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Posts Tagged ‘toys’

Who says money doesn’t grow on trees?

In Field Notes on 26 August 2015 at 7:49 pm

Who says money doesn’t grow on trees… ūüôā

A guest post by Peter of Appalagraharam Andhra Pradesh

After school and on Sundays, the village kids come to play with the AID “Toy Library” toys…
Each day there is a different scenario enacted.¬†One day the space may be a market place, with the children, as small groups or individually setting up there stalls with various wares for sale ‚Ķ¬†tea stalls, tiffin stalls, hair studio, scrap merchants, general stalls etc…
Another day it may be the anganwadi centre with a teacher (who always seems to be yielding a big stick… ūüė¶ teaching songs and games to the children whilst somebody else is preparing meals for every one…
One of the favorites is “Birthday parties… one or more children are selected as “Birthday Kids”
All the other children collect leaves and flowers to lavish the the birthday kid and their mudpie cake…

There is one common thing that revolves around all the scenarios…. money. Read the rest of this entry »


The right toys

In What on 8 June 2013 at 3:30 am

My son is 18 months old and it feels like he is growing up very fast. ¬†I often have thought about “Am I giving him enough toys to play?” or sometimes “Am I giving him the right toys? ¬†I have also heard about introducing new toys to children which are age appropriate, and it would be helpful to get your insight on this topic.

Рmother of an 18 month-old in Irvine. 
Though almost anything can be a toy, play does not require toys.  Running, climbing, dancing, hide-and-seek, hopscotch and all kinds of imaginary games are fun and appropriate for all ages.   Coming to your question, what makes you think he needs more toys?
What are the things that your son reaches for now?  Observe the ways he engages with the people and things around him.  Young children often want to be involved in whatever those around them are doing, and so common household objects like dishes and buckets and cabinets become attractive.  If people in the family are into gardening, art, music, woodwork or other crafts, kids would probably want to get their hands on the shovels, brushes, instruments or other supplies involved.  Of course if the important objects seem to be the phone or laptop, kids will want those too.  Most of us would be better off spending less time with our gadgets, and diversifying our activities.
More important than selecting the right toy is cultivating a positive attitude towards work and play, which are one and the same for a child. ¬†Why should we as adults break that continuum? ¬†Often I hear children who are taking pots and pans out of the cabinets being told to “go play” and even given “toy” pots and pans for this purpose. ¬†Rather than recognizing the child’s desire to be part of the action and including the child in their work, these parents impose a separation between work and play. ¬†Having given the the plastic kitchen set to the child, do the parents join them? ¬†No, they continue in the actual kitchen. ¬†Children resist this second-class status, and hence the instructions to go and play and stay out of the kitchen are repeated and reinforced through various means, often including more toys.
What if you could share the space and material in the kitchen? ¬†It would slow down your work, only if you narrowly define your work as getting that specific meal prepared in a timely manner. ¬†But the work that you thought you were accomplishing by providing age-appropriate toys, can also get done by allowing kids in the kitchen. ¬†Secondly, why be so possessive about your work? ¬†Doesn’t the work belong to the family, including the child? ¬†Taking items out of the shelf may seem useless or counter-productive to you, especially when you are putting them back, but if you hear what the child is communicating (I want to be part of the family, to do what the elders of my species do), it is not pointless. ¬†And if it makes you feel better, there are some motor skills being honed, and spatial relations being worked out in the process. ¬†When you believe the noise has a purpose, it is less likely to give you a headache.
As you mention that he is growing up fast, you may not be surprised to find that soon he can also do things like put the spoons away or wash some tomatoes or roll some chapatis, if you let him do it in his own way.
Another positive attitude parents should develop is a positive attitude towards dirt. ¬†As Fraulein Maria said, “Children can’t do all the things they’re supposed to if they have to worry about spoiling their precious clothes.” ¬†I can also summon the New York Times, “Babies Know: ¬†A Little Dirt is Good for You.” ¬†Much of the toy market is driven by a motive to engage kids in a way that keeps them indoors, sitting still and not getting dirty and not falling down and scraping their knees. ¬†This is hardly age-appropriate!
So to recap – the way to encourage play is
  • provide plenty of space to run, jump, climb, etc
  • allow children to get dirty and take some risks
  • don’t separate work and play

And now for toys. ¬†As the new / old wisdom on food says, “buy no food that you see advertised (Michael Pollan).” ¬† Why not apply the same to toys? ¬†Especially toys that talk, light up, or claim to develop the brain. ¬† Of course such educational claims are part of the sales pitch for most toys, so I would probably just ignore them. ¬†Also avoid any toy that is so expensive that you would not want to see it broken.¬†¬†Toy inventor and scientist Arvind Gupta says that the best thing a child can do with a toy is break it … and on¬†Arvind Gupta’s website¬†you can find toys that you can put together and take apart all you want, since they are made of odds and ends.

Everything that toys are touted to promote Рbe it imagination, creativity, problem solving or Рarise more meaningfully through self-directed interaction with real time, space, people and ordinary objects found in mission-critical places like the kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, or the puddle in the yard.  Toys from the store often have predesigned functions, whereas in the imaginary world of the child, anything can be anything.   A boat made of paper or tinfoil can be a raft or a coast guard vessel or cruise ship.  Even a bead or a twig or a leaf can be a boat.  Or a passenger.  Or an iceberg.

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If I had to buy a toy, I would go for one without many features, that does not do much on its own (or require batteries!) or have a script already designed for it. ¬†Even if it does, of course there is no requirement that one follow the given script. ¬†So I would avoid suggesting the “right way” to play with a toy.
When one has only a few toys, their roles grow over time. ¬† What I have found is that through years of playing, some toys are far more versatile than we imagined at first. ¬†¬†Even if you don’t buy any toys, you might get some as gifts or hand-me-downs. ¬† To avoid accumulating too many toys, you could pass old ones along to make room for new, but a word of caution: if this happens frequently, then one of the lessons learned from the toy will be its disposability.

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Why is my baby not playing with toys?

In Why on 17 October 2012 at 8:08 pm
My son¬†has a lots of toys (given as gifts), and we¬†haven’t¬†found the need of them so far. Is that a good sign or should we engage him with toys, just as a general¬†protocol? ¬†Every time he is fussy, we talk to him, make noises and try to¬†interpret¬†some sort of a conversation when he responds to our talk. He has gotten so used to this that, when we try to engage him with toys he¬†doesn’t¬†like it. He prefers being carried and talked to all the time. What is your take on this?¬†¬†
-mother of a 3 month old in Baltimore
¬† ¬† ¬†His preference makes perfect sense to me. ¬†Why would you want to change it? ¬†My take on toys is that less is more. Or for a spiritual take –¬†tat tvam asi¬†– you are the toy. ¬† (Or a Louis XIV take: ¬†Le¬†jouet, c’est moi.) In the early months and years of life, very few store-bought toys can satisfy one longer than the simple entertainments of being carried and talked to all the time. ¬†Soon kids get busy in the kitchen, garden, or laundry room, and invent a number of other pursuits using pens, books, clothes, phones, utensils, and just about anything other than a toy.
     Those who give gifts are well-meaning, but remember it is the thought that counts.  You can appreciate that thought while carefully keeping the toy in storage, generously passing it along to someone in need, or gratefully exchanging it.  You can also be thoughtful when giving gifts to others Рrather than giving toys, why not something that does not accumulate?  Fruit basket, art supplies, a coupon for a special storytime with you or playdate at the park.  Such gifts delight the parents as much as the child.
¬† ¬† ¬†To get the most fun out of toys, introduce them slowly. ¬†To avoid having to throw out / pass along a toy simply to make space for new ones, get fewer toys and let your child decide when s/he no longer wants it. ¬†I have seen my daughter play with the same toy differently over the years, and I could not have predicted which toy would have this lasting appeal and potential for versatility. ¬† Don’t limit their use to the one intended by the manufacturer. ¬†As Arvind Gupta says, with a gleam in his eye, “The best thing a child can do with a toy is to break it!” ¬†Worried? ¬†Try these¬†toys!

Play or Eat? Why not Both?

In What on 26 May 2012 at 1:16 am

Our son turned-over more than a month and a half back and is extremely active – it has become challenging for us to feed him. He wants to play and eat at the same time – any thoughts on how to approach this phase? Also, any ideas on activities for him?
– Appa of a 5 month-old in Maryland

Since he is, as you say, extremely active, I am wondering why you think he is not getting enough food?

Keep in mind that play is a way of feeding the mind, which hungers just as the body does. A baby who knows where the milk comes from and how to get to it, will nurse. Do you think he is playing "too much" and not nursing "enough?" He may think differently. Trust him. Play with him. If you are still concerned that he is not nursing enough, proactively find times & places that are calm and encourage nursing. Use the sling, use skin-to-skin contact, use music. What I found was that taking a walk just around sunset time, with baby in the sling and able to nurse via nursing kurta was very much conducive to nursing and sleeping. Perhaps it resembled the womb. There were a few months when I did this every evening.

Sometimes babies go through phases where they are so keen to play while awake that they save all their nursing for night and naptime. Lest hunger for play take priority over hunger for food, pack in plenty of play so that he is satisfied and works up a good appetite. Play can take the form of singing songs, clapping, peek-a-boo, dancing, bathing (try all at the same time!). Babies also enjoy listening to conversations and watching others work, and generally being involved in whatever is going on. Soon he will be "helping" you with your work. I would recommend that you get a toy phone, preferably one that looks like a land line, and avoid exposure to the cell phone for as long as humanly possible. Likewise I would keep him away from any screen of any size.

Toys like rattles, cups, balls, socks are fun, but leave some scope for him to discover his own playthings. You will discover the hidden wonders of many ordinary things around the house.

What toys do I buy for my baby?

In What on 17 February 2011 at 3:56 pm

What toys do I buy for baby?

– mother of a 4 month old in Mumbai.

When it comes to toys, I do believe that less is more and that one should strive for "nothing" as an ideal. It is, paradoxically, unattainable, as our world is full of things and we feel anxious, insecure, and incomplete with out "things." Anyway, what is "nothing?" We don’t even know really. But we can consider what is the good and harm that can come from toys.

Good – they are fun. Some toys endure for years, generations even. Which ones? This will vary from family to family, since what makes the toy fun tends to be less about the toy itself and more about the play that has been rubbed into it over the years. Low-feature toys that don’t have a set script as to what does with them are amenable to varieties of stories, structures, actions and imaginative play. Even a piece of cloth or powder dabba can become a treasured plaything.

Harm – It can happen that toys are are used as substitutes for time, space, interaction with people, and access to other "things" that the baby desires more, e.g. household objects, access to household space. Confining kids to a "play area" with "play things" when they really want to explore the pots and pans or distribute items from the shelf around the floor is not fair to them. (If you don’t want your baby or toddler to touch it, keep it out of reach. As Dr. Sears says, "Don’t Fence Me In.")

Human company can delight a baby again and again, for a long time. Toys, esp those that light up, make sounds, and "do things" will soon be cast aside. And then one gets a new toy, which is again interesting for a little while. Most toys are sold as "educational," but what one learns from this steady stream of toys is their disposability.

Yet what delight a sieve or set of katoris can bring! By the age of 1 my daughter was "helping" around the house – washing, drying, sorting, wiping, arranging, etc. To "help" was easily her strongest craving (while to "be helped" she took as an insult). It may be that what takes me 1 hour alone will take me 2 hours if she helps. But then I have to value that 2 hours not only for the work I set out to complete, but also for the work my child took up, which was just as important to her. Rather than create a separate space, separate attention, and separate activities / supplies for babies and kids, why not include them and allow for them in what you are doing and fit yourself into their time-space-worldview. You just may find that they reciprocate.

My 2 year old son does not pick up his toys.

In When on 17 October 2010 at 4:13 am

My 2 year old son does not pick up his toys. Should we discipline him by taking away the toys?

I’d like to step back and find out more about these toys. Why are they there? Often we find that children are burdened with too many toys. They might take them out more to see them arrayed on the floor than to play with each one – in fact, for them, that is the play.

While it is fine to limit the toys that are available, I would not communicate to the child that this is a consequence of leaving them on the floor. When there are only a few toys, it matters less who picks them up. And when there is no stress associated with putting toys away, it is easier for children to pick up that practice.

Secondly, at that age, many children hunger for wide open spaces to run, climb trees / jungle gyms, chase frogs, play ball, dig in the sand, stomp in puddles or watch the cars go by. When they can run and climb and throw and use their outside voice to their hearts content, being inside is less frustrating. Toys are often used to “entertain” kids inside because there is no one to accompany them outside – but not all kids will accept this substitute for long.

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