Always desire to learn something useful.

~ Sophocles ~

Toys Are More Than Child’s Play

August 3rd, 2013 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 17 secs

Actually, toys are tools.

Actually, toys are tools.

Toys. You could be half way around the world in a culture you know next to nothing about and children would still be playing with toys. They are everywhere. But there’s more to these childish diversions than meets the eye.

Looking back over the past century the ultimate toy was generally voted to be Lego. This Danish construction set allowed children to create their own ideas, using a multitude of little stickable plastic bricks.

Though never a cheap toy, Lego found its way into many a household and became as ubiquitous in First World homes as a bat and ball. Thanks to its endless construction options, these wee bricks empower young minds to make worlds of their own, chartered by experimentation and imagination.

But not everyone would applaud Lego for its virtues as a toy. Followers of Rudolph Steiner would much prefer children engage with handmade toys made from natural materials like wood and clay. That might seem purist. But the garish colors of plastic interlocking pieces might be seen to limit a child’s thinking in ways that playing in a sandbox might not.

In that sense, Lego is a metaphor. As a product of the times, nothing says modern life more frankly than plastic.

Yet today there are a host of other toy options that are vying for children’s attention and the competition is fierce. In the US alone toys are a 30 billion dollar a year industry and the ploys used to extract cash from well meaning parents border on the devious.

Pesting is regarded as one of the most effective means of getting products into the hands of children. So large toy manufacturers and retailers use child psychologists to work out how to boost the must have factor and ramp up the nagging so parents cave in.

Today toys are a big business phenomenon and nothing shows this more blatantly then movie merchandising. While children are all too willing to fit into these schemes, they are concerning.

Putting my teacher hat on for a bit, I can say that despite what the ads command, toys don’t need to be status symbols, overly elaborate, or expensive. Signs of good toys include:

  1. A high degree of child-initiated creativity (merchandise tends to lock kids into only replaying predictably limited themes)
  2. A kind of kid friendliness that makes them feel more childish and less adult sensible
  3. Durability for all the outrageous treatment they get from kids
  4. Safety – and thankfully most toys pretty much have this covered
  5. Sharability” – if toys can be shared they become much more satisfying
  6. That they feel, smell, look, and taste great (because kids will try all of these on just about anything).

Politically correct or not, children enjoy all sorts of toys and while some are particularly popular, every child has their own ideas about what is fun to play with or not.

Then when they do find what they like, toys become a device to learn through. Toys are learning instruments after all, and whether we take them seriously or not, kids need playthings to help them make sense of their world.

So, above all, let toys be fun. For the more play a toy generates the more useful they are and the happier your child will be discovering what they can and cannot do.

Playful Fun

Stuff To Keep You Happy

Playing? At Your Age?


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