Nothing like dedicating a whole Saturday to play and by play I mean… all.day.play with Barbie and my daughter. And by Barbie, I really mean like 115+ barbies, princesses and Ken dolls. Yeah, we’ve got quite a collection but it allows for some serious creativity.
The creativity and play is mostly in the set up when we pull all the barbies out. It’s not the same experience as playing with a Barbie and a few friends in the Dream House. In the past, when we had a mega barbie play date, we just dumped all the pieces out into the middle of the floor to see what theme grabbed us. This last time we thought about it over dinner and decided on a play theme, although that changed the next day.
(One of our previous and most popular Barbie videos below…)
Creativity comes in many varieties and although my child loves the traditional Crayola type of creative activities, she certainly loves building our play sets together as well. We treat it like a project, where we kind of come up with a game plan. Sure we could just “willy-nilly” our way through but by providing some structure our play date moves in the right direction and ensures we’ll actually get to play in our newly created scene. (Nothing like building and then having to go to bed! Bummer.) So as the parent, I help keep track of time and make lots of suggestions along the way… this isn’t a one-person party. If left alone, Victoria would play with barbie and friends and all the “bits” as I call them… but together I encourage her to think outside of the hot pink plastic pieces and see what we can use around the house to enhance our play set and therefore experience.
Yesterday’s experience didn’t require a whole lot, as she changed the theme from a movie premier with the red carpet to a Broadway show of Peter Pan. (Also new and interesting: she decided she wanted the movie to play in the background and we acted out the parts on set. I would have preferred an audio book version of this idea but Peter Pan was not in our audio library.) In any event, instead of having to make tons of tiny tin foil cameras and piecing together a red carpet, we used a book shelf and some small boxes to create the theater seating. Since the beginning of Peter Pan starts off in Wendy’s room, we used one of the Barbie houses as a major set back drop. We had a film crew and directors on staff as well. It didn’t turn out to be my favorite play set but this time it was all Victoria’s vision… and in the end, that’s what I want. I want her to have the courage and creativity to think outside the obvious and to show others her vision.
I will say, in this case most of the “set up” was dressing 85 or so naked barbies. Some were dressed in casual attire but most weren’t dressed at all. We have a fair share of barbie clothes but since most of her barbies are older… you just never know what is going to fit the older barbie mold vs the newer barbie body style. But now that these dolls are dressed to the nines… we’ll continue with our other formal wear ideas… Kentucky Derby and Carnival Cruise perhaps? We brainstormed a few extra ideas and now I’m glad we did because goodness knows I don’t want to have to go and undress this formal wear anytime too too soon. I’m sure we’ll get to the movie premier as well.
Broken down, this is how I encourage parents to enhance creativity during play time:
1. Pick a toy (or several if they work well together). We like Barbie and American Girl for these type of play dates. Transformers, Lego, Dinosaurs will also work.
2. Pick a theme… what’s the story line? Are dinosaurs being rediscovered? Are they magically coming to life in museums? Is Optimus Prime running for President? Is the Macy’s Day Parade coming to barbie town? Think bigger than the play sets your child has, bigger than the pieces.
3. Encourage creative design and thought for the scene and story line. Think of Andy in Toy Story… he used boxes for buildings and his sister’s crib as jail. Clever.
4. Search the house, garage, yard for nontraditional items to make your theme set work. Perhaps rocks from the garden, laundry basket tilted on its side or card board creations. We make this into a little game. For me this is the best part…watching Victoria look at objects differently and the “oh, how ’bout this…” moments.
5. Remember that the set up is a major part of this play activity. Make sure your child understands this before starting or they will “check out”. Let him/her know that we’re going to take some time to set everything up AND THEN we’ll play the scenes out.
6. Watch the clock. Don’t make it such a project that no one wants to play in the end or worse, its bedtime or time to leave and you don’t have time to immediately enjoy all the work put in.
7. Snap a couple photos. It’s not likely you’ll want to keep the card board creatures or fancy displays for years from now… so grab a couple keepsake photos during play time.
8. Most importantly… stay with your child for the actual play time… you’ve spend all this time creating together, don’t skip out on the best part. He/she has been looking forward to this part all day.
9. If you can help it… DON’T TEAR IT DOWN right away. Let the kids come back to the play set for “round two”.