Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions. Albert Einstein

I love to play. Who doesn’t? We all work for the weekend so we can relax and play. Even activities that we chose for leisure as adults help us unwind and recharge. Play does the same for children – it is a means for handling emotions, having fun, and learning in so many ways. 
We are a play-based company – dedicated to helping others learn about how play forms a child.  In preparation for a lecture we are going to be giving next year, I’ve been reading a wonderful book called “Einstein Never Used Flashcards.” The book is authored by Drs. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff and I am really enjoying it and recommend it for anyone raising or teaching children. The purpose of the book is to educate those working with children so that they can understand how a child naturally develops, how that development can be supported through play, and how and why we got to a point where our society values educational milestones so early in a child’s life.  After learning this valuable information, adults can become empowered to make informed decisions for their children on choices from organized activities to toy selection.
One of my favorite sections of this book explores pretend play or imaginative play. This has always been one of my favorite types of play because it draws on a child’s creative side.  In “Einstein Never Used Flashcards” the authors tell that pretend play has early beginnings with young infants in playing using symbols  – or symbolic play.  They state that at any place on the earth, symbols are used to represent things – both words and objects, so symbolic or pretend play is a basic necessity for all to learn.  This type of the play is also vital for language and social skills. I love an example they use to illustrate the progression of pretend play – or symbolic play. Their example looks something like this;

* 6-9 months – baby explores objects (often by mouth) to determine size, texture and other properties. A baby at this age would be doing this with a simple toy like a rubber phone.
* 23 months – that same baby might interact with the toy appropriately in a cause and effect type learning situation. She may push the buttons on that phone and hear a sound. She might also use something else like a hammer to hit the phone and make the same sound. Early play with objects like a doll (covering her up, feeding a bottle) are also common at this stage.
*3.5 years – At this age, toddlers are often pretend playing with small sets (like a farm and animals) but can use other objects (like that same old phone) for purposes other than their actual one. The example they provide is that the phone might be the cow’s “baby.”

We often see our children in single moments of time – a snap shot of today. Wouldn’t it be interesting to catch them interact with the same 3 or 4 toys every 9 months or so and compare side by side how their skills change?  I find it fascinating that simple chewing on a play phone at 6 months old is a foundation for elaborate imagination journeys later in life. If you think hard, you can almost hear how that child’s language skills progress as he/she plays.

When giving toy recommendations, my favorite piece of  advice for parents is to chose a toy that can be used at many stages of development and that don’t “do it all” for a child – in other words a “forever toy.” I’m also not a huge battery toy fan but that’s besides the point! The perfect example is blocks. They could be used similarly to the example above…mouthing, throwing down to hear the noise, stacking, building a mighty castle, being driven as a “car,” or playing the roles of two “friends” trying to decide what to do that particular day.

Looking back at my childhood, my favorite “forever toy” was a soft plain brown bear that was a gift from my sweet aunt to me in the hospital on the day I was born. I like to think of myself as a fairly creative person, but maybe that was a trait I acquired later on as I simply named him “Teddy.” I’m sure that like the baby described above, I chewed on Teddy and threw him down (his battle scars are pretty convincing evidence). I remember wrapping him like a baby and dressing him in my younger brother’s baby clothes.  He served as a security item and traveled with me many new places. He’s even been to Europe and Hawaii and spent 2 agonizing days away from me lost in a church pew. I remember even as a tween using him to do gymnastics in front on me so that I could visualize how to do a new trick. He’s ratty and worn, but he helped me learn many things, expand my imagination, and is now a reminder of many sweet childhood memories. 
                                                 A 34 year old well loved friend

Lots of childhood items dropped off here from my mother got trashed. Teddy made the cut. Apparently, he still has some magic. Tomorrow, in celebration of T week in Kindergarten, my daughter and her classmates will bring in Teddy Bears to have a sleepover in their classroom. Of all the fluffy, fancy, Build-A-Bear creations in this house of 2 girls, guess who landed the invite?  There is magic in a “forever toy” and in the power that imaginative play can bless a child with. So grab a huge box from your local hardware store and finger paint your dream house, line up the kitchen chairs and sit first class on your airplane, or open those dusty boxes and share your “forever toy” and your imagination with your little ones today.
0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *