Earlier this week in the Nest, MC noticed a babydoll on the beanbag chair. She approached the doll, gave it a hug and kiss, then noticed a play diaper beside the doll. MC began to put the diaper on the doll, but then abruptly got up and carried the doll over to the table.
As MC carried the doll to the table, the other children (ML, HB and FD) grew silent, stopped what they were doing, and watched MC.
MC set the doll on the table, and inspected the baby for a moment, her brow furrowed. She oped the diaper and lay it flat on the table. Then she lifted the baby up by the legs and set it on top of the diaper. She then pulled the exposed part of the diaper up to cover the doll’s pelvic area. But the doll’s legs were bent up toward it’s chest, and were in the way. MC experimented with another method, then: put the diaper on from the front of the torso. This yielded similar results.
MC then walked away from the table, and I thought she might be abandoning the activity, but I decided to continue watching. She retrieved a small cup and brought it back to the baby at the table. First, she tipped the cup to the baby’s mouth, feeding the baby. Then she put the cup in the baby’s hands, so the baby could feed itself. She then carried the baby to the climber, and repeated those actions. ML came over, too, and gazed into the baby’s eyes as the baby “looked” back at him.
This is the first instance of imaginary play that I have observed in the Nest this year. I was struck by the length and the complexity of the play. Often at this age, I will see imaginary play look like a child holding a phone for a moment and saying “Hello” into it. In this case, the dramatic play lasted three minutes, and was continuous. The play seemed to follow a narrative of MC taking a baby to a changing table, changing the baby, then both feeding the baby and helping the baby to feed itself. I did not know that children this age could play with symbols and a narrative in this depth or detail. All of the books on child development that I’ve read suggest that complex symbolic play is typically seen around 2.5 years, or in some cases not even until the age of 4. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the children always surprise me.