Playing Laura and Mary

In my “other” (non-Laura) life as an early interventionist, I am often discouraged at the playthings available to children. Toys of today do all the work for the kids; children don’t have to pretend anything because the toys do it all for them. As an imaginative child who spent hours each day pretending, the thought of children no longer developing such skills saddens me.

Like many of you, one of the imaginings I engaged in as a child was “playing Laura.” My cousin and I took turns being Mary and Laura and spent many happy afternoons acting out both the stories in the books and the stories we created in our imaginations. I often read comments by other grown Laura fans reflecting upon similar play from their own childhoods.

But do children today play Laura? I never hear of it anymore. I don’t see it happening. It seems like children are too busy with their electronic playthings to enjoy such simplistic but pleasurable play.

At least, that’s what I thought. And then I visited “Lauraland” and was pleasantly surprised at what I saw. I don’t know if children are still “playing Laura” when they’re at home, but come take a peek with me at what children do when they visit the land of Little House.

In Walnut Grove, Minnesota, little girls splash in Plum Creek, as Mary and Laura did more than a hundred years ago. They look under rocks, hoping to find the crab, and they stay far away from any muddy water lest they emerge with legs covered by bloodsuckers!

Then they walk across the Ingalls farm, as Mary and Laura walked to school each day. (But only one of them is a long-legged snipe.)

In Little House land, you will find little prairie girls sitting quietly at their desks, ready to study their primers and write on their slates. You may even catch a naughty little girl rocking her desk!

Even babies join in the fun. This handsome young Almanzo courts a wee Laura, proving himself an able horseman. (Hmm, now we know why Laura expressed concern about being thought of as a child bride!)

On the Ingalls Homestead in De Smet, South Dakota, children love doing the laundry pioneer-style. Ma would certainly have been pleased to have such willing helpers!

And if anyone dares think the art of pretending to be Mary and Laura is lost in the children of today, they need only watch these little girls at work. Yes, Mary is blind… and Laura is guiding her across the prairie for their evening walk.

Want to see your children play Laura the way you used to do when you were a child? Take them to Little House land. You won’t regret it.

Posted in De Smet -- Ingalls Homestead, Homesites, Museums and Attractions, Playing Laura, Walnut Grove Tagged with: ,
6 comments on “Playing Laura and Mary
  1. Sandra Hume says:

    What a fabulous post, Rebecca!

  2. Lynne says:

    Very sweet Rebecca. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent one summer playing Laura. I pestered my parents to buy me a sunbonnet (they did), my mom to braid my hair (she did) and then I took old clothes of my mom’s and “made” them into prairie dresses. I was out in the sunshine and fresh air. My parent’s covered patio was my log, dugout and shanty house. It exercised both mind and body and I wasn’t sitting in the house watching TV all day.

  3. betty boncek says:

    the little girl with pigtails even looks like jenny from the little house. i think shannen doherty played her. that trip looked awesome

  4. Dr Laura says:

    My girls played a variety of make believe games when they were little back in the 80’s and 90’s. I don’t know about children today but I did happen to observe my 4 and 5 year old grandchildren playing with their toy soldiers (yes soldiers, not politically correct.) and trucks and cars and they were employing their imaginations. I was very pleased to see that.

    I loved playing by myself with my Barbies or “wooden men” (Fisher Price Little People) when I was a child. I didn’t like playing those with others because I liked to control the conversations πŸ™‚ I also played house, school, actress, with my friends until I was 10 or 11. In 6th grade I went through a Daniel Boone stage where my neighbor boy and I played Daniel and Mingo.

    The pictures of the girls were lovely.

  5. Sandra Hume says:

    Mom, if you read Melissa Gilbert’s memoir, you won’t have such fond memories of Shannen! I’ll bring it for you to read next week. πŸ™‚

  6. Mike says:

    It is strange that your blog has not caught me before, thanks for the article.