When I was small, I admit I enjoyed my toys but they weren’t the highlight of my childhood. My fondest memories are of climbing trees, writing stories and imagining fairy villages in my backyard. I remember the kids in my neighbourhood and picking fruit in my grandmother’s backyard. Toys? They were fun but hardly defined my childhood.
Toys have changed and evolved with our changing culture. Many argue that toys are encouraging children to grow up too fast by introducing concepts like sexualised fashion, hairstyles and adult concepts like nightclubs.They are also more technological encouraging children to become passive and sedated rather than active and creative.
Whenever a parent steps out to accuse a toy of being inappropriate or detrimental to a child there is an overwhelming message – “Relax! Toys are apart of childhood – just let them enjoy it!”.
Since when are toys (or more specifically branded & marketed merchandise) synonymous with childhood? As a culture, we’ve learnt to associate ‘toys’ with ‘childhood’ as if denying our children the latest toys means we are denying them a happy childhood.
I think we need to question what childhood is and what it means to us as parents.
What sort of childhood do we want to give our kids? One primarily influenced by industry and filled with every toy they could ever want? Or by us, the caregivers who have their best interests at heart? How can we encourage our children to be more creative instead of sedated? How can we encourage our children to be active instead of passive? The answer is really for us as parents to become more pro-active in limiting exposure to toys and technology and encouraging other activities.
Unfortunately, filling our children’s lives with toys does very little to make their childhood happier. It just grooms them for a life of mindless consumerism. It also teaches children to value what they can get from the world rather than what they can give and contribute.
Of course there is nothing wrong with children enjoying a few toys. The concern is that we try to use toys, games and gadgets to create a happy childhood for our children instead of focusing on the things that really matter – the things that children will remember for a lifetime.
Our children are growing up in a world that is very different to the world we were raised in. It’s a world that is changing constantly and requires a pro-active approach to protecting and preserving the very essence of childhood.
Let’s keep it real and provide our kids with a childhood experience based upon something deeper than whatever toy is dominating popular culture.
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