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Play in Abbyland

This is what I want the toy section of our playroom/office to look like all the time. When I bought the Melissa & Doug kitchen set I imagined Abby playing with it for hours on end.

Instead,this is what it looks like:

For hours on end.

Not pretty.

Just pretty messy.

This is what my office looked like after several hours of play recently. My grand-daughter Becca was playing with Abby that afternoon.

What you see is a complicated form of play that only they can understand. If you were to walk through this area (and good luck with that) and your foot hit one of the sections of this “playland,” knocking a couple of the toys out of whack, and the girls returned, they would know exactly which toys were out of sync and where they were supposed to be.

Schleich animals are the main characters of this play, and have been for years.  Better known in this house as “Theisen’s Toys” because they are available for sale at the nearby farm store, Schleich animals are made in Germany and retail for $1.79-$5.99, depending upon the size of the animal.  Horses are the priciest.  The same company makes knights in shining armor and Smurfs.  Abby got her first animals on her 2nd birthday and the rest, as they say, is history.  There was no looking back. They have remained her favorite toys ever since, and now she has a Rubbermaid bin full of them.  She finds them in her stocking at Christmas and her basket on Easter.  She occasionally unearths one at a Goodwill bin and once in a while finds one at garage sales. Others she buys brand new with her birthday money.

And they are way more than just little plastic animals to her.  They are family.

What she lusts after in the toy aisle is Barbie accessories.  And the Barbie accessories aren’t for Barbies.  They are for the Schleich toys.

It took her a couple of years to let Becca into the inner sanctum of her imaginary Schleich world. When she did, the first few times they played together with them, I heard her telling Becca what to say and how to play. After a few private lessons, Becca had it down pat.

As far as I can figure out, the ongoing game goes something like this, from Abby’s perspective:

Take books off the shelves and lay them on the floor.  You know, the books Mom keeps saying are not props.  These books are now props for the animals. Do the same with several of the wooden pieces of food that go with the lovely Melissa & Doug kitchen set that Mom apparently lusted after for herself, since we never play with it. Wooden cereal and wooden sugar makes great furniture for the animals.  Add two bins of Barbie “stuff” strategically arranged all over the landscape you have designed with books and wooden food.

Then fight over who gets what animal.  If your sister Katie offers to play with you, spend a good fifteen minutes arguing over one of the dogs until Katie throws the animals in her hand down on the floor and walks away in disgust.  Since Katie tells you what to say and do, you’d rather play by yourself anyway.  Becca is easier to handle.  She doesn’t really care what animals she gets, as long as she can play.

Play. For hours on end, adding more blocks and changing the Barbie accessories occasionally.  In fact, Barbie accessories are not really enough.  Beg for Littlest Pet Shop toys for Christmas and then promptly abandon those cute-faced animals that Mom thought were darling and then just use their accessories. And then pick up bottle caps, little pieces of plastic and beads everywhere you go. A broken piece of blue glass is one of the best pieces of junk you can find. Drop random pieces of plastic and glass into your Mom’s purse for playing with later.  Cry for at least half an hour when she cleans out her purse and throws them away.

And then, when you are done playing and Becca goes home, Don’t pick up.

Because tomorrow you are going to start all over again.

Author:

Author, public speaker, and workshop presenter for community colleges, libraries, women's groups and for grief support groups, Hospice and retreats. Reporter for the Manchester Press newspaper and popular public speaker and workshop presenter on the topics of writing and finding hope in grief. "Coupon Crazy: The Science, the Savings, and the Stories Behind America's Extreme Obsession" was published by Familius Publishing in 2014. "Chemo-Therapist: How Cancer Cured a Marriage" and "Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace" were released by Familius in 2014. "Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink," co-written with Mary Jedlicka Humston of Iowa City, was published in September 2015.

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