My barbie-friend Marie calls it the diorama-domino-effect.
It’s when you’ve painstakingly arranged the barbies, their furniture and props, and then your pinkie finger or some other errant body part inadvertantly taps a table or wobbles a chair …and…
You know what happens. You know because you’ve watched it unfold, in seeming slow motion, as all your hard work scatters to the barbie floor.
It can be so frustrating. It can make you want to quit playing altogether.
When Leah and I first started playing we didn’t have dishes and other small accessories but it wasn’t long until the memories of my teenage domino-effect frustrations came back. As an adult, I was not willing to accept this as unavoidable. I was an empowered adult. I was determined to take control of the situation.
Initially I reasoned that I could use some of my husband’s fishing weights to greatly decrease the chances I’d set a diorama-domino-effect in motion. I used a standard glue gun, which means I can remove the weights with a gentle tug and not leave any trace that they’d been there.
The weights helped. Another problem was that playing on carpet made everything unstable. I wished for wood floors and considered buying some boards as a sort of modular “play platform.” Then I realized that if I purchased magnetic boards and glued high-powered magnets to the furniture we might have some truly stable play dioramas.
After we’d assembled a number of magnetic boards I added contact paper so the different boards could look like different types of flooring. Once we moved home (we’d been staying in a hotel for my job) I tried out some even larger boards. We use both types of boards, large and small, depending on our mood, the scenario, or the number of items in our playset that day.
I started adding high powered magnets to the underside of furniture and other accessories.
In some cases I had to add wood blocks because of the underside structure of a particular piece so I bought some small wood blocks at a craft supply store (Michaels or Hobby Lobby).
There was a time when Mattel used more magnets in their playsets but my understanding is that if a child ingests two of these high powered magnets they can get stuck together in such a way as to cause great damage and even a fatality. For this reason I gave Leah a long stern lecture explaining that she must never, EVER put magnets in her mouth and if she ever did and were to swallow one, she HAS to tell me immediately so I can take her to the hospital. I haven’t ever seen her with a magnet in her mouth (she much prefers to chew on barbie’s plastic shoes).
So, if your child is old enough to understand the dangers of the magnets, I highly recommend magnetizing some of your items and combining them with magnet boards for frustration-free play.