Pretend Play

Structure – it’s something that is a part of our home. We wake, eat, play, nap, eat, play, eat, and sleep around the same time every single day. Some days differ depending on plans (groceries, library, lunch dates with Daddy), but for the most part, we are structured and on a schedule. The only thing that isn’t structured is our play time. And that’s okay. But it wasn’t a few weeks ago…..

I had this huge wave of inspiration come over me about 4 weeks ago. I saw these beautiful shelves with everything Montessori and wooden on them, children interacting with the materials, and my heart skipped beats. And then sped up a few beats. And I got a little carried away.

I built these beautiful new shelves for my daughter and her works, as I felt she wasn’t exposed to enough learning materials. I planned and planned what I would put on these shelves, and one night, I placed everything on the shelves just so. And love was felt in my heart.

The next morning she came down, saw her new shelves with new materials, and started to investigate. Some things were an instant hit, other things I had a three-period-lesson with. And after she touched and investigated everything that morning, it all went back on the shelf, and she didn’t touch it again. And my heart grew sad. All that time and effort put into building and planning and losing sleep and she couldn’t care for more than one day.

And I started to worry, ‘Is there something wrong with her?’, ‘Why are other children her age so intrigued by their works and she just isn’t?’, ‘What am I doing wrong?’, ‘How do I get her to sit for these lessons?’, ‘What good is playing Barbies and Polly Pockets every single day?’, and so on and so forth.

So I ‘pretended’ with her, ‘We are going to go to school today Ruby! We have to get our school clothes on, pack a snack, get your backpack out.’ And she was super excited for it!

We came downstairs and started our day with dancing. Fun mom award anyone? πŸ˜‰ After, she started working with her knobbed cylinders. And it was beautiful and my heart was so happy! And then I did another three period lesson with her plastic geometric solids, and all she wanted to do was play kinetic sand with them. I decided to follow her lead, and we spent well over an hour molding and crafting different shapes. We named them, found different sizes, and she even corrected me on one.

And after that day, she again didn’t touch the materials on her shelf on her own. Talk about feeling defeated.

As I was scrolling Facebook one day, I saw another Mom post, “All my child wants to do is pretend play. We play Barbies all day long, and she doesn’t touch anything on her shelves. What can I do?” HHHHIIIIIIIIIIII!!!! ARE YOU LIVING IN MY HOUSE? CAN YOU SEE INTO MY BRAIN? CAN WE BE FRIENDS?

Comment after comment said, “Follow your child.” And one comment read something like this; “Your child knows what they need. If they are craving pretend play, let them. They are working things out in their mind by pretending.” Okay. Sure. I GUESS I could see that.

So we played Barbies for two hours the next day. And as I was playing with Ruby, her Barbies were resolving conflicts together, conflicts that we had experienced that morning. Her Barbie explained how we should talk kindly to each other, how we should listen, and how some things that we do aren’t kind. I had to physically pick my jaw up off the ground. Here she was, pretend playing with her Barbies, not paying any attention to the shelves I spent forever on, but working thru some emotions and lessons on grace. I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated Barbies or Facebook so much before in my life.

And it hit me; she is who she is. She has never been one to sit and learn, she just does it naturally thru the things we do in our day. I can’t force her to sit for ‘my’ lessons. But I can incorporate things into our play. When she is ready, she will seek these things out. For right now though, she needs to play Barbies and work some things out thru pretend play. (It makes total sense as we are figuring life out with a new little sister). And that is okay.

So to you and yours, if you are feeling defeated, if you are wondering why Barbies (or animals or figurines) are soooooo entertaining, if you are thinking of chucking them all in the tote and making it disappear, maybe, just maybe, you could take a moment to see what I saw.

And then you could convince your husband to build her a Barbie house. πŸ˜‰