Finding Inspiration in real life! Imagination play and mimicry.
So this holidays my kids and I (Kate) have been staying with my inlaws on their farm which is 14 hours drive away from Mackay in a little town in rural NSW called Walcha. It has been really cold and I have had the opportunity to follow their play more closely as we have spent a lot of time inside defrosting!
Before we left Mackay, I knew there would be lots of opportunities for inside play as the forecast was for anywhere from a low of -8 degrees to a high of 16 degrees. The kids loved being outside at the farm and helping but I knew that they would also need to be inside to keep from freezing.
In the months before we left I made a list of the toys I knew I would be taking and decided to invest in a set of Schleich farm animals that matched as closely as possible the animals they would see on the farm. My inlaws primarily farm sheep but also have goats, cows and horses.
Last night, after a particularly cool day, we came inside and presented the kids with the animal set. They immediately started playing, manipulating the horse riders as though the riders were their grandparents. What surprised me was how quickly they gave the animals the same name as various animals on the farm. They also transferred their grandparent's names onto the figurines immediately and made sure each figure was riding the horse that matched them in real life.
I did some reading about mimicry in small children as I know its important for their learning in terms of language and development but I hadn't witnessed the kids transferring such literal realism on their toys when they have spent all day doing farm business. I thought they might initially be making their own farms, creating their own names and people and places but they were literally recreating what they had done that day.
What was really interesting was that when we woke this morning the kids had great recollection of everything that happened the day before and I credit their pretend play the prior evening for cementing their learning in their heads.
The other activity the kids and I do is make a journal of our time away. We collect bits of wool, leaves, bone, flowers and dirt and rub them on the pages, write the exact words the kids tell me about their day and when we get home we print pictures and glue them in. It becomes a memento of their holiday and they read it some evenings like a story book.
I do understand that this situation may not be easy to replicate for everyone's holidays, but can be a simple way to cement new ideas in a child's memory. For example, if your child visits you at work as a nurse, they can later sit down with a play medical kit, and doctor their toys, or use one of our miniland occupation friends to let them mimic teachers, doctors, builders etc.
If you are planning a trip to the beach, come home and play with some Kinetic sand and placing the shells or sticks they collected in it.
The wonderful thing about kids is that they find joy in the most simple of tasks. It can be so easy to recreate it for them later in a different setting.