12 June 2009


As mentioned in the last post, we've been learning about real vs. imaginary. Olivia's been spouting off phrases like "Eloise is a character" and "let's pretend I can eat this" and asking things like "what does 'real' mean?" While you are pondering that latter bit, I will elaborate on some of Miss Olivia's favorite pretend games:

(From Frog & Toad are Friends and other books by Arnold Lobel)
Olivia is Toad. So is Mommy. Daddy is Frog. So is Elsie. Except when Elsie & Olivia are Toads, and Mommy & Daddy are Frogs.

Here are some of Toad's favorite things to do: be worried about where Frog is, be grumpy about lost buttons, sleep in until half-past May (which I think makes Nate a good candidate for Toad), clean things later ("I will do it tomorrow."), and eat cookies. Frog likes to have will-power, tell shivery stories, be a helper to Toad, have alone time to think, and eat chocolate ice cream.

(From Caillou, on PBS)
We don't play this one so much anymore, as we've stopped watching tv proper (although we do watch videos), but Olivia sometimes calls me "Red Mommy." After a brief silence (during which my gears are whirring trying to figure out what she means), I finally get it and say, "Yes, Caillou?"

I should stop here and elaborate on Olivia's rules for pretend play. The funnest part is to call people by their pretend names. So usually the game starts out with Olivia challenging whichever parent is around by calling them a character name. If you get it wrong, you hear the retort, "Oh, I mean [insert correct answer here]." At which point you must repeat this statement verbatim. Then Olivia says, "[your name], what is [whatever the name is for Elsie or Daddy or Mommy] doing?" The goal is to use the character names as many times and with as much emphasis as possible.

For example, using the characters from CURIOUS GEORGE it would go like this:

Olivia: Mrs. Needleman?
Me: Yes, Olivia?
Olivia: Oh, I mean Curious George!"
Me: Oh, I mean, 'yes, Curious George?'"
Olivia: Mrs. Needleman, what is The Man with the Yellow Hat doing?"
Me: Well, Curious George, The Man with the Yellow Hat is at work.
Olivia: Oh. Mrs. Needleman, what is Betsy doing?
Me: She is chewing on her teething ring.
Olivia: Oh, I mean Curious George.
Me: Yes. I mean, Curious George, Betsy is chewing on her teething ring.

(From Super Readers on PBS)
Olivia is Super Why. She can sing the song and do the dance, and she is learning how to read. Daddy is Alpha Pig. Whenever we watched the show, and Alpha Pig came to sing the alphabet, Olivia would turn excitedly to me and say "DADDY will help!" I am Wonder Red (I can rhyme), and Elsie is Princess Pea (she can spell... someday). This is one of my favorites, as there is a theme song and a dance number.

(From Stanly & Rhoda, by Rosemary Wells)
Stanley & Rhoda are brother and sister mice. Rhoda has been stung by a bee. She has also taken a bath with her clothes on. Olivia has done likewise. So Olivia is Rhoda. Stanley is whichever parent is around. Sometimes, everyone who is not Rhoda is Stanley. But that gets confusing.

(From the best cartoon ever in the world, Little Bill is little Bill Cosby)
Olivia is Little Bill. I am Mama. Nate is Big Bill/Dad. And Elsie can be either April or Bobby, Little Bill's older siblings. Sometimes, Elsie can be Baby Jamal, too.

These two characters are exceptions. Mr. Elephant (originally a character from The Fantastic Mr. Wani) is a stuffed animal that Nathan does the voice for. Bunny is a puppet for whom I do the voice. Mr. Elephant and Bunny are counselors and advocates for Olivia. When things are too scary or sad, she asks to speak to these two friends, and they help her calm herself. Sometimes, we stick a flashlight inside Bunny for a nice snuggly night light.

Our characters have helped us when scary things like bee bites and falling happen (see the excerpt on Mr. Wani here). They also help explain things which may be hard to also give us permission to do silly things we may not have thought of, like taking a bath with our clothes on.

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