"You will be a better mom because you are a theologian, and a better theologian because you are a mom."

Is it true? In this blog, I explore the interplay and intersection of motherhood and theologianhood.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Toyland


It's that time of the year again... that time when everyone wants to know what my kids want for Christmas. Wow. Do we really need any more toys? Well, I don't want to be a scrooge, and, let's be honest, kids love opening gifts and having new toys. So, in preparation for Christmas, we cleared out the toybox (for the SECOND time this fall) of all the toys that the kids were willing to give away. It's nice that we have a playroom (pictured above), not that there's any containing our fun here.


(Above: Eva on one of the top gifts for one-year olds - the bounce and spin zebra; Maia setting up her dollhouse, which is a favorite.)
This deluge of gifts is just what happens, I guess, when your kids are the only kids on one side of the family and the majority of grandkids on the other side. Because it always seems to me that we already have a lot of toys, last year for Eva's first birthday, I did some research on top gifts for one-year olds and suggested to the grandparents toys off of that list. This year for Christmas and for Eva's birthday, I did the same thing, hoping to come across something we didn't already own that I thought the kids would like.

The top gift for two-year olds is this Billibo thing. I call it a "thing" because it's not really anything specific. Just a piece of plastic that can be used in various ways. Eva's first reaction was that it was some kind of hat (see above). But it wasn't long before the kids figured out some other ways to use the Billibo.
For example, as a seat, to sit in or to balance in.

It also makes a nice turtle shell, although I think Maia above looks more like a snail than a turtle.

Even Patrick got in on the Billibo action.
A doctor's kit is also on the top ten list of gifts for two-year olds. We didn't have that, and it seemed appropriate that the doctor Grandpa and Nana would give Eva a doctor's kit. In the above picture, Maia and Eva are playing doctor in the new tent (tents are always a good gift for kids... and our other one was pretty much broken for good, so they wanted a replacement).

The doctor's kit also allowed us to practice for Eva's two-year visit to the doctor. She knew exactly what Dr. Straw was doing when she pulled out the stethoscope. But let's be honest, those real shots hurt a whole lot more than the one that came with the kit.
Now the funny thing about my doing all this research and wracking my brain to come up with possible gifts for the girls is that I had just heard/read these stories from NPR, which confirmed what I already knew, namely, that kids don't need a lot of fancy toys (especially all those electronic/battery-powered toys...a few is enough; my kids are more drawn toward the dollhouse, nativity set, baby dolls, kitchen, and so on). They need to use their imagination without the scripts that might be supplied by a toy (or movies or television!!!). Listening to these stories made me feel good about my kids because Maia (and Eva too, actually) really excels in what they call "private speech," which is an important indicator of success in school.

Creative Play Makes for Kids in Control
Old-Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills

The Billibo is kind of cut out for imaginative play, but I admit, when you first see it, you wonder why bother? All I can say is that my kids have had fun with them so far, and they've used them in a hundred different ways. But at this time of the year, my favorite playing to watch is Maia using the Nativity set (the Fisher Price one this time). Of course, there is a script that goes along with it, and today I acted out the whole play for them. But really it's more exciting when Maia does it. Like today she was insisting that Mary should sit in the cart attached to the donkey rather than sit on the donkey directly. "Mom, that way she can lay down, and that would be so much more comfortable!"
And when we play "Mary and Elizabeth" (not the queens, but the Blessed Virgin and her saintly cousin), there are always some strange twists, like Zechariah's car breaking down or Mary having twins, followed by a set of triplets (one of which is Piglet and another that is a bear), not to mention John the Baptist sleeping in a carseat in the kitchen. Since Patrick was born, Eva is no longer allowed to play the part of John the Baptist. So she's taken to being called "Hava" (her Hebrew name) and being the neighbor lady, who also is pregnant (sometimes with a puppy, but once in awhile with a baby doll). I admit that I like playing Mary and Elizabeth because I can clean the kitchen during the game and feel like I'm just playing my part of Elizabeth, rather than ignoring Maia. I can also serve lunch to Mary and Hava, and sometimes the Blessed Virgin also likes her older cousin to read her a story. So it all works out. No batteries necessary.

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