I had to remind myself of something today. There are no rules to toddler play. Now, obviously, I don’t want my daughter playing with a real stove or running around the house with a pair of scissors. She shouldn’t throw her toys or hit people with them. But when it comes to imagination – there should be no limitations.
Let me preface the following by saying I tend to be kinda anal retentive. (My friends are probably thinking “Kinda?!”)
So what made me think of this? Well, Lydia was playing with her Duplo blocks today. She had a set with different zoo animals. When she played independently, all she did was stack them all vertically. I sat down to play with her, and we made a zoo together. I got out the flat green base to build on, I placed the entrance to the zoo on one side of the green base, and I began to make different areas for each animal. The elephant had grass, the giraffe had trees, the lion had a tall wall so it couldn’t escape, and the polar bear was surrounded by white and blue blocks to look like ice…er…until Lydia put an off-white block, a tan block, an orange block, an eye block, etc. WHAT?! Tan and orange are not ice-looking colors. Polar bears are not found in areas with those colors. What is she doing??
Oh, right, she’s 2 years old. She’s doing what 2 year-olds are supposed to do – Being creative! She’s using her imagination, without limitations. While age may teach us to be more artistic as we learn to draw, paint, sculpt, etc. better, age also limits our imaginative creativity. Lydia doesn’t know that polar bears live in the snow and snow is generally white, so the polar bear area in our fictitious plastic zoo should be white. She doesn’t have those boundaries. Her play goes beyond what we know to be true. Why should my knowledge of “facts” and “rules” limit her endless imagination? It shouldn’t.
So when Lydia laid the cookies on the pan out of “order” (you know, from left to right in rows), I had to stop myself again. Her cookies can go in any order. She doesn’t have to worry about them touching one another while cooking or not being able to fit the entire batch on a sheet pan. She’s pretending to make cookies. This doesn’t even require a pan or objects that even resemble cookies.
For us parents who often limit our thoughts to those that are more concrete…
REMINDER: There are no rules to toddler play!