I used to get bored playing with my baby/toddler. There. Admitted it. There was something mind-numbing about doing the same simple activities over and over and over...though it was darling when baby giggled, I was shocked how much he seemed to crave repetition. And from an adult perspective, repetition quickly got monotonous.
Now that I have been learning more about the higher purposes of play, and developed specific ways to enhance Lo's play, I don't feel bored about playing with him.
Example of one higher purpose of play: Build feelings of power and security. Our move from Ohio to Idaho was traumatic for Lo. The several months prior to moving, we slowly gave away/sold most of our household goods, Jerry and I were pretty stressed about getting ready for the transition, and Lo Lo became noticeably disturbed about the whole deal. He had a personality change--temporarily became abnormally aggressive, needy, anxious, etc. After we moved to Idaho, it took more than a month for him to settle in. He wanted held most of the first week after we arrived. The first couple weeks, he would not let me out of his sight. After about a month or so, I remember feeling overjoyed when he started to explore around my parents' house on his own. And now, after three months, Lo seems like a happy, normal, well-adjusted toddler in every way.
Throughout the past few months, Lo became transfixed by the notion of "Home." He talked at least a dozen times each day about how "our house in Ohio got blown away." Frequently, he asked us tell him the story of the 3 Little Pigs, and then he re-enacted it, building forts and then knocking them down, and declaring himself to be the Big Bad Wolf who blew down houses. This type of play was helping him foster a feeling of power. Because he had felt so powerless during our move, helpless as his precious toys and beloved friends were snatched away, it was important for him to regain some sense of power.
But I was a little bothered by the dark ending of that play scenario. He blew the house down. The end. Enter my crucial role as a parent. I now make a conscious effort to bring a positive emotion to Lo's play. For example, we add themes of rescue to the darkness. Some of this Lo has done on his own, like in the previous post. But often, I need to make a statement that reminds him of the possibility of rescue. "Did those pigs get hurt when they were buried in the house? We need to build a hospital for them!" Lo excitedly gets to work with his blocks to build a hospital. This type of direction makes the play even more healing--replacing violence with aid. See why it is so important for parents to observe? To be present? To play with or near their children? I have so much power to enhance his play! To coach his development. Mostly he just naturally does this type of creative play alone, but I try to be in the vicinity to listen to his self-talk so I can observe themes, gain insights into what he is thinking, and give a nudge or two in different directions if needed.
Lo also loves the song, "The Wise Man Built His House Upon a Rock." For obvious reasons, he is again transfixed by the fact that the foolish man's house washed away. "Our house in Ohio washed away," Lo informed me multiple times. I am still not sure how to reframe this negative. But I just agree with him for now, "Yes, our house in Ohio is gone." But then I remind him all the things we were able to take with us: "Remember how the truck brought your baby mattress?" This is a lie--we left his toddler mattress in a dumpster in Ohio. But when we got to Idaho, Lo genuinely thought the new twin mattress we brought in the house for him was his bed from Ohio. "My baby mattress got put on the truck and came to Idaho!" So we went with it. And I remind him all his favorite toys that we still have, and that we are so happy to live with Grandma and Grandpa now, etc. Focusing on the positives.
One more story of cute play: last night, Lo found a package of these ties, and immediately got absorbed in what I could tell was a higher order of play. You know that look of intense concentration kids can get? He had it, a faint half smile, eyes relaxed yet alert. And his self-talk during this play session was precious! He kept saying, "I wonder what I going to build?" interspersed with frequent exclamations of "I can do it!" He was so pleased with himself. And guess what he built? Interlocking a dozen or more of these ties, he created, "A house for the Big Bad Wolf."