First, may I wish you all a Happy New Year by welcoming you to Mayfair Mum 2012-style!
I hope you all had a lovely Christmas with Father Christmas, family, friends and fine food and drink. The Mayfair Mum family did. Mayfair Dad and I are both lucky enough that our offices shut down for the week.
Not withstanding the usual irritations of family life, the last ten days have been blissful, with the three of us enjoying each other’s company as well as that of close friends and family. Now that the Little Chap is a little older, his parents have been able to enjoy a more relaxed Christmas watching the new DVDs, a bit of CBeebies and playing with the new toys. We made jigsaws together (Octonauts of course – “you do this bit Mummy!”), we built countless things with Duplo, mostly variations on the Octopod (to accompany the various Gups & Octonaut characters that Grannie & Grandpa so kindly gave the Little Chap) or a garage complex for his new Lego car transporter. We loved reading the Little Chap’s new books from Father Christmas, specifically, Zog and The Highway Rat by our favourite bedtime story darlings, Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. The Little Chap loves the colourful illustrations and we do love those reliable rhymes.
We spent time playing pirates with another gift, a beautiful, wooden pirate ship. He was a little dismayed at the lack of a plank – so no making the pirates walk off it at cutlass point then (his favourite game)! We played new games with his cousins (Mayfair Mum desperately hovering close by to keep track of all the new cards or playing pieces lest any be discarded under a piece of carpet or furniture never to be seen again). Seriously, the other week the Little Chap hid three marbles from his brand new Hungry Hippos game – up the alloy tube of his brand new scooter – as it rained all week and the scooter wasn’t moved, it took us a while to find them – we almost believed he might have swallowed them at one point. He had us on a merry dance. Every time we asked him if he knew where they were, he would send us on a wild goose chase around shelves and cupboards, in different rooms.
The Little Chap’s birthday was not so many weeks ago and we bought him his first castle with a couple of teams of knights to play castle games with. This was on the back of a new craze he has developed for Mike the Knight on CBeebies and a couple of Usborne lift the flap books on Castles and the Middle Ages which had totally captured his imagination. I’m not just talking repeat bedtime stories here, either, but full on recreation of a castle with a cardboard box (crenellations lovingly cut out by Mayfair Dad) and complete with working drawbridge! A couple of freebie Playmobil knights from a magazine and Mayfair Dad’s Darth Vader and we had a whole scenario going on an almost daily basis. So much so, that I wondered if we may have missed the boat with our lovely wooden castle and colour matched teams of knights.
Having indulged him thus far, I then stepped back and fretted a little, that we had unwittingly encouraged an interest in warfare, weaponry and unnecessary violence as the poor knights were daily bashed into each other and thrown from the castle towers or trampled under foot by the horses before being thrown into the dungeons for good measure. Whatever were we teaching him here? He’s only three for goodness sake. Surely at his age he isn’t really capable of understanding exactly what he is playing out here?
I’m happy to say that salvation was on the way. On a mid-Christmas visit to Yorkshire, we found a Barnardo’s charity shop geared totally to children. There, for a mere 90 pence, we found a nearly new double DVD of some old cartoons. Watching these, he has found new heroes to worship – the brave and honest, quick-witted and chivalrous Robin Hood and Sir Ivanhoe to be precise. While a little out of our time zone, the principles still ring true today – that if you are good and brave, honest and kind good things happen to you. If you are selfish and cruel, you get the opposite consequences. As we always supervise his TV still, we have spent many happy hours explaining all this to him and while I don’t suppose we’ll be doing away with The Step just yet, maybe a few heroes to imitate won’t be a bad thing for family Mayfair to contend with after all.
What do you think of toy swords and pirates/knights as toys for your pre-schoolers? Disaster waiting to happen or healthy learning process?
Mayfair Mum x
© Mayfair Mum, 2012
I think it is a hard one, actually. I think at this age, it is healthy learning process, but at the videogame age of killing people, it gets disturbing…
On that note, glad I have a girl, but having said that, I have similar thoughts when it comes to pink plastic toys. she is not even 15 months and today she pointed at a Minnie Sweatshirt that they bought her for Xmas and started to scream ” meeme”! I worried, the thing is pink and sparkly, I designated it as stay-at-home-top and there she is wanting to wear it the day that we had to pop into selfridges! just wing it, if yours like swords and mine likes minnie, what can we do, but encourage them? whatever makes them happy, right?
Firstly — Octonauts rock. My 4 year old loves Kwaazi, and will watch the episodes over and over and over. We have about a million pictures of the Octopod stuck on walls, he tells stories of undersea adventures, and a pile of blocks is a Gup[ waiting to happen.
Plus, watching the show has led to him making great, completely unexpected comments to family members like:
– “We can do it together. It’s like symbiosis.”
– “But some lizards do swim. Marine iguanas swim under water and eat seaweed. Especially red seaweed.”
– “That’s not a big fish. A whale shark is the biggest fish in the ocean.”
I just love the blank look of surprise on people’s faces.
As for swords, etc? I don’t have any toy guns in the house, but I have plenty of swords. Foam swords, cardboard swords, plastic swords, cardboard tube swords, you name it. And a pirate costume (okay, it’s a paper eye-patch and a plastic spyglass). And a knight’s costume (alright, it’s a shield and helmet made out of carboard. We used to have a cardboard breastplate, but it was damaged in one of his many jousting competitions.)
In my opinion, knights and pirates actually provide good opportunities for stories that help a child think about values, virtues and morality. When my boy pretends to be a knight, he likes to be heroic. He’ll puff his chest out and talk about going to save someone in danger. And then we craft a story together where he acts out what he does — I play the antagonist and he has to come up with a way to “win” the situation. Sometimes he rescues the princess. Sometimes the princess turns out to be the bad guy holding the dragon captive. Sometimes it’s all a big misunderstanding and he can “win” by befriending the dragon and teaching it the error of its ways.
Can you tell these stories without the trappings of swords and shields and helmets? Sure. But it’s not nearly as much fun.
Also, happy new year. 🙂
Know what you mean about the Octonauts – they have a very positive effect on the Little Chap too. Sounds like you guys have some great games in BraveKnightLand – we may have to test some out here too. Happy New Year!