You can’t just say to a kid, “Now you’re going to practice your fine motor skills!” and expect to get anything other than resistance. And with children you will find that much as you may wish it weren’t so, their resistance is not futile.
So, I have to meet her where she is and, right now, she’s in Ponyville.
Fiona adores My Little Pony. I mean ADORES it. We have a complete set of the main ponies (Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, AppleJack, Fluttershy, PinkyPie, & Rarity), plus Spike. We allow her to watch the first three seasons on Netflix. Which she does. Obsessively. We’ve recently discovered that our local comic book shop carries collectible cards and comics.
Honestly, as kids shows go, this one isn’t too bad. The violence is minimal and frowned on, problems are solved through determination, teamwork, and practice, and the underlying theme to each episode is friendship. Not too shabby. Add in a primarily female cast of characters (except for Spike all the primary characters are female), themes that don’t revolve around getting attention from males, and a lack of sickening saccharine and over done repetition, and I think it’s pretty great.
So does Fiona. Which really is what makes the difference.
Given Fiona’s distaste for dolls, My Little Ponies has given her an in into a “girly” activity and set of social pretend play that wasn’t really coming through anywhere else, which I’m extremely grateful for. She needs pretend play to practice the complex relationship skills that are so required of women. It also allows her practice into care giving activities, brushing hair, feeding, bathing, etc. (In fact while I’m typing this I’m listening to her cleaning and washing her ponies in the bath. On which note I should go look…
…Okay, I’m back. And her ponies have been shampooed. And her bath is full of bubbles. And I’m very grateful that I use an inexpensive shampoo, because I lost about half a bottle to the ponies and the distraction of this blog post. ) Where was I?
Right, My Little Ponies. So, Fiona is obsessed. And everything is ponies right now. She wants to play pretend ponies. She wants to read MLP comics (which, honestly, is making a nice switch from the Magic School Bus books). And after I’ve read them to her two or three times she sits curled sideways in the easy chair and re”reads” them over and over to herself. She even wants to color My Little Ponies. And that was a little bit of a problem, because a lot of MLP merchandise is hard to get. Because of Bronies.
Bronies are adult men (Bro’s) who like Ponies. I have no problem with this. At all. Except the part where it’s hard to get the toys and merchandise and it all costs more because there are these young guys with disposable income buying it. Darn it!
Anyhow, it means that today I was faced with a little girl who wanted to color My Little Ponies. And I don’t have a coloring book for her. Or a working printer. So we got creative. I drew and she colored.
It was great. It was creative. We got to work together, and it took an obsession out of screen-time and made it into a fun learning experience. I think maybe this is at the heart of meeting her where she is. Finding ways of taking that one thing that she’s super interested in and turning it into a well-rounded activity set that builds all of her strengths.