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Children’s perspectives on play
Children’s perspectives on play

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2 Elodie’s day

The following account is from Mia Jenkins, Elodie’s (aged three years) mother. She talks about what Elodie likes to do, what she chooses to play with and her interest in music.

Box 1 Elodie playing

When Elodie wakes up in the morning, she immediately wants to play rather than have breakfast. She’s always so excited about playing but a little unfocused because she can move from one thing to another very quickly. Perhaps this is because she was a premature baby, being ten and half weeks early, so she needs time to develop. Her doll’s house is a massive thing with her and so is music. At the moment, at age three, from what I gather from our health visitor and various books, she should sometimes be playing in slightly different ways – games where it’s your-turn, my-turn like, for example, snap and snake and ladders.

But she often just wants to play her musical instruments. She’s got a guitar, just a little one, and she’s also got access to my guitar. She loves her toy piano and she loves all her percussion things. So she’s either working on her music or she is singing, or she is playing making me tea and breakfast in her little play kitchen. She is an only child and she wants to play with me all the time so I’m trying to stretch her gradually so she will play on her own a little more.

If we are playing in her doll’s house, she likes it if I also have my hands in the doll’s house getting the furniture out and so on. I do make suggestions but they can get over-ridden and when I mention breakfast or lunch, she’ll say ‘No, it’s night time’. She likes me around to make suggestions but she needs to take control. I don’t mind this because I like to think it’s good that she’s imagining something. She’s definitely got her own agenda on the play.

Up to a year or so into her life, I wasn’t quite sure how to play with her. Before she was born, I’d not had very much experience of playing with small children. I think I learned how to play with Elodie from watching my mother. She appeared to know how to do it; she’s wonderful. It seems to be about bringing imagination into what’s happening. A stick, of course, can be so many things in play. The role now comes more naturally to me. In fact, I think Elodie has reminded me how to play. I did use to have a very good imagination when I was a child.

When she was little I sang to her all the time. Even when she was in an incubator in hospital I sang to her. When she was crying and upset I would sing to help calm her. So she’s heard music a lot. She was very late to talk, late to do everything, in fact. Her language has only really taken off in the past few months. Previously to that, she wasn’t forming many words but she could sing the melodies of countless songs – maybe 30 well-known nursery songs.

Since 10 months she’s been a very good sleeper but she wouldn’t be quick to go to sleep. She would just lie in her cot and, on the monitor downstairs, we could hear that she wasn’t sleeping for perhaps an hour after we put her to bed, but she was going through one song after another. At first the tunes were perfect then the words started to come. Some of the words she hasn’t quite got yet so she makes up her own. I think singing is a form of playing. She’s entertaining herself, comforting herself, soothing herself …

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Figure 4 ‘I would say Elodie’s interest in music started right from the very beginning. When I was pregnant, I was having singing lessons and guitar lessons’.