Feb 26, 2013

Lessons From A Dollhouse

I have noticed from my google stats that I get the most views on craft project related posts but I have to say that since I am trying to keep it real this year on my blog if I was to only post tutorials everyday then that might lead you to believe that I actually have time to craft everyday and that simple is not true.  I am a mom first and then a crafter so I hope you will bare with some of the "other stuff" I have to say here on Small Fry.

Today I wanted to share 3 lessons I have learned over the years from my kids and their toys.

Lesson #1: 2 years ago I bought this wonderful vintage doll house set for Small Fry for Christmas.  I knew she was ready for a dollhouse but part of me also bought it because it was so stinkin cute and exactly what I would have loved as a little girl.  I got accessories, people and even a van to go with it.  I had everything perfectly set up on Christmas morning and she was ecstatic about it when she saw it but it was only a matter of minutes before I could feel my pulse increasing and my stress level rising as she proceeded to completely "trash" the whole set up as she played.  She didn't keep a single thing in it's "right" place and when she was done, everything was out of the dollhouse in a pile on the floor.  I didn't get mad but I was shocked.  How could she "wreck" the perfect dollhouse set up?  Why did she have to put the bed in the kitchen and the toilet in the living room?  Why did every single person have to be shoved in the swimming pool?  I did what every OCD mother would have done as soon as she went to be: I set it all back up.  And (because I am sometimes a slow learner) I did the same thing every day for a long time.  She would ask me to play and I would put everything in it's "proper place" before I would start.  She played with it quite a bit.  Usually everything ended up in a heap in the bins beside the house.  I would try and let it stay there until I could resist no longer and fix it all.  Eventually she just stopped playing with it.  I guess in retrospect I don't blame her with a mother always coming in and "messing" up the way she had it.  It sat unused for a while.  Finally I decided that maybe we just needed a break from the dollhouse so I packed all the accessories in a tub and folded up the house and put it in the kitchen so I could take it to the basement for a while.  I didn't get it out of the house immediately so it just sat against the wall for a couple of hours and do you know what?  This happened: the girls completely rediscovered the dollhouse.  You can't believe how much they play with it now.  It sits on top of the accessories tub until they want it down, then we unfold it and open up the box and they play play play.  And when they are done they shove everything back into the tub, slide it over and put the dollhouse back.  That is when it occurred to me that the secret to the success of this toy and any other toy is to let go of my idea of how it is supposed to be used and what it should look like and to let my kids use their imaginations to play however they feel and to be positive and complimentary at the things they come up with-I mean it would be handy to have a toilet by the oven in the kitchen in real life too.

Lesson #2: Maybe this happens at your house-you feel (as the parent) that you are living in the midst of a toy store with things scattered all over the place and yet the kids don't seem to want to use any of them.  You say, "go play with that new doll we got you" or "go play with those building blocks" or "go play with the toy kitchen" and your children seem to stare at you as if you were off your rocker.  This took me a little while to get-and consequently I have been known to buy unnecessary "new" toys to help my children have something exciting to play with-but did you know that your kids probably don't need something new at all?  When my girls stop playing with something for a while I know that it means we need to rearrange.  Yep-it is that simple.  Nothing new, no new accessories-simply moving the toys to new spots and it is like they are brand new all over again.  We have an awesome play kitchen and it has been in multiple spots in our house because when it gets boring in one spot we move it and it becomes something entirely new.  Just a month ago I simply turned the kitchen a different direction, added a little shelf for foods and the "Strawberry Cafe" was born and it has been well used and loved since.  And if you have limited space try switching things into a new box or bin, rearranging a shelf or sorting toys into new categories.  Even these little changes can reignite interest in toys.

Lesson #3: Putting things away and trading.  I am sure lots of you have read about toy rotating.  I don't do this exactly-because we actually have a base of 4 different sets of toys that the girls really like but I do swap out certain items on occasion   I will put away one item and then if the girls want it back they have to trade in something else to take it's place.  When they want the barn from the basement they might trade in a cash register or a doll in it's place.  Then they get some "new" from downstairs and play with it until it is time for it to go back.  It is an easier version of toy rotating that helps to keep toys fresh and new.

So before you give up on a toy perhaps you should try putting these 3 ideas to the test: letting go of your version of how it should be used, move it to something play new or trade part of it or all of it for something new for a while.
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