Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Simple Toys Promote Creativity

Now That Christmas is over, our house is full of toys! Many of them light up, sing to you, say the alphabet, and even bounce across the living room :) Some you can stack like the Little People Farm set, and some you can roll and others you can push as a way to learn how to walk. Aiden definitely has a lot of different types of toys to keep his interest for the time being. 
One thing I have noticed is that my little explorer loves to turn all his toys upside down and figure out how they work. He turns his toy fire truck upside down and spins the wheels and fiddles with the axels. Another Vtech Toy, ( It has a steering wheel, stick shift control and makes all sorts of car and driving noises) is one he loves to push across the room, (upside down) making his own car noises. The toy is clearly meant for babies to practice steering the wheel, shifting the stick shift and pushing the buttons that sing and light up. But all my Aiden wants to do is turn the whole thing upside down to it's plain, solid red, sticker-free surface and push it around the room. At first I thought maybe he doesn't get how you are supposed to play with the toy but then it dawned on me that there is no right way to play with any toy and also that he had created his own way to play with it. And make his own noise to go along with it. Hmmmmm maybe the simpler the toy the better because then he has room to be creative and use his imagination to make the toy come alive. One of his toys had to get it's batteries removed it was so loud and obnoxious! The tones were so piercing they made my ears ring as I stood in the kitchen. Aiden and the toy were over in the family room so I could only imagine how loud the sounds were to his little ears. Besides, if you remove the batteries, get down on the floor to play with baby and the toys, the sounds of his sweet laughter will be all you need for entertainment.
 So after close observation and careful experimentation of Aiden's play rituals, I have come to the conclusion that the simpler the toy, the longer it holds his 9 month old interest. Blocks, balls, crinkling paper, socks, bottles of colored water, little people, blanket peek-a-boo and even a jump rope have kept little man occupied much longer that the latest VTech toy. Now I'm not knocking the electronics, just saying that it may be a good idea not to have a house full of them. Maybe 2-3 electronic toys at the most would be sufficient, leaving room for toys that actually teach children to create and not be robots. This is the mantra in the Bishop home :)
I am a big fan of wooden, natural toys but am not a fan of their prices. These are high-quality toys that are classic and allow for the utmost creativity. I have yet though to find a company that sells them for a price that we can afford. Here is an example of a natural toy company. Here's another one I like called Eden Home - check their wooden toy section. also has a wooden toys section and these are the most affordable I've found yet!
Another great, educational toy company is Lakeshore Learning which were used in some of the higher-quality private schools I've worked in.
Here is a thought-provoking article on the subject at hand :) Enjoy!
Old-fashioned retro toys, such as red rubber balls, simple building blocks, clay and crayons, that don't cost so much and are usually hidden in the back shelves are usually much healthier for children than the electronic educational toys that have fancier boxes and cost $89.99, says Temple University developmental psychologist Kathy Hirsh-Pasek.
As Roberta Golinkoff, head of the Infant Language Project at the University of Delaware says, Electronic educational toys boast brain development and that they are going to give your child a head start. But developmental psychologists know that it doesn't really work this way. The toy manufacturers are playing on parents fears that our children will be left behind in this global marketplace.
Golinkoff adds that kids are not like empty vessels to be filled. If they play with toys that allow them to be explorers, they are more likely to learn important lessons about how to master their world.
Suggested advice for parents is to “Look for a toy that is 10 percent toy and 90 percent child — ‘A lot of these toys direct the play activity of our children by talking to them, singing to them, asking them to press buttons and levers,’ Hirsh-Pasek says. ‘But our children like to figure out what is going on by themselves. I look for a toy that doesn't command the child, but lets the child command it.
“Golinkoff adds, ‘The irony is that the real educational toys are not the flashy gadgets and gismos with big promises, but the staples that have built creative thinkers for decades.’”
Golinkoff and Hirsh-Pasek are the authors of “Einstein Never Used Flash Cards: How Our Children Really Learn– And Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less.”
For more advice and guidelines for selecting gifts for children, read the full article. Less really is more. :)

I also support Campaign For a Commercial Free Childhood, check them out!

* Picture- Aiden at 6 and 1/2 months enjoying his wooden blocks :)

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree with you. I already have a ban on battery-operated toys. I believe the simpler the better, and am a firm believer on not letting children watch TV. I really like OOMPA ( for their toys. I've bought several toys for my second cousins from them.

    That's funny about Aiden and his trucks. I love boys. My brother loved the garbage truck when he was little.