{ All About Playing } interview with Jenny McGillicuddy

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photo by: Klaar Photography

Definition of play: engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose; engage in (a game or activity) for enjoyment; amuse oneself by engaging in imaginative pretence;

Since I make toys – and I’m a mother of a little one – I begin to grow more and more curious about playing. How children these days play, how parents interact and play with them, how can we play in a fun way with them, how playing can help children’s development…

For this interview I have the pleasure to introduce you to Jenny and her family.

Please tell us a bit about you and your family.
We are a Swedish-American family of four. My husband (Owen) and I both love to travel and we actually met on a boat in South America. We lived in my home country, Sweden, for a few years and had our son Leopold there. Fast forward to today and we are now living outside of Portland, Maine (USA) in the same small town where Owen grew up. We welcomed Leopold’s little sister, Sigrid, to the family last fall. Sigrid is now 5 months old and Leopold is 3 and a half years old.

Currently I am what you would call a “work at home mom”, meaning I stay home with the kids and work on my children’s clothing line, AVENTYR kidswear, while Sigrid naps and Leopold is at preschool (as well as many late nights!).

I like to think of us as a pretty creative family. I have always loved creating things therefore my small business is just so much fun to me! Leopold loves arts and crafts, and my husband is a carpenter and a great musician. We are also quite energetic and silly, at any given time during the day you could catch us singing, dancing and joking around.

Best playground.
A playground that has a swing, a slide and something to climb on. It really doesn’t take much. The best part of any playground is meeting and playing with new friends. We usually play at our own house or friends houses though, since most of the people in our neighborhood have backyards with lots of room to goof around.

In a free day what is your family favorite activity?
When all four of us are home we like to go on little outings. We try to spend as much time outside as possible and the activity really depends on the season, beach season is the best!

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How do you play with your kids? With what kind of toys?
Most often Leopold is the one who decides what we will play with, but sometimes I will try to engage him in some activity that I think is appropriate for the time of day and what will work for Sigrid too. Because of their age difference, I have found that sitting on the floor usually works best. We play with all sorts of toys. Our kids are so young and still not aware of all the gender stereotypes in our society. Owen and I try to keep it that way for as long as possible. Instead of pointing them in certain directions based on their gender, we encourage all sorts of creative expression and embrace the gender-unaware play that Leopold is doing right now. He is really into imaginary play these days and he likes to pretend that he goes grocery shopping and then cooks us dinner in his play-kitchen for example, or that he is a daddy to his dolls, a doctor who examines us, a robot, a pony, you name it!

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What is your favorite toy? And from your children?
I can’t say that I have a favorite toy really, but I do prefer simple wooden toys in general, toys that are pleasing to the eye. I don’t like toys that are over stimulating. Flashy plastic toys that light up and make horrible noises are not my favorite. The kids are not picky though. Sigrid is showing interest in both the simple and the flashy toys at this point. Leopold loves anything he can build tall towers with or organize and sort in to long rows. He does that all the time and I find it really interesting and cute.

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When you were a child what did you play and with what toys? What was your favorite one?
I had a favorite stuffed animal that I loved so much and it was always with me wherever I went (I still have it!). As I got a little bit older I remember playing with Legos and Barbies a lot. My sister and I were often outside playing together with the kids in the neighborhood at the community playground.

What kind of crafts/DIY projects do you like to do with your kids?
I love doing crafts with the kids! We make homemade play dough and it makes for hours and hours of fun. I also encourage Leopold to paint, which he likes. I keep craft supplies in a big see-through box so Leopold can see and often requests to take out stamps, stickers, scissors, glue, glitter etc. We also have a chalkboard wall that he can draw on whenever he wants to.

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Your children prefer playing or watching tv? What they see in television influences how they play?
Leopold definitely likes watching TV, but we do try to limit the amount of time he spends in front of the screen. Lately we are seeing that the TV show he is watching will inspire him to leave the screen and go off to play instead. He sees the characters do things and he immediately wants to do them too.

We are raising our kids bilingual so we feel that Swedish children’s shows are actually great for exposing them to more of the Swedish language!

What is your kids favorite book? And yours (from their collection)?
Leopold loves all of his books! I try to read Scandinavian books in Swedish to the kids whenever possible to expose them to the Swedish language and culture. Also, I enjoy the Swedish ones more because I know them from my childhood. For example Pippi Longstocking (and the other lovely Astrid Lindgren books), as well as Alfons Aberg, Pettsson & Findus and Moomin. It’s important to me that my children grow up feeling that they are Swedish, as well as American, and I believe that litterature and language can play a big part of it. Some american books we all like are “Good Night Moon” and all Dr. Seuss books, classics!

Please ask your kids “If you could choose to be a storybook character what would you be? Why?”
Leopold would be Curious George! He just loves that little monkey and doesn’t seem to ever get bored with him. I think that Curious George fascinates him because just like Leopold or any other kid his age, he can’t always express what he wants and being so curious he will often make little mistakes that he will learn from.

Do you know how does your children play at school?
Leopold goes to preschool 2 days per week. They play outside, do crafts, have group time, music time, as well as free play. During free play I think he will often find a space where he can grab a bunch of toys to organize and sort into long rows, just like he does at home.

Your kids prefer playing indoors or outdoors?
Both. Leopold has always loved being outdoors! We always make sure to play outside for a bit every day even on the coldest winter day (it can get really cold here in Maine!) and spend almost all day outside during the summer. Sigrid is still too young to be playing around in the snow, so “babywearing” has been great this winter. I have been able to carry her and still have my hands free to engage with Leopold.

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What a sweet family! – Thank you so much Jenny for letting us see a little of your joyful world! 
Jenny is the founder of a wonderful kids wear brand called  AVENTYR kidswear.

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I would really like to know how your kids play? What’s their favorite toy, the one they cuddle at night?
Please leave a comment below.

2 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for the interview, Ana! xoxo Jenny

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