Archive for February, 2011

We Play: Birthday Treasure Hunt

Our Little Person turned 4 on Monday and as part of the celebration we set up a birthday present treasure hunt.

We started the day with a couple of birthday books to unwrap and read snuggled in bed. Then I offered her the first clue card and she was off to find her first present.

The clues were very simple (on the green couch, inside her play kitchen and so on) and part of the challenge of a few of the clues were to figure out what the drawing was! (I admit, my drawing of the window curtains does look more like our shower curtain). It added a fun extra layer to the day and also was a good way to spread out the presents.  She (and we) played with each thing after opening it and took her time before asking for the next clue.

I look forward to making it a birthday tradition! It will be especially fun to create more challenging clues as she grows older.

This post is a part of “We Play” over at Childhood 101. Click on over and see what people are playing this week.

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I had ideas for LP’s 4th birthday celebration, oh yes, I had many ideas for a party. I’d been thinking about it for awhile and was much inspired by se7en’s approach to birthdays — especially this one. So we’d pick one of her favorite book, invite some little people-type friends over and so on.

LP wanted to have a party with her dog friends.

I had hesitations.  And even though I realized those hesitations were mostly about me, it was hard to get over them and say “yes.”

LP is only recently becoming interested in socializing with other kids and doesn’t yet have many strong ties to other little people.  We’ve been attentive to giving her growth opportunities and we’re so fortunate that she’s in a preschool setting that lets her go at her own pace in joining group activities and gives her support in interacting with other kids. Even though I’ve seen such growth in her abilities, especially the past two months, all my worries about her social skills bubbled up.   I had to calm them down and just enjoy helping my creative, animal-loving girl have the birthday celebration her heart desired.

So a puppy party it was.

Her guest list was four dogs (three were able to attend). She chose a different dog pictures online for each dog and colored them in while I printed out text to attach for the invitations. We made a trip to the pet store for dog treats and had some of LP’s favorite foods for the dog’s people to enjoy. (ImprovDad and I were lucky too that we’re good friends with all of the dogs’ people.)

I made a playlist of dog songs on the ipod (I’m particularly fond of “Dog Train” by Blues Traveler and LP wants to hear John Lithgow’s “I Got Two Dogs” over and over again).  LP sorted the dog treats and a squeaky ball intoeach party favor bag.  And then, we waited for the dogs.

Parker & Lulu


It went better than my wildest hopes.  LP was over-the-moon happy.  As each of her three canine guests arrived she got more and more excited. She perched on the coffee table so she could see the dogs at all times.  (And we were lucky that these were the best behaved dogs in world.)

After cake for the people, we took a walk around the neighborhood and LP delighted in the chance to walk the dogs.

A happy day was had by all.  And I had my wish fulfilled too when we shared a belated birthday playdate with (human) friends yesterday too.

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“Creating an environment that supports pretend play is easy – kids just need some space to play, unstructured blocks of time, and a few simple props.”

~Amy Anderson in “Creative Props for Pretend Play” on Simple Kids

And some additional food for playful thoughts:

“11(Not So) Surprising Benefits of Play” by Dr. Michele Borba on her Reality Check blog

“The Power of Magical Thinking” by Shirley Wang in the Wall Street Journal online

“The Magic in Boldness” by Teacher Tom

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We Play: Going with the Flow of It

…with a side of bloodworms.

One of the many delights of LP’s growing up is the increase in her initiating play, the evolving richness and energy of her spontaneity and the impact of her having more specific ideas for play.  It is always interesting to me to observe what catches her imagination and how she develops it over time.

Last weekend we went to Crab Cove to enjoy low tide (although very few crabs to be found) on the beach and visit the critters at the Visitor  Center.  LP’s favorite snake, Nevada, was not available (the ranger said she was shedding her skin and had been “grumpy”).  She was able to move on from her disappointment because it was feeding time for the fish.  The rangers were great at tailoring their program to the three kids that were there and LP loved it.  Her favorite part was when the pond fish gobbled up its bloodworm ice cube.

She talked about it all the rest of the day and I hadn’t seen it resurface until this morning. In the past half hour or so, LP has seamlessly flowed from being a guitar on the beach taking care of her baby ukuleles, a sled dog pulling loveys through the snow and then settled into being a pond fish.  She needed bloodworms and when I asked her for a suggestion of what we could use, she suggested “noodles!” and took off at a run for the kitchen so she could help pick out which kind of dry noodle would make the best bloodworms.

So enjoying the flow on this rainy morning with my  guitar, sled dog, pond fish and her bloodworms.

This post is a part of “We Play” over at Childhood 101. Click on over to enjoy links to all kinds of play experiences.

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ImprovDad was out of town for a week and when we finally got the timing right for a family skype call, I appreciated anew the playfulness he brought to the interaction (especially since I was feeling low on my playful energy).

Although I have big appreciation for skype, I feel  self-conscious on video so I am a reluctant participant.  AND even at almost 4,  it is a challenge to keep LP in the video frame (and really, everyone we skype with is family who really wants to see and interact with her).  She gets restless after a minute or two. So that ImprovDad made it fun for all of us and kept the little girl engaged for the whole call…that is an achievement!

What did he do?

First…special effects!  He did extreme closeups (LP thought that was hysterical, especially eyes and open mouth) and long shots. (“Daddy’s so small!” she cried out as he backed against the far wall of his hotel room.)  And then he upped the ante and flipped his laptop over so he was talking to us upside-down!

Second…he initiated a space-object game.  He said something along the lines of “look, here comes a cow” which he then pretended to milk into an imaginary glass.  He took a sip and then “handed” it to us (oh, the magic of the camera).  I “took” the glass and had a sip and then gave it to LP who sipped a bunch and then asked for “more!”  We played that milking the cow game and handing glass back and forth for quite awhile.

It was a great end to our day.

How do you bring play to your interactions when you are at a distance?

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Playful Links 2/5/11

“By changing the topography of a play area you are changing the whole world.”

~ Rusty Keeler “20 Ways to Create Play Environments for the Soul” at Earthplay

(Rusty Keeler’s article has a bevy of ideas for inspiring outdoor spaces. I’ve started dreaming about how to transform our little yard into a place with more to offer to LP’s imagination.)

More food for playful thoughts:

“Celebrating Half Birthdays” by Kat from Inspired to Action on SteadyMom

“When Adults Play” by Dr. Tian Dayton,  Huffington Post

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One of LP’s current favorite books is  How Many Baby Pandas? by Sandra Markle. It is a great combination of cute pictures and panda facts.  LP is particularly entranced by the idea of the pandas that are raised at the Wolong Giant Panda Breeding Center or in zoos drinking milk substitute from bottles or lapping it up out of bowls.

So when I asked for her ideas for what to have as a side dish for dinner, “milk substitute like a panda!” was her gleeful suggestion.

It was easy to say “yes” to that.  So I asked her how she wanted to make it.

Of course, LP had a recipe in mind.

LP’s Recipe for Panda Milk Substitute

The ingredients:  water, milk and applesauce

The directions: add water and milk to the applesauce and whisk together.

Eat while discussing pandas.

This post is a part of “We Play” over at Childhood 101. Click on over for a bevy of play ideas for little people.

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