“Toys And Play”
Parents have been duped into thinking that giving their children “things,” otherwise known as toys, along with little or no responsibility is the right parenting approach to take.
But in The New Six-Point Plan for Raising Happy, Healthy Children John Rosemond challenges this thinking in the chapter on “Toys and Play” and what he says may surprise you.
John tells the story of a couple who, after secretly watching their child play with a large marking pen, morphing it into a rocket ship, an alien and a ray gun in just a matter of minutes, decided to buy him a replica of a space shuttle for Christmas.
In their minds that was the perfect toy.
Toys Should Stimulate
However, three weeks after getting this marvelous toy he was bored.
It had every bell and whistle. All the design features were visible but it was an untouchable. The joy of playing with it was diminished by the fear of breaking it. This toy like many others is more ornamental than practical. No functionality.
Its limited functionality meant it could command only a very short interest span.
The only way an exact replica of a space shuttle can be anything other than an exact replica of a space shuttle is to break it. That could be said about an exact replica of anything.
And most kids are afraid to break these toys, not because they love them so much but because the parents do. They cost a bundle so any breakage draws immediate disapproval. Like exhibits in a museum, they’re nice to look at but impossible to embrace.
For these reasons John suggests that childhood, as it was intended to be, has come perilously close to an end.
Creating Toys Develops Resourcefulness
Childhood is supposed to be a time of fun and adventure, when imagination runs high and resourcefulness is encouraged. Instead our children begin developing an addiction to the next best manufactured product and parents reinforce this addiction by fretting over the toys their children don’t have, rather than finding ways to encourage them to imagine and create toys that can’t be bought.
Playtime, unfettered by “state of the art” toys, induces reason, logic, creativity and investigation, all the stuff that makes a person clever. This is education outside the classroom and makes work in the classroom more fruitful.
Manufactured toys not only dominate a child’s life and retard the development of these skills, they often mask the deception by claiming to be educational.
Self Fabricated Toys Stimulate A Sense Of Value
Kids can have a whole cupboard full of toys and still have nothing to do. They are bored by it all.
And it is amazing that many kids, even with a bulging footlocker of the fanciest toys money can buy, will latch on to some broken piece of a toy and carry it everywhere they go, threatening a full scale fit if anyone attempts to remove it from their clutching hand.
It has something most toys don’t – versatility.
Inventors, John says, are people who grow up without toys. “Play” for John is not synonymous with manufactured products and he is not alone in this opinion.
Karen Stephens, director of Illinois State University Child Care Center and instructor in child development for the ISU Family and Consumer Sciences Department, says…
Don’t stifle and numb creativity with too many manufactured toys. Resist buying kids every accessory marketed with the latest movie or cartoon character so resourcefulness will have room to grow. Dolls are nifty, but kids don’t stretch their imagination when we supply every dress and play prop. Pre-assembled kits rob kids of chances to think on their own.
Karen also writes a weekly column for parents in her local newspaper, is author of two books and frequently contributes to Child Care Information Exchange.
Additionally, an Iowa State University publication says…
Exploring, pretending, and sharing are just a few of the important skills children develop when they play. Toys don’t have to be expensive. Cardboard boxes in the backyard and measuring cups in the bathtub are favorite standards.
Play is what kids do when they don’t have toys and it stimulates the development of qualities that enable a person to manage the unforeseen and very diverse problems that life throws at us daily.
Materials That Transform
Play time is most useful when it allows for what John calls “transformations.” Transformations occur whenever a child uses one object to represent something else entirely, like a marking pen becoming a rocket ship. Toys that readily transform are very inexpensive and available everywhere.
Aside from creative materials such as clay, finger paints, crayons and such, there is:
- Inside the house: Empty oatmeal cartons, popsicle sticks, spoons, shoeboxes, empty spools of thread, straws, paper bags, buttons, pots and pans, and empty toilet paper rolls.
- Outside the house: leaves, sticks, pine cones, rocks, and mud, glorious mud.”
The world is full of very mundane things that become very interesting in the hands of a child during play time.
John isn’t against buying toys but he does say that the toys you buy should be high in “play value” not educational value:
Education develops the data base. Play time develops the sensibilities. Education develops the head. Play time develops the heart. Children who play freely, believe.
“Play value” is high when:
- One, a toy presents a wide range of creative possibilities. It can be more than one thing.
- Two, it encourages manipulation. That is, it is designed to be taken apart, investigated, rearranged and so on. It not only can be broken, in a sense, it should be.
- Three, it should be age appropriate – don’t give a two year old an electric train. Two year olds play more with the ribbon that the present.
- Four, it is durable. A good toy is most useful when it is abused.
Toys that have no play value are one dimensional and can challenge the child’s imagination and intellect for only a short period of time. Children can admire these sophisticated toys but they can’t really engage them.
Unfortunately, educational toys do not rank high in “play value.”
John recommends that parents rate the play value of the toys they have using the above rule and then make sure all toys in the future – some of which don’t require a lot of money – should allow for imagination and creativity.
The up side is once kids learn to entertain themselves, they won’t demand so much of their parents’ attention and won’t be so bored when not surrounded by people.
“Play exercises the skills a child needs in order to become a fully competent individual.”
But unfortunately adults often operate under the delusion that “play” is the antithesis of “constructive effort.”
If, however, you monitor not only the toys you buy but also the way your kids engage them you will discover their natural abilities. Kids that mess up model airplanes won’t have much of a future in design engineering.
Play Time And Sports
John also has a comment about sport programs for children between the ages of 6 and 10.
He says the primary problem with these programs is adult involvement.
Adults organize these programs, adults raise the money to fund them, adults draw up the playing schedule, adults pick the teams, coach them, referee them, decide who plays and who doesn’t, give out awards, and make up the biggest share of the audience.
But it doesn’t stop there. Not only do adults play too prominent a role in planning and organizing these events, they also take it upon themselves to mediate such things as which children acquire what status with the peer group, how conflict between children is resolved, and so on.
Because of this, children have little opportunity to develop skills in these areas and thy usually tolerate the process rather than enjoy it.
Play should be:
- What children decide to do, not what parents decide for them.
- A time to learn social skills.
- An opportunity for trends in abilities to surface and develop.
Why is this important?
What our children become as individuals is what they offer to God. If they become nothing before they offer their lives to God they offer Him nothing.