This week, Miss almost-5 and The Toddler have been creating many games with their tub of plastic animal figurines. The animals have been on sandpit and garden safaris, have participated in block-built farmyards, have been contestants in a cat & dog show, and, ending up rather dirty, were washed in a tub and then spent three nights sojourning in the bath going on aquatic adventures.
The Toddler, being a Toddler, has enjoyed mostly the feeling of the animals, the ways she can make them move under her fingers, the ways they taste (all the better after being smeared with cookie dough, apparently!) E, being at a very imaginative stage of play, has created elaborate stories around her animals.
One thing that I've found both wonderful and also a little sad is how E's narratives have mirrored the issues she is confronting in her own preschool life at the moment. Her tiger has been in tears at being excluded by a group of mean cliquey cats, but he has found a way to rise above, and has befriended the giraffe family instead.
Her platypus has struggled with not feeling like she gets enough time with her Mummy, but the Mummy platypus sat down and read her Mem Fox's Koala Lu, and then baby platypus understood that the Mummy really loved her dearly; "she always has and she always will, see?" E, in the voice of Mummy Platypus, explained.
Her lion didn't like having to compete and try to keep up with all the older lions in the pride, but soon learned that being the littlest wasn't always a problem, and even had some advantages. (E is having a hard time at the moment with the fact that all the neighbour kids are her sister's age or older. That extra 2 years makes a lot of difference in play styles and interests).
Complex, fiddly, noisy and whizzbangy toys get a few days' excited play here, then are set aside, rarely to be picked up again. A basketful of plastic animals, 10 for $2 from the local junk shop, get taken on adventures time and again.
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