The greatest toys my kids have ever had comes from the Fisher Price Little People collection-both the playground and the house paired with all of the little people characters we have. We have spent hours and hours playing and enacting scenes.
I taught my kids how to stand in line through role playing with the Little People slide and how to stay in their beds with the house. Role playing and creating scene after scene allowed me to be silly, creative, and help prepare them for life. Our characters were bossy and rude and polite and sweet and grumpy and over tired and sometimes even mean. When my girls would get old enough to interactively play with me their characters were always the naughty ones. They liked to see what i'd do when the little people would stand on the table or pee on the floor.
It made everything so real for them. And when my oldest would go to playdates she would come home and re-enact those same issues she faced with her Little People, Polly Pockets and now her Barbies. When I ask her about a situation she can easily talk about different perspectives (even if she doesn't realize them at the time!!) and I attribute this to the hours and days upon days we spent verbalizing the perspectives of the farmer, the teacher, the girl with the funny hat and the mommy.
But my littlest one has more Little People than she needs. In fact being the third girl she has more pink and purple plastic than even fits in her bedroom. And yet, after a long oh so long year I feel like I'd like to get her something wonderful to commemorate it. I want to get her the greatest gift.
And today- while I went through all of her stuff- I realized that the greatest gift i could ever give to her- is simply the time to learn and explore and of course to play.