Sunday, April 19, 2009

Imagination explosion

Nugget hasn't been interested at all in the various Montessori-like activities that I've got around the house. She's suddenly very into open-ended, imaginative, independent play. It's great for me -- I've had enough free time to clean the guest bath and reorganize the pantry!

We have a lot of Little People toys and a set of Winnie the Pooh figures and buildings, but she doesn't go for any sort of organized pretend play. Instead, she crawls up onto the couch with blankets and various animal figures, builds herself a mountain and declares it an "elephant party". Or she pretends the couch is her bedroom. Or asks to have a large empty box put in her crib so that it can be her "worm house".

Any interference on my part in these journeys of imagination are going to ruin it, so my role has reduced greatly recently. The best thing I can do is to keep things uncluttered and organized, and to surround her with the most open-ended toys I can. Here's my and her favorites:
  • Finger puppets. I bought a pack of these at Ikea and put them in her Easter eggs. She doesn't use them as puppets past putting one on her finger and declaring, "Hi, I'm Monkey!". But they're a great, small size for her to be able to carry a bunch around at a time for various "parties", and they're nice and soft when they get left underfoot.
  • Gymnastic blocks and large balls. A friend got an AMAZING deal on a set of these blocks at a local resale store. Nugget has used them in different ways over the months -- as a step stool, obstacle course, and currently as pretend roller coasters.
  • Felt food. I made a few sets of felt picnic food a while back when I thought I was going to make and sell toys at local craft fairs. That failed, but Nugget uses her felt foods daily at her parties, to feed her rocking horse, and to make dinner.
  • Beans and rice. Yes, the small box of beans still gets daily use. In fact, 2 hours a day isn't unheard of. The sandbox full of rice gets less use, but still sees activity at least every other day.
The rest of her playtime is taken up with various things found around the house. Sometimes it's actual toys -- Little People figures or pom-poms -- but more likely it's random things she finds, like plastic Easter eggs, a deck of cards, or old greeting cards. We're pretty chill about her improvising with anything she can reach, which keeps her occupied and our stress level down.

Although there's not much news now, I've got a few things coming up. That magnetic garden I've been working on is almost done, just a few more evenings. And I've got a pile of Montessori books that I'm working my way though, including the original by Maria Montessori. I'm hoping I'll come out of my reading with a clearer understanding of the purpose behind many of the activities I've had a brief exposure to, and therefore a better idea of how to integrate them into our environment.

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