Monday, July 21, 2008

Toy Philosophy

I just finished reading Susan Linn's The Case for Make Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World. And WOW! It was good. Not that the ideas were surprising in any way to me, but I think everyone should read it because a lot of the times we forget how important play can be for children and how our ideas about fun as adults can sometimes get in the way of children's agendas and development. So here's the review that I just wrote for my booky blog. At last you'll know why I always put up gift suggestion lists even when I know no one will pay any attention to them. ;)

This book, by Susan Linn, is one of those that I think every parent, every educator, every person involved in the upbringing of children in our society, should read. Or at least this type of book: the kind that explains how some things really are good or bad for our children, and what we can do about. For example, the problems with consumer culture, and toys that we think are educational that actually stunt the imagination, and the loss of playtime that is crucial for mental, physical, emotional well-being.

So. Read it. But if you can't, here are what I consider the high points, taken mostly from pages 216-221 and edited slightly for blog-readability and to reflect my own emphasis:

Remember that:

--We buy our kids way too many toys.
--Toys linked to media programs can limit creative play rather than encourage it.
--When picking toys to encourage creative play, less is more. If it moves and speaks, it deprives children of opportunities to move and speak for it.
--Toys that can be used in lots of different ways and that promote open-ended play are great. But a block building kit that only builds one thing diminishes the creative value of playing with blocks.
--Babies don't really want or need electronic toys or TV characters. All the world's a toy to a baby.They'll fall in love with whatever creature is familiar to them, and generic creatures don't show up on candy wrappers--they aren't designed to sell you other products.
--You can find ways to take a shower and cook dinner and take car trips without using TV as a crutch, and then your children won't have to use TV as a crutch to be entertained.

--Build unstructured time into your children's lives so they can learn how to generate their own creative play.
--Give them chances to play on their own.
--If you allow children regular access to screen media, set limits on time and have scheduled screen-free time.
--Be conscious about your choices and remember that while TV, computer games, and web sites can be entertaining, most don't promote creative play (even if they say they do!).
--Invest, from infancy, in toys promoting open-ended play. Great suggestions at Honor your child's interest, but ideas include: blocks, toy doctor's kits, firefighter's hats, puzzles, and puppets.



At 10:32 AM, Blogger rach cortest said...

I totally agree. It is ridiculous how many toys for babies make sounds and then the videos that they make for tiny babies...ABSURD and damaging. My kids played for hours outside and used clothes pins to make dolls or warriors or whatever. We way over schedule kids, in my humble opinion. love,rachel

At 12:52 PM, Blogger Randy Compton said...

Thanks for this post. The book is new to me and I've been following the field for awhile. Also check out the Alliance for Childhood. I'm a game manufacturer that has the same philosophy that Susan Linn has. Our game Think-ets is all about open-ended play with lots of options.

Thanks again.


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