Thursday, June 30, 2011

Zombie Barbies

Ivy decided to turn all of her Barbie dolls into Zombies!

I have a few Rubbermaid containers full of small toys that we have acquired over the years. Some are fast food toys, some are from yard sales and some are given to us. Every once in a while I will pull out the hot glue guns, paints and small saws and the kids will create new toys! They put doll heads on trucks and make many other colorful, funny, interesting creations. Recycling at it's best!

When I was a child I much fewer toys than my children do. Sawing them apart and gluing them on to other toys would have never crossed my mind because toys were few in comparison to today and our parents spent so much money on them and they had their ideas of how the toys should be used. Today, we live in a time of abundance and we acquire toys for free or really cheap compared to when I was a kid. A benefit to the abundance of toys in our lives is that our children have the opportunity to experience taking them apart and seeing the inner workings of them. They can recreate toys and trade with their friends, or feel the exhilaration of smashing and old toy with a hammer.

Having the freedom to explore, dismember and smash toys does not mean that my children then disrespect their toys and games. They have many toys that they cherish. Tiff is meticulous with her American Girl Dolls and researches online how to keep them looking brand new. Devin takes incredible care of his iPad2 and game systems and weapon collection. My children value their belongings very much.

When you have four kids, toys and games are everywhere. They are a huge part of life. It is so great to be able to get the most out of everything you have and not be afraid to allow a child to cut the hair off of a once cherished doll. It isn't a loss because the toy is becoming something else. It may be evolving into a new toy, tool or experience. Something we as parents have learned to let go of is the idea that we somehow partially own the toy and have say in how it is used and played with. I would rather give it with no strings and see how my children decide to use it and allow it to change to meet their changing interests and needs.

When Ivy cut the hair off her Barbies and painted them green with acrylic paint. It was nice to see her making herself a new toy. She hadn't played with the Barbies in months and I am so glad that I didn't tell her to not cut their hair. She extended their play life and had a focus for her exuberant creativity.

"You may have heard the term "open ended" in toy descriptions. An "open ended" toy means that the ways of playing with it are endless and powered by the child's imagination. There is no right or wrong way to play with an open ended toy. It is multi-purpose and even grows with the child. Open ended toys are a worthwhile investment, both in terms of how long your child can play with it and also the imagination it inspires."

I found the above description of an "open-ended toy" on a natural parenting site. The article was sharing that playsilks and wooden blocks are open-ended, but Barbie was not. I can see the theory behind this belief, but in my experience with my children, it isn't true. Barbie can be as open-ended as a playsilk as long as you do not impose rules, limits and hold rigid ideas about how you think the toy should be used.

Every toy can be open-ended if you allow them to be!


Terri said...

Cool green barbies! Great article

Dayna Martin said...

Thanks Terri!

Jen said...

Beautiful! We're an unschooling family as well and I adore this description of open ended toys in action.
I've got all boys, so despite my efforts, and with the exception of a few stuffed animals, ;P , dolls never caught on... I, like you, disagree that stuffed animals, dolls and toys with "specific" play routines are not open ended play opportunities. My youngest talks to his stuffed animals, makes believe with his blocks (which are open ended, of course), but children work through a lot of their emotions and figure out their place in this world with their toys. Not giving them the opportunity to do so by dictating how they play is taking away a part of how they cope and manage with stressors and doing them a significant disservice. Thanks for your post. Awesome. And I DO love me some zombies.

Un-doers said...

Agreed. Love the whole zombie barbie idea. Barbies have always been open ended toys in our house too. And not because I knew what I was doing, but because that's how Marley plays. She knows what she's doing ;)

She never even saw a barbie doll until she was about five, because I had such a hangup against them. I used to sniff them out of the boxes of Christmas presents she would get from family and hide them! But once I let go, and she made that first barbie a veterinarian for her My Little Ponies, I laughed at myself because I realized that to her, it's just a doll--all the baggage I'd attached to it was MINE. LOL.

Olga Degtyareva said...

Hi Dayna! Thank you so much for this! Thanks to your kind articles on TV and toys I have learned and embraced these new concepts. They are not as trivial as they might appear, so please write more!

I used to think I am a bad mother if I watch something on computer with my boys or give them plastic toys. Since we dropped the tv-free and only wooden and silk toys rules imposed by natural parenting approach, we are all just happy learners :-)

Annette said...

I love this idea! how fun!

messyfish said...

This post is so helpful for moving from Steiner to unschooling. It's also a great was to see "abundance", and let children play how they like....
I witnessed a mum take a toy from her toddler because she wasn't playing with it " correctly " the other day. Everyone in that family appeared unhappy.