A Photo a Day: Our Couch is a Highway

DSC_0049As I’ve written about before, Cora is presently in love with the movie Cars. And from the first time she watched it, about two months ago, the collection of Hotwheels and Matchbox cars she’s inherited from her Dad and brother has been her greatest plaything. She oragnizes them by color and occupation. Race cars to the left, construction trucks to the right, please. She drives them on the edge of the bathtub and parks them between the keys of the piano. Together we have drawn cities for them to drive through and made buildings out of cardboard boxes for them to live in. (More on those later, perhaps.)

This is the second fixation Cora has had with a movie. Toy Story was first and it had me worrying a bit. What could watching the same movie again and again be doing to her little brain, I wondered. Then, I remembered that our music teacher touted repetition as an important part of toddlers’ cognitive development as it related to music. Could film work the same way? Like reading the same book over and over again, which I am also known to do upon request.

Articles like this one from a child psychologist on an Australian parenting forum, also helped me recognize that these fixations, rather than obsessions, are innocent and may even be beneficial to some degree. If every moment of every day were filled with cars, if she wouldn’t ever watch anything else, if she couldn’t play any other games or with any other toys – then we’d have a problem.

And so, we’re off to listen to the Cars soundtrack while playing with cars, in the car.

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Permission to Play (Finale): Imaginative Play

“Occasionally in her travels through her childrens’ minds
Mrs. Darling found things she could not understand…”
(from Peter and Wendy, J. M. Barrie, 1911).

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Over the past few weeks Cora’s become an imaginative babbler.  Since she rarely naps, I often use the baby monitor to listen to her talk herself through rest time.  She loves to sing, so these monologues often turn into musicals.  This morning, as I tended to some half-mindless back to school business like organizing and archiving documents, and marking the calendar with upcoming assignments and meetings, the other half of me watched and listed to her play. I realized that as her storytelling skills develop, she’s simultanesouly becoming involved in grand imaginative play scenarios.  Nothing could make me happier.

Before I became pregnant, I had a lot of concerns about parenting an only child 50% of the time.  When my stepkids were young, they were one another’s best playmates.  (Not so today, though they still have their moments.)  But I was really worried that I would have no time for myself if I had to make up for absent siblings.  I hoped for a child with an independent spirit and ability to entertain him or herself.  So far, I’ve been pretty fortunate. What Cora lacks in the sleep department, she makes up for in playing on her own.

Around the time she started talking, Cora began to make regular reference to a place she calls Penza.  For awhile, I thought she was trying to say something else and attempted to crack the code.  But eventually, I came to accept Penza as a part of our lives.  Something I could even rely on to gain Cora’s attention and cooperation.  For example, one afternoon she wouldn’t get in the car so we could run an errand.  When I asked her why not, she said she was going to Penza and she started off across the yard.  I asked if it was far away and she said it was.  So, I offered her a ride in the car.  No more argument.  When we got to our destination, I told her we had arrived, in Penza.  She was delighted and the game went on from there.

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This afternoon found Bert, Ernie, a Playmobil elephant, and a Hotwheels car on the road to Penza.  For the most part, the journey seemed to be the destination in this game.  The four were alternately moved around the bathroom, only to be moved again a few minutes later.  I’m not sure where this all might have gone if we weren’t called to neighbor’s house for a playdate, likley just back in circles.

I think of Penza as Cora’s version of Neverland, a place for her to work out her burgeoning understandings of the world, both real and imagined.  It certainly bears all the characteristic benefits of imaginative play.  Perhaps Peter Pan was right afterall.  I think we could all use a Penza to call our own.  I think this blog just might be mine.  What’s yours?