With Christmas approaching fast and the shops full of the latest “must have” toys, the sheer abundance of choice can be confusing.
The toy companies spend millions on developing and advertising their latest offering and in keeping the best sellers available and well promoted. Space on the retailer’s shelves is hotly contested and the buyers will start the next Christmas selection as soon as the sales figures are analysed at the end of January.
Buying toys for children can be a joy and a nightmare. A joy when you see the delight on their faces when they get something they look forward to playing with. A nightmare when you do your research on foot, on line and by gentle questioning and try to find something within your budget.
But the essence of a toy is – play. A toy which engages the child’s imagination is the toy with which they will play the most. Hence the old story of a child spending more time playing with the empty cardboard box than the toy within it.
Imaginative play is the most precious of all the 5 types of play. It builds cognitive development, emotional development, reasoning, creativity and social skills. All skills that are essential to life as a well-balanced adult.
Here are four simple toys that have stood the test of time, contain no batteries or computer circuits and evoke the adult response “Aaah, I had one of those – I loved it and played with it for hours”
Can you remember being fascinated by the hum and whirling colours of a spinning top when you were young? How you watched it spin across the floor and experimented with different surfaces and listened to the change of the hum and the pride when you were strong enough to pump the handle and spin the top yourself?
Even playing with wooden tops and tiny finger spinning tops seems to invoke imaginative play, just watch the child’s face.
Building blocks for young children are always popular, from the soft foam and cloth covered block (advisable when the small child often suddenly waves about, and then throws, whatever they are playing with) through to the coloured blocks with letters and numbers that are an educational aid as well as being used to build towers, trains, fortresses or whatever the child’s imagination conjures. Home made blocks of different shapes and colours, or simply waxed or varnished are a rich source of imaginative play.
Lego is an advanced form of building blocks for the older child and needs no introduction. Lego can be added to and the collection grows.This is something that the following toys have in common and are a popular gift for the enthusiast, offering more and more possibilities for play.
Train sets and Farmyards
Train sets, farmyards, small villages, fairy grottos, stable yards and racing tracks are all easy to start, often with a piece of hardboard or plywood painted to suggest the scene. Then add the trains, farm animals, wild animals, dinosaurs and cars, depending on the preference.
Small buildings, hills, trees and other items can be made by you and the children or collected and added to the board. Then sit back and watch the children play.
Dolls and soft toys are popular with boys and girls and provide a wonderful vehicle for imaginative play and an outlet through play to make sense of the world. The simpler the doll, whether a soft toy or an action man, the better.
Battery powered special effects, computer programmes and pre-loaded sound effects seem to limit imaginative play. The child’s imagination is being confined within the limits of the toy’s scope.
The doll’s house, a Victorian favourite, is still very popular. Again, it is a toy which can be added to with additional gifts and certainly provides hours of play. Castles, fire stations, garages are another alternative which provide hours of play and start a collection of additional small toys. Collecting small toys and new additions to the toy venue, whatever it may be, can become a hobby and make choosing future gifts easier.
Children play longest when they play in their imaginations, so sit back and enjoy the peace and quiet whilst they play with their favourite toys.