Sunday, 13 November 2011

A Story to Make us Think

"When I was about twenty years old, I met an old pastor's wife who told me that when she was young and had her first child, she didn't believe in striking children, although spanking kids with a switch pulled from a tree was standard punishment at the time.

"But one day when her son was four or five, he did something that she felt warranted a spanking — the first in his life. And she told him he would have to go outside and find a switch for her to hit him with. The boy was gone a long time. And when he came back in, he was crying.

"He said to her, 'Mama, I couldn't find a switch, but here's a rock you can throw at me.' All of the sudden a mother understood how the situation felt from the child's point of view: that if my mother wants to hurt me, it makes no difference what she does it with; she might as well do it with a stone.

"The mother took the boy onto her lap and they both cried. Then she laid the rock on a shelf in the kitchen to remind herself forever: never violence. Because violence begins in the nursery — one can raise children into becoming violent."

~ Astrid Lindgren, author of "Pippi Longstocking" (From a peace prize acceptance speech)

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Toys and Television

One year after darling boy came into this world, I can recall a friend being horrified that I hadn't bought him a gift. I reasoned that he didn't need one. I bought most clothes and toys from a second hand sale, and just, didn't need anything.

I was shamed enough on her insistence to then and there go and buy a plastic toy vacuum cleaner. Two days after his birthday it broke and I returned it secretly pleased.

For starters, I hate plastic. I hate throwaway culture and how disposable people deem plastic to be when it is actually not degradable and often toxic.

What I find even worse than plastic toys, are light and sound toys. Not only do they drive me mad but they are so tacky and for want of a better word, patronising! You may wonder how can a plastic toy be patronising, perhaps it can't, perhaps manipulative is a better word. It is just that children learn exactly what they need to learn when they need to learn it, given opportunities. But manufacturers think how can I get people to buy our tat and make money? Hmm we'll pretend babies need this! We'll make parents think babies need to be super-stimulated and need more and more toys in order to learn and be "clever". That brings me to an even worse toy crime - having too many toys.

Many would not agree with me. Therefore I will start with my television argument. There is a plethora of research stating that brain activity is at its lowest when watching TV. The brain activity when watching TV is LESS than when one is sleeping. You may think what is wrong with that, but then consider how a child's brain could be developing in that time instead.

I believe or propose at least, that having a lot of toys makes play passive; in a similar way that TV works. Notice that when a child is infront of a lot of toys they don't play with anything for long. They move from one thing to the next very quickly, there is no involvement or play going on. Compare this to a child instigating play and being deeply involved in exploration? E.g tonight whilst in the bath Curly Locks picked up a boat and scrutinised it for a long time, she dipped it in and out the water, used it as a cup, dipped her fingers in it. I watched her exploring the boat for quite some time. Left to self-regulate, children have a long concentration span. When exposed to a lot of TV they don't.

As a result of not having television and having a few toys (mainly wooden toys and puzzles) I wonder if this has allowed the children in my life more freedom to direct their own learning and play.

Today my son found a DVD he had been given as a handout 5 months ago. He asked to watch it and I put it on as such requests are rare. I worry slightly less about the occasional DVD because there is slightly less brainwashing. On this DVD however, the first words echoed in my mind "we hope you enjoy this Episode from the Disney Channel, do watch us every day" - at that point, as I walked up the stairs, I didn't doubt our opposition to television and a room full of toys.


Photograph courtesy of the boy who shares my life