Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Crappy Toy Dilemma

I cringe when I walk into a child care facility or child’s bedroom and see a field of mismatched, broken, dismantled toys scatted about the room. A Playschool truck missing a wheel. A naked Barbie. A few Monopoly dollars. This scene is caused by what I call the Crappy Toy Dilemma.

The Crappy Toy Dilemma is a catch 22. We buy children toys that are poorly made from low quality material, usually plastic, because we anticipate them being lost or broken. But children loose and break toys because we do do not teach them how to take better care for them because we know their just cheap plastic.

Take, for example, a cup. Children drop cups. They may even throw them. Parents know this, and so they buy their children cups made of plastic. I worked in a childcare facility where each child used a real (child-sized) glass three times a day. There were 18 three and four year olds with two adult in this classroom, and in the eight months I worked there, not a single dish was broken. Why? Because we taught these children to be careful and take care of the classroom materials.

There is a safety element as well. The plastic blocks won’t do as much damage if they hit someone in the head, and the plastic scissors won’t impale you if you run with them. But you can’t safety-proof the whole world. Children are bound to come across sharp scissors at some point, and if they are used to using plastic ones, they won’t know to be careful. Its better to keep children safe by teaching them how to be safe and careful rather than trying to create an artificial environment of complete safety. Not to mention its much easier to cut paper with real scissors.

The second part of the Crappy Toy Dilemma has to do not with the quality of the toys but with the care of the environment. Parents don’t teach their kids to put the entire monopoly game back in the box before they go outside to play because its a lot of work to keep after young kids about things like that. Its easier to just quarantine off the child’s play area, let that go to hell, and focus on keeping the rest of the house in order. Kids will be kids.

But children deserve and appreciate the same orderly environment that adults do. Critics will reply that a child has his own room, and he should be allowed to keep it however he wants. For the older child, I agree wholeheartedly. However preschool aged children don’t have the foresight or reasoning necessary to deduce that if I put my toys back where they go, they won’t get lost, and if I don’t throw them, they won’t break. Adults have to teach them and remind them for them to develop these beneficial habits. Older children may choose the keep their rooms clean too if they learn these valuable habits when they are younger.

With the patience and diligence of adults, children can take care of nice things. Trust them and you will see.

Image Courtesy of Brenda Anderson.

1 comment:

lindsay said...

Love this article. I was so afraid of my 2 year old being obsessed with real scissors. all she wants to do is cut. I keep telling myself that I need to go out and buy her kiddie ones so she can cut on her own. Thanks. I will not buy kiddie scissors and continue to monitor my daughter as she uses the "real" ones.