Strawberry Soup – the Power of Pretend Play

I was lost in my computer, fumbling over the unsavory task of learning just enough of the WordPress functionality to put the final tweaks on my new professional blog when Emily appeared next to me.

“I made you some soup, Mama.” I had heard her just moments before, rummaging about in her play kitchen, banging away at the doors and talking to herself.

“Oh Emily, how lovely, thank you!” I smiled at her and she beamed up at me, holding one of her toy bowls, filled with an assortment of beads, and a spoon.”

“Be careful now, Mama, it’s hot!” She warned me, passing the bowl over and looking at me expectantly.

“It looks very colorful and yummy,” I say, blowing gently on it, “tell me all about what you put in it.”

Emily loves this part, her chest puffs up with pride and she grins, “Well…I put strawberries in it, and sugar, and salt and pepper.”

“Oh my favorite, strawberry soup!” I take a test ‘sip’ out of the spoon and fan my lips, “Oh, it is hot, I’ll let it cool off for a while before I try eating it again.”

We take that love of pretend into the kitchen. Often her ‘gift’ of soup is the catalyst and I pull myself away from what I am doing and we go and make banana bread or cookies, or pull out the newest bread dough recipe I want to try out.

We’ve been doing this since she was quite young…

Emily - age 2 1/2 years

Nowadays she is pretty good about waiting to add ingredients, there were several spice disasters (she poured in an entire bottle of ground cloves into a banana bread mix the second my back was turned) and we don’t end up with too much of the ingredients spilled out of the bowl these days either.

One thing has definitely remained the same…Emily ALWAYS gets to lick the beaters!

I’ve recognized several aspects of my child’s personality in her pretend play – she likes to help, she wants to do for others.  I encourage that, but I also encourage her to eat her own ‘strawberry soup’ and remind her that the chef gets to try everything first.

Along the way, we are learning measurements. I talk at her while we go down the list of ingredients, point to the next thing on the list, and show her the different symbols in the book and on the cups and spoons.

I don’t expect her to memorize them and know them for a long time, but when she does, I expect it will be a natural progression. Later, as she learns more complicated math she will begin to understand fractions and how they combine to make a whole.

At all times I try to keep it fun. If it is fun, if she is curious about the marks on the measuring cup and asking to help with the baking and cooking, she will learn it – without me needing to force it down her throat.

Yesterday we had a lovely abnormally warm day. It was in the 60s, and we flung open the doors and escaped out into the muddy, soggy yard. In a few months, we will be harvesting pound after pound of strawberries.

In the meanwhile, we bought a pound of strawberries at the grocery store and Emily ate the bulk of them. Who knows, maybe we will try making actual strawberry soup sometime soon!

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