Micromanaging and Micro Machines
Remember Micro Machines? Of course you do, if you were a kid in the late 80s and early 90s. I had a pretty massive collection and some pretty amazing playsets that I often set up with my HO train set (we can just ignore the obvious scale issues there). How about Star Wars Micro Machines? Remember those? For a while, I was relentlessly visiting Walmart and Toys R Us to find the latest vehicle set, or even better, saving some money for one of the convertible helmets or character heads that would turn into a scene from one of the movies. Kind of like this old commercial.
I also still remember how I would set up the different locations based on which movie they were in, and I would display the little figurines in mid scene on my nicely manicured bedroom shelves. Then, I went to college and got married, and all of my Micro Machine sets were relegated to a box in my parents basement until they finally handed them over and essentially said "we're done, these are your problem now."
They were never really a problem, though. I mean, a storage problem maybe, but I kept them because I loved those Star Wars Micro Machines perhaps more than any other toys I owned. Countless hours of my childhood can be attributed to those tiny starships and the even tinier figures that went with them. I did not keep those toys just because I loved them, however. Somewhere in the back of my mind I was thinking about the future and how one day I would have children of my own who would maybe, probably, really love playing with these toys too.
Enter my own children. Within the past year or so, I have busted all of the Star Wars Micro Machines out of their dusty storage bin and lugged them up to my son's room. He was thrilled. Actually, thrilled might be an understatement. The kid was doing dances around our storage room and shouting "yippee" like a young Anakin Skywalker. And he has loved those Micro Machines (as has our dog, unfortunately...). In fact, my son, and now my daughter too, have loved these toys so much that they get pulled in and out of their storage drawer multiple times a week, with the result that the collection now sits haphazardly throughout their rooms or in a drawer. Kind of like the picture below.
Here begins, however, a disconnect that my pre-children, young adult brain never even conceived. My son and daughter don't play with my Micro Machines like I played with them. How dare they, right? How dare my son pile all of these playsets and vehicles and figures in a random disrespectful heap? Are you telling me that Endor Leia on a Speeder Bike is flying around the Dune Sea near Jabba's Palace? Never! Please don't tell me that some of the sets have broken or lost pieces or are completely irreparable? Sorry friend, it's true and it hurts.
I tried for a while. I tried to keep things in their proper spot or keep sets thematically together, or any number of ridiculous and futile attempts to micromanage my kids with my own preferences. Eventually, I had to give up. What is the purpose of sharing something I love with my children if I am just going to tell them how to love it? I so badly wanted to manage their play and to relive the way I liked to have everything neatly and thematically displayed that I ignored their joy for far too long.
And what happened the moment I let go? Joy for me too. Joy at watching both of the kids use their imagination to create new scenes and new stories. Just the other day, I was playing with them on the Stormtrooper set that transforms into the trash compactor scene on the Death Star. Who showed up to save Luke, Leia, and Han from certain doom? Young Lando Calrissian of course! Not only do I get the joy of watching my kids create their own stories, but I also now experience the joy of claiming something I loved as their own, without my stuffy rules or micromanaged scenarios. In the end, we all play happier, and I have a healthier attitude about parenting and micromanaging beyond the micro machines.
I admit that I do still cringe every time I open that drawer though...
Star Wars Rebels and Kids
Any self-respecting parent knows what a wasteland the world of children's television programming is. If you do not have some sort of Disney Jr. theme song running through your head at any given moment, you are probably not a parent. I can only take a few seconds of Cocomelon on Youtube or Morphle on Netflix before I run out of the room with rumblings of pure disgust threatening to overtake my good health.
Enter Star Wars Rebels. Rebels is not a new show so I am not breaking any new ground. It ran four seasons back in the mid-2010s and is easily accessible on Disney+ now. I watched the show as it aired and enjoyed it a lot. So, why bother talking about it now?
There are a couple reasons I decided to pull up Rebels for a rewatch. First, the Star Wars Podcast I listen to (Jabba the Pod from Syfy Wire) is doing a rewatch and discussing the episodes every week. It does not take a lot of pressure to encourage me to watch anything Star Wars, so this was the only real reason I needed. Second, however, my kids are 6 and 4 years old, and now felt like the right time to watch a whole show together. I tried Clone Wars before, but there are too many episodes and it turns violent pretty quickly, whereas Rebels is a short four seasons and stays pretty kid-friendly throughout.
We have now watched the first season and a couple episodes into the second season, and I am seriously enjoying the (re)ride. My son has seen all of the original movies, plus Episodes 1 and 2, but this show has brought out more excitement in him than most of the movies. He already knows the full names of the main cast of characters and is actively making predictions and asking questions during the show that reflect full engagement in the content. His engagement got me thinking about why this show works regardless of age (him-6, me-37), and here are a few reasons I think it works so well:
Whether you are 6 or 56, Star Wars Rebels is a compelling show with great characters and great storytelling. After we finish the whole show, I will come back with a new post and some of both of my kids' thoughts about the whole story. For right now, I am just enjoying the shared experience of something I love and something new and exciting for them.
As the world is experiencing a weird new normal for the foreseeable future, I am figuring out how to manage teaching online, taking care of my young kids, and taking care of myself. I had been thinking for a while about writing a post about board games and young children, and the current conditions have brought it to the forefront. I am still learning how to best introduce board games to my kids in a way that will not turn them off from the hobby, but I want to share some of my recent experiences and open the floor for suggestions or experiences others have had.
Finally, I started teaching my son X-Wing miniatures last year. This could take an entire post, but there are plenty of others on the internet if you search a little. So far, we have only practiced with movement, actions, and combat. He is definitely not ready to learn upgrades, critical hits, and squad building yet, but we will get there.
My four year old daughter has also expressed a little interest in games, so I have her started on some basic memory games, dominoes, and Pretty, Pretty Princess.
What kind of games do you play with your young children? Any suggestions of good games to start advancing their game experience? Share your suggestions in the comments!
I love my family and this is the place to find all of the adventures we experience.