Let them be little?

Audrey turns nine in July and she still loves CBeebies (for any non-UK readers, this is a preschoolers TV channel, aimed at babies up to around age six or seven). She still loves dolls. She loves her toy kitchen. She doesn’t choose to read independently (unless it’s her assigned reading book from school), but she loves to read picture books from memory and be read to.

I am aware she is always going to be “younger” than her actual age. It’s not an issue for us and hasn’t really been a big deal, since having a younger brother has “allowed” her to continue to enjoy younger pursuits… In the same way that a lot of children with older siblings will find themselves interested in things considered “too old” for them. But who’s to say what’s for a six year old and what’s for an eight year old?

We were in a great Brighton park recently, an enclosed play area with a gate, big slide, variety of swing types, a climbing frame, sand pit… I guess I would say it is skewed towards smaller kids slightly, but still plenty to do for my two at eight and six. Rex got playing with a boy his age and the man with him (who made it clear he was a guardian but not a relative) started saying “I think you’re too old for this park now, it’s a bit boring isn’t it? I think we should stick to Preston Park.”. The reason this annoyed me was because it was the adult deciding, the kid was having a perfectly good time and didn’t say that the park wasn’t good enough. My two enjoyed themselves and I felt no need to question the targeted age of the park.

At home, Audrey’s love of (almost) all CBeebies television shows continues. Rex is very happy watching most of her choices too, but he rarely asks for them (he has moved onto CBBC shows, but prefers Netflix). For the first time in months Audrey chose to watch Bing and my instinct (probably because I’m not a fan) was to say “I think you might be a bit old for Bing now?” but of course I corrected myself and said of course, if that’s what you want to watch that’s fine. Even Rex sat watching it happily.

Audrey does enjoy TV targeted at her age as well as the mountain of much younger stuff, so why does it matter? It’s not that she can’t follow a plot or enjoy a more “grown up” show, she just still enjoys the young shows. That said, I’ve noticed she really does prefer mild stuff. She doesn’t mind a bad guy and a bit of conflict, but would prefer it to be very gentle. Shows for older kids can get very frantic, loud and full on – an assault on the senses at times! This is not Audrey’s vibe (Rex however – loves that).

Of course I understand encouraging kids to grow up and do things for themselves, but do we also have to start telling them what books/TV/toys are ok to enjoy? I mean, we excitedly read them Harry Potter, getting four or five books in before realising it really gets too old for them and they were bored/not really following what was going on. I’m relieved to be currently reading the Amelia Fang books which are much lighter in subject and length! And we still read two picture books a night because I love picture books (and so do they).

I remember I was in Year 7 (aged 11) when catching up with friends and we were talking about our Barbies. One of my friends said she wasn’t into them anymore, everyone agreed and so that was that, I got home that day and packed mine away. They had been declared uncool and too young. How much longer would I have happily played with them I wonder?

Audrey has asked for a picnic party at home for her birthday with traditional party games (musical statues etc) and I’m already worrying about whether her friends will be rolling their eyes and cringing at the choice to still play games. I don’t know what is acceptable fun for a group of eight-nine year olds!! I guess they are just going to have to accept what Audrey finds fun.

Anyway, I’m not sure where I am going with this little vent. I guess I just want everyone to consider whether you need to push your child onto the next level, the older thing, the more grown up thing… or let them decide when they are ready? I get you might not want them using a dummy at school age or dragging a teddy into college, but there is something to be said for letting kids take the lead. And for letting them be little for that little bit longer!

Audrey with the doll’s pram she got Christmas 2021 (aged 8)
Audrey with one of her many, many dolls! This is LuLu, she was 50p from a charity shop.

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