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 Stephanie and her family.
Please tell us a bit about you and your family.
My husband and I are lucky enough to live in a very leafy part of north London with our two girls, who are one and a half and nearly three years old. In January, I resigned my position as a journalist for the BBC to stay at home full time. I have a passion for books and reading and have always been fascinated with children’s literature and illustration. Given that love, and our family’s immersion in picture books following the birth of our elder daughter, developing Two in a Tepee, a blog celebrating the best of children’s storytelling and illustration, felt like a natural progression.
We are spoilt for choice in our area! The playground we visit the most frequently is in a park with a lovely paddling pool, which serves as an excellent distraction on hot summer days, and when empty the rest of the year, makes a terrific space for scooter riding. There is also a brilliant little cafe which (along with serving some mean, homemade, chicken goujons) holds children’s music and story based activities.
On a free day, what is your family’s favourite activity?
On Sundays we love going to our local farmer’s market. It is held in a near-by park and is a heaven for the senses. Our girls love checking out the flowers, fruit and veg and amazing food stalls. Our older daughter squeals with delight at the sight of a certain cake-pop stand, and our little one is a big fan of soft, doughy, freshly made, German pretzels. Both girls have struck up a relationship with the orchard owner who presses their favourite apple juice. He knows when we have missed a week and what colour straws the girls take in their glass bottles of juice. Given the high probability of rain on any given day in London, more often than not, the girls wear their wellies and waterproofs and splash about in muddy puddles. It is, pure and simple, good, clean (ok, often not so clean) fun.
How do you play with your girls? With what kind of toys?
My husband works long hours and doesn’t get home in time to see the girls before they go to bed. During the week, the only time we all get to spend together is the short window before my husband goes out the door to work in the morning. We have started a daily tradition of playing a few songs for the girls while we all dance together. Recently, Joy Division’s Love will Tear Us Apart and Gina G’s Ooh Ahh, Just a Little Bit have been in heavy rotation. The girls also demand at least one game each of hide and seek and “can’t catch me!” from their dad before he goes off for the day.
What is your favourite toy? And your children’s?
My children each have a group of stuffed animals who are very dear to them. “The Boys,” are a gang of four — the stuffed animal equivalent of the Rat Pack, really — who bunk in with my eldest daughter. My husband and I slept with them every night while I was pregnant. The little one (our gentle soul) has an ever growing number of animals —- but the one who makes her world spin is “Teddy”. Our children have lots of lovely toys, but these guys are my favourite because the girls (and my husband and I) have such strong emotional ties to them. This is rather unsurprising for those who know me well, as I still have my childhood teddy tucked under my pillow.
In terms of day-to-day play at the moment, My Little Ponies are by far the favourites of our older daughter, and our little one loves pushing her baby doll in a toy pram.
When you were a child what did you play and with what toys? What was your favourite one?
I played with Barbies a lot. I was an only child until I was nearly seven, so spent quite a bit of time on my own, either reading, or designing worlds and creating storylines for my Barbies.
What kind of crafts/DIY projects do you like to do with your kids?
We do loads and loads of colouring, painting, sculpting, creating collages, sticking stickers and making crafts from kids magazines in our house. We’ve got a beautiful set of water colours. Bringing out that set is a really easy way to make my older daughter feel very grown up and to hone her focus for a while (however brief some days!).
Do your children prefer playing or watching tv? Does what they see on television influence how they play?
Both girls, hands-down, prefer being out and about — going swimming or to the park or to play group or music sessions or to the library — to anything else. If we are in the house, they would choose to make arts and crafts or to be read to over watching TV. When faced with the option of playing on their own or watching TV, TV wins.
Our younger daughter isn’t really influenced by programmes yet (beyond loving the baby face in the sun on Teletubbies), but our older daughter is at an age where she pretends to be members of The Paw Patrol, Octonauts or Go Jetters. She likes action/adventure programmes and really likes dancing to their catchy theme tunes (we especially love the disco vibe of the Go Jetters theme)!
What is your children’s favourite book? And yours (from their collection)?
As those who read our blog will know, each night before bedtime, my older daughter and I have “Secret Club”. The two of us climb into the pink and white tepee in her bedroom, surround ourselves with a big down duvet and plenty of pillows and get lost in picture books together.
That tepee has seen a lot of books. My daughter has gone through phases of not being able to live without certain books — it started with Going on a Bear Hunt, moved to Oi Frog!, then she couldn’t live without pouring over the pictures in Sean Tan’s Rules of Summer, then it was Oliver Jeffer’s How to Catch a Star. Recently she has become a big fan of Emma Yarlett’s books, Poppy Pickle and Sidney, Stella and the Moon in particular.
You will have to check out Two in a Tepee for full reviews of my favourite books, but if I had to choose just one book to mention (and this is incredibly difficult given the absolute revolution happening in children’s publishing at the moment), I would choose Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith. Simple and elegant, this wordless picture book will bring a tear to your eye and remind you that beauty is often right in front of us if we take the time to look for it.
Such a sweet family! – Thank you so much Stephanie for sharing with us a little of your world!
If you love children’s picture books (like I do) you must follow Stephanie’s blog Two in a Tepee – she will introduce you to the best books, illustrators and authors. Also here on Instagram.
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.