“The toy has become so important that people think it an aid to the intelligence; it is certainly better than nothing, but it is significant that the child quickly tires of a toy and wants new ones.”
– Maria Montessori, Education for a New World (64)
I remember someone being in our home and heard me refer to the activities on our shelf to Joey as “work.” They let out a little chuckle…as if beans in glasses, pink “blocks,” and lacing cards weren’t work.
It’s hard not to be offended at that type of attitude. Children work. Their learning is work and to disregard it as unimportant is to neglect the development of the child.
In our culture, work is something done by adults, usually with a means to an end, and not a child. Children play. It’s laughable to say they work unprompted, and so society pushes play at them.
And this “play” has become an array of noisy, colorful, cheaply made plastics in every shape and size. Our children are drawn into consumerism with their favorite TV show or even book character.
It’s everywhere. And most of it is dribble.
We’re told that these special toys will enrich our child’s mind and help them learn, when in reality they’re little more than mindless entertainment for the child. Instead of enriching and stimulating the child, they are conditioning the child to be a consumer.
What seems harmless can/may actually be doing much to hinder our children–their developmental growth, imagination, ingenuity, and independence. So often toys are given for entertainment rather than stimulation. They satisfy for the moment, but do little to grow the child.
I love what Paula Polk Lillard says in Montessori: A Modern Approach,
Instead of opportunities for serious accomplishment in our culture, we supply our children with expensive toys, hoping that these will occupy them and keep them from disturbing us.
In actuality, even in today’s world of the “educational toy,” most of the toys adults give to children do not meet their needs for growth and involvement with the real world. Consequently, they are a source of frustration to the child, and he does not remain occupied with them for long (116).
Children look for meaningful work, even in their play…especially in their play! How often does the child imitate his father or mother or another “real” job?
They crave to come alongside us and do the work we do. They see it has purpose. All too often we tell them “No” and to go play, but they love meaningful work!
Some of Joey’s biggest fits are when we tell him he can’t take the trash out or wash the dishes with me (usually barred by time or his dress). He loves to help me cook, wash dishes, and even clean the bathroom! If the broom is out, he wants a try. He’s favorite activities are taking out the trash and checking the mail.
While I’m not saying that children should not have toys, I do wish that as parents we’d choose toys that seek to engage the child in a purposeful way.
What are your thoughts on children and toys? How do you handle toys in your home?