Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Fulfilling the Right Desires

Our local grocery store has a playhouse, pretend kitchen, and child-sized picnic table plus some pretend food toys to go along with it. I try to make time for the children to play there every time we go together. It is a nice place for them to try out their communication skills and for me to sit on a cushy couch instead of a park bench.

One day, when my son was at preschool and it was just the girls doing the grocery shopping and food prep play, my daughter became so immersed in her work that it was hard to pull her away. When it was time to go she came to me and said, "I want a playhouse at home." First, I panicked. I love to listen to my children's desires and think of creative ways to surprise them with the things of their dreams. But a playhouse was not likely a wish I could fulfill. Then I realized that I may not have heard and understood what she liked. I asked for clarification. "You really like playing here. What is so important to you that you want your very own?" Her answer surprised me: "The cookies."

The cookies were Melissa and Doug Slice and Bake toy cookies. Again, I asked for clarification. "What do you like about the cookies?" Her answer? "The sprinkles on top." That I could do! I fact, I had been saving can tops in our engineer's stash for a rainy day project. So when we got home we got busy making our own cookies.

First, we needed circular cookies. Lids from various containers were perfect.

Next we needed frosting and sprinkles. I had Anna help me trace each lid on some frosting-colored paper. I did most of the cutting while she put on the sprinkles, which were puffy shape stickers from the Art Cart.

When Mikey got home he wanted to make some cookies too. He topped his cookies with frosting and multimedia sprinkles (pink paint, pink sprinkles and pink sticker). In the end, we were left with a handful of cookies with sprinkles and had had a nice afternoon of keeping busy with purposeful play. And yesterday Anna took the cookies she had made out of the "food play" bin and had fun with them. It made me wonder if playing with reminded her of our day when she spoke, when I listened, and how that conversation led to a fun project and toys she can be proud that she helped make for herself. I certainly remember.

Plastic container lids are the easiest thing to wash and store for a project. But the tops from canned goods are a great size, too. I remember can tops with edges so sharp that they were a hazard. But a new can opener is available and it affords new materials for preschool play. The OXO Good Grips Smooth Edge Can Opener cuts the can lids off beautifully and leaves us with a nice little circle for preschool play. They can be money, cookies, airplanes...anything really! Like many slow toys can tops afford play opportunities that are limited only by one's imagination. Plus, I use the bottom container part of the can for holding pencils, scissors, markers or paintbrushes in my Art Cart.

So this post is about many things: a craft project, a new kitchen tool, and, most importantly, practice in listening to a child. Had I not taken the time to follow up on my daughter's first declaration of wanting a playhouse you might have found me scavenging the local Recycle store in search of materials for a DIY backyard building project. You might have heard me exclaiming frustration over hammering my thumbs or not having straight lumber. Instead, because I have been practicing and practicing and practicing listening to my children I am able to tell this story about how a child's ideas can bless us with innovation and fond memories.

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