My son just turned one!
And along with that major milestone came the big ugly plastics.
For an entire year of his life before the big ONE came, his toys were minimalistic. He had some books and some wooden blocks. He likes to throw things around so I had stuff for him that would make a noise when they fell. Wood was ideal for that purpose. He had some wooden vehicles, very minimalistic, very cool. He had a couple of colourful balls. He had some plastic rattles when he was an infant.
And that was that.
Suddenly I’ve got an eyesore. There are lights everywhere, there are sounds, there are extra bright colors and there is ugly plastic.
The thing is, I never thought my son missed out on anything so far by not having many toys. To date I can safely say I have never bought toys for him except a shape sorter and a ball.
Modern toys all claim to be educational. If you walk into a toy store, 8 out of 10 toys will have the claim on the packaging that it helps your toys learn. By pushing a button, music starts to play, so your child has learnt something. Apparently the child learns cause and effect by pressing a button to make noise.
I’m sorry, but I think a child learns cause and effect by throwing something down from his high chair and his mum swoops down to get it. Again and again. Or putting on and off a light switch can teach cause and effect without having to spend a thousand bucks, and damage the environment.
All through human history, children learnt by observing people around them, falling, climbing over things, entertaining themselves with an object that their mom passed on to them etc.
Today with the amount of toys that are at their disposal, which are almost all identical, children are more distracted and easily bored. By constantly bombarding their senses with lights and sounds that don’t allow them to think very much, many children cannot spend afternoons doing apparently nothing unless the afternoons are packed with meaningless activity.
If you talk to parents, you will find that most will say that their child has a favourite from early on. For some its books, for some its blocks, for some its soft toys and for some it’s dolls. So then why keep buying toys to keep them busy when they clearly have favourites?
My son doesn’t like soft toys. Infact, I really don’t think he likes most toys. He just like something to hold on too so at most times you will see him with a block in each hand. He bangs them together throws it on the floor, empties balls from a box and that’s about it. Most of the shiny plastics around him that probably have a total value of 10’s of thousands he has barely looked at.
Cause and effect he has learnt by throwing his toys down and hearing a bang, colours and numbers he will learn while I read to him everyday or point out busses and crows and trees, words he will learn as his parents and everyone around him talks to him constantly and not from a mechanical voice at the press of a button, kitchen cutlery he can play with the real steel stuff instead of a plastic toy kitchen.
Toys today just reinstate my belief that we cannot take any packaging at face value. When the package says – learning for your child – pause and think, what is he or she learning really.
Thanks for reading. Let me know in the comments, whether you like more toys or prefer the minimalistic approach and how you’ve managed to keep your house clutter free from big ugly plastics.
Aloka Gambhir is a new mom (since October 2012). She is a fitness and nutrition enthusiast and a health and fitness blogger since 2011. She is a Mumbai mom following an alternative lifestyle called the paleo/primal or evolutionary lifestyle. She is passionate about helping fellow moms follow their instincts to a healthier lifestyle for themselves and their family by questioning the rules and conventional wisdom on her blog: www.wholesomemamma.in