Friday, April 11, 2008

The error of our ways (?)

Since the Bean was born, Husband and I have avoided buying elaborate toys. The toys which flash and sing. The extra large UFOs in which baby can sit and be literally surrounded by plastic paraphernalia. The moving parts, the lead paint. We figured those toys usually only entertained for a few minutes before becoming overwhelming, and were only age-appropriate for short periods of time before the babes were "over it", as it were. Toys like this were expensive. They could be annoying (esp those that flash and make noise). They take over your house pretty quickly. And moreover, we thought they were unnecessary. Bean was perfectly happy with her blocks and beads and balls.

Well last week I met up with a bunch of other moms with similar aged kids to do a toy swap. I brought a ball, a couple of stuffed animals, a rolling duck-thing... The other moms brought far more elaborate toys. Toys that sing and flash. I decided to take a few home to see how the Bean liked them.

Um, the Bean LOVES them. One toy is some kind of "piano" whose keys respond to touch with both sound and lights. And she can stand up to play with it. LOVES it. Another is a "drum" that makes animal sounds. In the 5 days since I brought it home, Bean has started to imitate the lion sounds...

So yeah. Of course she doesn't need such toys, but she certainly is enjoying them. We are probably going to have to think a little more carefully about what toys should and should not be part of Bean's life.


Natalie said...

We're in the camp of no/few noisy toys. While the kids may play with them while we go to friends houses, they don't need them and they certainly drive Mom crazy. So, we avoid noisy toys more for the parents' sake than the kids.

Kstack said...

I no longer have little children. My youngest is 18, but I teach kindergarten, and keep an eye on the latest kid fads.

It seems that the latest baby toys are marketed using the language of the child psychologist. What little I know about attachment theory, includes the importance of a care giver's response to a child's action/sounds.

A caregiver with no affect, no smiles, no happy words, no encouragement is actually a stressor to a child. Subject to that kind of care, a child will starve emotionally and may suffer from an attachment disorder.

On the flip side, we know how wonderful and natural it is for healthy parents to coo, sing and smile with a lit up face that mimics and encourages the child's initial attempts at communication.

Now we have toys that giggle and smile and light up and play music and sing in response to a child tapping a key or waving a hand or foot.

It makes me fearful that too many parents will see that artificial stimulus as an acceptable substitute for their own personal response to their child. How many children spend hours a day in a car seat, stroller, baby seat, or swing with all kinds of battery operated toys to 'stimulate and entertain' them. Sure, it's easier to run errands and do housework without a child in your arms, but what is the cost? We're seeing more and more children in school who have had more than their share of tv and video games. Fine motor control (scissors and pencils) suffers. Children have difficulty sitting up at a table to eat and play, perhaps from a decrease in 'tummy time'.

Am I overreacting? Perhaps. But it seems to be a pervasive effect of the 'commercialization of early childhood'.

Julie R said...

I have adopted a "if it makes noise it has to be educational" policy toward electronic toys for my 2.5 year olds. Basically, the ball that says a letter name or sound when the letter is pressed is ok. The table that says a color or shape name when the triangle or square is pressed is ok. The plastic cell phone that makes beepy sounds just because is not so ok (but we keep it because it was a present from Grammy).

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