I can still vividly remember the games I used to play as a child. We had an old battered suitcase stuffed full of old clothes – including my mum’s wedding dress – that we used to dress up in. My friends, sister and I would pretend to be teachers, hairdressers, doctors, fairies, witches – the list was endless. Some of those imaginary games still seem so real that I can remember the pretend names I gave myself (Fifi was a favourite!) and the names of my dolls and teddies.
Frog has been immersed in her own imaginary world for a while now, but it’s only been recently that I’ve had a proper glimpse into it. This summer has seen her start to tell her own stories, featuring her new friend “Leo Lion”, along with a whole host of other made up characters. Every bedtime she literally quivers with excitement because, after we’ve read her a story, she gets to tell herself her own story. I walk downstairs to the sound of her talking to herself about fairies and frogs, dragons and Peppa Pig.
Dressing up has long been a favourite game of hers, but it’s taken on a new meaning this summer. Rather than just put on a fairy costume or be a doctor, her games now involve intricate details where she talks to pretend patients and friends, weaving real and made up details into an alternative world.
Last week we were sent a play set by Fafu Play. It’s a dressing up set with a difference, because the items it contains aren’t obviously meant to be one thing or another. There are silk clothes, a felt hat, a cloak or wings and a tabbard-like outfit. The point is that these pieces of material can be anything you want them to be. My mum – a retired drama teacher – thoroughly approved, as did my imaginative four year old.
One minute she was a magical elf taking on an evil prince in a wood, with a little help from her “invisibility cloak”. Next she was on a boat, using the cloak as a sail while she battled with a ferocious shark. Then she was a fish, using the silk cloth as her “fish hair”, swimming cunningly past the shark to rescue her magic hat from the tangled forest.
The game went on for over an hour and eventually involved her turning into a doctor, before giving one of her dolls a hair makeover at a pretend hairdressers. Only a four year old could effortlessly go from a magic elf to a creative hairdresser in the blink of an eye.
I’ve always loved toys that are more open-ended, giving Frog more options for different ways to play. It’s not just a case of keeping her occupied for longer, but I can see these types of toys encourage her to think for herself, use her imagination and give her endless possibilities for different types of games.
This dressing up set encompasses all of these open-ended play ideas. Rather than just giving a kid a fairy costume and saying, “Let’s play fairies”, you’re giving them a set of tools to be anything they want to be. There’s no “end game” or final result, it’s more a set of prompts to encourage the most exciting imaginative play possible. This is obvious through the fact the “cape” became a magic cloak, a pair of wings, a sail on a boat and a tail on a fish.
It’s enough to make me wish I was four again so I could totally immerse myself in these worlds alongside my daughter. Beats doing the washing up and hoovering, any day.
Thanks to Fafu Play for sending us this play set for the purpose of this review. You can find your own Fafunian costume online here.