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Although not absolutely essential, toys do play a role in a child’s development, while also providing great entertainment. If the child and her friend are playing with a toy together, it will teach them how to interact with others; it will also make them realize how much more fun it is to involve a playmate when putting together a puzzle or play with her Lego set. You, as a parent, would also feel happy that your child is engaged in a productive manner and while having fun.
Today’s child is spoilt for choice. Toy shops are like a magical world of wonderful treasures – electric trains and cars, cuddly toys, baby dolls and board games! The question we should ask ourselves is how many toys should we buy for our child and should they be expensive?
Also, can we not be creative and invent some toys and games ourselves with the simple materials we have at home? Are the shop-bought ones better and more fun than our home-made toys?
When I think about my pre-school days, I realise I didn’t have many toys; yet my childhood was wonderful! My sister and I just had two dolls. We had a set of roughly made pots and pans, which along with a few spoons and ‘katories’ from my mother’s kitchen, formed our cooking set.
We kept ourselves busy by inventing several other games of our own. Sometimes, we would overturn a square table and tie a small towel on one of the table legs to serve as a sail. With black patches on our eyes, we were pirates ready for the adventure to distant lands.
Another favourite game of ours was ‘bridge-bridge.’ A long wooden plank was balanced between the bed and a big armchair. Pretending that we were crossing an imaginary lake, we would make our way to and fro, watched by our anxious mother who wished we would not play such dangerous games.
‘House – house’ was another favourite of ours, played with our cousins Shameen, Sheenu, Reji and Joe. Each window was one house. It was a great game because besides visiting each other, we also picnicked on the constant flow of chips, fritters, and cookies supplied by my mother.
Related, Too Many Toys Bore The Child
However, we must remember that shop-bought toys are important too because they are tools of discovery for a child. Riding a bike or a rocking horse or pulling along a wagon strengthens muscles while increasing stamina. Musical instruments, play-dough and sand toys boost sensory development. Children’s creativity is developed when they mould clay into various shapes, colour pictures or work on a piece of artwork. It’s simple: toys help children to learn how things work. For instance, a baby might drop his rattle and hear the sound it makes when it falls to the floor. The next time, he might deliberately let go off the rattle just to hear the sound.
Even when your child is playing on her own, toys can give her a sense of power as she masters them. When the child puts together a jigsaw puzzle, finishes a drawing or blows on a trumpet, her self esteem increases and she feels that she is able to do these things herself without any help from her ‘papa’ or ‘mama’.
In the race to provide our children with the best, it’s important to remember not to fall prey to the way products are marketed in general. Different colour-codes, categorization of toys for boys and girls, tend to follow stereotypical gender roles/norms. Research indicates that in general the toys most associated with boys were related to fighting or aggression (wrestlers, soldiers, guns, etc.), and the toys most associated with girls were related to appearance (Barbie dolls and accessories, ballerina costumes, makeup, jewelry, etc.). Toys are early tools for gender socialization and have a deep impact on how children perceive their roles.
Toys should expand, not limit their horizons of exploration. Give them the freedom to choose what they want to play, with only a little guidance on your part. If your girl wants to play with a truck, let her. Inversely, if she loves her pink pony, let her. Do not come in the way of the child’s natural inclination and be sure to encourage them to play with a wide variety of toys: play-phones, rocking horses, pull toys, trains or puzzles. As young children, my sister and I played rough games of cricket and had pillow fights with my cousins, Reji and Joe. They also thoroughly enjoyed playing ‘house-house’ and ‘shopkeeper’ games with us without a thought. Let toys be toys – ‘the fun stuff’ to open up a child’s world. Gender stereotypes are out of date and we should also move with the times.
Also read, What kind of parent are you?
In conclusion, while toys are great for children, buy less and choose wisely. Let children play with things they find interesting around them and don’t put a price on the all-important function of ‘play’ for a child.