Sleeping with Rocks

The Bear's new 'baby'

The Bear slept with a rock last night. Inspired by the book, Elizabeti’s Doll, she decided to adopt a rock as a baby. Just like the Tanzanian main character, Elizabeti, the Bear carried her baby on her back for most of the day. She used her hoodie as a substitute for the kanga that Elizabeti used. Her baby/rock sat in the Bumbo seat as we ate dinner. Eventually the rock made its way to the Bear’s pillow and was covered with a blanket.

I couldn’t help but be charmed by her imagination and playfulness. It reminded me of a recent post, Untoy Toys, where readers kindly submitted items that children play with that are not toys. However, it still seemed astounding that the Bear would choose a rock for her sleeping partner while she relegated dozens of stuffed animals and dolls to the floor.

This made me think about inspiration or instruction when it comes to play. Many of the play experts would say that play does not need inspiration or instruction; play is instinctual. However, inspiration or instruction can enrich play. Then, can we manipulate those influences? Absolutely.

If the inspiration or instruction that we provide for children is simple and basic in nature and if we participate in a culture that finds inspiration from simple things, then we avoid much of the consumer-driven type of play that many children’s toys are built around. The Bear imitating Elizabeti, for example, or children learning basic playground games like hopscotch and tag.

Conversely, the Bear has become a big fan of the movie, Toy Story. It didn’t take her long to realize that the Toy Story brand turns up everywhere! She is eager to participate in a type of play that has been inspired by the film. Unfortunately, this also comes with requests for the purchase of a Buzz Lightyear or Woody. If we only provide inspiration in the form of brand-driven stories or if our lives focus on the purchase of a toy rather than a type of play, then our children will learn to play within those limits.

Participation in a culture that celebrates simplicity can promote play that is inspirational, easily attained and potentially limitless. It is about creating surroundings that offer play opportunities with simple objects inspired by story, demonstration, or example.

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Inspiration for free-range parenting or simple living

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