Thursday, July 29, 2010

Toys: Less is More

Fancy toys, remote-controlled toys, battery-operated toys, character toys, light up toys, singing toys - make your brain go crazy toys!

We've all seen it: at a birthday party or Christmas time, a young child has piles of gifts and opens them all up. The parents ooh and ahh over the latest action figure, the cutest doll, the most ornate "speak and spell" on the market. "Which one should we play with first?" The child doesn't need to answer...he's already happily ripping apart a piece of torn wrapping paper. "No no, don't do that. Here, it's a car for you to drive in! Let's get some batteries to make it go fast!"

The little boy sees the cardboard box instead. And he's quite content with that!

When it comes to toys, less is more! I mean quantity as well as quality, in a way. By that I'm advocating simpler toys in smaller amounts.

At day care, 11 month old Michael would walk into the play area as soon as his mother dropped him off. He searched immediately for the red spoon rattle. Once he found it, he had it all day. Sure, he'd play with the other toys, but this was his favorite. I have tons of stories like this. Even my own daughter will be happily content playing with a toothbrush for hours.

It's true that eventually kids will get bored with toys. But we don't remedy that by putting out hundreds of different toys in the beginning. That's over stimulating. I make a point to rotate my baby's toys about once a week so she only has a few in the living room at a time. It's a) less messy, and b) more peaceful!

Going along with this, I am a firm believer that toys should not do all the work for kids. You know the toys I'm talking press one button and a circus erupts in front of their little faces. What does that teach them? Nothing really.

I love simple toys. Or things that aren't toys at all. Things that inspire creativity and require imagination and thinking from children. That's why blocks are so great! They teach problem solving skills, trial and error, "math", sharing, communication, longer attention spans, cause and effect, etc. I love being able to give my daughter simple, yellow shape toys and watch her study them for the longest time.

Maxim Natural Wood Blocks, 100-PiecesI also prefer wooden toys over plastic any day. But that can be very costly. However, if I have a choice, I pick simple, natural, and thought-provoking toys.

And I know, I know...when my child gets older and Toy Story 5 is out, she's probably going to want the Buzz Lightyear action man that lights up, talks, and rolls on wheels. Am I going to cave in? Most likely. I'm wouldn't want to deprive her of those special toys. But at the same time, I'm also not about to cheat her out of the necessary skills she needs to develop. The trick is finding the balance! Time will tell. 


Manda Batt said...

Have you ever seen the "Melissa and Doug" toys? They're awesome, wooden toys that inspire imagination and creativity. I found them when searching for toys as I got into the Montessori method for teaching. Also, Vidler's has great stuff. I'm a big fan of rotating toys too!

Iluska Ikeda said...

We've talked about this, so you know I'm totally with you on this one. (^_^)

Natalie said...

Cardboard boxes are some of the best toys my kids have ever played with... one of the few advantages of moving so much! :P They can become houses, cars, storefronts, trains, airplanes....... so much fun! :) And free, LOL! :)