The Red Checks Restaurant was up and running over here for the last few days, serving up its famous chicken noodle soup, corn, pizza, sandwiches, eggs, and chicken legs.
Wearing brand-new, made-especially-by-Grandma aprons, the servers were polite, prompt, and eager to serve.
And sure, they were coughing a little, but everyone was, so it wasn’t that big of a deal. And I was the only customer who could talk; there were several small dolls and stuffed dogs there, but who needs conversation with a plastic meal this good?
We’re sick. We’re all sick. And on day six for me and four for the kids of being stuck in the house, rather than go batty, we got creative. My husband was on his golf trip, so this weekend, we opened up a restaurant in our basement. Here’s to thinking big. Here’s to really rockin’ pretend play on a sick day.
Remembering the Importance of Pretend Play:
I was putting away the last of the Christmas gifts when I came across the beautiful aprons my mother-in-law made for us. For a split second, I thought, Ooooh, what could we bake? and then the chorus of Maddy, Owen, Cora, and my coughs reminded me it wasn’t that great of a time for cooking.
We’ve got a play kitchen full of food, some small tables, and aprons. Let’s open a restaurant! I said to the kids, and we headed downstairs.
We’d been taking it verrrrry easy for the last few days, watching a lot more tv than usual and reading a lot more books than my throat cared to admit. So it was natural for us to branch out a bit, head downstairs, and get our imaginations going.
I put everyone to work; Maddy and Cora organized the play kitchen and food, and Owen and I set up the restaurant. We pulled out two small tables, covered them with blankets, and put two tiny chairs near each one.
I found two small vases for a flower on each table, and then we rallied at the computer.
Okay. Take a look at the food we have in the kitchen, and let’s decide what kinds of food we want to serve at the Red Checks Restaurant. I’ll type up the menu. What should I add first?
Maddy said, Soups! We need to serve soup, and I think we have chicken noodle.
I typed, ‘Soup: Chicken Noodle’.
Okay, what else should our restaurant serve?
Drinks! Owen yelled. We have drinks! I know we can have lemonade, juice, and milk.
Cora added, Soda! We have soda! (Did I mention that we’ve been drinking a ton of ginger ale?)
I added ‘Drinks’ to our menu.
Owen takes an order at the Red Checks Restaurant.
We decided on Appetizers, Meals, and Desserts for our menu, and I printed out four copies of the Red Checks Restaurant Menu. Just like that–simple menus for the Red Checks Restaurant. (Print out a copy if you’d like!)
And that’s it–we took turns as customers, as cooks, and as servers. We brought down the cash register, pretend money, and pretend credit cards. Sometimes we were polite customers, and sometimes we were rude–we laughed a lot but did end up practicing some different ways of dealing with unexpected occurrences (the customer whose soup is never hot enough, the crying baby, the very clumsy customer, the server who just can’t get it right. . . ).
And then we got tired of it, hung up our aprons, and watched Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue for the third time in three days. But we came back to the Red Checks again today, which tells me that we have something good going on. At least for a while.
It seems like supporting childrens’ pretend play is all the buzz lately, with an article written by two Harvard professors for CNN and an article arguing the importance of playground play in the January/February issue of NEA Today Magazine. Both articles essentially said the same thing: that pretend play is absolutely necessary for childrens’ development, possibly even more important than instilling the ole ABC’s and 123’s into their little brains.
One thing that stood out for me in Want to get your kids into college? Let them play was this:
One of the best predictors of school success is the ability to control impulses. Children who can control their impulse to be the center of the universe, and — relatedly — who can assume the perspective of another person, are better equipped to learn.
Psychologists calls this the “theory of mind”: the ability to recognize that our own ideas, beliefs, and desires are distinct from those of the people around us. When a four-year-old destroys someone’s carefully constructed block castle or a 20-year-old belligerently monopolizes the class discussion on a routine basis, we might conclude that they are unaware of the feelings of the people around them.
The article goes onto cite a study where 4- and 5-year olds were engaged in pretend play with adults. The study recognized ‘substantial and durable gains in the ability of children to show self-control and to delay gratification’ and ‘countless other studies support the association between dramatic play and self-regulation‘ (Erika Christakis, MEd, MPH, and Nicholas Christakis, , MD, PhD, CNN.com, 12/29/10).
So pretend play is muy importante because without it, children are unable to really, fully understand how “take turns, delay gratification, negotiate conflicts, solve problems, share goals, acquire flexibility, and live with disappointment”, skills that these two Harvard professors are noticing are lacking in some of their own students. That’s pretty scary if you ask me. Makes the decision to wait a year for kindergarten for my boy a little easier when two Ivy League prof’s are saying that the social piece may be a heavier weight than the academic weight for kindergarten readiness.
In “Play Ethic“, an excerpt from Playing for Keeps: Life and learning on a public school playground (2010), written by Deborah Meier, Brenda S. Engel, and Beth Taylor, (and available on the NEA Today site), the authors say basically the same thing: that the lessons learned on the playground are invaluable. In fact, they’re imperative for a democratic society. Through years of observing mixed-aged children playing on a public school playground, the authors came to the conclusion that creative thinking, meaningful interactions, and true life skills require free play and that
the future of democracy. . . depends on “wishful thinking” in the positive sense, on playing with ideas and being able to imagine better solutions. As adults, we need to cultivate the habit of taking leaps beyond our own self-interest and kinship. It is from such thinking that new realities are invented.
Interesting stuff. Makes me wonder where the kids and I will go tomorrow. . . I’ve always wanted to head to the moon.
Many thanks to my awesome mother-in-law for bringing these articles to my attention, and, of course, for the fabulous aprons she made for my littles.
Check out a few other posts that may help you develop strong and healthy habits for your family:
- wait time
- my day, your day
- frozen peas
- kids who rock the kitchen
- kids who rock the laundry
- rest time
- gem jars
- arm circles
- noticing kids
- homework routine
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