The Importance of Play

Hi there!

Thanks for sticking around!

After I finish my master’s degree, I want to become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Registered Play Therapist (RPT). I am currently a counselor-in-training, and everything I post is just my opinion on what I’m learning unless I share a direct quote from a textbook or article. This semester, I am taking Intro to Play Therapy. It’s only week 3 of the semester, but I feel like I’ve already learned so much valuable information! I will mostly be discussing play in regards to children in this post, but I do want to point out that play benefits everyone of all ages. It relieves stress and stimulates creativity.

Toys are children’s words, and play is their language.

Garry L. Landreth

The above quote is so simple, and yet, I think many of us do not realize how true it is. Children are not miniature adults. They do not have the vocabulary, cognitive, verbal, or emotional abilities that adults have. They can’t communicate with us in the ways that we adults communicate with each other. Children communicate through play. They process and express themselves through play. Children also make sense of the world around them through their play. It’s amazing and wonderful to view play from this perspective.

Think about a child, or even think of yourself as a child, and think about the ways that you played. What do you think you were communicating?

To illustrate this idea better, I’m going to share a goofy babysitting story. I used to babysit a lot when I was in high school, and one time, a child I was babysitting asked me to play “house” with them using their dollhouse and dollhouse family figures. The conversation went something like this:

Kid: I will be the baby!

Me: Okay, should I be the mommy?

Kid: No, Catie, I am going to be the mommy.

Me: Oh, okay, do you me to be the daddy?

Kid: No, I want the daddy.

Me (very lost at this point): Um, do you want me the dog…?

Kid: Oh, no, I am going to be the dog too.

Me: Okay, what do you want me to do?

Kid: You can be the toilet. You make flushing noises after each person uses it.

…!?

Now that I understood my task, I made silly flushing noises after she had each member of the family, including the dog, use the toilet. This child was potty-training at the time. Like with many kids, there were ups and downs and progressions and setbacks in their potty-training journey. I think it’s possible that they were using this play activity as a way of processing and understanding their potty-training experience. The above conversation is also a good illustration of open-ended vs. closed-ended questions. Open-ended questions often start with “what,” and they have many possible answers. They’re good for learning more about someone and making conversation. Closed-ended questions are questions that can be answered with a single word, like “yes” or “no.” These kinds of questions do not facilitate conversation as well. As you can see above, I could have learned what I was supposed to do much sooner if I had started with, “what do you want me to do?”

On the topic of questions, “why” is pretty much always going to get an “I don’t know” response, even with adults. It also puts people on the defensive. Because of this, I think it’s best to avoid them.

Back to children. Children also need to feel free in their play. When thinking about myself and my interactions with my little sister or the children I babysat, I interrupted their play way too much with questions and unfortunately, even evaluations. For example, a different child I was babysitting had all her Polly Pockets hanging by their necks from the balcony of her dollhouse, and I was horrified. What I should have done was sat down quietly and observed her play to learn more about what was going on. It turns out, she had watched a scary movie with a hanging scene, and she believes she was working through the confusion she felt. Horror movies and children really don’t mix. Another child I babysat had been allowed to watch The Human Centipede, and she was lining up her dolls in a “centipede” for weeks after. Anyway, when a child’s play is interrupted with questions or judgments about how they’re playing, it limits their freedom and their ability to communicate. I view it as like taking some of their words away. Some of us may even remember experiencing this. Like, I remember coloring something in black in my coloring book and being peppered with questions about why I did that and what was wrong with me. I concluded that black must be a “bad” color, and I didn’t use black crayons or markers again for years. It was probably a small event to the adult involved, but it added an unnecessary limit to my ability to communicate.

Of course, not all limits are bad. Some are useful. Obviously, we can’t just let children play with whatever, whenever. They can’t have free access to knives or to the car keys. But, when it comes to play, only necessary limits should be set. Limits that protect them and those around them.

Another point – if a child wants your participation in their play, and you have the time, play with them! But let them guide the activities. Be open to, and accepting (within reason), of what they want you to do.

That’s all I have to share on this topic today! I hope you enjoyed reading!

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Welcome to Cate’s Mushroom Meadow!

Hi there!

My name is Cate, and I am also known as @mushroom_miniatures on Instagram. I am a graduate student in a master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. I have two precious dogs named Isaac and Miria. They are both girls! They’re named after the characters from the anime Baccano. They’re both rescues, and I hope to rescue many more animals once we own a home and have more space. My husband, Michael, and I met in 2012, and we have been married a little over two years. He’s my bestest buddy, and I love him so much! He’s very supportive of my hobbies, and he even built the shelves that Mushroom Meadow is on.

Mushroom Meadow is the name of my dollhouse village. I built my first dollhouse when I was 11, and I fell absolutely in love with the hobby. My village is populated by Calico Critters/Sylvanian Families. To clear up any confusion, here in the United States, these toys are called Calico Critters, but everywhere else, they’re called Sylvanian Families. I’m a little obsessed with these cute toys–I have amassed quite a few at this point. They’re just so cute! I especially love the Red Panda family pictured below. Red pandas are one of my favorite animals!

The Red Panda Calico Critter Family

Initially, when I began building dollhouses and making miniatures again in 2017, I didn’t plan to have figures in my houses. However, Michael found a Calico Critter Bear at Walmart, and he thought it was the cutest and most well-made toy he’d ever seen. The dollhouse I had recently completed at the time had a bakery on the first floor, and this bear Calico Critter came with a set of donuts and accessories. Michael insisted that it needed to live in this dollhouse and be a baker because it was perfect. I had never had any Calico Critters growing up, but my little sister and the kid I babysat both had multiple families and furniture sets, so I’d seen them before. At first, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted Calico Critters in my village. I didn’t want to be one of those adults that still played with toys–I didn’t know how important play was to all stages of life back then! I adore Calico Critters now. They really are such detailed little toys. I love how, in the furniture sets, the sinks will have pipes and pretty little designs on the cabinets. I can’t imagine Mushroom Meadow without my Calico Critters. They’ve given me a space to come up with fun stories to share with my Instagram friends and to express myself. Speaking of Instagram, I really love the miniatures/dollhouse/Calico Critter accounts on Instagram. Last year, an Instagram follower created an event where everyone in the dollhouse community posted a picture of their dollhouse(s) all lit up for Christmas. It was so much fun to see everyone’s posts and get to know accounts I hadn’t interacted with before. Everyone is just so kind and accepting. I love it!

Mushroom Meadow at Christmas

In general, I love arts and crafts, and in addition to miniature-making, I also embroider, work with clay, and needle-felt. On this blog, I will be sharing my miniatures and anything else I make. I will also provide tips and techniques that I’ve learned that may be helpful to others. With embroidery, especially, I am constantly having new ideas or seeing new stitches to try on YouTube or Instagram. Right now, I am feeling very inspired by the song The Willow Maid by Erutan, so I am wanting to embroider a fairy soon, like in the song. As for clay, because it’s September, I am working on Halloween-themed food and decorations for my dollhouses. Somehow, I still have not made any actual miniature Halloween candy, so that is one of my goals for this year. Also, I love looking back at some of the things I made when I first got started. I will probably share comparisons of old creations vs. new creations because I think it’s helpful for others to see the journey. I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but for me, personally, it helps to know that everyone starts somewhere, and no one is perfect the first time they try something.

Embroidery of a Ghost Lady in a Lake

I will also use this blog to share some of the happenings of Mushroom Meadow. It’s a very busy place! Recently, a new family, the Maple Cats, moved in, and to make matters more complicated, they’re royalty! The Maple Cats live in a house I’ve named “The Fairytale House.” I included a picture below, but I will show more pictures and provide more information on this house in a future post. Every one of my dollhouses has a theme and a story. They’re all reflections of my personality and the things I love. And of course, autumn is here, which means Halloween is coming up! Everyone in Mushroom Meadow is unearthing their Halloween decorations and figuring out their costumes. Holidays are a very big deal in Mushroom Meadow. Every house gets decorated, and it’s a lot of fun.

The Fairytale House

Finally, because I am in my second year of my counseling program, my life is changing pretty considerably. I start working with real clients in the Spring. I am nervous and excited and happy and just feeling lots of mostly good feelings. I want to use this blog to share my journey and some of the things that I am learning along the way. All my classes so far have felt so valuable, and I have learned so much about people and how to connect with them. I have also learned a lot about how I can improve myself and my own functioning. It’s been a lot to process, but I love talking about school, and I hope you guys will be cool with hearing about it.

I don’t sell anything I make, but I would be happy to direct you to my very talented miniaturist friends if there is something you like or are interested in!

Anyway, I hope you’ll stick around for more. I can’t wait to hear your tips and feedback about my miniatures, art, and even my experiences in school!