By A. Hosack, P. Berman & K. Hecht
What is this? It has a prison return address. It must be from Larry. Should I let Claire see it?
Mrs. Carson was always the first person to see that the mail had been delivered. She was shocked to see the letter from Larry; her last memory was of the vicious glare he had thrown Claire as he exited the court room. Claire had been crying into her lap, but Mrs. Carson had seen it. The garbage can was so close. She could hide it under some garbage. Things were going so well for Claire. She had done so well in school; she was getting job applications ready. She was developing a real friendship with Shelly, and her parenting skills continued to grow, and Davy continued to thrive at Head Start. Larry had no part of what was going well in their lives; it was all about what had gone wrong.
With a deep sigh, Mrs. Carson put the mail down in three piles, one for herself, one for her husband, and one for Claire with Larry’s letter in it. The letters were on the high counter in the kitchen, Davy couldn’t reach this counter. He loved to play with the mail, pretending he could read it. But he couldn’t be depended on to not rip the letters or accidentally rip the return envelope for a bill. Claire was in the living room playing with Shelly and the kids; at least she wouldn’t see the letter until she had a nice afternoon.
Two weeks ago, Mr. Carson thought of turning Davy’s interest in the mail from an adult problem into a special activity for Davy. He had seen his neighbor about to throw out an empty refrigerator box. Mr. Carson had taken the box from him and made Davy his own “post office window” right at his height, in the refrigerator box. He then painted post-office in big red letters over the window. Davy was thrilled. He and his friend Marcus loved taking turns pretending to give out stamps and take letters to mail. But, to get the new mail…they had to be patient and wait for the adults to be done first.
The play date today was all around Christmas approaching. Claire and Shelly were having a contest. The boys were holding a stopwatch that would start making noise in five minutes. The moms were competing to see how many presents (empty boxes) they could wrap before the timer went off. They were having so much fun, and laughing so much, they were making zany mistakes with the tape. These made them laugh even more- what a surprise- the game used up all of Mrs. Carson’s spare wrapping paper.
With the wrapping done, the moms took the presents out of the room and then suddenly Mr. Carson appeared, pretending to be Santa Claus with a pillow case full of gifts. He handed his elf (Davy) one present at a time to hand to the mail man (Marcus). Once all the packages were in the mail, everyone got to eat the brownies Mrs. Carson made as a reward for their hard work. Their Santa preferred brownies to cookies; as they ate the brownies, everyone agreed their Santa was smart on snacks.
The boys each offered the other the last brownie. In the end, Davy slowly cut it in half and let Marcus pick first. “They are becoming good friends,” Shelly said with a smile. “We are too,” Claire said giving Shelly a hug. The boys were now hiding under the coffee table. They knew it was almost time for the play date to end. “Boys, do you think you can find twenty crumbs in the carpet?” Mrs. Carson asked? In an instant, the new game was on, the boys were on their bellies searching for crumbs to put on Mrs. Carson’s empty brownie plate. It will still be disappointing to them when it is time for Marcus and Shelly to go home, but everyone will be tired, happy, and….the carpet will be clean of brownie crumbs.
Children have been found to increase their communication and social skills just by playing with each other. Claire and Shelly were accelerating this process by playing games with them, and actively incorporating things like “waiting,” “counting”, “sharing” into the rules of the game. Do you ever use play to teach children something so that learning and fun are merged together?
If you would like to learn more about how to do this, you might want to check out this website “Kid Sense” at:https://childdevelopment.com.au/areas-of-concern/play-and-social-skills/