Okay, so this opinion might not be the most popular. But please, don’t crucify me. I’m a good dad. I got my kids all the toys my wife found to help the kids’ “development.” You know, educational toys. The kind you have to drive twenty miles out of your way to tiny store in a strip mall in West Nowhere to find, or order from some obscure catalog or website based in Canada.
And believe me, I’m glad my kids have things like mini computers that teach spelling and math, crystal-growing science project kits, memory games, puzzle cubes and problem-solving computer CD-ROMs. But I sometimes wonder, when I see those toys strewn all over the living room floor, abandoned and neglected while Katie and little Mitch are sticking balls of Silly Putty in their ears, maybe kids should have some toys just for fun and nothing else?
After all, when I was a kid we didn’t have all this stuff. We had little red wagons and toy cowboy pistols. We had Lincoln Logs, Matchbox cars, building blocks and our imaginations. I can remember a summer when I was 6 when my only new toy was a stick my dad helped me turn into a fishing pole. And that kept me busy seven days a week!
I’ll tell you this much. I would rather see my kids play with a toy that they enjoy, that inspires them to run around and have fun and explore the world than some “educational” toy that they’re going to sit around playing with for a few hours until they tire of it and never touch it again.
Heck, I’d even rather see them chase each other around the back yard with toy guns than sit inside with some pseudo-egghead puzzle or game that’s supposed to make me feel better about spending fifty bucks!
You can’t open a newspaper or turn on a TV news program without somebody saying that today’s children are obese and inactive. And I see it all the time. My kids’ friends come over to play and I can’t help but notice that a lot of them are pretty chubby. And they come from good families, not the kind where the parents are feeding them Twinkies and plopping them in front of the TV for hours at a time. But a lot of these kids are coming over and playing with our “educational” computer math games, and just sitting on their butts!
This is what I’d like to see. I’d like people to let go of this idea that a toy has to be clearly “educational” for it to be worthwhile. I’d like people to consider other factors, like if the toy will get our kids moving around and playing actively, or if it will turn them into little couch potatoes. I’d like people to think about whether their kids will actually enjoy the toy, or whether it will sit untouched.
Let’s put away all these silly ideas about what’s right for our kids and just them be kids and have fun the old-fashioned way.