Saturday, 21 May 2011

The Perfect Toy

Some of the best toys I had when I was a kid werent really even toys at all. There was a large rock by the edge a stream that ran along the back of our house. That rock was a canoe during my Native American play, a stage when I needed an audience, a fishing boat, a car, a planet, and of course, a rock in the middle of Nestaria, my beautiful make believe world where fairies came to play with me. A long stick had some great potential as did the long breezy leaves of trees and cat tails. Those memories are ones nobody could have ever purchased for me, and of course, the initiation of growing my developing imagination has paid off even today in the form of my career. As perfect as those toys were for me, I dont think many children would get overly excited to wake up Christmas morning or their birthday to find a large rock wrapped in bulky paper topped with a special stick.

At the same time, when a child is ranting and wailing and making one of those lusciously embarrassing scenes in public because they have been told that horrible temper tantrum word, “No,” I often want to suggest giving the kid a big rock and a special stick simply so they can learn that they really dont need the momentary object of their tantrum. But in todays world parents who give their children rocks and sticks for special gift giving occasions arent considered very good parents.

So, what is a person with a child to buy for to do? We all know that there are mind numbing warnings out there about the overuse of electronic toys and video games. However, these mind numbing toys can actually teach kids a few things like persistence, problem solving skills, eye hand coordination, and with appropriate parental interference, self discipline. Electronic toys really only become terribly inappropriate when a parent realizes what an excellent baby sitter it can be and allows for its near constant use. However, before purchasing any type of game console beyond the educational type, if its not your child, be sure to talk to the parent first. Its not really fair to dangle an Xbox 360 in front of the child and then force the parent to become the bad guy when they disallow its use in the home. It can get messy. Communication can prevent messes.

As for the electronic education gadgets, of which there are numerous types, there has been a tremendous leap forward in electronic education. Someone finally figured out how to make them intoxicatingly fun for kids. The pay off for these types of toys can be tremendous, as kids learn so much from them while being tricked, since they truly feel they are playing a game. You should still breeze this idea before a childs parent before running out there and snagging up electronic toys, as some parents are still resistant to the idea.

Venturing back into my land of the stick and rock for a minute, what made those the best toys in the world was their versatility. They lasted for years because they could grow with me, change with me, at my own command. As my games changed, my “toys” could change with me. Some very smart toy makers have created a few of these toys for kids that resemble actual toys and less like bits of nature. Toys that have these qualities may only last two years, but at least there is still a growing aspect that allows a kid to develop at his or her own rate while playing the games and fantasies that they construct in their minds. This type of imaginative play is phenomenally important to healthy development and learning skills.

Despite the fact that children will tell you that the best toys are those that provide them with simple entertainment, the truth is (and some day they will look back and willingly admit this) the best toys are those that encourage them to use their imagination, to create, to ponder, and even to destroy. Learning to live in this world is difficult. Learning to create in this world is a blessing. To learn to create something from nearly nothing is a huge gift. The old favorites like Legos and Play-Do are of course excellent for younger children, while art supplies, building toys, and toys that encourage creative play are perfect for school aged kids. Without the use of their imaginations, we strip children of their brightest chances, and we strip society with what they may have one day created had their imaginations been encouraged to fester and create.

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