Re-claim- action: the fine art of WORK as Play

I don’t remember playing house with dolls; my mother assures me I did. I remember taking them with me, as an audience or a crowd, or extras in the movie of my childhood life. Me and Brother I also remember trying to ride my Barbie Van like a skateboard. My dolls and I, and later my toddler brother, dressed like (well,I don’t actually know what this is-that’s him in the basket. His instruction was to “look pitiful.”) or a pet, or a pioneer depending on what I was reading that day, would leave on unknown adventures. My dolls, both living and play, didn’t stay home, didn’t change clothes; I didn’t have that doll that ate and needed a diaper as far as I know, because I would never have changed it or fed the poor thing. She would have wound up in the wagon with Laura Ingalls and our dog Jack (my handy brother with homemade ears) heading out, across the Back Yard and into the West for fame and glory.

So it is interesting to me that I can spend a whole two hours putting reclaimed Cabbage Patch kids in the sink for a bath. This was a task I set myself, when suddenly, I was playing. I had to keep their heads up so water wouldn’t run in to the tops, and I had to sit them up. Suddenly I CKids in Sinkrealized how cute they were. I could imagine pretending they were all together in the tub, just like me and my siblings (and everyone else I know who has siblings) and I was thinking about when my sister slipped and went under and we had to fish her out, and she cried and we all got in trouble. Of course, my “tub of kids” was not like that. Found on Craig’s list, they probably had been the garage the last 10 years, maybe smoked around in the not distant past. Clearly beloved at one time, this was their chance to be therapeutic. Still, they have a little smell.

I have to tangent on the sense of smell here- it sees it may be the only sensory experience that goes straight to memory and emotion centers, passing directly through the amygdala and hippocampus. This is different than sight, touch, sound and taste. Smell just shoots on in there, a kick to the nervous system. In my line of work, smell is a big deal. You can trigger almost anything with the smell of cigarettes, whiskey, gum, foods, perfumes, coffee, and gasoline to name a few. Here’s a pretty good explanation.

Smells Ring Bells: How Smell Triggers Memories and Emotions

I just need dolls to smell clean.

First the research: I liked eBay’s article the best- although I am realizing I need to restructure my Pinterest, or as I like to call it “Kathryn’s Socially Acceptable Online Hoarding Experience.” My Pinterest should include a board on reclaiming and restoring toys and furniture for working playrooms in my practice.  I point to cost as my main motivator, but let’s be honest- I love to garage sale, I love good deals, and it’s just a bonus if I can save money, and have a Good Reason.

How to Clean a Cabbage Patch Kid

And they look super cute in the sink! You’ll note on the article, you have to soak and squeeze for hours until all the soap is out. Or if you’re me, it’s good enough after a couple of rinses. And when you wash their hair, you have to keep the water from flowing into the heads. They were drying in the sun on my back porch. I sat them all up, because no kidding, water in the heads apparently is a big deal!

What I found myself thinking about is how a simple task can be such a break from thinking. I think I think too much- sometimes it works for me. But sometimes we all need a break.

And that is fundamentally why I am a play therapist. We all play; it’s just the toys that change. #lifeofaplaytherapist Today, I am playing with dolls. Tomorrow, I can go play “grown up” again, and I like that game too. Take many breaks from playing the same thing over and over.