No batteries necessary

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by Harvey Yoder

girl draws with sand on a light table

©Adobe Stock

Today’s profit-driven toy industry has gone high tech, producing more and more gadgets and games for children that require less and less of their imagination and creativity.

But lots of batteries.

Check out the glossy fliers promoting Christmas toys this time of year. Sadly, what is often missing are things like ordinary building blocks, erector sets, art supplies, hand puppets, finger paints, modeling clay or simply a selection of good books.

Also missing in many children’s play areas are simple every day materials one would find at a good pre-school and day care program, things like old typewriters, used kitchen utensils, cardboard boxes and sand trays. Or tables wth nature collections—bird nests, rocks, gourds and freshly gathered leaves.

If play is the child’s work, as someone has said, we would do well to simply give our children lots of good materials to work with and turn them loose. And when we’re looking for gifts for them this Christmas, we should choose those that can be used for building and creating rather than offering them play stations and video games for practicing destruction. And let’s give them baby dolls for pretending to be nurturing parents rather than Barbie and Ken dolls for playing the roles of pampered teens with impossible figures.

If play is the child’s work, as someone has said, we would do well to simply give our children lots of good materials to work with and turn them loose.

A group called Alternatives, which publishes an annual newsletter entitled “Whose Birthday is it Anyway?”

(https://simpleliving.startlogic.com/) suggests we give up using Christmas catalogues as a guide for our shopping, and stop going to the local mall to get ideas for Christmas gifts. Instead, we start with a modest budget we can live with, then make our choices of what to buy (or make) based on considering the following:

Does this gift reflect our faith and values?

Does the material from which the gift is made reflect a careful use of the environment?

Does this gift encourage activity rather than passivity; self-reliance rather than dependence?

Does this gift stimulate spiritual, mental or physical growth?

Who profits from the purchase of this gift?

Jesus, whose birthday we are celebrating, once asked his followers the question, “If your children ask for bread, or for a fish, will you give them a stone? Or a scorpion?”

In the same way, when a daughter or son complains, “I’m bored. There’s nothing to do?” let’s offer them a ball, some boxes, some paper and other art supplies and challenge them to see what they can come up with.

No batteries necessary.

Harvey Yoder is a family counselor and teaches parenting and marriage classes at the Family Life Resource Center. Questions relating to family concerns can be addressed to FLRC, 273 Newman Ave., Harrisonburg, VA 22801 or to Harvey@flrc.org. His blog can be followed at harvyoder.blogspot.com.

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