Are Toys Necessary?
I am a firm believer that toys are not necessary. Don’t get me wrong – they are fun, they are exciting, they keep a child entertained…for a short time. BUT they are not necessary at all – for education, for learning, for play.
Here is an example. We were at the beach on the weekend. After setting up our little picnic blanket we noticed that parked on the beach near us was a family of five children – four boys ranging from ages 5-11years and a little girl in the middle who was about 7 years old. Their parents were sitting on a sandy dune enjoying the sunshine – good on them! We had some food and then started kicking our soccer ball around but I could see our son (after he climbed a few trees) being drawn to the game these siblings were playing. Of course, we went over to investigate. It looked fun.
These five children had created the most incredible cubby house I have ever seen. It had vines, leaves and huge sticks creating a shelter and a tree with glass beer bottles hanging off its branches –this was purely for decoration (they were sure to tell me). In front of their ‘cubby’, they had a large, empty Dorito packet with a stick pierced through it, representing a flag. It was so cool I wanted to play in it.
Did they have a frisbee, a football, a cricket set? No. Did they have beach balls or flotation devices? No. They had sticks, empty beer bottles (not an ideal choice I will admit), vines, leaves, branches and sand. And their ‘play’ was in full swing.
It got me thinking again about the fact that imagination and our environment is all children need to play and create and invent and construct. We can give them all the toys in the world and in some ways this stunts their ability to create and imagine. I have spoken to many parents who have expressed frustration that their children have a ‘room full of toys’ and yet always seem to whine that ‘there is nothing to do’ and that they ‘are bored’. How many times have you seen a child play with a cardboard box for hours and yet the new car that you just bought them is jammed somewhere in the depths of the toybox?
We can traipse down to Kmart and spend a fortune on a little kitchen and little pots and pans and little cups and saucers and then find our two-year-old really just wants to be on a chair at the kitchen bench helping us cook instead.
I guess it is important that we think about what we spend our hard earned cash on before we make a purchase. It is so easy to get caught up in the latest craze or the need to consume something just because (insert birthday, Christmas, really good toy sale etc here). It is so easy to think it will entertain, give you some peace and be something they will really love.
Before you make your next purchase, ask yourself these questions:
- Does the toy have educational value?
- Does the toy encourage imagination or can it really only be used for one purpose?
- Does the toy dictate and direct play or guide play as a tool that can be used alongside creating, constructing or role-playing?
- Does the toy engage the child to think or discuss or share with others?
- Can the toy be used in a range of environments and by children from a range of different ages?
I will admit that there are certain things that I believe enable play, encourage creativity and imagination and help guide a child to design and construct. I am sure you can think of more (and please do) but check out my list for some ideas.
Idea’s to enable play, encourage creativity and imagination
- Go outdoors, Rebecca from Innate Moves has some great suggestions on simple ways to foster kids fitness, check it out.
- Lego (an imagination kick starter)
- Blocks (the ideas are endless)
- Pencils and Paper and Paint and Glue and Scissors and Sticky Tape (you get the idea)
- Puzzles (but borrow these from a toy library if you can as once they are mastered they are mastered)
- Books (will never get old)
- Board Games (encourage sharing, taking turns, playing together)
- Bike or a scooter or a skateboard
- A ball
- Cars and Trucks (they seem universal and if you have a hill you can’t go wrong)
- Dolls (role-playing is so good)
The rest can be found at home – a cardboard box, old clothes as dress ups, containers for water play, an old sheet for a cubby house, sticks and dirt and rocks and grass and spoons from the kitchen drawer for the mud kitchen.
Be brave and don’t feel guilty that they don’t have all the toys in the world. Watch what they do with what is around them and let the play and imagination of a child inspire you.