Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] When toys take over
- Hi Serena,I gifted my 80 something neighbor with a parakeet we call Sunny. This gift came about as I promised him the bird if I was able to obtain the Jean Delacour Theater for the Anthroposophia Conference. And he says that if one buys to many toys for the birds they go insane as they don't have any sense of structure: it's all over the place. And it makes so much sense to me when I see that bird. Instead of playing with all these toys he creates his own playtime, which bytheway drives my neighbor crazy, climbing ontop of the cage, on the outside, tries to flutter across the room and so forth. Same thing with space. This bird has to have a certain space that he knows is his. And in this space he can create.Anyhow, just a share,Dottie
SerenaBlaue@... wrote:Quote: Steiner Waldorf educationalists have long recognised the positive
effects of taking away excess toys from children and replacing them with
simpler, more natural playthings such as conkers, shells and lengths of fabric to
stimulate creative play.
When toys take over
Liz Hollis's mother still fondly remembers the three toys she had as a child
in the 50s. Liz herself also recalls most of her own from the 70s. But her
children have so many that now even their toys have toys. Should we be
concerned at such an excess?
Saturday January 20, 2007
Teddy bear auction at Christies. Photograph: Martin Argles
My mother, 67, remembers every toy she owned in her postwar childhood. She
had just one bear (so cherished that she has him still, albeit moth-eaten),
one doll and a wheelbarrow.
Growing up in the early 70s, I had more: a couple of Mary Quant dolls, six
or seven soft toys (some hand-knitted in lurid colours), and an assortment of
puzzles and games.
However, both collections are dwarfed in quantity and scope by the toys my
daughters, aged just two and eight, already possess. They have lots of toys.
Lots and lots and lots of toys. Toys that light up. Toys that talk. Happy Meal
toys. Magazine covermount toys. Party-bag toys. Toys that beep, flash, spin,
come apart into a hundred tiny pieces. Even some of their toys have toys (no,
A head count reveals an alarming 32 Barbies and 28 baby dolls jostling for
attention alongside 51 cuddly toys and mountains of multicoloured plastic
bits. On every surface and in every corner there is discarded kids' stuff.
Most children have a similar stockpile - the UK's toy industry is now worth
a staggering £2.1bn a year, according to the Toy Retailers Association.
My mother's generation is dismayed: how can receiving yet another party bag
brim-full of throwaway plastic equal the intensity of receiving just a couple
of presents a year?
Margaret Greentree, who grew up in Norfolk in the 50s, remembers as a child
waiting for a whole year before finally receiving her second-hand bike: "It
had flat tyres and needed repairing, but it was precious. The ecstasy I felt on
receiving it was unsurpassed. " Recently, she watched her grandson receive a
bike for no particular reason, and she felt sorry for him: "How can he feel
the pleasure I felt?"
Dan Fletcher, 86, agrees. His prize possession was a set of wooden farm
animals covered in real fur. "They seemed utterly magical. I hardly dared play
with them, they were so precious, so I spent a lot of time just looking at them.
I kept them in such good condition that I was able to pass them down to my
own three sons."
This isn't just nostalgia: in 50s Britain, toys were scarce. During the war,
factories swapped production to munitions and imports stopped from Germany,
the major toy-making country. Playthings became hallowed objects: enjoyed for
a whole childhood; repaired time and again, and passed on to younger
children. A toy today is just another temporary distraction.
Catherine Howell, head of collections and exhibitions at the Museum of
Childhood in Bethnal Green, east London, says that the typical British child's toy
collection has increased dramatically decade on decade, especially in the
past 20 years. "It must surely have reached saturation point now. It's
unimaginable that it could continue to soar at the same rate," she says.
The museum is about to review its contemporary collecting policy because of
the huge quantity of toys now on sale. "It's hard to know what will become
iconic," says Howell.
Betty Shaw, 62, has run a dolls' hospital for decades. But now, she says,
the hospital's only "patients" are family heirlooms with missing eyes and limbs.
"I can't imagine a child bringing their Bratz doll to my hospital. They are
so easily come by that kids just wreck them and buy a new one," she says.
Betty still has Molly, her childhood doll, which was cheaply made after the
war from "composite" - pulped rags and sawdust mixed with glue. "I had to look
after her as I knew I wouldn't get another," she says.
But times change. Now, toys are abundant - and cheap. Should parents really
be concerned if their kids seem to have an excess of toys? It's bad news for
the toy industry but my mother's generation has a point. Many child
psychologists and other experts are also concerned about what's in your child's toy
cupboard - at best, they say, you're wasting your money; at worst, you risk
stunting your child's development.
Claire Lerner, a child-development worker, carried out a US
government-funded study into the effect of inundating children with toys. She found that too
many playthings can restrict development and may harm children.
"They get overwhelmed and over-stimulated and cannot concentrate on any one
thing long enough to learn from it so they just shut down. Too many toys means
they are not learning to play imaginatively either," she says.
A study by the University of Stirling recently concluded that expensive,
hi-tech toys are a waste of money - children learn just as much from playing
with an old mobile phone.
So should parents chuck the lot? Perhaps. In Germany, two public health
workers, Rainer Strick and Elke Schubert, persuaded a Munich nursery to pack away
all playthings for three months out of every year, leaving the children with
nothing but tables, chairs, blankets and their initiative. Then they watched
Initially, the children were bored but by day two they had turned tables and
blankets into dens and were absorbed in make-believe games. They became more
imaginative and contented, and in the process learned to concentrate,
communicate better and integrate more in groups.
Steiner Waldorf educationalists have long recognised the positive effects of
taking away excess toys from children and replacing them with simpler, more
natural playthings such as conkers, shells and lengths of fabric to stimulate
Veronica Moen, director of Myriad Natural Toys, which sells
Steiner-influenced playthings, thinks we should radically edit the toy cupboard: "Simpler
toys mean imagination has to do all the work. Minimal facial expressions on
dolls, for example, make children bestow them with emotions and act out
scenarios. Natural materials, like wood, stimulate their senses."
According to Dr John Richer, consultant clinical paediatric psychologist at
John Radcliffe hospital, Oxford, "The mistake that many parents make when they
buy a toy, especially for very young children, is they get toys that can do
a lot, instead of getting toys a child can do a lot with." He says studies
show that when a child is confronted with a new object they go through two
stages: exploration then play.
In exploration, children ask: "What does this object do?" In play it is
"What can I do with this?" When a child is confronted with too many new toys they
spend too long exploring and not enough time playing. "The theory is that
children who play more tend to become more creative, imaginati ve and
"The impression is they are better at taking initiative and are more
adaptable, which is what one wants in a fast-changing world," says Dr Richer.
Less, it seems, is more when it comes to boosting a child's development.
Bernadette Duffy, head of Thomas Coram Early Childhood Centre, in London,
advises that parents avoid electronic toys and buy ones that need imaginative input
from the child: Lego, bricks, farm animals, simple dolls, good books.
And playing simple games with Mum or Dad is worth more than the best-stocked
toy cupboard. "Spending time with your child is the best present you can
give them," says Duffy.
But what to do with all the tat that your children have already accumulated?
Boxing up old toys and bringing them out several months later helps reduce
over-stimulation and boredom. Or divide the kids' toys into five bags. Give
them a bag for a day or so, then store it away again.
So, box up all the gizmos. Pack away the surfeit of cuddly toys and dolls.
Bin the broken bits of plastic and leave out just a few of the classic
favourites, such as trains, books, cars, Lego and simple dolls that make children do
all the creative work. Stand well back and watch them flourish.
_http://www.guardian .co.uk/family/ story/0,, 1994316,00. html_
(http://www.guardian .co.uk/family/ story/0,, 1994316,00. html)
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