Stifling imagination

We’re moving countries soon.

That means we’ve got a lot of stuff to get rid of. We’re currently dumping, flogging, burning, offloading, using up and throwing out what seems like a self-renewing mountain of stuff. Stuff, stuff, stuff! Brewster’s Stuff.

One of the things we’ve decided to get rid of is our eldest’s Christmas present from last year – gulp! A Smoby play kitchen – something like this. Less than a year’s worth of ‘use’. When the news was broken, there were tears but not as many as I’d expected. In our defence, we weren’t planning on moving last December. But to be honest, it’s been on a shelf gathering dust most of the time, so I’ve decided to rack it up as another purchase error.

My son likes playing at cooking, at BBQing and pretending to be a restaurant owner. Any restaurant. At the moment, he’s going through an ice cream restaurant phase. I’ve tried to explain that the winter nights are drawing in and besides, owning any restaurant in this current economic climate is the quickest step to bankruptcy. But he’s having none of it. He used to use the kitchen table as his restaurant counter, then a clothes horse, then an upturned empty box. Then we went to Toys ‘R’ Us in December to have a look around and choose a Christmas present. I suggested a kitchen. He said, “Yes”. I said, “Are you sure?”. He said, “Yes.”. I said, “Really?”. He said, “Yes!”. I said, “Are you sure you’re sure?”. He said, “Yes!”. I said, “Well, let’s see what Father Christmas brings.”.

It’s fun. It has buttons and beeps. It has an oven light and timer. When you put a pan on the hob, it crackles or bubbles. There are food items and cutlery. Unfortunately, the novelty wore off and amazingly, he was back to using an empty box.

Maybe these pretend toys are a bit too real? If their imaginations know no bounds, then why do we need to provide realistic playthings for them? He has a few ‘pretend toys’ – like a doctor’s kit or a workbench. Most of the time, he pretends the tools are something else entirely. It’s wonderful, but equally annoying because I didn’t buy that hammer to be sung into or that stethoscope to be used as a crane! Maybe these toys are really for us dreary, soulless parents. I’ve had a lot of conversations similar to this:

Me: (pointing to something on the ‘BBQ’) “What’s this?”

Son: “It’s a fish.”

Me: “Really? But it doesn’t look like one!”

Son: “…”

Maybe they’re just a bit of a hassle to use – too bulky and hard to move around. It’s just easier to grab a box, some pieces of screwed up paper and start cooking. This sort of unguided imaginative play may be more beneficial for all. Our kids can help feed our imagination, rather than us dullards stifling theirs.

Btw – Is anyone looking for a pretend kitchen, going cheap? Hardly used, LOTS of fun for the little ones. Drop me a line if interested.

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