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As the mad holiday shopping rush begins, we like to think that parents will choose gifts wisely, but that’s not often the case. Today’s media has a grip on our children, showing them an endless array of useless, mind-numbing gadgets that seem to serve no purpose but to make someone money and when our children see these, they feel they “need” them. “But mom, I need that” is the phrase I often hear from my four-year-old. How quickly they learn. But children need to play, and not only on a digital device.
Play is essential to the developing child because it contributes to cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being. Play is also essential for healthy brain development and is the best way for children to explore the world around them. The simplest way to encourage play is by providing plenty of toys. So, understanding that play is the work of children, it is essential that we as parents provide them with toys that stimulate the imagination, build creativity and promote problem solving skills. The nonprofit, National Association for the Education of Young Children, asked two researchersabout what their work tells us about toys, children and play. Jeffrey Trawick-Smith (Professor of Early Childhood Education at the Center for Early Childhood Education at Eastern Connecticut State University) states that one trend that emerged from the studies is that “basic is better,” meaning toys that are open-ended and can be used in multiple ways, such as building blocks, vehicles and construction toys. He also found that the highest scoring toys were those that “prompted problem solving, social interaction, and creative expression in both boys and girls. Interestingly, toys that have traditionally been viewed as male oriented—construction toys and toy vehicles, for example—elicited the highest quality play among girls.” So be sure to set aside any preconceived notions you have about toys and gender and sometimes even about the recommend age (though remember to keep safety at the forefront) and choose toys that force children to think outside the box and utilize their imagination and creative energies. Perhaps even let them play with the box, which always seems to be the most fun.
An observation and thought I would like to share with you is the dismay I feel when I see kids who live in a totally digital world because I don’t know what it will be that will generate their memories in the future. I’m one of those pack rats that saved all my toys and today I love sharing my Fisher Price Briarberry Bears and accessories, Polly Pockets, Barbies, Beanie Babies, Puzzle Place set and others with my four-year-old. She loves to see what I played with as a child. Even though some of those toys still exist, they generally are not in the form that I had. When I get them out for her they bring back my own memories and show her what the world I grew up in was like. With the Christmas Wish Book and toy stores a thing of the past, I see children with less actual physical toys and instead games that are downloaded. What will they have to look back on and what will they share with their children? Just keep in mind that what is happening in their life today will be the memories that they will look back upon. What memory would you like your children to have in the future and what memories and toys will they be able to share with their own children?
Happy play and memory making!
-Kate @ BTBL
We are three generations that seek a way to get back to basics. It’s not that we eschew technology, but sometimes simpler is better, especially in raising our children. Mom was a reading teacher, Amanda is an early childhood educator and Kate a children’s literature specialist and former school librarian along with the latest additions, a daughter (now 4) for Kate, and two sons (now 1 and a newborn) for Amanda. We advocate reading aloud, the simple toys that use imagination and encourage creativity and learning in the kitchen, which can be a fun mess but also teaches life skills. Join us in raising healthy, happy, inquisitive and intelligent children.
We are mom Sandra and daughters Amanda and Kate, all with backgrounds in literacy and education, who want to share our philosophy of taking the basics of life; books, simple toys that encourage play, imagination and creativity, and using cooking and baking to teach math and real life skills to raise happy, inquisitive children. Join us in exploring the old and the new and sifting through the myriad of research to consider what is best for our children.