The Magical World of the Cubby House

My daughter is obsessed with cubby houses. Blocks become cubby houses for Little People and plastic animals. The tree in our backyard, whose branches and leaves fold over, is a cubby house. The big pillows on my bed are arranged into a cubby house. The lounge room is regularly converted into a space for, you guessed it, a cubby house.

One of the first of what will be many cubby houses was created very impromptu, but nonetheless popularly, with Princess Toddler. It was only a basic household furniture type cubby. I spaced out a few chairs, lined up the ironing board, opposite the chairs, threw in several bright cushions and placed a satin sheet over the chairs and ironing board and hello cubby. My daughters face was one of wonder as she entered her magical world. Her eyes gazed upward at the sheet, which gently waved as air blew across it from the heater. She arranged cushions and sat serenely upon them. She crawled through her very own doorway and used it to gather essential household items. I was privileged enough to be invited in to this special space where she shared sultanas and a cup of water with me as well as with various stuffed toys and her dolly.

I had forgotten all about this cubby arrangement until the other day she said purple cubby. Purple cubby? Purple cubby? I am usually pretty good at decoding toddler talk, but this one had me. Until I remembered that the sheet I had used last time was a purple one. Ah, purple cubby, I said. The joy at figuring this out had me quickly agreeing to construct one. The usual ritual of having sultanas and a cup of water in the cubby began and I sat on the soft cushions, beneath a shroud of purple, being hand fed squished sultanas.

And while I still gained a sense of joy from her experience, I also found I was feeling relaxed and happy sitting in there with her for its own sake. Was I doing the classic getting in touch with my inner child or are cubbies just as appealing to adults as they are to children. I found myself reminiscing about my own cubby days. My sister and I spend endless hours in cubbies, and they remain some of my fondest childhood memories.

Dad built us a cubby house in the backyard. Hey, there were no windows, the floor was on a definite slant and the door didn’t close properly, but we loved having our own little house to call our own. Many items from Mums pantry made its way into our cubby as well as various toys and other backyard goodies. In our cubby we welcomed guests, made disgusting snacks of flour and water, fought of would-be enemies and carried out household tasks like sweeping and shelf repair.

In cooler weather we relished in making our own cubby behind our parents couch. Tea parties were often the order of the day. Mum and Dads bed was also an excellent cubby location as we hid under the quilts and sheets and created our own tiny world beneath them. On a particularly constructive day the aim of the game was creating the cubby as we arranged and rearranged cushions and linen to make the most effective space not too much room but enough to sit inside it!

So what is the appeal of the humble cubby? Is it the miniature world children can create in an otherwise large and adult-sized world? Is it the joy of imaginative play? Is it the ability to carry out role-play based on real life? Is it the wonder of an enclosed and cozy space to spend time in? I think it is probably all of these things. Whichever it is, it is the game I love playing most with my daughter, and I will never tire of making her cubbies!

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