I love the holiday season: the happiness, joy and good cheer spread by perfect strangers. The sharing of time and wealth with those in need. The love felt when spending quality time together as a family.
What I don’t enjoy as much is the amount of money it seems you must spend on gifts for others, especially your own children. When did how much spend and the number of toys you put under the tree for your children begin to reflect the amount of love you have for them? Is it just me or does it seem like parents everywhere are trying to buy their children’s love by showering them with more toys than they know what to do with? The more lights and sounds the better?!
To be completely honest, we have fallen into this trap, too, in past years, spending money on toys that are played with for 15 minutes (or less) only to end up in a box not to be seen for another two years. Gifts we felt certain they would love were forgotten about. Toys our son swore he needed, begged and pleaded to have all because he saw a commercial for it on TV. You know the kind: they play songs, light up, flash multiple colors and move and shake with just a touch of a button. Toys that the commercials say will make your child or your baby smart, help them to stay engaged and to love learning. But do they really?
I have never been a proponent of TV or video games, especially for young children, but I have never dug deep and thought about commercialized toys. But marketers have. According to Mothering Magazine, it’s estimated that 565 billion dollars in purchases are influenced by four-to-twelve-year-olds. And a blog I read recently really brought to light many thought provoking questions for me about those kinds of toys: What can commercialized colored stacking cups teach a child that regular old bowls or measuring cups can’t?
So, why do we buy these toys? Because marketers have figured out how to influence children and parents? Or because they are actually beneficial to our children’s development? Does pushing a button and listening to a music box chatter for 15 seconds while lighting up and dancing around really educate our children? Or would providing them with more open ended items such as a tub full of beans and some scoops lead to a more autonomous, exploration driven and fun learning experience?
This year my husband and I have decided to steer away from commercialized toys and gifts and move back to the more basic items. Some presents we are pretty excited about this year for Bryce include tongs, cotton balls, baskets, feathers, wood blocks and ingredients to mix and create our own play-dough together. I think it’s going to be one of our best Christmases yet.