Friday, June 10, 2011

Dinosaurs!

Hi friends!
It's been pretty quiet in these parts. I'm having trouble thinking of things to blog about, so I tend to not blog. I can't force it, ya know? Some people have such clever posts every single day and I gotta hand it to 'em! I'm just not that introspective (or maybe I am but it's nothing I think anyone would find interesting). I think there are things brewing that I can write about later down the line, but for now things are percolating.
This evening, I was thinking about how the living room has become a menagerie of Paige's toys. I'm sure many people can relate or understand how that happens. She hasn't been engaging with any one toy for any real length of time and I have to theorize it's because there are too many in one place for her to focus on one? We cleaned out the living room because the carpet needed to get a thorough once-over due to sippy cup juice dots everywhere (thanks Stanley Steamer!). Paige ran around the empty-besides-furniture room with such glee. She pretended to fly like a bird in all that empty space. She looked so much more free. I decided to only bring a spare few back in and rotate them on a regular basis. How regular? Beats the hell out of me. Daily? Sometimes weekly? I guess it depends how ambitious I'm feeling in the evening to set up new toys. I'm sort of already giggling at myself.
After I put Paige in bed tonight (Chris is playing softball through work tonight) I brought out her dinosaurs and the toys that have to do with them. (She has a little obsession right now with dinos.) I figured I might as well make it a theme. I put them on the tiles in front of our fireplace and tried to make them look inviting.

Toy Setup

I included the figures, some books, a puzzle, a coloring/sticker book and her safari hat for "dinosaur hunting." She was recently gifted a remote-control dinosaur as a belated birthday gift and she loves it. I also put out her Little People airplane (maybe they can fly to Jurassic Park? or Dino Island?) and her little Ostheimer snail and grass just for fun and to add variety.

Dinosaurs!

dino books

toys

toys


This way, when she comes into the room, she will see everything in one place and focus on just those toys thus giving us a jumping point for joint play since everything is together in a theme. We'll see how it goes tomorrow. It could all be a bust, so be it.
I want to see if her quality of play improves and if she is able to engage with us for longer stretches of time. Longer and better engagement equals more quality learning and absorbing our social cues and language. Fun for us while fun & educational for her! My plan is to rotate those toys out daily (if they are on a specific theme like this) or every 3 or 4 days if they are more varied in theme. I'm also hoping this makes her more excited about her toys since they'll seem new to her each time. Secretly, it will make it more fun for me too because it's easier to come up with clever play ideas with fewer toys and they'll seem new to ME.
My next theme involves putting her Little People Farm out with all her books about farm animals and stuffed animals that belong on a farm. We can color animal pictures and sing farm songs. She also has a little tractor and hitch to give the animals rides. If it's nice, we can go to a nearby farm or petting zoo.
Another idea involves marine animals with all of the same types of toys listed in the farm idea, but obviously in the marine/sea life theme. We can even look at You Tube videos of animals and sea creatures that match her stuffed animals/toys she has. For example, she has a little stuffed dolphin her Nana and Grampa had given her. Well, I can then have her hold it while we read a book that has dolphins in the story. And then we can look at some videos that involve dolphins in their natural environments so she can understand them more. Perhaps there is a dolphin song we can sing. See what I mean? The same goes for her little stuffed turtle or her little rubber snake, etc.
In the end, her therapists and we her parents have a goal that involves helping Paige engage in open-ended pretend play on her own. Many children come to pretend and symbolic play very naturally without intervention; but that hasn't been the case for us. We hope that exposing her to lots of different ideas and learning a lot about her own toys will help her accomplish this.
I'll let you know how the experiment goes. Is this sort of thing something you've ever considered? Is this something everyone does and I have just missed the boat?

***UPDATE***6/20/11
The dinosaur set up went over pretty well! She liked it and engaged much more deeply with the few toys that were there for her. She most loved the "Safari" we set up. She would have us wear the safari hat and hide all the dinosaurs around the room. Then, she'd have to hunt for them. She would say "Asari!" (safari) over and over until we hid them. I took down that play scene after 2 days and replaced them with a Playmobil zoo set of animals/props and a few other gizmos. She's been playing with that for more than a week now and she's been doing great. I think the secret to better interest and deeper play has been to put out just a few choices of toys. She spends way more time engrossed in play compared to how she used to. This is a change we will stick with! Now, I just need to hold up my end of the bargain and rotate everything out soon!
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