by April Powell in the OakHaven Compass
Wow, it’s already time to start thinking about holiday gifts! Every year we get many questions from extraordinary parents like you about what kinds of toys or activities to buy for your children. When choosing items to bring into your home (whether as a holiday gift, or any other time of year) there are a few key questions we encourage you to consider:
How will my child use this item?
Something to keep in mind is that for primary aged children (2 1/2 – 6 year olds), fantasy play disconnects them from reality and is much different than creativity. We want to foster our children’s creativity by providing them with toys that are “open-ended” or provide many possibilities for their use (i.e. wooden blocks, art materials, etc.). Other kinds of toys can help children focus their attention and strive for a goal (i.e. puzzles, games, etc.).
Is the item real, beautiful and attractive?
Children need purposeful “work” to do at home in order to feel respected and part of the family. Smaller versions of household tools (i.e. child-sized broom, mop, iron, etc.) offer the children an opportunity to participate in the daily routines of the home.
Will this item support my child’s developmental needs (i.e. independence, creativity, freedom, exploration, order, etc.)?
We now live in a society that holds the false belief that children must be constantly entertained (by adults, the television, toys that light up and make noise, etc.). Unfortunately, it is this constant “entertainment” that is now one of the main obstacles to our children’s development. Many children have lost their love of order, beauty, simplicity and quiet due to adults and “stuff” getting in their way.
What behaviors will this elicit from my child and what values am I conveying?
Pay attention to the “feelings” and behaviors you observe in your child when they are involved in different activities. There may be some toys or games that encourage competitiveness rather than supporting others, roughness rather than being gentle or intolerance over compassion and forgiveness. Although superheroes and princesses are the “norm” for children today, are those really the values and behaviors you want to see your children adopt?
As always, remember the ever-so-important concepts of limiting choices, rotating toys and supporting them in keeping their space neat, clean and orderly. A few beautiful toys displayed nicely on a small shelf is much more attractive and inviting to children than a huge chest overflowing with plastic!
One family at our school also let us in on the most wonderful tip about giving gift guidelines to your friends and family who will be buying for your child: Nothing made of plastic and nothing with a battery! Thanks for the GREAT tip! That philosophy alone would help Santa fill your children’s holidays with treasures instead of trash.