Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pretend Play!

When I was a little girl, I spent countless hours holed up in the basement with my sisters, playing house between several bedsheets strung from the wooden beams in the ceiling. The basement transformed instantly from a concrete cave into the most spectacular place to "play house." Since it was rare that boredom was a good reason to watch TV, we were often shooed to the basement to get lost in a good old game of make-believe.

As a kindergarten teacher, I really feel that our kids lack imagination today, and cannot encourage parents enough to deter their children from the TV long enough to invent a make-believe game that requires more thought than pushing a button repetitively. Who needs to swashbuckle pirates on a game console, when a wooden spatula, old bandana, and a shoebox of old pennies can suddenly make you Ye Pirate of the Blue Sea defending his treasure from his tyrant of a brother? I mean, seriously, we need to encourage our kids to do this kind of stuff.

At a recent education conference I attended, it was called to my attention that children even have trouble independently visualizing an image because they are constantly bombarded with eye-candy from multiple sources. The shows they watch, the games they play, and the digital images on the computer all lend themselves to a lazy imagination. Think about this for a second: if you're waiting in a doctor's office and poor mom had to drag along her school-aged child, is that child enthralled in a chapter book or pecking away at his Nintendo DS, oblivious to his surroundings. I'll take Nintendo DS for $1000, Alex.

And here's the worst: Mom, Dad, and child out to dinner at Bob Evans, and no one is talking as they wait for their meal. Mom and Dad alternate sips of their iced teas, while child avoids all human relation in exchange for beating Mario Kart. That is RIDICULOUS you all.

My point is this: Kids need to play. They long to play. You need to make them play. And by play, I don't mean tethering them to their X Box live where they play virutally with their neighbor three streets away.

Arrange play dates. Encourage inventive behavior. Buy toys that promote imaginative play.

Take for instance the Grande Gourmet Corner Kitchen recently released by KidKraft. How many of you played house or restaraunt? (Me, me, me! Raising my hand real high!) My sisters and I played this frequently - and toys have obviously come an awful long way since I was little (not that I'm old or anything because I'm so not.) Would you not have died to have this little kitchen as your very own?! I mean -wow- this thing is every little kid's dream! From the pastel pink detailing to the cute cloth curtains hung behind the sink, I can only imagine the fun that could be spent preparing pretend cupcakes or pbjs here. You can run a load of clothes in the built in washer/dryer combo, bake a batch of cookies, and boil soup on the stove all at the same time. If looks aren't impressive enough, the wooden construction along with the fact that it can fit in the corner of a room, will surely require a second glance. Plus, cute little metal accessories are included so that your little one can play along with you as you work in your own kitchen.

Playing house is only one of many activities that children could play with this kitchen - think restaurant, lemonade stands, or bakery! The possibilities seem endless, and I really think that this type of toy is educationally sound. It promotes creativity, socialization (it's big enough that more than one child can play at a time), fine motor skill development, and fosters independence - a skill that is important when the I'm sooooo bored's hit on snow days. And it beats sitting in front of a television any day.

This particular piece is currently priced at $194.95 and seems to be comparable to similar play toys. Be sure to check out Pretend Play Kitchens to see this play kitchen along with a great variety of other play kitchens that come in multiple colors.

Whether or not you're in the market for a sweet little kitchen, I beg of you, as the potential kindergarten teacher of your child, please encourage your child to play! The benefits of pretend play are worth your investment toys that encourage just that.

Sooooo, what was your favorite thing to play pretend when you were little? Were you stringing up sheets like me and my sisters were in 1992? Or were you riding your big wheel all over kingdom come in search of bad guys?

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