Preschool Christmas Improv Turtles

Like most years, and much to both my wife’s and mother’s vexation, I have no idea what I want for Christmas this year. To be honest, I am way more excited about Sam’s presents than I am my own. My wife absolutely outdid herself, and used some kind of crazy Black Friday voodoo to score him a bunch of the Imaginext Castle toys. Specifically, the ogre, the dragon, and the castle. They have some sort of tech in them where they can sense each other and say different stuff. That’s cool and all, but I don’t really care about that.

The Most Important Features

What I’m far more interested in is how Sam will play with it. This year, he’s been far more into pretending than ever. Sometimes this involves his toys, and sometimes it doesn’t. I like that the fantasy-themed toys he’s getting are of cool iconic monsters and castles, but they’re mostly setting-neutral. Not that it would stop Sam if they were. He always makes up a little scenario about what’s happening, and he’s not afraid to throw in a game-changing adjective on something if it suits his needs. I’ve found myself playing the part of Good Megatron, a Water Tornado ‘Inja Turtle, or Puppy Optimus Prime several times.  The scenarios aren’t particularly complex (he’s 4, after all), but the idea that he frequently doesn’t care what the “real” story is with a character and chooses to substitute his own absolutely fascinates me. I don’t even know how many episodes of Transformers at the Improv I’ve taken part in during the last year. This new fantasy stuff? High-quality ingredients he can draw from for brand new adventures. OGRE INGREDIENTS. And he’s finally old enough for LEGOs. I might explode.

The other thing I find interesting about playing pretend with Sam is that he always wants to lead the story. He’s gotten a lot better about it over the past year, he used to steer you right back toward the idea he had in his head if you strayed an inch. Now you can suggest something might happen and sometimes he’ll say “YEAH!” and it’ll get thrown in and it’s almost always more fun for both of us when that happens. All I can think about is learning how to do that very thing behind the DM screen over the past couple years, and it makes me wonder how I forgot in the first place. Each day is not at all unlike playing a series of tiny one-shot all-roleplay adventures with a 4-year-old DM. And it is crazy fun.

They’re For Him, Honest

I’m not going to lie. I am stoked beyond belief that my son has finally reached the age where his toys are cool enough that I want to play with them. I’m perfectly happy living atop a mountain of transformable robots, toy airplanes, and rubber monsters, and I’m happy that my little guy wants to share them with me and his mom. (I hope he doesn’t mind me stealing the ogre for an epic combat mini some Thursday night…..)

Most of all, though, I just love playing with my little dude. My favorite game is when I’m the daddy AT-AT and he’s the baby AT-AT and something ties our legs up so we have to crash over and over. No equipment needed. There’s just some things money can’t buy.


  1. I agree with you completely. I have played Imaginext, Megablocks, Lego, and D&D minis with my son who is now 9. He’s now old enough that I told him if he reads the Hobbit (he’s 80 pages in) I’ll take him to see the movie.

    But as great as that it, it was the Tom the Turkey story he wrote for Thanksgiving at school that got me. He wrote his own story. It was amazing to listen to him read what he had written.

    Kids are awesome.

  2. My kids reached that stage too!

    It is the best. I have 3 year old twins ( boy and girl) and once they learned you don’t put Legos in your mouth, they get rewarded with Lego playtime for good behavior. And you should see the things they build. I love seeing what they come up. My daughter knows I like spaceships so she likes to build them for me. My son is obsessed with construction so he builds nothing but cranes and backhoes.

    And my son also gets excited when he hears the 20th Century Fox intro/ Star Wars music. Which he dances to! Then we all start dancing. It’s a riot. If I had know how much fun they were going to be, I ‘d have gotten married sooner.

  3. It gets better and better (my kids are 6 and 8), especially when we take the time to encourage imagination and storytelling. My kids are fortunate to do a lot of imaginative play in the woods outside and then more imaginative play inside (dress-up games, block-building, taking random “craft stuff” and making up something). We have worked hard to encourage that kind of behavior. A little goes a long way. I’ve even ‘had to’ show him how to play with my old Star Wars toys, as he wasn’t used to translating imaginative play into concrete obvious toys like that.

    I’m an especially big proponent of this after seeing the effects as they get older. We just started playing Pokemon and games like Dungeon! When we play them, they tend to bring a layer of imagination to it. We take turns making monster noises or describing what PCs/monsters/NPCs do. It is a lot of fun and all facilitated by their earlier approach.

    LEGOs are one of my favorites, because it combines such great facets – logic, imagination, engineering/architecture, following directions/analytical comprehension, fine motor skills, blastin’ stuff with pretend lasers… I hope they never outgrow them, just like I never did!

  4. Well-timed post! My 4-year-old and I played Legos this morning where a policeman jumped off a diving board then made hamburgers on a grill. The dog asked for a burger, so the man gave him one. It was a fun back-and-forth play session, and one of the first times he and I have been able to play like that.