Monday, November 8, 2010

Toys are for FUN!

Why is it that toys can't just be toys? What's wrong with saying that your toddler is going to enjoy wacking away at this hammer and peg toy so much he'll leave you alone for long enough to check your email and maybe even respond to one or two of them? Is it wrong to play with something that won't make your child the next Einstein?

My toys are for fun. They are just something to play with. They won't promote hand-eye coordination. They are not "design inspired to enhance child development during these years." They won't teach your child how to be a genius or a builder or a cook. You don't need toys for that sort of thing. What you need is time.

You need time, and your child needs time. Your child needs time to play without you trying to teach her things or "stimulate" her imagination or compliment her on how wonderful her block stacking skills are coming along. He needs time without the TV telling him what to do. You need time to just be together so you can answer her questions and be a safety net. You need time so that your child(ren) can have time to play uninterrupted without being dragged around in the car to a hundred different stores, appointments, lessons, games, and everything else.

Toys don't really promote playing. When given time, children will play with anything. That's what they are programmed to do. Don't get me wrong. I love toys, but they aren't particularly important to your child's development. Time and freedom are what is most important.

When I buy toys, I don't buy them in order to enhance my son's development. I only buy toys made of natural materials: wood, cotton, wool, metal, etc. (my brothers and I saved all our Legos, so I never have to buy them). And I buy them according to the multi-use principle. How much play value do they have? How many different uses does this toy have? How many different scenarios could played out with this one toy? If part of it breaks, can I fix it? How is this going to look in 5, 10, 20 years? (That's why I make primarily unpainted toys, because painted toys get chipped, smeared and otherwise look dingy after a few years.)

Anyway, that was my rant about the toymaking industry. My message to every parent, aunt, uncle, and granparent is this: Don't buy toys to "educate" the children. Buy them according to their play value.


  1. I would add that some toys have an aesthetic value. I believe that being surround by beautiful things makes people happy. A toy with nice lines, deep complex color, fine texture will satisfy all senses.
    I like that my kids usually think of toys (and other objects) as things to care for, and things that can and should be fixed when broken. If a toy is broken it goes in the broken toys basket and once in a while we sit together and glue, mend and repair what we can. The kids rarely ask for plastic toys because they know we cannot repair plastic. And I don't buy battery operated toys for my own sanity: musical or talking toys get on my nerves in less than 5 min. I'm not a very patient person...
    Another thing I appreciate with my wonderful kids is that we can spend 45 min going through all the toys aisles at Target, looking at all the toys, pushing all the buttons on the toys on display. It's fun, and we don't buy anything. The kids ask sometimes but won't throw a tantrum. It's more like going to a Touch museum of modern toys, it's not a shopping experience. Anyway, who would like to own a Mickey Mouse dressed like Michael Jackson singing and dancing 24/7?

  2. I get a kick out of watching parents buy all the bells and whistles so that their kids are 'entertained' or learning or whatever. We used to go to a playgroup and it was completely overwhelming for my one year old son because at home when he's underfoot in the kitchen I usually hand him a spatula, two mixing bowls, a couple blocks and then let him be and he's good for... well, ever it seems. He's got great play focus because he's not surrounded by all that loud mess all the time. Simple is definitely better when it comes to kids! All they need is their imagination :)

  3. Yup! I find that my children (4 and 18 months) love the open-ended toys most and play with them the longest and most often. The animal figurines get the most play, trading cards (organizing them over and over, and trading with each other), all our wooden toys and stuffed animals.

  4. I want to buy your Hammer & Nails set, so need to find your website again...
    oh, I found it:

    Awesome, wholesome toys!

    My son is loving the boat & the wand for the past year +.
    They last and last.

    Thank you!