A lot has happened since I last wrote; a death of a loved one, a big increase in writing commitments and a big first birthday party. After N’s First birthday it took me a week to clear the house of toys. They were everywhere, plastic and red. And I had to plan their final destination, be it with an NGO or N’s cupboard.
I’ve been meaning to write about toys for a while now. But since his birthday N’s toys fall into two categories 1) Before 2) After
1) Before the big ONE : I can safely say N’s toys were minimalistic.
Here is a list of his toys:
These wooden blocks from Plan toys
This plastic shape sorter from Fisher Price
These wooden chunky animals from Melissa and Doug
This rainbow stacker from Melissa and Doug
These wooden vehicles from Filter
With all of the toys above, N loved banging them together, shaking them, throwing them on the floor or generally making a din. N has never liked soft toys. I think it’s precisely because they don’t clang when they fall on the floor.
N had no toys that made sounds from the push of a button, he had no toys he learnt ‘cause and effect’ from. He didn’t (and still for the most part doesn’t) have battery operated toys.
Let me explain. If you walk in a toy store, you will find every single toy is educational. A plastic loud fire engine that throws around bling lights teaches ‘cause and effect’ apparently as the child learns that when he pushes a button (which incidentally is the cause) the effect is a noise.
N learnt cause and effect when he threw a spoon at my nose and I said ouch. Or when his father stooped for the umpteenth time under his high chair to retrieve a star shaped block he kept throwing down, because he liked causing that effect, or when he went rushing on all fours to where water was spilled and promptly fell splat on his tummy.
Another thing all toys apparently teach is fine motor and gross motor skills. N learns fine motor skills when he deftly picks up a tiny piece of bird dropping in the garden and shows it to me. He learns gross motor skills by climbing up and down every surface he can find in out house. He learns about textures by being barefoot and almost naked most of the day. And he has a side table in our bedroom, which has the noisiest of toys that he can fling on the floor whenever he so wishes. Thus learning – I don’t know, but something I am sure.
He loves his books. He sits and flips through his board books and makes sounds like he is reading to me. This is pretend play at work.
2) After the big ONE: Plastics have made an entry.
There are toys for everything. N now has a walker that can double up as a scooter. While that is definitely handy, he doesn’t seem to want to use it too much. He’d much rather use mamma’s hand to hold and walk with or take the support of the furniture and walls.
He has a Noah’s ark, which has all the animals. If you touch them they make a sound. The thing is N doesn’t play with it on his own. If I sit with him and play and show him the animals he will be interested for a while. But it defeats the purpose as I also read to him everyday and I end up make sounds of animals for him when I show him the animals in his books.
A variety of musical instruments: I was quite pleased with the musical toys. There are some real instruments that he got as gifts to be banged and shaken. But N loves throwing then on the floor, hearing them clash, and then he moves on to something else. I am hoping he will grow into these.
Blocks: From the beginning he has loved wooden blocks. So this time when I got wooden blocks as gifts I have given them to him to play around with. As of now he just enjoys holding them and exploring their size and shape and discovering whether they each make the same sound when (you guessed it) thrown on the floor.
N loves getting into the kitchen opening doors and throwing noisy kitchen apparatus on the floor. Honestly so far he hasn’t needed ‘toys’. And I’ve barely bought any.
In the evolutionary context, little babies were left to their own devices to discover things, sounds, and environment around them. They learnt by being close to their parents and watching their facial expressions and actions. They learnt cause and effect because their caregiver would respond to them promptly and not try and divert distress with a toy.
While toys can be great, toys should not be used to replace the human contact. Since many parents today cannot spend time with the child, they tend to buy lots and lots of toys. This gives rise to ADD and lots of other problems. Children find it hard to focus and entertain them selves with imaginary play because of the amount of playthings they have.
While I am all for play play and more play, I feel a lot of thought should be given when buying toys. The reasons to buy a toy should be the right ones, not because you feel the child has gotten bored of the ones at home. Does he really need toys? Are you teaching him instant gratification instead of teaching him to use his imagination?
I give him empty tin boxes, plastic screw on containers, fill a bottle with beads to make it a shaker and all sorts of knick-knacks that he treasures far more than expensive toys. I try to avoid any toys with batteries as a rule, except a train set or something in that vein.
One thought to leave you with : The more active the toy the less active the child and vice versa. Its better to buy toys that don’t do anything but the child has to manipulate to play.
Thanks for reading. Do you agree with me on this one? Or do you feel toys really serve the educational purpose they claim to?