The Importance Of
January 19, 2017
One must truly marvel at the sweet innocence that is a young child’s perspective on playtime. This wonderment occurred to me when my grandson, a.k.a. the Tot, (though now he prefers Gabe) first got his feet under him and learned to verbalize his wants for fun. His idea of a perfectly wonderful time was expressed simply with, “Let’s run around!” which consisted of literally nothing more than just that. No destination, no purpose, let’s just run around, laugh and be happy. Now of course as adults we ruin the whole thing; because to do this as adults comes across as quite looney. So we make a game of it. It’s a chase, it’s a race and now the child finds purpose in all this running around; though in retrospect we seemed a lot happier when we were just running around.
The same can be said for the way a child initially chooses to interact with toys. “It’s fun to bounce this ball!” “Oh how it makes me laugh!” Because I never know what’ll happen next when I throw it down! “Look at it go!” Of course once again adults intervene and suck the fun right out of it or at least redefine it. There must be a target or goal, a distance or action to accomplish, the fun must become a game. In an adult’s logical mind there must be some purpose. Whether intentional or not this logic is visibly impressed upon the child as playtime becomes a more interactive activity. This becomes very apparent as a child graduates from toys with colorful buttons and flashing lights (that basically play with themselves) to ones that require them to administer their imagination.
Eventually a child moves beyond basic toys (along with their adult influenced complexities) and takes interest in life miniatures. Toy cars and trucks, dolls and play kitchens and of course small, handheld people. Luckily at the House-o-Saw we were able to obtain a full set of vintage Fisher Price Little People. These are the classics with little fist sized bodies so their heads can be easily chewed or sucked on…especially the baby Little People (or would that be person? When do little people become little persons?)…why in hell do all kids like to chew that Little People babies head? Anyway…we’ve got the airport, the family house and even a McDonalds. What we didn’t have, (much to the Tot’s disappointment), was his family… the Little People version.
Finding a Little People with a hat to be Pappy a.k.a. me and a dog to represent our pets was easy. A freckle faced redhead to be Grammie, a.k.a. the wife Lil Red, was a challenge. But all were obtained and happy play ensued. Adventures as the Lil folk drove around town and visited, climbed Toy-Box Mountain and trips to the airport to fly to McDonalds became the norm. Though you did have to be careful to hold the jet’s door shut or the Little People fell to their little deaths. Yes, all was well in the land of Little People, for our little person…till the dragon came.
The Dragon (also Fisher Price) could open its wings and make flying noises when you squeezed its handle. It would also stretch its neck out, down, bite, retract and make chewing noises. It took the Tot about 5 seconds to discover it could easily eat Little People. So now the game had changed. Every story unfurled with the peaceful little town being set up (this takes about 20 minutes to meet Tot specifications) for the sole purpose of being devastated; its citizens, one by one, falling prey to the terror of the red dragon. Tot of course was the dragon. It was mine and Grammie’s job to set up the town and ensure chaos when the dragon arrived. “Make them scream and run away” were our basic instructions.
As time passed (as it too quickly does) he tired of the dragon’s attacks on the town, due in part to us fighting back by flying the jet into it on a few occasions. He moved on as little boys do to dinosaurs and Transformers. It seemed the Little Town would be abandoned to the toy-shelf but alas such was not the case, due to the process of storytelling being incorporated into imaginative play the Little Town still lives. Sometimes it’s a Jurassic adventure with dinosaurs over-running the town (cue - make them scream and run away). At other times the good robots would defend and sometimes be assisted by the Lil folk against attacks by bad robots or dinosaurs…and sometimes a dragon.
In short, though it was not our initial intentions, we have helped him to gain an understanding and become fully aware of the importance of background action. That even though some toys aren’t the “star” of the current imagine-time theatre production their roles are still important when having an adventure or telling a good story. Hopefully this is a lesson he will carry into his later years: Being aware that a good supporting cast is always helpful to make imagination as well as reality a more wonderful experience.
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