To most kids, playing and pretending is natural. It’s how they learn, how they express themselves, how they release energy. I don’t remember when it happened exactly, but at some point when I was between about 11 and 13 years old I forgot how to play.
Do you feel like this happened to you too? I’ll explain what I mean in case that sounds strange.
I still had toys and games, but pretending wasn’t something I could easily do anymore. I suppose I was getting too old and focused on other things, but I can remember having so much trouble when the girls I babysat for would ask me to play Barbies with them. It was fun to watch them play and I would walk my little crazy-haired Barbie around her Dream House and participate, but I definitely wasn’t coming up with the story line – that was all them.
This had me worried, even then. Why did it become so hard to pretend? Would I know how to play with my own kids someday?
Fast forward 10-15 years and Graham arrived – perfect and sweet and waiting to be molded into the person he would become. All the baby books and experts tell you to talk to your child from the very beginning because that’s how they develop early language skills. I’ll be honest – that wasn’t easy. I had to force myself to speak during the day when it was just me and him around and I felt awfully silly narrating my day to an infant. But I did it, and his receptive language has always been far ahead of where it should be, so I credit that mindless babbling.
I feel like the process of talking (essentially to myself) helped me get my imagination kick-started. Graham has been pretending for quite a while now, but he’s still surprising us regularly with what he comes up with. Slowly, but surely, I’ve been able to jump right in and dream up things to do with his toys and random objects he brings me. I don’t feel like it’s necessarily my childhood coming back to me, but more that he’s teaching me how to play – leading my creativity to entertaining places.
I look at my niece, who is about a year older than Graham, and get excited about all the fun that is about to start. She’s inventing all sorts of games and has questions galore and I can’t wait to see what Graham comes up with soon. I just hope I’ll be able to keep up!
Have you felt like you didn’t know how to play before? What helped you move past that feeling?