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Don’t discourage children from playing with informal toys

“I bought him so many toys, but look at that he plays with rocks, empty carton boxes” the dad complained. The child, seven years old was playing out of our earshot and happy with stacking the empty cartons of household items and keeping rocks in a line.

The relationship between parents, children and their toys is pretty complicated. Once upon a time, toys were a luxury and children played with whatever they could lay their hands on. Rocks, ropes, leaves, twigs, tyres, bottle caps, flowers, seeds were all toys. With increased consumption culture, greater earning capacity, both parents working, toys substituting for parental time, greater and greater amount of toys are bought for children. Advertising to arouse parents’ guilt is another reason for baskets and baskets of toys for children. Do children really need a huge number of toys? I don’t think so. Parents often buy toys to satisfy themselves rather than for the child.

Parents don’t need to overstuff children with toys. Buy a few and make it special. Toys don’t have to be expensive for the children to be happy. Toys should be what children can relate to.

“I bought him this expensive train set, but I have never seen him use it” said the dad.

“How many times has he travelled by train in his seven years?” I asked

The dad went into a thinking mode and said, “All his life either he had flown by plane or come in the car with us. He has never travelled by train”. Would the child relate to a toy train?

Children may ask for something that their friends have and if that is affordable, they can be indulged in that. Expensive toys are not a must for children and a child’s growth will not be stunted because they don’t have enough toys. While children play with the formal toys bought for them, they love the idea of playing with ordinary objects around the house. Parents should not discourage children when they play with rocks, dried leaves, pieces of rope, coloured papers, etc. Informal toys help the children use their imagination and construct things in their head. The best toy for a child, of course, is the company of another human. Toys are not what children SHOULD play with, whatever they play with are their toys.

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