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Do A Little – Get A Lot

Do A Little – Get A Lot

I don’t use battery operated toys. The kids fixate on them, set them off repeatedly, and stop their normal moving around/up and down floor based play when they have the option to be an audience to a toy. Battery toys become fight toys and lend to blocking behavior and hoarding.

I don’t have indoor toys designed for pounding, dumping, or throwing. I stay away from any kind of noise or clicking toys. I have some “See & Says” that are brought out for an activity but they don’t stay out in everyday play. We use them for learning animals and animal sounds.

Toys that “do” something are going to escalate and isolate the kids. One of the foundations of calm and easy going play is decreasing unnecessary stimulation in the play room. I don’t have hitting, fighting, biting, and arguing in large part because I only have toys that “do” whatever the child does with them.

Every time I go down the toys aisles in toy stores and big Mart stores, I am saddened by what we have come to with children’s toys. From newborn thru infancy thru school aged they are primarily battery, lights and sounds, and screen toys. They are also set really loud and most have little option to disable the sound or lower it. I often go home empty handed because I can’t find anything other than blocks, cars, balls, and play food that doesn’t have some kind of built in action to it.

I don’t want toys that are designed to have the child do a small motion and get a big response. I don’t use Jolly Jumpers because I don’t want the baby to learn that they can get a big bounce after they have merely tapped their feet on the floor below. Pressing a button and having a loud noise and lights and sounds is sending the child a message that they get a lot for a little.

When I took children into care who were over the age of two there was usually a long adjustment to our toys. Nearly all of them would choose to sit and do nothing in hopes of getting an adult to play with them, a television turned on, or a toy that did something to keep them entertained. It took a long while for the boredom to set in and the child to realize that the toys we have and the other kids in the room were the most exciting thing that was going to happen to them in our world.

It used to be that preschool and school aged toys were the blunt of battery toys. Now you are hard pressed to find infant toys other than toys just for chewing that don’t have a battery in them. I’ve seen infants as young as nine months searching with their fingers and their eyes for the button on toys to press on a toy that is new to them.

Real play doesn’t net a lot for a little. Real play nets exactly what you have put into it. Children under the age of five don’t need screens, point and click, and loud lights and sounds. They need to learn from infancy on that they can make their own happiness with open ended toys that build their creativity and imagination.

  1. QualiTcare07-04-11

    Eh, I dunno. I definitely think that kids have more imaginative play when they play with blocks, dolls/doll houses, play dough, etc., and that kind of play is important. However, we live in a digital world. When I learned how to memorize my phone number as a kid, I learned how to dial it on a rotary phone as well as a phone with buttons. I’m not even “old.” In addition, I only had to memorize 7 digits because on those phones an area code wasn’t necessary. When I taught my kids our phone numbers (as in two different numbers bc we have cell phones) they had to remember the area code as well because most cell phones require it, and let’s face it, TONS of homes don’t even have land lines. I let my kids “play” with my cell phone to practice typing my number. They practiced typing my husband’s number too. They had to remember two different 10 digit phone numbers that have to be typed on SMALL cell phone key pads. That’s much different than remembering ONE seven digit phone number where their finger fits in the circle shape of the rotary or they can hear a dial tone and then a series of beeps if a mistake is made. Point being – we live in a digital world. Imagination is important still, but technology which includes beeps, lights, and buttons is MANDATORY not for a kid to succeed, but to simply FUNCTION! How many pay phones have you seen lately?

    When’s the last time you looked through a card catalog? When’s the last time you got a grocery receipt with typewriter print and purple ink? It’s a fact of life that we get “a lot for a little” and whether or not you think that’s a bad thing is irrelevant. Kids aren’t going to function like they should without being exposed to things that beep, light up, and make noise in this new digital world. For example, I know you were/are a nurse. You realize that charting is done on the computer now, right? Paper charts still exist, but they’ll be extinct within the next 5 years as all healthcare facilities are transitioning to computerized charting. Does that mean kids shouldn’t know how to write with a pencil/pen? No. I think they need to know how to do that, but denying them the opportunity to type is a hindrance. Not only that, but they really should spend MORE time typing than writing. Another example…It’s a rare occasion that you’ll see a rotary clock – they’re all digital. There are debates about whether or not kids should still be learning to “tell time” in school considering this generation of children don’t even know anything other than a digital clock. Is it important to be able to tell time on a rotary clock? I used to say yes, but I’m not so sure now. Time is digital now – television, stoves, microwaves, computers, watches, bank signs, car stereos, etc. It’s hard to break habits so those of us who grew up with rotary phones, rotary clocks, card catalogs, and plain old wooden blocks remember how great those things were to US and want to pass those things to our kids. That’s where the phrase “old school” comes from.

    Anyhow, the point here is that the kids of today are living in a digital world. Imagination is still important, but being able to turn buttons on/off and do things correctly (like pushing the right buttons on a battery operated toy) will only benefit them when they start going to a school that doesn’t even use pencils or paper because they want to be friendly to the environment – not to mention, NOBODY writes with a pencil and paper anymore! For the record, my kids play outside more than they play with video games, computers, etc., but that has way more to do with being ACTIVE than it has to do with imagination. They know how to work the TV, the computer, the Wii, and how to dial numbers and play games on my cell phone. My daughter who is 7 even sends texts for me. That’s the real world…the way it is TODAY. She doesn’t have to know how to dial on a rotary phone (not that I could find one) and hope someone has a big answering machine with a tape in it so they’ll get her message and call her back when they get home a week later because they’ve been on vacation. She needs to know how to text me so I can know that school let out early and I need to pick her up (just an example). Anyway, the points, clicks, and beeps that you say aren’t “real” are actually very real and learning how to point, click, and beep is actually a necessity for kids right now.

    • torifees07-04-11

      You made some good point Qual but where I see it differently is that teaching them to do touch screens, clicking, pointing, etc. takes a few seconds. Small infants can do it. They have their whole lives to do this kind of play and have it been built into their education. They also have this at home from the time they are an infant. All of my kids could convert over to bells and whistles, noise toys, touch screens in one day. I just don’t want it at my house. I want them to get what they play.

      • QualiTcare07-05-11

        “it can be done in one day.”

        tell that to my mom who still types with one index finger. you have to practice to be proficient in anything, and kids today do need to be proficient with technology. i think toys that are battery operated are just one way to expose kids to what will come later. that doesn’t mean they should ONLY play with battery operated toys, but to classify them as “bad” or as something that hinders imagination is extreme. everything is good in moderation.

        • torifees07-08-11

          I’m specifically talking about using them in MY setting Qual. I’m not saying kids should never have access to anything digital or screen. Just for HERE. I haven’t met a kid in the last ten years who didn’t have most of their toys at home have batteries or “do” something. They get a ton of practice at home. Considering what’s on the shelf at Wallies and KiddieToyStore there is NO doubt that these toys are being sold as the primary toys of kids today. The VAST majority of toys other than blocks and balls have something built into it with lights, sounds, screens.

    • Dominique07-08-11

      You had some really interesting thoughts and I appreciated the post Qual. However I think a big thing to consider is that your daughter is 7. Nanny is referring to preschool and younger. An infant doesn’t “need” to learn how to use digital items and such. Don’t you think it would be better to start out with a good foundation of “old school” play and then add on the modern stuff in an age appropriate way? The problem is that kids that are offered screens and whatnot have a hard time learning simple play, if they ever learn it. Its not just about functioning with modern technology. There’s a whole slew of issues here. Learning to focus, learning to work for something (versus the instant gratification of a toy that entertains), learning skills outside of hand and eye coordination and learning to interact with others. Most of the toys, games, etc offered to kids these days are for individual children. They don’t promote group play or imagination.

      • QualiTcare07-10-11

        you’re right, my daughter is 7 (and i have a son who is 5). i mentioned my daughter and her age/abilities specifically because of the things she in particular is capable of doing at a young age. what i didn’t mention (but i assumed nannyde and others on the forum know) is that both of my children attended preschool. they did have SOME access to “battery toys” and also computers. they also had access to computers, cell phones, etc. at home. she wasn’t 7 years old the first time she picked up a cell phone or touched a computer. she was sitting on my lap as an infant while i worked (or played) on the computer. both of them were manuevering a “mouse” when they were 2 years old and begging to play games/slobber on my cell phone. kindergarten students (which is right after preschool) are expected to an extent to know how to manuever a computer mouse/keyboard to access sites such as i know from experience that most of them are capable of doing that, and if they aren’t, a classmate sitting beside of them who does know will assist. there IS an expectation that young children as young as 5 years old/kindergaten age will be familiar with computers to an extent. in order to be familiar with computers they have to have practice with them. computers and “beeping/flashing toys” aren’t the same thing, but i think a child who has been deprived of any stimulus that comes along with that might be on overload when they’re sat in front of a computer and told to point, click, and play with the calendar on starfall. i just think you can have a good balance. as good as my children are with the computer they rarely ask to get on it. MAYBE once every month or two they’ll ask to play games. they have a Wii and all the popular games/gadgets, but at the moment it’s not even plugged in. in fact, i sold their nintendo DSs on craigslist bc they never touched them. they’re too busy running around outside, riding bikes, swimming, or jumping on the trampoline. BUT i know when they go to school they won’t be sitting there waiting for someone to show them where to go to get to a website while the other kids are going at it. i know if i were passed out on the kitchen floor they would know to get my cell phone and the area code has to be typed in and THEN you hit the green SEND button. that’s not something they learned “in one day” nor is it something that they spent/spend all day doing. there can be a balance, but i think the balance starts when they are very young by being exposed to ‘blinking, beeping things with screens.”

  2. Tisha07-04-11

    My experience as a parent has been like the article. For the most part, an unstimulated mind is not a learning mind. But we have to consider as providers that all children learn differently. I used to get forced outside to play. I hated the outdoors and still do. I didn’t like physical activity and still don’t. I loved to read. I never had a problem with my weight (until this 4th baby lol). I was always thin. From a small age I loved the library and books vastly more than toys and outdoor play. So who can be right? Digital toys versus manipulative toys that require imagination? shrug. I don’t think it matters. I think you should provide a variety. All children are different and will grow up to do different things for fun. They learn differently as well. I won’t be so rigid as to only allow certain toys. I also won’t push children outside all the time either. I have 4 children of my own. 15, 11, 5, and 1. Yes, I had child every 5 years lol. But my two oldest are athletes. Serious athletes. They also were early readers, and in advanced classes. I think this is because I pushed early reading. It all depends on the child. Let the children choose. I do think as providers we need to set up environments that keep down arguments and bickering. Some kids aren’t imaginative and won’t be imaginative adults. Some kids aren’t technical and won’t be technical adults. I just let the kids play different things and different games. I’m still learning but I think being open is good.

  3. Joy B07-07-11

    We ban noise toys here simply because I find them to be very very annoying. Occasionally a kid will bring one on show and tell day but I take out the batteries as soon as the parent pulls out of the driveway. If the parent finds out and says anything I just explain, oh little Johnny must have broken the toy

  4. Dominique07-08-11

    Nanny, I would be interested in seeing a list of toys you would recommend as well as brands and such. Not everyone has the option of having toys that they have had for the past 15 years. What would you recommend to first time parents or providers?

  5. Hunni Bee07-18-11

    I have no battery operated toys. And the ones I do have, have had the batteries taken out….such as the power tools. Those were the only toys I had that did anything by themselves…and I kept putting new batteries in them for a while…til I noticed I was changing the batteries every week because the children would just stand and make the drill or the sander make the “rrrroom, rrrrom” noise over and over again. They didn’t want to drive the toy screw in with the drill, they were fixated on the fact that it made noise and moved by itself. So they have to make the “rrroom rrrrom” noise themselves now…but thats what play is about.

  6. Vegmom08-07-11

    um, shouldn’t we be treating them how we would like to be treated? I for one would not appreciate someone taking the battery out of my phone and telling me to use my imagination to play with it. i agree that every child learns differently and if imaginative play isn’t your cup of tea, then it just sems like a long, sad day away from their family. Finally, if you really believe in this no batteries, imaginative play philosophy, then is it really too much for the children to expect for you to be down there playing w/ them?

    • torifees09-29-11

      Sad day away from their parents? Oh my. No we don’t need to get down on the floor and play with them. They are little kids with a bunch of other little kids. The other kids will show them how to play. They don’t need an adult for that.

  7. Beth09-28-11

    I agree with the last comment. If you choose this type of battery operated play restriction then why would you let the same child (presumably under 5 years old) sit bored until they came around to your way of things?
    Assuming this child (whom you’ve interviewed extensively, based on your other blog posts) has an unhealthy (in your opinion) attachment to their battery operated lifestyle.. It seems almost cruel that you should strip them of it and not teach them HOW and even WHY (some children rebel out of confusion). A well adjusted child makes for great days!! Explaining things in a new environment sure goes a long way toward this feat.
    Anyway .. Get down on the floor and show these poor deprived battery operated heathens what it is you mean by REAL PLAY .. then go hop on your blog and create your own happiness 🙂

    • torifees09-29-11

      We don’t need to get down on the floor and teach them how to play. They can do that well enough on their own with their friends. When I interview families their children are infants. When they are raised with no battery toys in a multi-level aged group of kids they learn to self entertain and play toys. It’s okay to expect kids to play toys without any fancy bells and whistles or an adult.

  8. Sarah11-15-11

    I watch a young group all one or under. What I have noticed is that to them the sounds, buttons and music mean nothing. They just want to grab and put things in their mouths. I have an activity table that stopped working and they still love the thing even though it doesn’t flash or beep. I think these toys are more about the parents than the child. It’s as if the adults have to buy toys that entertain them. I think most kids would be just as happy with the box the toys came in.

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