Daily Trust (Abuja)

2 November 2013

Nigeria: Toys and Their Impact on Kids

opinion

After clothing, toys could be considered the next most 'significant' possessions of a child right after birth. They entertain them, give succor as well as distract them. They also educate the children. These early encounters with toys impact on a child in various ways.

There have been various debates on how much impact toys have on children. There are some schools of thoughts which believe that high-tech toys provide the best educational opportunities, while others opine that simpler toys that require imagination and creativity teach a child to think for himself. But most children end up with a mixture of both types of toys and perhaps that approach gives them the best of both worlds.

One should ask the reason parents buy their children toys. Is it out of necessity or is it merely for show and an attempt to keep up with the Joneses.

Choices parents make are in many cases influenced by their children's demands but it ultimately falls on the parents to know which toys are most suitable for their children, said Mr. Tony Adah a teacher and parent. "Children from interacting with their friends at school, in the neighbourhood and even relatives nudge yuou in a certain direction regarding the kind of toys they want. As a parent you know which one is best for your child.

I don't feel it is enough to simply turn down his request. I think as parents we should dialogue and reason with our children on such issues. You could come to a truce that is agreeable to both parties. With time your children will even learn what not to ask for.

In the same light Mrs. Emelda Adakole who seems to have achieved success negotiating with her children on what toys they are allowed stated that, "Today, most toys bought are not educational. They also do not safely entertain. The same way my children know they are not allowed to watch certain cartoon channels and DVDs is the same way they have now come to understand that they are not allowed certain toys and shouldn't ask for them.

The mother of three teenagers said it was tough getting them to this point because, "they would sometimes blackmail me and then make inferences to their friends or cousins whom I approve of. Several times I was in bottle neck situations and just had to put my foot firmly down and say 'no'.

"My thinking is even if you decide to buy a toy for entertainment purpose it should be worth it. Not a toy that teaches them to be rough, to be vengeful and inconsiderate. A lot of toys on display nowadays have such attributes and we don't readily see them whilst they are hanging on shop shelves. It is only when they start manifesting in the children that we begin to take caution. But even then this observation only takes place where parents are very observant and can link the behaviours to toys." In his article, 'Why Fewer Toys Will Benefit Your Kids' Joshua Becker emphasizes that, "toys are not merely playthings. Toys form the building blocks for our child's future."

According to the blogger, the number of toys a child has, also matter. "Wise parents also think about the number of toys that children are given. While most toy rooms and bedrooms today are filled to the ceiling with toys, intentional parents learn to limit the number of toys that kids have to play with."

He goes on to highlight twelve benefits of fewer toys on children.

- Kids learn to be more creative. Too many toys prevent kids from fully developing their gift of imagination. Two German public health workers (Strick and Schubert) conducted an experiment in which they convinced a kindergarten classroom to remove all of their toys for three months. Although boredom set in during the initial stages of the experiment, the children soon began to use their basic surroundings to invent games and use imagination in their playing.

- Kids develop longer attention spans. When too many toys are introduced into a child's life, their attention span will begin to suffer. A child will rarely learn to fully appreciate the toy in front of them when there are countless options still remaining on the shelf behind them.

- Kids establish better social skills. Children with fewer toys learn how to develop interpersonal relationships with other kids and adults. They learn the give and take of a good conversation. And studies have attributed childhood friendships to a greater chance of success academically and in social situations during adulthood.

- Kids learn to take greater care of things. When kids have too many toys, they will naturally take less care of them. They will not learn to value them if there is always a replacement ready at hand. If you have a child who is constantly damaging their toys, just take a bunch away. He will quickly learn.

- Kids develop a greater love for reading, writing, and art. Fewer toys allows your children to love books, music, coloring, and painting. And a love for art will help them better appreciate beauty, emotion, and communication in their world.

- Kids become more resourceful. In education, students aren't just given the answer to a problem; they are given the tools to find the answer. In entertainment and play, the same principle can be applied. Fewer toys causes children to become resourceful by solving problems with only the materials at hand. And resourcefulness is a gift with unlimited potential.

- Kids argue with each other less. This may seem counter-intuitive. Many parents believe that more toys will result in less fighting because there are more options available. However, the opposite is true far too often. Siblings argue about toys. And every time we introduce a new toy into the relationship, we give them another reason to establish their "territory" among the others. On the other hand, siblings with fewer toys are forced to share, collaborate, and work together.

- Kids learn perseverance. Children who have too many toys give up too quickly. If they have a toy that they can't figure out, it will quickly be discarded for the sake of a different, easier one. Kids with fewer toys learn perseverance, patience, and determination.

- Kids become less selfish. Kids who get everything they want believe they can have everything they want. This attitude will quickly lead to an unhealthy (and unbecoming) lifestyle.

- Kids experience more of nature. Children who do not have a basement full of toys are more apt to play outside and develop a deep appreciation for nature. They are also more likely to be involved in physical exercise which results in healthier and happier bodies.

- Kids learn to find satisfaction outside of the toy store. True joy and contentment will never be found in the aisles of a toy store. Kids who have been raised to think the answer to their desires can be bought with money have believed the same lie as their parents. Instead, children need encouragement to live counter-cultural lives finding joy in things that truly last.

- Kids live in a cleaner, tidier home. If you have children, you know that toy clutter can quickly take over an entire home. Fewer toys results in a less-cluttered, cleaner, healthier home.

In trying to be the best parent to your child, it is important to also apply caution to things that one would ordinarily take for granted.

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