Adapted from Dr. David Elkind's The
Power of Play
Young children are heavily orientated
to the senses. Natural
materials like cotton and wool elicit a sense of comfort and
warmth that synthetics do not. Touch is a powerful sensory experience.
High-tech isn’t always better. For example: The electronic
version of Etch A Sketch® makes the whole experience
more artificial than the regular version, which allowed children
to see the physical results of their actions on the board and
adjust their actions accordingly. The electronic version takes
away the child’s sense of control over what he is doing.
A good set of wooden blocks is one of the best toys you can buy
for a young child. They leave a lot of room for the imagination
and are used differently as the child grows older.
Happiness is often stimulated by the simplest
things. For example:
A bar of lavender soap made a special gift for Dr. Elkind’s
two-year-old cousin. When she opened the package, her eyes widened
and she shouted with delight. Her own bar of soap! For her, the
bar of soap was precious because it was so different, and so
much more personal, than the other gifts she got at the holidays.
A gift that reflects the child’s individual interests and
abilities such as a book, or a piece of sports equipment, is
appreciated and valued more than one that is expensive but commonplace.
Leave room for imagination. In every society, children play
with dolls and tools as props to their imagination and fantasy.
Such play anticipates at least one potential aspect of their
adult roles. In this way, children nourish their capacity for
make-believe and also gain a sense of comfort with grown-ups
skills. Children’s toy play continues to serve as both
a stimulus for imagination and a means of socialization into
adult culture. Toys such as battery-operated cars and boats don’t
leave much to the imagination, and have little or no personal
or socialization value. On the other hand, toys such as puppets,
finger puppets, and miniature stages allow children to create
and act out their own stories.
Character toys should instill positive
values. Character toys originated in children’s need
for adult role models to help them fashion their sense of self.
In the past, these toys reflected the attitudes and values of
the larger adult society. Mickey Mouse was fantastical, but also
represented positive values of friendship, kindness and generosity.
Superheroes were positive in that they were human, lived in the
real world, and represented the forces of good as opposed to
evil. Now, character toys like Barbie, G.I. Joe, and Pokemon
are created not to instill positive attitudes and values but
to imprint children with a brand name. There are few character
toys today that serve as healthy role models. They can still
be found in books like Harry Potter and others in which
an admirable character overcomes insurmountable obstacles to
attain a worthwhile goal.
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