Kas Winters

Kas Winters Don t buy that Toy


Don’t buy that toy!

by Kas Winters, Mother of Family Ideas™

Kas Winters

Kas Winters

Have you ever spent money on a toy only to find that the child who received it had more fun with the box? Does your child ever sit, surrounded by toys and complain that he or she is bored and that there is nothing to do? My thirty-five year-old son recently said that my slogan should be, “You’ll never need to buy another toy again.” That’s a great idea. Of course, he grew up in an atmosphere where there was on-going creative play to stimulate imagination and provide experiences for hands-on learning. Our children did have some toys; but mostly, we spent time doing activities that were, quite honestly, more fun than many toys. These had the added value of building self-reliance and other traits that serve them well as adults.

I watch, with interest, the popularity of “Baby Einstein©” and wonder what Albert would think of such a thing. He said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” It is not developed by force-feeding information into a child, but by providing situations in which they can daydream, think, and wonder. It grows by giving them activities that make them ask questions and acquire skills. My impression is that many children today are being robbed of the very qualities parents want most for them.

When we provide popular toys, electronic entertainment and structured activities, we reduce imagination. With those, everything is already provided. Thinking is not required. Children are being entertained, but not learning how to be creative, not solving problems, not thinking outside the box, not learning to use tools, and not getting the feeling of accomplishment that comes with real play. With all the input they have, they are still bored.

So, what can we do to give our children what they need to feel good about themselves and be able to function and thrive as adults? Unorganized play, materials without instructions, books to read, tools that are available for them to use, and a space to daydream will all work to accomplish this. Below are some examples that recycle those boxes we talked about, require little adult time, are fun, and have been shown to make a difference in self-esteem, self-reliance and self-confidence.

Play with a box! Large boxes can become playhouses, stores, castles, forts and many other things. Make holes for doors and windows. (Help if kids are too young to do this safely). Draw on the box with markers or crayons. We’ve had kids play in big boxes for weeks without using the “b” (bored) word. One time we collected enough boxes to build a castle by stacking them on top of one another. Another time we set up a maze in the back yard. For at least three weeks, kids crawled through the boxes, laughing, playing and thinking up ways to make it more fun by putting things in boxes. Some made noises, or provided a tactile surprise such as a pillow in a box. Need a vehicle for playing “Let’s Pretend?” Use a box. It can become anything from a car to a spaceship. Line a few up to make a train. Give a child several boxes and suggest that they might become a play kitchen, a classroom for playing school, or garages for toy cars. Boxes can be used to play store or for just about any other form of imaginative play. When children have fun with a box, they need to think about what they can do, ask questions about how they will accomplish it, and even create the play conversations to fit the situation.

In the end, they a) are not bored, b) are having fun, c) are learning to use tools and materials which teach them useful skills, d) develop relationships with a parent who jump starts the good time and with friends who join in the fun, and d) can say, with pride, “Look what I did!” or “I did it all by myself!”  You can’t buy that experience and it is a treasure.

To access more family fun ideas for this month, my family guide, Mother Lode has over 5,000 activities for children.  http://www.winmarkcom.com/motherlode.htm There are also free March and St. Patrick’s Day ideas at: http://www.winmarkcom.com/marchholidays.htm. Find spring family activities at:  http://www.winmarkcom.com/springactivities.htm. My home page, http://www.winmarkcom.com has directories for family activities and for family-related activity books, children’s story books, and titles for parents too.