I like to do accents. British, Indian, Australian, West African, Jamaican – you name it. It’s fun for me.
Sometimes Leah wants to play a scenario that I feel we’ve already “played out.” But children need repetition, and I want to allow her the practice of whatever situation she’s interested in so when I acquiesce to her I need something extra for myself.
When I find Leah’s chosen scenario boring, I try to spice it up by practicing different accents and trying to give the dolls back-stories. Today, while playing Pet Shop I gave a RocaWear Darren a deep southern drawl. I also tried to do a German accent for a red-headed doll and a surfer accent for Cali Guy Steven.
I wasn’t that great and kept getting the accents mixed up, but Leah didn’t mind.
I also tried to develop the dolls personalities a bit more. I had one woman (actually a Ghanian Dolls of the World whom we have re-cast as a SIS Chandra’s mom) bring in her granddaughter for pet shopping. In a split-second I decided this woman would be extremely business like saying things like “My granddaughter has met the criteria I put forth. She saved her money and has had perfect scores on her chore chart for four weeks in a row” and “She is aware that she must choose a pet that falls within certain parameters – namely it must live in a cage and weigh under 5 pounds.” and “So, Zahara, have you made a selection?” Leah didn’t miss a beat and seemed to be able to keep up even though the language and structure were not geared toward her the way most conversations are.
This personality and backstory development does several things – it keeps the Barbie-Playing-Mentor from getting bored silly, it models for the child that play doll play can have layers of complexity, it teaches them the concept of “personality” and individual differences and, best of all, it add dimensionality to the play so that a session head in almost any direction.