If you are a certain age, you know that some toys no longer exist because they have been replaced by electronic ones that beep, buzz and have animated characters. Only providing one type of toy for children to play with may stifle their creativity and imagination. Children should not only be constantly “entertained” by a gadget filled with batteries or running on electricity. There should be a happy medium when buying children these types of toys over others that help foster hidden talents or skills. Whether you are a parent, grandparent or an adult buying for a young child, this is something to think about this gift giving season.
Reflecting about “the good old days”, I remember visiting my grandmother and when the grownups were having their coffee and cake, I found something to amuse me. Grandma had a metal wastebasket where she stored her clothespins. Over one hundred clothespins were there, not the kind with metal clips, but ones made of solid wood and flat on both sides. When interlocked, they could be used to make a house, cabin or western fort, like the one on my favorite program, Rin Tin Tin. I did not have to bring toys from home to grandma because I knew the large metal basket had all I needed. Since I was very careful, grandma would let me play with some of her dainty people figurines to put inside the log houses I built. Another fun activity we loved was playing with any large box, the kind a washing machine or refrigerator was delivered in. We would cut out “windows and doors” and color the outside of the box with crayons or water paints. This little house was good for several weeks of play until it fell apart from constant use. Oh these were the days! I remember when my children were little and they would get excited about “popping paper” when it arrived inside a mailing package. They would have fun jumping up and down making as much noise as possible when all three had the plastic bubbles popping beneath their feet at the same time. Now it takes hundreds of dollars worth of electronic equipment to please a young child and yet I do not hear the hardy belly laughs that the old fashion playthings once produced.
If you have a young child on your gift list, keep in mind the child’s age and follow the guidelines on the toy packages. It is dangerous to give a young child a toy that is too advanced and may contain tiny pieces that are inappropriate for a small child to handle. Visit the aisle that features hands on toys and craft kits for ideas what is available today. Still popular are painting sets, puzzles, jewelry making kits that will have children working with their hands. This helps with hand/eye coordination and fine motor skills. As a child, my favorite craft kit was a small loom used to make pot holders. The square, red metal frame needed small fabric loops stretched across each hook on the frame. Then one by one another loop was woven in and out of the frame. I was happy when both grandmothers used them and I could see my potholder hanging near the stove. My husband frequently talks about the hobbies he had as a boy, which included building models of cars, airplanes or ships. This is a wonderful craft for boys or girls because it taps into their creativity and use of fine motor skills. A child will develop a sense of accomplishment after reading and following instructions, working on the fine details of the project and then displaying the finished product for everyone to admire. The craft section where models are sold now include historical monuments, buildings from around the world and even replicas of animals and the interior of the human body to be assembled and worked on piece by piece. Perhaps working with these mediums and building process might be the spark that encourages a child to go grow up to be an architect, veterinarian, doctor or engineer. This holiday season try to introduce the child to a whole new world, where he or she is the designer and the finished product is something derived from personal creativity!