Monday, November 4, 2013

Cut Out Noisy Toys to Improve Kid's Learning

When we become parents for the first time, many times some of think we need and want as much as possible to arm and stimulate our children to grow and develop at a rapid pace.

What's the rush?

How many times did we buy an activity center, musical swing, electronic toy, educational video, and so much more, to find that the money was not well spent because our child was disinterested and did not get the experience out of it we hoped they would?

I can say that about a number of purchases I made as a new, first time parent.

Let's just say the $200 Baby Can Read! video and book series was burned money. While I know that teaching our children about words and reading is important, isn't it just as good to spend time with them reading the books they like and enjoy without having to plunk down so much change to get them reading in a flash?

Again, what's the rush?  And, is it really necessary?

After too many infomercials and advertisements we become convinced that more needs to done to educate our children, even before they are school age. And, let's admit that when we hear another parent say that their child is already doing something ours may not be, we will do everything possible to try to advance them.

Children have been born for centuries and had so much less stimulation and they developed well without all the "stuff" being sold on the market.

I am sorry to say it but it's true.

I admit, I relied on a number of resources to engage my daughter to stimulate her brain development. Sometimes, many times it was to engage her when I could not.

There, I said it.  I sometimes relied on toys to entertain my daughter when I could not be her entertainer or educator.

When we do spend quality time with our kids it's amazing how much they learn and accomplish when we just converse with them, play with them, and given them pots, pans, and plastic containers to bang on or stack.

Nowadays, many of us are working long hours or both parents are working; therefore, leaving even less time to spend with our children.  Therefore, time spent with children is less than it was ten to twenty years ago and as a result we tend to rely on these interactive toys to engage our children when they are not in school or when we cannot give them our undivided attention.

With so many toys on store shelves it's no wonder we get sucked in to buy them because they are pretty, colorful, fun-looking, and appear to be engaging more than we are able to be.

The reality is that time spent with our children teaching them and educating them is what helps them to prosper.

So instead of beating ourselves up for not having as much time as we would like to connect with our children, let's make the most of the time we do spend with them and participate in activities that encourage imaginative play, strategic thinking, logic, and so much more.  In our house, our favorites includes playing with Barbie dolls, playing board games of all different kinds, reading together, and having dance parties in our family room.

As a full time working parent I fully understand that time is not always as much as we would like to have with our kids. Every bit of time is important and makes a difference to our children.  We can't expect toys to do the teaching.

I think for a while I just figured that that's what these toys were designed to do.  While they are many times fun and engaging they can be harmful too.  Some of these talking toys sometimes do the thinking for our kids before they have had a chance to think, or get frustrated if a toy asks again for an answer that a child may not have and causes stress when they cannot respond in a quick fashion.

As new parents, we are often excited and anxious to arm our children with all the tools necessary for them to grow and thrive, and become advanced.

However, the tried and true tools for development including blocks, books, balls, arts and crafts, and socialization skills developed through conversation and natural play are what speak volumes to a child's development.

So, when I was offered an opportunity this past month to review a new book about what we can do as parents to help our children develop, with so much less, I was game. 

This new book titled Retro Baby: Cut Back on All the Gear and Boost Baby's Development with more than 100 Time-Tested Activities, I was intrigued. It didn't hurt that it was supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics. That was a bonus.

While my daughter is now school aged I felt a responsibility as a parenting blogger and to you my faithful readers who may be new parents, to find out how this could be important and beneficial to know about.

Author, Anne Zachry, PhD, a pediatric occupational therapist, was concerned about the impact of the commercialization of baby development. Her solution with this book is to help parents get back to the basics and not be clouded by the sea of toys and unneeded items touted on store shelves or online that boast lighting up, talking and claiming to make our children smarter. 

Retro Baby helps to refute the claims and share the facts about child development while empathizing with parents.

If you think about it, with toys doing so much of the "work" these days as far as talking, singing, dancing, and more, what happens to our children's ability to create in their minds? I don't ever remember a doll talking let alone peeing after she drank pretend milk. It turns out that according to Dr. Zachry these action toys take time away from the sensory stimulation gained from active movement while held or on the floor.

Further, she explores the impact of smart toys and the so called educational television and DVDs that claim our child will be incredibly smart.

This mom is guilty as charged. I got sucked in to believing that more could be done than what I was doing with my child.

Readers will find that just having a few fundamental toys is so much more impactful than the loud, speaking, singing, dancing and "thinking for you" toys.

I remember as a kid what it was like to play with Barbie dolls and imagine for them. Speak for them. Dress them. Engage with them. It was an activity I could do for hours.  I love now that my daughter enjoys her time with this favorite pastime of mine as she spends much time talking with them, connecting, and developing imaginative conversation and play.

Dr. Zachry provides tips and guidance on activities that are safe and stimulating all without overwhelming children.

Her book reminded me of all the incredible opportunities for imagination that can be found right in our homes inside our cabinets, the garage and in plain sight.  Can we say card board boxes, plastic containers, scarves to dance around with, buckets to fill, food to make instruments with, and so much more.  Lest we not forget that there is endless opportunity for counting objects and identifying colors and shapes too.

Our children are in sensory overload with so many toys in catalogs, on televisions, online.  Dr. Zachry's advice helps to set the record straight and share with parents what is really needed, and what is not. 

She could have helped me save a lot of money, and opened up a lot of space inside my home, in my daughter's earlier years.  While my daughter is well past the age of 24 months I think now about the toys in our home over the years that brought little value to her educational development. I have become more cognizant of the toys that come into my home now and do my best to direct my child to items more likely to stimulate her mind and inspire independent thinking.

We think that our children need so much but in essence they need only very little to engage their minds in thinking. Interestingly, with so much around them, they become even more distracted and unable to concentrate, which I am pretty sure is the opposite of what we would want our children to experience.

I am so glad that I had the opportunity to review this book as I feel that it has helped to ground me in thoughts for future toy purchases and encourage selection of entertaining tools that will inspire creativity, motivate learning and stimulate ideas and thinking.

Because this book brought me so much insight and clarity as a parent, I am now offering the opportunity to one of my lucky readers to be the first to write a comment responding to this blog post on Mommy's Point of View sharing why you want to receive this book, and it will be yours. I will be happy to send it your way and only ask that you pay if forward and share with others to help them on the path to educating our children now and in the future with the motto "less is more."



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