We have overloaded children with an awful lot of toys, most of them of poor quality and even less educational value. Toys are really no longer that starting point from which children can imagine and build stories and have become the absolute center of fun .
To put it in some way … many of today’s toys are like “clowns”, their function is to entertain the child, distract him . And as Miguel Castro, from Diraya Expresión , told us in a talk in Barcelona about “creative education, play and learning”, today’s toys only seek to conquer the child. But it is not the toy that has to conquer him, but it is the child who has to make the conquests (learning about oneself, the environment, experimentation …).
Therefore, it is essential that the materials used by our little ones are of quality, that they allow the game to emerge in an undirected way, that allow a wide range of options. I qualify this so that it does not create confusion. With quality toys I do not mean their price, not at all. I am not talking about expensive toys but about toys that provide quality experience (imagine, create, learn …) and for this, some toys and any other material such as sticks, stones, pinecones, etc. are used.
But sometimes it is not so easy to make this change. When children have become accustomed to long hours of television, it is difficult for them to imagine on their own. When used to battery-operated toys it can be difficult for them to play with toys that “do nothing” and children used to plastic toys may not find value in wooden toys or unstructured materials.
In other words, when children are used to a certain level of stimulation, it is difficult for them to play and imagine if the external stimuli decrease . But despite this or, rather, precisely for this reason, it is important that children can develop play by moving away from valueless materials and technologies.
WHAT ARE QUALITY TOYS?
Well, surely this is a subjective question that admits several answers, but in my opinion, quality game materials are those that meet the following characteristics:
– That allow the use of imagination. And those who accompany the symbolic game would enter here, the unstructured ones (sticks, stones, boxes …)
– That encourage the development of creativity
– That they have quality materials. At home we are convinced that the best option is wooden toys and I gave you our reasons in this article . We also bet on DIY toys and I explained here why they are important for the little ones.
Lastly, it would also include these two groups of materials:
– Toys that encourage going outside and the development of motor skills (bicycles, bowling games, balls, etc. etc.).
– Logic games such as puzzles and board games, which gain prominence as children grow older.
AND HOW TO ENCOURAGE WHAT THEY PLAY WITH QUALITY TOYS AND MATERIALS?
This is the million dollar question, hehe, because sometimes we have all kinds of toys and materials at home and children inexplicably (at least for me, hahaha) play with the worst quality , probably because the cheapest are, at the same time , more stimulating and they catch them, they stay as hypnotized with them .
So today I want to bring you ideas that have worked for me to provide an environment with quality materials, to ensure that the toys available to you allow the development of imagination, creativity and learning.
- Check out materials that are frankly “empty” of meaning(or that provide bad experiences). I may seem radical to you … but I believe that as a mother it is my responsibility to provide the best possible environment for the little one. If ever, for whatever reasons, we get toys that we all say “wow” after a couple or three days, when the passion for the new toy has already faded, I take them back.
I am referring to toys that go with batteries, those made of super cheap and poor quality plastic and those that convey inappropriate values.
- Offer a multitude of materials that I think are important for the child’s play and development, even if they haven’t asked for them. If they are within your reach you will one day be able to play with them, investigate them … If they are not even at home that will be impossible.
For example, Terrícola does not usually ask for wooden blocks or puzzles at Christmas but we still give them to him because we know that once they are on the shelf he loves them and they have a much more “timeless” journey than the fashion toy he may have asked for. .
- Get down to the ground with them, to accompany them in the game and spend time with them. I’m a little scared to say this because I don’t want it to be misunderstood. I do not think that parents always have to play with their children or propose games, in fact, I really believe that the game that allows them to grow is the one that arises when they are alone, absorbed in a thousand and one stories, putting imagination and words to everything. what happened during the day, etc. But it is true that sometimes children overstimulated with talkative toys or technology do not know what to do without those tools.
It would be ideal if we suddenly left them four wooden blocks and from there beautiful stories were born, but it does not always happen. In that case, it seems appropriate to go down to the ground with them, play or accompany them. If we disconnect from them, it is very likely that they will quickly ask us for the “pictures” or toys they are used to.
- Go out into nature without toys or technology. If it seems very difficult to remove depending on which toys or despite all your efforts, there is no way to make that change … there is nothing better than going outside. Both in the mountains and on the beach, children develop games without the need for materials to stimulate them.
Sticks and stones, the very slopes of the mountain, the sand on the beach … are excellent starting points for children to play. At least, from my experience, when we go outdoors we don’t need anything, at most a bucket and a shovel for sand.
Going outside often, to parks in the afternoon, to the mountains on weekends are a very good way to disconnect children from toys empty of meaning.
If you are interested in delving into this idea, I recommend the following books:
– Educate in green, by Heike Freire, by editorial Grao.
– The book of sticks, by Jo Schofield, from Rodeno editions.
These are 4 ideas to be able to offer quality play materials to the little ones. They are ideas that have worked for me personally or for my environment and I bring them closer to you in case they inspire you. They are not advice or a closed list at all, each family is different and must find the way that best suits them.
I am aware that it is much easier to write it than to apply it at home, but I believe that it is essential to offer a good environment so that an enriching game is born. And as I have told you, if you see it complicated … as simple as going out much more outdoors, to the street, to the parks or to nature. There always comes a healthy game that encourages the development of children, without needing more material than themselves and their friends.
Playing is something very serious so as mothers and fathers we have to take it “seriously” too.