Role Play


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“Do you want a sandwich?” 

“Wheat or white bread?” 

“Tomatoes?”

As I was playing with my two-year-old daughter Holly, tonight, and she diligently scribbled down my order on her little pad, I was reminded that childhood is the perfect time for role play.  Role play gives kids a chance to try on new shoes, both literally and figuratively.  It stretches the creative side, lets them try out new ways to communicate, and – perhaps most importantly – exposes them to all that is possible.

When I teach my high school students, there are constant reminders for them about where they can use what they are learning, where they will see it, and why they should know about it, often from an ethical, political, or health perspective. Holly and my son, Max, aren’t quite ready to be exposed to such detail, and frankly some of my students, particularly the sub-15 crowd, struggle to truly grasp what I present, but my role in offering them exposure to real applications of the science and math that they learn is very important.  How else would my students discover that bioinformatics research could be a fascinating career field for them, or that being a surgeon might not (as they pass out or turn green during a dissection)?  Or that logarithms have great utility if we study energy sources from diet soda to hamburgers to nuclear energy?

Their parents share this role, and particularly when they are receptive to them (reception gets a little patchy in those teenage years), it’s important for these parents to play their roles well, as citizens, professionals, homemakers, guardians, teachers, and keepers of order in their children’s worlds… as well as embracers of disorder, creativity, and play.  So many other adults and peers have equal significance, as leaders, artists, and partners in play.  It’s hard to play a role, have a role, or explore a role without others to add perspective.

This time of year, I eagerly await the days getting longer, so late afternoon hikes can be safe for me and my kids.  We’ve missed them so much!  We still get out – for a weekend romp (like to visit Melanie, Lukas, and Emilie in you’d-think-it-was-summer Santa Cruz last weekend), a flashlight hike in the neighborhood, and rock climbing every other week – but I can’t wait until mid-February when we hope to see many of you on Backpacking Bambinos hikes as we prep for backpacking camping trips this year (more info to come!). 

I imagine a world without Stroller Hikes.  Would Max have had so many opportunities to play the role of the leader: part tour guide, part inventor of games, and part safety officer on hikes?  Would I have ever explored so richly the role of the entrepreneur?  I’m pretty sure Holly would have had a chance to embrace her role as a social butterfly, but what other role awaits her?  Will she get to explore nature as a scientist?  Get to track animals?  Get to explore new territories and call them her own, with her brother (as in the photo above)? 

The future awaits somewhere in the same space as my imaginary sandwich.

-Debbie (Founder and President), Max (6), Holly (2), and Andrew

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