So, there I was, minding my own business when suddenly I found myself aboard a ship. I was informed by the captain that we were in the Atlantic Ocean and heading for England.
Although still a little confused, I ran around the deck for a few minutes gathering some essential items to perform my new chosen role of ship’s navigator. I went to the study to gather the globe, the bookshelf offered a book called “Ocean Anatomy” and “The Glow in the Dark Night Sky Book” (as well as "Whales" and "I am a Narwhal"), I rushed to the porthole and grabbed my binoculars from the hook. The captain hollered that a storm was coming and I better settle down and get into the cabin for the time being. It was only about a 2ft x 2ft square area, so it felt quite cramped, but the storm blew over quickly. We stepped out onto the deck to view the stars. I pointed out a few constellations that we were seeing in the wide black sky. Then I used my book, my binoculars and my globe
to steer the ship to the port of Brighton, England as I was directed. The captain said we were on our way to meet Great Aunt Clara and we could not be late. I tried to ask what was so urgent but he became easily distracted by a whale off the port side. We cracked open “Ocean Anatomy” and identified the whale as a humpback. After that we settled into the rhythm of the sea for 5 or so minutes talking about the weather, when suddenly land came into view. The captain was sure he could see Great Aunt Clara standing on the rocky shore waving in her yellow dress. We dropped anchor, lowered the dingy and climbed in. Then it was off for a ski.
**This play session occurred during a month long home school study we were doing called Stellar with the @childoftheredwoods Constellation group.
The Dilemma of Playing Pretend
In my casual conversations with friends and family, we have so often talked about how difficult it is to play “pretend” with our young children (ages 3-10). This is especially true during a period of isolation where few children have the opportunities to take a deep dive into their creative worlds with peers.
Research on child development and the importance of play is clear. Play is not optional for the child. Pretend play is how children explore the world of language, learn to navigate social relationships, make connections between concepts they are learning from every aspect of their life, and work through their emotions.
So what are you to do?
I, like everyone else, have to remind myself daily that even 5-10min of pretend play about any topic at the child’s request creates a connection between us and sets them up for continued independent play.
Have good resources for sparking pretend play that you feel like you can join in on! Add in some real looking animals and buy a field guide, or choose any topic and provide real life “characters” to bring into the play. Leave out binoculars, maps, and dress up items that you can grab in a moment to start a new idea and/or build on an idea that your child has initiated. Your resources could even include a photograph or piece of music that ignites the imagination. These examples allow you to enter your child’s world a little more easily and provides fodder for them during future play sessions.
Teach your child the “yes and” principle. Each time one of you has a new idea that could be incorporated into the play, do it! The play will grow, change, and become more complex, and you will feel much more invested.
Spruce up a home school lesson or family chore by adding elements of pretend. Learning about animals, maybe you are wildlife biologists today...folding laundry in your living room, perhaps you are at the laundromat instead.
Try a few of these suggestions and perhaps you too can sail to England on a ship and navigate using the stars, take an expedition to the arctic and drive an icebreaker, become snow scientists who study and build models of snowflakes, or fold your laundry with Big Bird.