toy is educationally sound. It promotes creativity, socialization (it's big enough that more than one child can play at a time), fine motor skill development, and fosters independence - a skill that is important when the I'm sooooo bored's hit on snow days. And it beats sitting in front of a television any day.

This particular piece is currently priced at $194.95 and seems to be comparable to similar play toys. Be sure to check out Pretend Play Kitchens to see this play kitchen along with a great variety of other play kitchens that come in multiple colors.

Whether or not you're in the market for a sweet little kitchen, I beg of you, as the potential kindergarten teacher of your child, please encourage your child to play! The benefits of pretend play are worth your investment toys that encourage just that.

Sooooo, what was your favorite thing to play pretend when you were little? Were you stringing up sheets like me and my sisters were in 1992? Or were you riding your big wheel all over kingdom come in search of bad guys?


Unknown said...

House by far. I had a full kitchen set in which I spent a ton of my time. My puppy was my baby and my sisters and I would dress her up. Our front porch swing was our car and we would make driving noises as we swang it back and forth on our way to drop our baby off at daycare!!

Play is so very important! Great post

Lea Liz said...

I'm with you girl!! I don't even want Brody to know what Xbox and Wiis are for a long time!!

I loved to play house with my babies.. loveed it that's all I did literally until I was in like the 7th grade no joke...

Northern Mama from the South said...

OMG, I teach sixth grade and I see the lack of imagination. Kids want you to tell them topics so that they can write about them. They want you to list things out for them rather than letting them prioritize. It's sad how mechanical some kids are. I refuse to be that way with our kids and my students.

Resturant was totally my favorite, along with being a vet- our poor dog!

KateB said...

great post Abby! It is so sad what kids are allowed to do. Since we lived on a farm with about 7 acres of woods, we would always play Cowboys and Indians. Us girls would dress up and make "mud pies" for the boys. We would spend HOURS out in the woods playing. We were not allowed to watch TV, period. I totally agree with everything said is all to sad to see kids today and how "um-imaginative" they are.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't even read all of your post because as soon as I saw the picture of the kitchen I had to google it...we decided that Sam's "big" christmas present is going to be a big pretend kitchen and I have been desperately searching for options. I saw the pic and was like AHA! So...thanks!!!

I'll go back to reading now :)

Anonymous said...

I'm with ya. I will always be a teacher at heart and I see the lack of imagination in so many youngsters. Thus, Baby Faith watches doesnt watch TV(except for Regis and Kelly) :). My all time favorite thing to play was school. I had the dry erase board, old teacher's edition books, everything!

Duet Diva said...

My brother and I used to joust. Thats right, like Medieval Times. We turned long PVC pipe with tennis balls on the end, into some pretty awesome jousting rods that we used to temporarily impale each other as we rode fast on our bikes.

I guess you could say we took the Camelot thing a bit too far.

PS- I was also super girly and actually birthed my baby dolls. Tee hee hee:)

Anonymous said...

P.S. When I was little I used to strip the sheets of my bed and wrap them around me like a toga/gown/cape and pretend I was a princess and dance and spin all around my room. :)

Millicent said...

How cute!!! thanks for posting the review!

Nat said...

We used to play "Sherwood Forest" which was just the name of our neighborhood where we played house in my parents backyard!! My dad my a trail with a bunch of big cleared out pieces of land and those were our houses!! It was soo much fun I have some of the best memories back there! It was that or Barbies we had about 50 Barbies between me and my sister!

Kids, Canines, and Chaos said...

I'm a little behind in my reading.. but I was ALWAYS playing school. I graded papers, I taught my stuffed animals and pets. I even used our big french doors with paper taped to the opposite side and my washable markers on the windows to be my "chalkboard". You're exactly right, this generation of kids have NO imagination. When we do "visualizing" as a reading strategy, they have no idea how to make a picture in their head.