What is a TOY, by the way? The Oxford dictionary defines a toy as “An object for a child to play with, typically a model or miniature replica of something.”
I would like to modify it a bit and say, Anything that can be used as an object to learn and simultaneously gives fun can be said a Toy. Almost every parent have this experience of how their young ones treat almost any object as a play thing. Be it a matchbox, kitchen utensils, garments, and even their virtual imaginary things, kids use it as a medium (resource) of joy at the same time they learn something that we (the grownup) usually fail to observe. So fundamentally there is no need to buy Toys, it has to be ‘made’ out of something, anything. Let us first understand the term “made”, we take it bit seriously and establish a giant factory at the cost of environment to manufacture tons of highly mechanized, sophisticated things that we call “Toys”. The same term means so simple to kids, that they can ‘make’ a Car out of a Matchbox just by dragging it on to the surface. In a moment, it gets converted into an Airplane and starts flying into the sky. It is us, the grownup (please observe the meaning, who has stopped growing anymore – no pun intended) likes to resemble every plaything as close to the reality as possible, so we think of paining the matchbox to look colorful, add wheels, make it of plastic so that it don’t get spoil in bad stormy weather!, have some electronic light and sound effect, remotely controlled etc. and there we kill the imagination of our otherwise genius child. S/he must have great imagination around the matchbox of an airplane that we could not think of because for us it’s the job of the Airbus and Boeing designers. The moment we replace the Matchbox with a ready made, out of the box Airplane toy, we are killing their imagination along with lot of other learning experiences.
Does it mean that, there should not be any toy? Fortunately, the answer is there is need of it. This will look contradictory to the what we just discussed of not having or purchasing out of the box toys. There are references of toys even in ancient times and revered scriptures. We have archeologists excavated toys that are thousands of years old found around the world from ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Indus Valley civilizations. The secret lies in making toys together, now please don’t complicate the meaning of “making toys”, it can be as simple as acting like you are a bus driver and you kid is sitting in it, or making a paper airplane. Don’t underestimate yourself as a parent, no need to visit every activity workshop, parenting seminars, child psychology readings, not even follow our blogs, there will be lot many things to learn even while making a paper airplane, for both of you.
The wise thing to do is knowing what is being served to these little kids on the name of toys and what it should be. A toy must have a learning component. Learning can be anything, as per the age, interest and grasping capacity of the child, it can be sensing the surface of the object, it can be the sound produced while dropping the object, its color, its taste, what its shape resembles to a particular child, how it can be disassembled or opened, the list can be endless. It should spark curiosity into the mind and allow to build some imagination for how to use it? There should not be a structured way to play with a toy, yes playing games are different things, they have rules. There was no need to stress this much on explaining as simple thing as a toy. Unfortunately we are living in a time when we have best selling books on How to Win Friends & Influence People!, so I have to write on a toy too.