July 16, 2011

"Fluffed and Fabulous" -- Bridging the Gap to Pretend Play

If Caroline had a coffee mug, it would say:

She loves all things computers, especially
computer games.  The Build-A-Bear
Workshop's "Fluffed and Fabulous" Game
is one of her all time favorites.

It features a bear, Bearemy, who must get ready for the day.  The child's job is to
bathe him, blow dry fur, brush teeth etc..  in theory, it sounds like a good game to
teach children a morning routine.  

However, Bearemy has met his match with Caroline.  She gives OCD a new meaning
as she washes his paws 39 times.  Luckily, after a certain time the game ends or he'd
be more Fur-less than Fabulous.

At the Build A Bear Store

Barely pausing to catch her breath as she runs through the store, grabbing as many
animals and outfits as her arms will carry, a delighted girl beams with excitement over
all the possible additions to her Build-A-Bear Family.

The girl was not Caroline.  Caroline bolted into the store with the same enthusiasm,
but instead ran over to the computers and (not even having a password) played with
the opening screen while I brought animals and outfits to her... "Do you want the bear
or the dog or the pink princess outfit???"  Nope, none of them.  

She still struggles with pretend play.  She used to not understand it at all.  Probably
bewildered about why we'd waste our time pretending to brush the teeth of a doll who
1. didn't have teeth and 2. can't consume food.  

Now she dabbles in pretending with dolls for fleeting moments, usually following a
script she has in her head and rarely meandering from what she's memorized.

We have drawers full of video modeling DVD's, purchased in a desperate effort to
provoke some pretending.   Some of them were rejected at the menu screen, others
were watched, but never generalized into actual pretending.

We've tried pretending along with the plots in books.  It works, but then she'll only act
out the specific book that was taught to her with the exact same items in the exact
same fashion... not exactly Webster's definition of "pretending."

On certain days, we see glimpses of genuine pretending emerge.  On those days, I
write about it in the "All things Caroline" notebook with no less than 16 stars
surrounding the event.

Still Searching...

...through the Build-A-Bear store for anything that would capture her interest more
than the "welcome" screen on the monitors, I saw it...

A hair dryer / brush set and a robe.  Epiphany moment followed instantly by disbelief
that it hadn't occurred to me sooner....  With everything else we tried acting out, why
not computer games?   I quickly grabbed the items and proudly showed them to her.  
Of course she scoffed at them and went right back to the computer, but I was not
dissuaded -- this idea had potential!  

The Fluffing

Today, with the help of a fabulous therapist, we set up the computer, laid out the
bear paraphernalia and crossed our fingers.  She protested, but only for about 5
seconds (record minimum).   As soon as she realized the plan, she took to it and
understood that at each step in the game she was supposed to act it out with the
bear.  She put on his robe and was surprisingly happy and willing to play along with
her little "friend."
March 2011. Caroline admiring a
report for her performance on the
Build-A-Bear computer game.

"Congratulations! Bearemy is now
Fluffed and Fabulous! You:
Gave him 11 Baths
Combed his fur
30 times
Blow Dried his fur
16 times
Brushed his teeth
24 times
Washed his paws
39 times..."
... And the report was much more appropriate!
The Fabulous-ness

The grand finale of pretend play session took place hours later when - after her own
bath, and without the computer, she
took off his robe, gave him a bath, washed his
paws, put back on his robe, fed him a bedtime snack, brushed his teeth and had him
go potty
all only ONCE.

Then she gave her friend one big heartfelt hug and kiss:
Follow their Hearts

And so, after many, many failed attempts, an answer to the pretend
My Computer" mug, but staring me in the face nonetheless.

The computer was a way to Caroline's heart.  

What does your child         -- and how can you use it to help solve
his or her challenges?
UPDATE:  7/16/11 Early Morning...

When Caroline woke up, she ran right to her playroom to see her bear.  As she played (with no computer in
sight), I took these photos:
Above & below, she was thrilled to give a tiny rubber ducky to
you know how special this was:
UPDATE:  7/23/11

Still more Bear fun...

We took a trip to Navy Pier.  To say it was motivated by the Build-A-Bear store might make us seem
slightly obsessed... so let's just say we went to visit the children's museum (which we also did).

Gift Card in hand, dreaming of all the possibilities, Caroline was ready to take on the store.
She carried her gift card around for 2
days, careful to not let it out of her sight.

At the store she especially enjoyed
pretending to pay with it.

SO -- what did she buy???
A bear shaped bed for her little

After the third bath
(we haven't
completely left behind the OCD
she snuggled her
friend into bed.

Which, of course, she couldn't do
nearly as well without a bear
shaped bed.  

As she said "Goodnight Bear,"
I smiled and thought again about
how far we've come and how
lucky we are.
Brushing Teeth
Bear's Fur