Imagination play day

Sherri Gardner HowellFarragut, Kitchen Table Talk

The rain never let up as I traveled from Knoxville to Nashville Monday, but I did get to Franklin, Tenn., by 1:30 and in time to pick up my grandson King from pre-school.

This is a short trip as I am on my way to Seattle mid-week to see Cohen and Gardner. Visits with all three grandchildren! Life is definitely great.

King was maybe as excited as I was about the visit. All I know is that every teacher I saw had been told “Gigi is picking me up.”

We had only one errand to accomplish, so we started playing by 2:30. By a later-than-usual bedtime, I had been a pirate, Cinderella, an alien and a Martian (he explained the difference in great detail), a time-traveler, BugMan, Wasp Girl, Robin, a dinosaur, a shark, Goofy as a pirate and for one, very brief moment, Batman.

Most of the time, I am the villain, and I am always defeated. When I am the good guy in partnership with King’s good guy, we always save the world. When I am the good guy by myself, the world is destroyed by the villain. Yes, I see the pattern and try not to take it personally.

There are some common elements in our play as we always have a prop or two, such as a Batmobile, spaceship or superhero figure, and there is always conflict and a problem to solve. For the most part, however, King’s imagination is wide and fertile. I never know what dialogue he will be crafting (and I am expected to stick to the script with very little tolerance for ad-libbing) or exactly how the scenes will unfold.

It’s fun, of course, and fascinating. After all, this is very much a 5-year-old of the millennium. He is tech-savvy, loves videos and movies and Alexa and Google understand him sometimes better than I do. Recently, before his mom and dad had time to engage the parent-protection on Alexa, he signed them up for a trial subscription to “Bedtime Stories for Children.”

But the screen interaction and silly videos he loves do not seem to hamper his imaginative play. What I love is watching the problem-solving that takes place in that little brain as we play.

For example, King has two Batman figures, one in all-black and one in gray and black. He really likes to play with both of them but couldn’t work out two Batmans. I suggested for that one was a robot, which was rejected. I suggested that maybe one was just a costume and sometimes Batman wore black and sometimes the other. Rejected.

But a light went on in King’s mind and, now, Batman has a brother.

King with his favorite superhero, Batman

Since the main goal is to save the world or conquer the danger, he will resort to B-movie scripting at times, and you just have to just let some things slide. Our evil sharks, for example, are just as comfortable storming the castle as they are in the water devouring a pirate ship.

Other things have wonderful 5-year-old logic. Yesterday I asked him why it was Cinderella (me) who was greeting the alien. “Her castle is so big that he saw it from outer space,” he explained, nonchalantly.

Of course. But now I must go. King just woke up and already Batman’s brother has gotten himself captured by the evil Bugman. Much work to do…

Sherri Gardner Howell has been writing about family life for newspapers and magazines since 1987. She lives in West Knoxville, is married to Neville Howell and has two sons and three grandsons.

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