As Carys gets older, we’re trying to build on things she shows us she’s interested in in a low-pressure, play-based way. We’re hoping that these opportunities will develop into her own self-directed lines of inquiry into whatever subject she finds interesting, whenever she decides she’s ready.
As early as last summer, just after her first birthday, she fell in love with a train set at a hobby store in New Jersey. Alvin probably would have spent a thousand dollars on the spot, but even the sales guy said she was a bit young…
Carys tends to get a little obsessed with certain books, and we end up reading them over and over again. Multiple times a day. A few weeks ago it was Go, Dog. Go! which was especially annoying because it’s really long – pretty often we would get gypped into reading it as she pretended she was ready for a nap, only to announce after reading that it was no longer nap time and she was now ready to play… We try to mix things up by reading one new book (often from the library) each night and one old favorite. She usually protests the new book but some of them end up becoming old favorites.
And that’s how we discovered Planes – blessedly short and a huge immediate hit. Carys was saying ‘e-copter’ within a week of first seeing the book, and now likes to excitedly announce them when we see them on our walks. Trains and Trucks followed, and it got to the point where she loved the books so much that I didn’t dare take them back to the library until we bought our own copies. I see there’s one about a bus as well, which will be next on the Thriftbooks order list – she points out buses whenever she sees them and has actually learned their sound and shouts ‘bus!’ before it’s even in sight.
After she fell in love with a train set at a local play center during a birthday party, I persuaded our local kids’ consignment store to sell me a jumble of train parts that they had parceled out into 5-piece packages for $5 each – double full retail price – for $20; about what the whole lot was worth at 1/2 retail. Carys has had a lot of fun with the trains, and occasionally we put a few of the track pieces together and she runs the trains on them.
We found a park near our house that’s right under the commuter train tracks so she gets a really good view when they run past, and there’s also a place in Berkeley where you can get pretty close to Amtrak and freight trains as well. Those are among her favorite haunts these days, and even when we can’t go there she hears trains when we’re out and about and wants to try to see them.
But the icing on the cake was a trip that Nanny Meg planned from our house on the bus down to a nearby farmers market. They had to hike several blocks down a reasonably steep hill just to get to the bus stop (I think Meg carried her back up again at the end), and then they took the bus for a mile or so. Meg said that every time the bus stopped Carys would announce “All done!” to the other passengers. They walked around the farmers market, examined all the vegetables, and enjoyed a pastry before taking the bus back up again. Probably a trip we’ll do again; we’re thinking about taking the Amtrak train from Berkeley down to Oakland one day as well which would be quite a day out.
And I have to say I’m secretly glad that she’s into heavy machinery and not, say, Barbies. Which is not to say that I’ll prevent her from playing with dolls – indeed, I’ve made a couple for her. But there’s a lot of woodworking equipment in the garage just waiting for her to get interested in making stuff…