Toddlers learn through play. By playing with you they develop important social skills like concentration and cooperation, how to express themselves (oh yes indeed) and give full rein to their active imaginations. ‘Let’s pretend’ is particularly important because this is how young children make sense of the world around them, whether it’s playing at shops or defeating the evil monster.
So to help you out, here are the rules of role play...according to our little darlings!
1. The loudest of the smallest people in the room – no, wait, the house, the world, the universe - is in charge.
2. Adults have to play when commanded by the person in charge. Absolutely no excuses allowed, such as “I’ve got to make tea” or “I’m on the phone talking to the insurance company about the leaking roof”. This applies whether at home or in the car and always in public places like the supermarket, because the person in charge knows an adult’s desire to get out of an embarrassing situation – such as having to pretend to be Ultimate Humungousaur from Ben 10 - could mean they’ll do anything to get out of it and that equals sweets.
3. The rules are subject to change without any warning whatsoever. So, for example, your little one could be re-enacting a scene from a Barbie film, in which you are the bad fairy, then all of a sudden, she turns into the Little Princess and you have to be Nanny Plum but she hasn’t told you and if you ask what on earth is going on, you will be cautioned for failing to mind-read. Basically, just go with the flow unless you want a tantrum.
4. Adults must stick to the script and the correct accent at all times. Or else you will be accused of RUINING EVERYTHING and being a STUPID MUMMY/DADDY.
5. Adults must show no initiative and follow instructions or they will be forced to start from the beginning again, which was 47 minutes ago.
6. Adults can only get out of role-play by offering juice and cake.
7. Should toy vehicles be used in a session, no one is allowed to crash their car without being told they can. The person in charge is allowed to crash into everyone else’s car though. Any injuries as a result will be met with indifference and then a forced ‘sorry’ from the person in charge, unless they are hurt, in which case it is the end of the world.
8. Guests, such as Nanny, aunties, uncles and the gas man, must play even if they haven’t got the foggiest who Lightning McQueen is.
9. The best parts – ie. Tinker Bell, Finn Mcmissile, Jessie and Anakin Skywalker - always go to the person in charge and the worst parts – ie. Stinky Pete, Clonetroopers and Mr Bloom’s Composterium - go to everyone else.
10. If the person in charge is a boy, they get to defeat everyone and be the winner. If the person in charge is a girl, they get to be the best princess and be the winner.
11. If asked who your favourite Pokemon is, you must answer even if you can’t recall any of their names.
12. The shower cubicle is not the shower cubicle but the TARDIS. Obligatory when Mummy wants to go in there at 7.30am on a Monday morning.
13. Animals can join in too. For example, the cat is the Tiger Who Came To Tea, the goldfish is a huge shark and the dog is an enormous dinosaur who is going to eat everyone.
14. Dens and tents and space rockets are made out of sofa cushions, chairs and blankets. If they collapse – even when the person in charge leaps on them – the adult will be on the end of a big telling off and must re-construct it immediately without any reasonable explanation (incorporating physics if Dad is playing) that cushions and blankets are not capable of withstanding the force of 2.5st of child at speed.
15. Role play sessions end when the person in charge decides. Even if, and especially when, Mummy or Daddy is actually enjoying doctors and nurses because that’s what they wanted to be when they were young but never made the grade.