And so it begins! Halloween is upon us, and yet the toy advertisements for Holiday gift giving are everywhere! If you have a four- or five-year-old like me, you are hearing “I want that!” at least ten times a day. At this point in my parenting, I simply say, “Okay. Put that on your list!” Long ago…in a galaxy far away…I may have tried to reason with my kids, “Do you think you would use that?” or “Twenty dollars is a LOT of money for bubbles, honey, even if they do glow in the dark and bounce like a ball.” Or “Now, now, let’s not be greedy.” However, I’ve learned that the battle isn’t worth it. They never remember in two months. So, just go with it.
What I’m really here to share today, though, is a few tips on toy buying! Many of the toys that we will see – whether in an infomercial or at the toy store – will require batteries. They will claim to “teach” multiple languages, colors, numbers, letters, reading, math, geography, increase IQ skills, and do your taxes. Well, maybe not the taxes, but the rest are true!
I don’t know about you, but my toys didn’t do all of this, and I turned out okay (hee hee hee!) Here are a few reasons that I try to AVOID these types of toys:
- Short Attention Span: True Story. Around age three, my son received a train set as a gift. The train had an on/off switch. When it was turned on, it traveled around the track collected coal and deposited the coal in to a bin…over and over again. Now, he already had a train set at home…a simple wooden train set….not even Thomas! Just a plain track and wooden cars that magnetically connected. He would sit for what seemed like hours playing with it, rearranging the tracks and being creative with the play scheme. We didn’t even have a train table…he just built all over the carpet, down the hall, under the dining room table, on the kitchen floor, you name it! There was always a plan. With the new train set, he needed help to get it together correctly, then he would hit the on switch and watch it roll…for about 3 minutes. Then he walked away.
So, can you see the point of my example? His attention to this activity went from one hour down to 3 minutes. His creativity went from 1000 down to zero…because it took no imagination to work that fancy track. It did all the planning, imagining, and creating FOR him.
- Social Skills: Children don’t learn from toys alone. Children learn from interactions with people. When we play with our kids, or children play alongside each other, LEARNING TAKES PLACE! Think about it…when playing with blocks, we need to ask another person to “Pass me a red block, please”…just in that ONE sentence, children are learning to make requests, identify colors, recognize amounts (one block, two blocks, etc.) and to use manners. Learning is definitely taking place! How about waiting for a turn. That’s a necessary life skill.
- Bonding & Attachment: Think about how your child likes to read a book…do they snuggle up in your lap? Are they tucked under the covers as you read alongside? Is there any touch involved? If they are looking at the pictures, then chances are – yes! When we give them a fancy toy that “reads” for them (who remembers Teddy Ruxpin?? LOL) all of these components are missing for them. We want to instill a LOVE of reading. We want reading to create a sensory memory- that warmth, the smell of mom or dad or grandma – it all comes back when they read later in life. We don’t get this from battery operated books, or book “programs” or book “systems”. Just snuggling up with a book is MORE than enough…and less expensive, too!
So, as you stand in that toy aisle, bewildered by the amount of toys to choose from and wondering what is best, go for SIMPLE! Toys like blocks, dolls, cars, trucks, a ball, a book, crayons, a toolbox, or doctor kit, shape sorters, ring stackers…these are all EXCEPTIONAL learning toys! They encourage creativity, imagination, attention span, social skills, language, bonding, attachment, and more!
What is YOUR favorite toy from growing up? I loved my chalkboard and magnetic letters. Simple!