What: It’s just a doll’s tea party. With whatever Kid 3 and I had on hand. Using “boy” dolls instead of the usual girl dolls, because that was what we had on hand. (I know, they’re supposed to be called “action figures”. Live with it.) The usual storytelling happened. We modelled conversation. It’s worth noting that the type of doll does influence the story. It might or might not have been different using wrestling figures than if we were using Bratz, for the most part it’s hard to tell and anyone can love a good cuppa. But I’m fairly sure a couple of Bratz girls wouldn’t have been talking about whose turn it was to win the championship belt.
Extras: There’s so much scope here for playing with what kinds of conversations men can have or women can have, and for subverting the cliches. Kid 3 wasn’t that aware of the cliches – they had no cognitive dissonance with the wrestlers wearing pink love hearts, for instance – but they weren’t completely unaware, either. They might find it quite a different experience doing this again as a Kid 7. Also modelling men talking to each other socially was a useful thing, and something I might get Male CoParent to come back to and play again with The Male Child.
What: Little changeable faces made from cardboard rolls, for storytelling and talking about feelings.
How: I took a couple of toilet roll centres and cut a face-shaped hole in each. I cut the other end a little, folded and spread the cut bits out onto a circle of cardboard cut from a used postpak and glued it down. When the glue was dry, I painted them with bright colours and patterns. Then I took the cardboard centre from a roll of alfoil or plastic cling wrap, which was narrow enough to go neatly inside the toilet roll centre, and cut it to length to fit inside the toilet roll. I drew faces around it with different expressions – cross, angry, happy, silly, sad, surprised – three faces to a roll. Then when it was all dry I assembled them.
Kid 2 loved them. The way I used them at that stage was to have little conversations between the people, where I modelled saying things that made people feel happy, sad, cross, whatever, or that were said with that kind of emotion, and turned the faces to match. This sometimes took a bit of quick thinking! I had lots of requests to “tell a story with the faces” to the point where I ended up hiding them away for a while. I’d often be asked to repeat the exact same story, and I couldn’t remember what I’d said the first time! That child is big on conversation and oral language, so the Little Faces were popular for a good year or so. I haven’t really had them out since , they got packed up for moving cross-country and have mostly stayed buried. So I don’t know how well they would have gone with the less conversational child, or at later ages. I may have to find them, put them out on a shelf and see if the kids will model their own conversations or if they can recognise the emotions drawn.
Extras: Kid 2 really wanted to make their own set of these, but it didn’t happen. It’d be a good craft project on the holidays now that the kids are a little older and I’m more patient with their attempts at gluing. As to using the set, getting the kids to tell their own stories – or to retell things that happened – would be interesting to try. I also see a good role for these in talking about how saying different things can change the face (feelings) of other people, now that Kid 6 is beginning to negotiate schoolyard politics rather than just blundering into them by accident and Kid 4 is having to deal with the politics despite being mostly oblivious.