Great Toys Should Teach Great Things
Once upon a time, I was the new teacher in a small school. My sweet kindergartners and I were still getting acquainted and getting over our Back To School jitters in early September. One day, I shared with the children that I was very excited that I was going to meet my brand new grandson over the weekend.
The next morning, the quietest, tiniest “peanut” of a girl in our group got out of her car with her mother. She presented me with an unwrapped gift for the new baby. It was a simple wooden grasping toy that she had played with back when she was a baby. It was a beautiful gesture.
Is that why that moment is embedded in my memory so clearly? Absolutely, but…
I Started to Think
That grasping toy has become a symbol inside my head of a Great Toy. It’s physical properties had helped it endure one babyhood and it would easily endure another. Hopefully more. It’s simple and pure design, interesting tactile and visual elements that called to the baby without shouting, and it’s quality craftsmanship all made it a toy worthy to pass down.
Much like people, however, there is more to a toy that its outer appearance. Toys are created with an entertainment or educational purpose, of course, but what does a toy say to a child indirectly? What message does it give or not give the young child who is soaking in everything through their senses? There is deep learning taking place, and toys that we give children influence their assumptions, identities, and relationship with the world.
Competence, reliability, caring, and pleasure should be conveyed by a child’s toys. A Great Toy not only stands the test of time, it has enough play value to create memories and an emotional bond.
Am I over thinking this? I don’t think so.
Children Learn Values From Bad Toys Too
They can easily learn impatience, frustration, dependence, and disrespect from toys that are poorly or carelessly designed by people who do not understand children.
- What does a child learn about concentration when he is given a good toy, but it is too far beyond or behind his readiness?
- What does a child learn about problem solving from a toy that dings or buzzes for a right or wrong answer??
- What does a child learn about respecting his things when he has an overwhelming amount of pieces?
- What does a child learn about his world when his toys have been aggressively marketed to him, poorly designed, mass produced, and don’t last or live up to the hype?
Toys do not always have to be made of the finest wood or brightly colored to be good. Remember, those are superficial qualities. Look deeper. An educational toy that does not let a child do their own thinking does not send a positive message. When a child’s toys routinely have jarringly bright colors or loud noises, they will not allow a child to see or hear subtlety. An entertaining toy that has only one joke is not a wise investment of a child’s time or your money. A toy that is junk is a disappointment and breaks trust. Even a lovely toy that is not carefully matched to a particular child’s needs and interests is basically worthless.
The toys that we surround our children with from their very first days teach. Years ago, that infant grasping toy certainly taught my young student some wonderful values beyond just “grasping.” In her mind, it was special enough to share with her new teacher’s baby grandson.