I celebrated my daughter’s third birthday this past weekend.
She asked for a train-themed party, so of course we had to have the obligatory pink train cake (it sure felt obligatory based on how insistently she asked for it).
Although we had it at the park intentionally so the kid guests (and grown ups) could run around and climb on things, I also wanted to offer some sort of “activity” the kids could do while the parents actually sat down to relax and enjoy other adults’ company.
I grabbed four largish boxes and brought them to the park, along with crayons and stickers. I set the boxes up to look vaguely like a train, with one taped to the front box like it was a smoke stack, and invited everyone who wanted to to decorate the train as they saw fit. After they ate their cake (because, priorities), the kids all jumped into the train, from the one-year-old to the five-year-old, and proceeded to stay there for almost an hour jumping in and out of the boxes, decorating, adding stickers, often tipping the boxes over and falling out onto the grass, but laughing and getting right back in.
It was definitely the highlight of the birthday party.
I am glad that I took a chance and brought these boxes and crayons for the kids. It cost no money (I had all of these items laying around my house already), and it let the kids do some creative make believe play that they might not have gotten to do otherwise. It was something that all ages of kids could do independently or collaboratively as they so chose.
Parents lament that kids tend to like the box more than the present that came in it. I say bring on the box!
It is in our nature to pick up interesting rocks, sticks, and leaves as part of our exploration of our surroundings. Some people bring their treasures home and display them on a fireplace mantle or little shadow box.
For a husband and wife team, they have been turning their little finds into fairy houses, which is another playful way of exploring their surroundings and getting to engage in make believe play as a grown up. They are also one of the lucky few people who get to sell their play creations. They were interviewed on the Etsy blog about their creations:
Etsy: When did you make your first fairy house? And had you ever heard of one before you made one?
Debbie: I grew up writing poetry and playing musical instruments and I had always loved doing different kinds of crafts like making dolls, handmade books and cards. But no, we’d never really heard of fairy houses before we started doing this 25 years ago. At the time, our sons had just started going to grade school, and when I found I had more time to myself, I was excited to use my creative talents again. The first project I tried was making a full-size Adirondack chair; when that didn’t work out, Mike suggested that I try making a miniature chair instead. I used some materials I had gathered from a couple of acres near my mom and dad’s place in Washington, and it was so much fun I kept doing it.
Mike: We have always loved nature. When we would go for hikes, Debbie was always picking up things she found, so we already had quite a collection of wild grasses and flowers. And Debbie’s mom was our biggest mentor. She always said, “You have so much talent. I wish you would use your talent.” She really encouraged us.
How wonderful that Debbie’s mom continued to encourage to play and explore with creating these miniatures.
Have you ever built little fairy houses when you go for a walk? Or seen someone else’s creation? Do you build with LEGOs or other miniatures? Or K’nex (Connector) Sets or Lincoln Logs or other building set? Do you wish you still did? Share in the comments below.
This is a very well thought out and researched article about the benefits of pretend play, specifically creating and playing with puppets.
The [Puppet School] curriculum establishes the tenets of puppeteering education, which put educational theories about the importance of play and grit and resilience into practice.
In the beginning classes, students start to learn basic head and mouth movements, using motor skills in both hands and both arms, choreographed to pre-existing sound tracks of well-known pop songs. Students learn to articulate vowels and develop a sense of rhythm with their bodies. As the exercises advance, students learn to improvise using their own voices and hand movements, and eventually choreograph movement to material they’ve written. From motor skills, to communication and improv skills, then finally written skills, students exercise many parts of their brains at Puppet School, increasing communication between their two brain hemispheres.
According to Eric Jensen’s Teaching with the Brain in Mind, when brain signals are passed from one side to the other quickly, or when the left and right sides of bodies work simultaneously, the brain is able to function more efficiently, and the stronger the brain’s connections become—thereby improving literacy, movement coordination, processing data, and communication skills.