Every week in The Kiddy Pool, Erin Newcomb confronts one of many issues that parents must deal with related to popular culture.
There are a lot of Freidas at our house. It’s my daughter’s latest naming trend, and I have no idea where it came from. We don’t know anyone named Freida and I can’t recall any stories with a Freida, but suddenly we need a numerical system just to differentiate the Freida crowd. One of our extended family members was not so thrilled about this, and promptly told my daughter “No, that’s not her name. That’s not a good name.” That kind of thing makes me crazy, and while my style is usually a bit more laissez-faire, I stepped in right away on this one: “It’s not your doll. You don’t get to name her.” Obvious, right?
But I started thinking about how many interactions I see where grownups talk incessantly in an effort to instruct children on every aspect of a toy’s use. That never occurred to me. Just play with it. Figure it out. The manufacturer’s instructions are seldom a requirement, and they seem so darn limited. Maybe that’s why my husband is in charge of all furniture assembly at our house, because I view how-to’s as mere suggestions. We represent some rare extremes of temperament at our house, but I think there’s a time and a place for both, as well as a need for balance.
So my husband breaks down the process of getting dressed, and I provide buttons and ribbons to fancy up our playdough people and make a playdough pumpkin patch. Then there are the ideas and observations our daughter shares that are beyond us both—like naming everyone Freida and hunting for snakes in the hose section of a garden store and building pterodactyls out of duplo blocks. Those pterodactyls, you know, are not pictured on the box.
I was turning all these ideas around when a friend posted this article on our local mommy group: “Don’t Cramp Your Toddler’s Style.”. Yes! I thought. The blogger, Janet Lansbury, asserts free-play as critical to child development, not because it boosts SAT scores but because it’s creative and fun and an expression of each child’s unique personality. Amen! I can’t imagine how many silly, beautiful things I’d miss out on if I always initiated our play, and I’m sure I never would have met so many lovely Freidas.