A Note On Toys

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

  • Nischala

    Aloka – Most kids today don’t really like toys.. I know of too many mom’s who say that the toys come home for the Papa’s .. Sigh! Now that’s the topic of another post.. “Why did the toys come home?” 😉

  • Sid Balachandran

    @Aloka : This is quite Catch-22, purely from a Dad’s point of view. Though most toys advertise that they can be used for educational purposes, I personally don’t see the point. Kids have favorites and then they have others which catch their fancy for a fleeting minute. I’ll also support what @nischala:disqus said and say “Yes, occasionally there are toys that come home for the papa. Having said that, I go back to the catch- 22 quote – Kids learn from us or whoever they interact with. If we can spend the time to give some “life” to those toys I believe even the “plastic” toys in the right hands can often help teach the kids a thing or two. Another key here is repetition. Having said that, as one of the more “i-love-my-house-clean-and-uncluttered-with-toys” dads, I would also like to add that sometimes we dads are quite naive and keep adding more toys for the little one(s) to clutter around. Look at me – Contradicting myself, again !

  • sirisha achanta

    I’ll confess I am a toy-hogger! I love them ,all sorts and all sorts of plastic and sounds and colors. I grew up without toys because I didnt need them, I had many kids around and the liberty to experiment with things around me in the house and the neighbourhood. Sadly, my child doesnt. We have rules. Rules in the apartment, rules in the neighbourhood, its just too restricting. So we resort to the plastic things for learning the cause and effect sometimes! We have 10 toys a day thing for keeping the house clutter-free. The child also has learnt to keep the toys away before bed. Toys have some advantages in our case..Sorry I made an article in a comment 😛

  • Reema Sahay

    I too don’t believe in hoarding several toys. It is only now, we have been buying a lot of puzzles like Alphabets, Numbers, Body parts, et. al. Plastics. Majorly his blocks set. Blocks was a huge hit with him. He played with it for months. For about one and half years, he wouldn’t even look at the soft toys [2 are my own, 2 gifted and 2 bought, that’s about it]. When you go to the store, kids naturally get attracted to all the colours and attractive placements, which certainly does not mean they are going to play with them afterwards. All the cars are just waste at the moment but cars are bought for dad also in this household! All in all, it is a waste to buy too many toys. We should buy 1 or maximum 2 at a time, then only they are explored and used well. But of course, I don’t follow this rule for books. The more, the better 🙂