A little lesson I re-learned this week, with help from my little muffin, & from Peppa Pig.
Last month I bought Orla a Peppa Pig Playhouse on a whim. She’d found a Daddy Pig figure in a charity shop the day before & wanted it so desperately, & then I spotted the full set on sale & it seemed like a sign.
It became an immediate favourite – hours of pretend play, putting George in the bath, making Peppa brush her teeth while Mummy Pig (always Mummy Pig) cooked the tea & Daddy Pig ‘got the wine’.
It was all she wanted to do! First thing every morning – play Peppa house now mummy?
Which is why, I suppose, I went & bought her another two play sets – a treehouse & a campervan. I bought them because I just loved how happy that first set had made her, & wanted to have her more of that joy. & also, I suppose, because I wanted to vary the play a little bit – as play companions, me & Rory were both getting a liiiittle bit bored.
But the effect wasn’t what I’d expected. Faced with so many options, Orla’s play lost its focus. She became fussy & frustrated, scattering the little bits with her clumsy movements, spending longer gathering up and moving the toys than engaged in actual play. There were some nice moments – everyone riding in the van to the park, for example – but of course she is too young for a narrative that goes any further than that, and so once the park game was established, the campervan and house were just a messy, irritating distraction.
This is something I definitely already knew: the more toys you have around, the less a child can focus and play. I’ve spent years telling parents & professionals this in my Speech Therapy job – play is a child’s work, and we all work best in a distraction-free environment. Kids don’t need more toys, they need more adult time. Stuff is never the answer.
As adults we’re so conditioned to think that more is more, that material goods are the route to happiness and that presents & gifts represent love.
Orla didn’t need the extra Peppa Pig toys; she got more pleasure from the first set than from having all three combined. I wanted to get her those toys because it made me feel good to see her excitement, and because all my messed-up adult values told me it was the logical thing to do. I complicated something that was simple and good – fortunately, it’s fairly simple to fix too.
& so, the other two sets have been put away; when she actually tires of the playhouse I’ll rotate the next one out (though they’re plastic & a bit hideous, they do actually have really good play value.)
I feel like there’s a lesson here that most of us could use; just because something works well for us doesn’t mean we must immediately go and repeat it. A new tshirt that flatters doesn’t need to be bought in seven different shades; the pleasure you get from your new camera is not truy enhanced or prolonged by purchasing every available accessory. It’s ok to like something & stick with that. Life isn’t Pokemon; there’s nothing to be gained by catching them all.
So today I am concentrating on enjoying what I have & love, instead of looking for more.
PS – a confession: whilst adding the links to the toys in this post, I stumbled across the ICE CREAM VAN set, & now I really want to get it. Fail.