One of the best things we’ve done recently as parents has been getting rid of all the toys! Seriously, we packed all of the toys away in a box and left our soon-to-be three-year-old with a bunch of measly blocks.
It was like Christmas!
What? Wait a minute! Hold the phone! Stephanie, what in the world are you talking about?
I am talking about a decision that has changed the environment in our home for the better. One that has enriched our daughter’s play time and has cured a headache for the parents. You know all those flashy, noisy, battery-powered annoyances that pass as kids’ toys? We got rid of them. Done. In a box, gone. And you know what? Emma doesn’t miss them!
Children Learn by Doing
As adults, we often don’t think about all of the things we’ve learned or learned to do over the years. It takes a lot to form a child into an adult! During the early childhood years, it is important for our children to have experiences in order to learn. Children learn by doing.
It is true that just as with a screen, flashy, noisy toys can entertain your child for hours on end. However, that toy isn’t helping your child develop in the way they should. When children are playing they are actually engaging in the most effective way to learn. Through play, children learn cognitive skills, literacy skills (early reading and vocabulary), social skills, and building their physical abilities. (to learn more, see this article from the National Association for the Education of Young Children – NAEYC).
I understand that even at a young age, parents are worried about making sure their child is growing academically. The way to ensure your child is developing as they should, and growing academically is not to set them in front of these flashy toys (no matter what the advertisement tells you), it’s to let them play!
Allowing children to engage in free play with simple toys allows them to be creative and problem solve. These are the building blocks to great academic achievement in the future. Think about it, when your child is building a structure out of blocks, they will learn several things:
- How to make the structure stable so it won’t fall (engineering)
- Stacking blocks on top of one another (hand-eye coordination)
- Building the structure they see in their mind (creativity)
- How to respond to failure when their structure falls (emotional control)
- How to rebuild their structure so it’s stronger and won’t fall again (problem solving and inquiry)
- How to work with someone else to achieve a goal (teamwork, social skills, communication)
It is with these things in mind that we set out to set up our daughter for plenty of free-play fun! Emma has a well supplied shelf of toy bins which to choose from each day. Her bins are stocked with several kinds of blocks (wooden cubes and shapes, magnetic, LEGO-type blocks, Lincoln Logs, bristle blocks), figures (dinosaurs are her favorite!), puzzles, and musical instruments. She often builds great structures, tears them down, and rebuilds them with a place for her figures to play.
We also created a dramatic play area with her kitchen and dress up items. Her kitchen happens to be in our actual kitchen so it works nicely as a place for her to play while I cook. She has her shopping bags, a bunch of food, utensils, and pots and pans which she uses to cook us great snacks during the day! Since she is really into space right now (it’s all about astronauts, spaceships, and the space station) she has astronaut gear to play with as well as chef and doctor supplies.
Finally, we created an art studio for her. It’s in my office, out of necessity. We were low on space, and needed a place for her to be able to work independently while I taught distance learning this spring. It turned out to be the perfect set up! Her art area has everything she needs to create just about anything she can think of! Recently, she’s had a lot of fun exploring the different options of things she can paint with!
In the end, getting rid of the flashy, noisy toys does not mean that our house has been quiet! We have traded electronic noise with sounds of blocks crashing, pretend play, giggles, and lots of “I wonder” and “look what I made!” By far, this has been one of the best decisions we have made. Not only is our daughter having age-appropriate, rich learning experiences; we are playing together more as a family and that is a true blessing.
Have you taken this parenting dare? How was your experience? If you haven’t, would you be willing to? Share your experience with me below!
Want to know what kind of toys would be good for your child? Check out this article: Good Toys for Young Children by Age
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