Sunday 1 May 2016

Playing Barbies: Child-led play

Last weekend I got down on the floor, took an extended time-out from my never ending "to do list", and played Barbie's with my six year old.  Little Miss A. and I haven't had a lot of one-on-one time lately, to be honest my running 6 days a week for a minimum of an hour is slowly killing all of us but it's almost over, and recently my little girl who is usually easy going, happy to play with her little dolls and stuffies, has been completely melting down over everything.  She can't make a decision on what to wear, who to invite over for a play date, what story to read, what game she wants to play, etc.  I don't think it's all related to a lack of one-on-one time because we still spend a TON of time together but we haven't had as much evening/morning time cuddles as usual.  (I feel guilty about this but I have more/less let myself off to the hook  because this running thing is only temporary  and it's something I choose to do for me, and I need to be okay with that).


Last Sunday, I seized the opportunity to have some special play time with Miss. A.  Maria Montossori came up with a term that is wildly used in early childhood,  "play is the work of a child" and as an early childhood educator I firmly believe in this.  There are many types of play and purposes of play, but on Sunday I choose to participate in child-led play.   Anya and I went down to play Barbies and as I watched and followed her lead, once in a while I would lend a suggestion that would continue the game or provide her with a prompt.  Our friends got dressed in summer clothing, got themselves ready to host a "birthday party", which Anya had attended just the day before, and mostly her ideas were a reenactment of the birthday party she attend.  We danced to music, played limbo, sat in the pool, created a movie theater and a concession stand.  Through our time together we used other toys and materials to create  a setting, thus being creative, and problem solved together.  We built a dance floor out of our craft trays, used big blocks for benches around our pool which was from a Polly pocket set,  used food stickers to create a concession stand, ect.  We enjoyed our game for approximately 55 minutes before it naturally came to an end at which point Anya turned to me and said, "Mama you can go now."  It wasn't spoken with any sadness/regret but rather in complete contentment with our special time together.  She was ready to move on to something new and on her own.  It's difficult to find time to just play without any distractions and also to get into the mindset of imaginary play, but if you have even 15 minutes to play with your child in this way, it will open a window into their lives, their way of thinking and the way they see the world around them.  (This is not to make you feel bad if you haven't been doing this because remember at the beginning of the post I confessed how I had been spending a lot of time on my running and just day to day things.)

 Sorry the pictures aren't the best but I didn't really take many because I didn't want it to impede on our playtime. 


  1. Gobbling up your early childhood professional words and nodding my head. Love hearing what a true pro has to say about how we play with our kids!!! Great post.

  2. Thanks Dee. I am not sure about the 'pro' part but I appreciate your confidence in me. As difficult as being a mom is at times, in reality the years pass so quickly and then they are gone, well until we get to be grandparents (hopefully).

  3. Love this article. I just had an opportunity - the gift of playing school with my granddaughter. I can't wait til we can be together again to play round 2. I love the wisdom that play is the work of a child. Thank you for this thoughtful post. Following you on Bloglovin' now!!!