“Mast the mast and ram the rails!” (When I asked Nate what this meant, he had no clue, but it sounded very seaworthy to him.)
“Put down the sail!” Jump to shore! The sea monster’s in the boat!
“Careful you’re on the sea monster!”
“I am the sea monster!”
“Gather the provisions!”
“Let’s put on our life vests!”
“Pirates don’t wear life jackets.”
“Ok, I’ll throw it overboard!”
“Walk the plank!” (This was Ellia telling a little boy that he should not be climbing the mast.)
These are all snippets from the play that occurred at the preschool play room upstairs at the ECHO Aquarium and Science Center this afternoon. Nate and Elli always spend a substantial amount of our time there in this room. It captures their imagination with its lighthouse, store with moveable provisions, dock, sail boat with working sail, turtle tank, slide, and bits of champ the sea creature.
Today there were several other families with younger children that drifted in and out. Nate and Elli incorporated most of them into their play creating an interesting dynamic as kids came and went. Most kids played well. Elli got a wee bit bossy when wanting the boy to come down the mast so they could raise the sails, but other overall it was pretty chill.
At one point Nate was giving orders to a little girl without using her name. I encouraged him by saying, “Tell her your name Nate.” Elli piped up and said without thinking, “My name is Nate, what’s yours?” She caught herself and everyone had a giggle. At another point Elli didn't like how one boy was playing and came to me to tell. I encouraged her to go back and talk to the boy and tell him that she didn't like what he was doing before running off to "tell" on him. Nate and Elli seemed to take the lead and be the most vocal in their play. Even in this there was a level of respect for their playmates and their play reinforced positive social skills.
Although Jeff and I often wonder if the kids are bored with ECHO (it’s convenient and we visit often), they seem to always have a great time when we go. Nate has vocalized our wonderings, but is typically excited to go back. Sometimes we do get bored with our play, but I think there is great value in learning to go back to something and push through this “boredom” to find a new excitement in the activity or situation. When we can reach deep for our creativity to make the ordinary new again we have found something special. As parents we too often accept the “I’m bored” statements from our children and scramble to fix the problem by providing them with something entertaining. There is a difference between this and increasing developmentally appropriate challenges. Variety for entertainment’s sake can limit creativity and growth while introducing new challenges can enhance play.
A side note on ECHO: Check with your local library to see if they have a discount card. Ours has a card you can check out and pay only $2/person. Also we use some of our fun budget for an annual family membership for $100/year. This not only allows us to skip in anytime we’re up near Burlington, but also gets us into 310 other museums around the country including Boston Children’s Museum which makes vacations much more economical!