I saw an article in the newspaper last week about kids and imaginative play. Some researchers were alarmed that kids weren't learning how to play on their own, watching too much tv and listening to their iPods too much, and consequently....well, I don't know. I didn't finish reading the article, but I suspected the findings would include something like 'let kids play more on their own, powering toys with their imagination instead of remote controls and high-powered batteries.'
I didn't finish reading it because, truthfully, I don't worry about Sydney and imaginative play. Once upon a time I did. I worried that she'd never play on her own and that I'd have to entertain her for the rest. of. my. life. Which isn't to say that I don't love playing with Sydney, I do. But I also wanted her to be able to play on her own and entertain herself. After we had her vision checked and got her glasses, she became much more willing to play away from us (maybe because she could finally see!). She even had her own posse of imaginary friends that she would pull from the mirror and "line up" on the floor. Her "friend" Dawby first visited us a year ago, and comes and goes at random times. And as for Jules, she is more than willing to wander away from us and play on her own. I'm sure it helps that she has a sister around.
Even though I don't think kids need fancy toys to encourage imaginative play, a certain selection of well-made toys can go a long way. I love blocks (even though they end up all over the place) and I love the little play kitchen that both girls are so enamored with (even though the plastic foods find their way to every place but back to the little kitchen). Several weeks ago we added another well-made toy to our collection, courtesy Parent Bloggers Network: Discovery Channel's Ready Set Learn! Lift-Off Rocket.
The timing for getting the rocket couldn't have been better. Sydney had been introduced to Little Einstein's Rocketship, and our library had just converted the Discovery Room into a science fiction exploration center. We were totally spaced out...in a good way.
As soon as we got the Lift-Off Rocket, Sydney was clamoring for me to get it out the box. She recognized right away what it was, and was "flying" it around the house in no time. The four little space critters were shuttled through the living room, zooming through the hallway, and having adventures in Sydney's room. In Sydney's imagination, the little animal astronauts would have breakfast in one of the rocket's compartments and take a nap on the fold-down bed in the other. Maybe while Commander Bunny Astronaut was talking to Houston, Commander Lamby-kins was rolling along on the space buggy exploring the little moon crater (all included with the Rocket).
It's a toy that does take a couple batteries in order to power its blast-off sounds, but it is mostly powered by imagination. My favorite kind of toy.
Turns out, the library has the exact same Rocketship in the Discovery Room, except instead of animal astronauts, they have people astronauts. Sydney was delighted to see that she could play with the Lift-Off Rocket at the library as well as at home. Because I adore our library and our children's librarians (Hooray for Ms. Karen and Ms. Connie!!), I see their endorsement of the Rocket as a good sign. True, spending nearly $40 on a toy is kind of out of our price range; however, I will say it is well-built and one of those toys whose pieces are not so small that I worry about Julianne playing with it. Jules is big on sucking on the little astronauts (I can hear them now: "Slobber monster straight ahead, Captain!"), and they have held up quite well. Also, I must mention that the product is made in China, but that Discovery Channel hasn't had any product recalls so I'm believing that it's safe. I haven't yet moved to the point of refusing to buy any toys from China, although I'm close.
I can't leave you with just a recommendation of a toy without giving you my favorite resource that will assist your kiddos in developing that imagination of theirs: BOOKS!
Some of our favorite space books:
- Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me, by Eric Carle. Monica's father fulfills her request for the moon by taking it down after it is small enough to carry, but it still changes. Very sweet.
- Beegu, by Alexis Deacon. A small, yellow creature from space finds no welcome on earth until visiting a children's playground. Good for teaching about acceptance.
- Mooncakes, by Frank Asch. We love Asch's Moonbear books--they're wonderful stories about a little bear and his love of the moon. The illustrations are simple, yet creative enough to capture a child's imagination.
Imagination, prepare for lift-off...5...4...3...2...1...Blast off!