From the moment Peeper wakes up until the second she closes her eyes, she is playing. Nonstop. For reals.
Her first question out of bed is not, “What’s for breakfast?” but “Do you want to play Curious George in space?”
She hardly answers to her given name. We must call her Moana, Merida, George or whatever other character she has become. If we try to call Kiwi by her actual name, Peeper corrects us there, too. Poor little sister is relegated to minor supporting roles like Moana’s pig Poa or Ariel’s sidekick Flounder. If I slip out of character and talk in my regular voice, she corrects me. “You need to talk like Mickey,” she’ll say.
Sometimes I use play to my advantage as a parent. For example, I’ll ask her to climb the “mountain” (aka the toilet and counter in the bathroom) so I can brush her teeth. Or I’ll tell her she needs to hurry and put on her ball gown so she’s not late to the ball when I want her to change her clothes.
Creativity and play
Not long ago, I asked some friends with similarly aged kids, “When does imaginative play get more imaginative?” I was exhausted from reenacting the same scenes from Cinderella and Paw Patrol.
Recently, Peeper’s play has deviated from the movie and book plots she used to stick to.
For example, Peeper’s Moana now has magic in her hands. She has “go to sleep magic” in her palms that she uses to put all the monsters to sleep. And get this—when her magic runs low, she rubs her ears and just fills it back up. Because apparently Moana stores magic in her earlobes.
I love seeing her imagination and creativity bloom.
Practicing for life through play
By acting out what she imagines, Peeper is bringing play to life—not only for herself, but for me, too.
I get to see what kinds of things stick with her, what she thinks is important, what scares her, what inspires her.
We work through conflicts that movies present. For example, she asks me to be Hans from Frozen, who ends up being really mean to Anna. I sort of play that part, then I add a mother’s commentary: “That was really unkind. He should not have treated Anna like that.” I have to think that some of the morals sink in.
Peeper is also taking on some of the attributes of her favorite characters. When we play Moana, she climbs to the top of a mountain and I/Maui am duly impressed. “It’s because I’m stronger than I believe and tougher than I think!” she exclaims.
She is tough and strong and creative and hilarious. No matter what she calls herself at a given point, she’s my daughter, and I love her.