It never ceases to amaze me how children can be kept amused by just the simplest things.
This is the latest 'favourite plaything' at our house at the moment. A cardboard box with a slit cut in it.
It all started on Sunday afternoon when my girl was wondering around looking a little lost. "Are you finding it hard to find something to do?" I asked. "I am", she answered. I started to think about the things she likes to do at the moment - drawing, colouring in? These things wouldn't do, I could tell she was in the mood to do something a little different.
'How about I put together some paper, envelopes and stickers for stamps and you could write some letters?". She perked up, I knew I was onto a good thing. I picked up the cardboard box waiting to go into the recycling. "This could be the post box' I said. She seemed more excited.
"I could be the post lady too" she chimed in. "I could deliver the letters, I would need a hat". She ran off to her room and came back with her visor and her brother's satchel. "What if you were the Queen when you write your letters?" I suggested. (She is quite taken with the idea of being a Queen. The other day she asked me "What do you have to do to become the Queen?" She sets her sights high, my girl!). "Yes!!" she said, "I would need a crown". Of course!
We went to her room and fetched a crown she had made at school last year. We proclaimed her the 'Queen of Art and Craft' and she sat at her royal table writing letters for her royal subjects.
When she had written a few, she took off her crown, put on her visor, sorted through her post box, made a list of the letters she needed to post, stamped them with the special post mark I had given her and went off delivering.
She played this game for over 2 hours and only packed it away for dinner. She grew the game on her own, callng herself "Postman Patricia" when she wasn't being the Queen. She even went and found her own 'black and white cat' and came up with an elaborate story about how Postman Pat was her husband and he was ill, so that's why she was delivering letters with Jess the cat.
Once I had set up the play and got it flowing, she didn't need me at all any more, except to receive my letters and tell me about the latest twist in the game. This is the beauty about setting up a play experience that embodies a child's interest and learning level - they can stay engrossed in the game for hours and will keep going back to it. The box has been brought out every morning before school this week too.