Two Observations on Parenting (Than Can Save You Money)

Over the years of observing families, I’ve noticed a couple of interesting things about children and their interests. I’m sure you’ve noticed them as well.

  1. Children playing on a cell phone, watching TV, or playing a video game do NOT listen well. They are preoccupied with their TV show, game, text, or pic on the screen. They can sit right next to you, playing on their mobile device, and totally block you out. They don’t listen.
  2. Children love boxes and blocks and dress up clothes. They have great fun with objects that can become whatever they imagine. In fact, I’ve seen preschoolers more interested in the box their gift came in than the gift itself!

These two observations got me thinking. Parents spend a lot of money on mobile devices, TV’s, X-Boxes, etc. Our children delve into these devices. While engaged on their devices, they interact face-to-face with other people less often. They engage in less hands-on activities. They explore the world beyond the screen less often. They even stumble across videos we don’t want them to see.

But, when you give children some empty Tupperware, old boxes, blocks, crayons, and paper they create amazing things. They become curious and imaginative. They explore ways of using the material. They create forts, planes, and dinner out of the same “raw materials.” These “open-ended” materials, or what Magda Gerber calls “passive toys,” become the raw ingredients of imaginative play, explorations, and new ideas. And, in the midst of creating all this, they talk with one another. They share ideas. They ask for help. They negotiate, compromise, and problem solve…together! As they engage, combine, and re-engage these simple objects, they learn and grow. They have fun, too.

I love the poster from Let the Children Play. It explains the benefits of “passive toys” with a simple acronym.

  • Passive toys help children become better PROBLEM-SOLVERS.
  • Passive toys engage children in ACTIVE LEARNING.
  • Passive toys encourage SELF-INITIATED play and SENSORY EXPERIENCES.
  • Passive toys SUPPORT SCHEMAS. They support what children already know and how they already think while supporting them to move up another level in their thought life. As Vygotsky used to say, “In play, a child becomes a child a head taller than himself.” (Read Make Your Child A Head Taller Than Himself for more info)
  • Passive toys throw open the doors for INVENTION, INVESTIGATION, and IMAGINATION.
  • Passive toys are VERSATILE, which nurtures creativity.
  • Passive toys encourage EXPERIMENTATION and EXPLORATION.

I’m not against some screen time, but what video game or TV show can do all that!

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