The past 24 hours have nearly convinced me to sell any of my kids toys made of plastic to resemble a real-life object. I’ll only keep obscure shapes and household items. I had a long IM conversation with KLR about schooling after my sister’s recent questions about my neice’s preschooling next year and my own looking for H to attend in the fall (he’ll be 3 in November, but school system preschools apparently do some registering over the summer, I would guess so they can prepare for enrollment, blah blah blah).
This led to adding more comments to my recent post about young kids and homework (thanks to all who responded – some fabulous thoughts that I’d not considered before! Although I would like someone to defend homework to some extent – teachers, I doubt, are assigning it without reason). We talked about ditto sheets and then into the lack of creativity that’s required, which if you ask me – and you sort of did, by continuing to read this – is the shortfall of our education.
I think creativity is what breeds leaders who can problem solve effectively; they’re innovators and creators. Bill Gates, as geeky as he is, needed the freedom to create and step out of “what’s been done” in order to produce a staple in nearly every office and school across the country. Then I read an article scientifically validating my accusations.
So I’ve been paying attention to my own kids and their play learning. Yesterday H spent no less than 40 minutes with his “beans” – which I like to call his Mexican Sandbox. It’s litterally a tub of raw black and white beans, a muffin tin, a shovel and an old yogurt container. He plays with them on an old shower curtain to make it easier to clean up. (No credit to myself – this idea came from a preschool teacher I know. I’m not creative enough to come up with such thing!). I heard him talking strategy about whatever he was doing with those beans. And he even helped to clean up.
Then last night he had 2 coasters, 2 round wooden pieces of a stacking toy we have and went to the kitchen to fetch 2 spoons. Turns out he was feeding me “cookies and applesauce”. Try as I might to get him to go down to get the toy dishes from the basement, he wanted the coasters and spoons from the kitchen. I drew the line at real forks. It’s all fun and games until someone looses an eye.
I have to wonder how often I get in the way of the play that he enjoys – and needs – so much. When I offer what he’s “supposed” to play with instead of allowing him to create toys in his own environment. I don’t want to hand him a light saber to play Star Wars when I can give him a stick (or one of those poles that holds up the peppers) and sit back and find out what he sees.
Somehow toy companies have convinced us parents that we’re incapable of providing things to our children that both entertain and educate. Our tools must be purchased instead of created (aha! see? It’s not just at the children’s level). But in my limited experience, I’m finding that the kiddos just love to play adult, helping with the dishes and cooking is one of H’s favorite things. They enjoy the measuring cups and wooden spoons, mommy’s pencils and paper even over their own coloring books. Even as babies, the kids liked the spice jars filled with beans and sugar better than the plastic rattles that I offered.
So, I’m not really going to sell all the toys in my house. However there will be a weeding out process. I’ll let his favorites stay – the barn with all the animals, for sure. But when I reflect upon his “favorites” – the bean bags, books, magnets (both mine and the ones that make music when you match), Buckeye, balls;  they’re all objects that don’t limit him to a single activity. Perhaps I should leave the toy procurement to the professionals – as in, the ones who play with them.

Visit me elsewhere: