Today, with the number of toys and gadgets available, there is a huge clutter in our minds as to what best to buy. We would like to give our children many good things that will engage them constructively. But, we need to contemplate whether we engage or distract our children with our purchases.
A typical scene at most of our homes: A basket full of colourful toys which have not been touched in months. The children are running around the house, pushing chairs in a line, throwing water everywhere, playing on a gadget or just saying, “I am bored.” When we suggest playing with toys, there is either a refusal or a half-hearted attempt at playing. Most often, parents have to join in.
Buying the right toy for your baby
Ever asked yourself why your child will not play with some toys? Often, the answer lies in the type of toys that we engage our young ones with. Typically, parents buy toys that do several things simultaneously, so that several objectives are achieved at the same time. We also feel that this would be more challenging and hence the toy will engage the child longer.
On the contrary, children do not seem fascinated with the fancy contraptions. The novelty of a new toy beckons the children. They fiddle around for a while and then give up moving back to what they were doing before.
Doing several things simultaneously is not a good idea even for an adult. If we are writing an article and thinking about the list of groceries to buy, both tasks are going to suffer because we are not giving complete attention to either. It is also likely that we may lose interest in both or get fatigued thinking about both the things.
Unfortunately, a majority of the toys in the market provide multiple sensory inputs which distract children, making them lose interest altogether.
Here are some classic examples --
- A stacking toy with plastic rings in different colours and sizes. Parents buy this toy thinking the child will get cues for colours as well as sizes.
- Building blocks made of plastic which have letters A-Z printed on them. These are inexpensive and parents buy them thinking the child can play with the blocks, as well learn the alphabet.
When children take a toy and start doing unrelated things at an early age, like throwing blocks like balls to see how far they go, it indicates distraction. When the toy is multipurpose, there is a confused set of data inputs going to the child, which makes the young mind unable to focus. Multitasking at a young age is one of the root causes for children to lose concentration leading to decreased attention span. This is a problem that can have a long-term impact unless the child finds some other activity/sport that they whole-heartedly engage in. No amount of coaxing to get a child interested in a toy will work if the toy fundamentally has design flaws.
Today, many children have issues with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Some may be real problems, while others are perceived because there are too many inputs from gadgets, television, social media, friends, parents and more. With a number of sensory inputs from all directions, children today are more confused, unable to focus and have shorter attention spans. Children seem to stay for hours on end on a gadget but have difficulty focusing on a toy or a task at hand.
Toys that spark interest
To engage young minds, it is critical to engage in clean wholesome play with toys that have a clear objective. When children embark on play voluntarily, there is obviously a much longer attention span. So it is critical that a toy sparks interest in the child. When the toy is clear about its objective, children play with it wholeheartedly, giving it full attention during the period of play.
- A stacking Toy - The child is more likely to keep coming back to a toy with sturdy stacking rings all in the same colour. It is far more challenging and the child is clear that the only variable here is the size.
- A geometry toy - If there is a geometry board with shapes, the child will find it far more exciting to play with a toy that has all the shapes in a single colour than with multiple colours. Clearly, the child is excited about focusing only on one aspect, which is the shape and when they get it right, it gives them a high sense of achievement knowing they have done it.
In early years, toys must have very limited number of inputs given simultaneously. It is important to encourage the ability to concentrate with a toy. Most young children clearly prefer toys that have simple objectives of play. A good toy will keep children engaged, focussed on the challenge at hand, give them food for thought and an opportunity to experiment, will help them learn from their own mistakes without the need for an adult or parent to intervene.
Next time, when you are out to buy a toy, keep it simple yet challenging. Your child will be more focused and happier and will cherish her toys.
The author is the co-founder of Skola Toys and has over 15 years of experience in the early education space.
Hope you liked this article. To get expert tips and read interesting articles on a wide variety of parenting topics, subscribe now to our magazine.