By Roli S
“Once upon a time, there was a boy. He lived in a village that no longer exists, in a house that no longer exists, on the edge of a field that no longer exists, where everything was discovered, and everything was possible. A stick could be a sword, a pebble could be a diamond, a tree, a castle. Once upon a time, there was a boy who lived in a house across the field, from a girl who no longer exists. They made up a thousand games. She was queen and he was king. In the autumn light her hair shone like a crown. They collected the world in small handfuls, and when the sky grew dark, they parted with leaves in their hair.” These lines by Nicole Krauss in her book, The History of Love, take one back to the time of childhood when little boys and little girls indeed played with sticks, pebbles and trees and pretended these to be swords, diamonds and castles.
But as the lines suggest, this happened once upon a time in some imaginary land. These scenarios can be related to some thirty-forty years ago of a time when little boys and little girls indeed used to play with natural objects out in the open.
With the advent of entertaining and educational toys, the twigs and stones were forgotten and toys of different shapes and sizes flooded the market. Wooden toys, plastic toys, metal toys, terracotta toys, rag toys, all sorts of toys now were being manufactured by toy companies and it became easy to buy into the marketing hype that children need more and more toys to stay busy during playtime.
I remember, as a child, I had the type of closet that, if you opened, only God knew what barrage of toys, clothes, and “stuff” would come barreling forth. Parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends , neighbours all easily buy into the marketing hype and buy more and more toys for children to keep them occupied and happy.
But when it comes to toys, scientific research in the modern times has found that less is so much more as possession of fewer and better toys can encourage more creative children.
Simple toys foster open-ended play. For example, an electronic computer aided car will always be only a car, but a beautifully made toy using clay can star in any number of stories your little one will want to invent. Today, technology often plays a prevalent role in the stories children are told.
But, as children grow into toddlers and beyond, their playtime should also inspire them to tell their own stories.
Showing love towards our children by buying more and more toys and at the same time thinking that it would keep them occupied leading to some ‘me time ‘ for mamas, becomes a nightmare when the site of a messy living room sends them into an anxiety tailspin, as research has confirmed that prolonged clutter triggers a release of cortisol in our brains, resulting in stressed out mamas everywhere. And all that stress has a tangential effect on our children. But by decluttering our homes from excess toys and replacing them with fewer, better-made options, we encourage more peaceful play (and bedtimes…and meal times…and all times) all around.
If you were trying to read a book but your phone kept buzzing with new text messages, how likely are you to get through that chapter with a deep understanding of what you read? It’s the same for children. If they have many toys to choose from, then they are actually not likely to play for long and more happily.
By providing children with toys that aren’t necessarily limited to a single age group or style of play, parents can create an environment of minimalism where creativity can flourish. By doing this, quality toys that last will be played with by different age groups of children in ways one might never have imagined!
This practice of buying fewer and better toys at home will not only set the stage for a lifelong creative thinker who will learn to view problems and experiences from different perspectives to find better solutions, but also develop habits that will help children make wise purchasing decisions in the future. So, the idea is that it does not matter if one is buying toys for children or buying furniture for the household, simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough.
(Roli S is an Educator, Author, Teacher Trainer and School Reviewer based in Mumbai.)