The Value of Playing with Commercially Produced Toys

Vikram Bath

Vikram Bath is the pseudonym of a former business school professor living in the United States with his wife, daughter, and dog. (Dog pictured.) His current interests include amateur philosophy of science, business, and economics. Tweet at him at @vikrambath1.

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18 Responses

  1. Tod Kelly says:

    As with most of these types of questions, I think any meat to be found* has little to do with the child and everything to do with the parents. Our collective ability to find ways to believe there is but one extremely narrow way to successfully raise all children — despite the near-universal evidence all around us that shows otherwise — never ceases to amaze me.

    * And after you have found that meat, you can pretend it is an alien slug, or a rocket ship!Report

  2. Chris says:

    I bet there’s data on this. 😉Report

  3. Roland Dodds says:

    I dropped into a Waldorf Education shop in Sebastopol yesterday to look at toys for my daughter. A tiny wood figurine was nearly 50 dollars. Give me mass produced, Chinese-made plastic any day if that is the alternative!Report

  4. Oscar Gordon says:

    My son has a mix of toys. He loves vehicles right now (he’s 3), so the growing collection of matchbox cars is a favorite, but so is his collection of building sets. Magnetic blocks become garages, or tunnels, or fire stations. His bristle blocks become a range of things. As do the Legos.

    He has a set of clear colored plastic pipes that are meant as a bath toy or for use with a water table/pool (build a pipe network & watch water flow!). He builds all sorts of things out of them (lately it’s musical horns), but has only used them once for their intended purpose.

    I think the important thing is not if a toy is or is not a defined thing, it’s whether or not the adults the child interacts with can see past their own imaginative limits. Parents can actively or passively limit a child’s imagination by failing to treat a toy as what the child says it is. Building sets are not any better or worse for imaginative play, they are better for us adults at dislodging our limitations so we don’t pass them on to our kids.Report

  5. Hoosegow Flask says:

    I find all physical objects to be limiting. I take it a step further and insist that all my daughter’s toys be imaginary.Report

  6. Damon says:

    ” If, however, a child is given driftwood, he can transform the wood into any vehicle or food he desires: a race car or an airplane, a fire or garbage truck, sushi or spaghetti. In fact, he can use imagination and critical thinking to have the wood represent anything he wishes.”

    If it’s a boy, 90% chance he makes the driftwood a “gun”.

    I had some kick ass toys when I was a kid. Legos, among them. This was before Legos had all the “sets” they do now. All I had were various sized and colored bricks. I made all kinds of space ships and “air planes” (factoring in aerodynamics) and staged battles, aka “battle-star galactica” style. I also made ray-guns and such. God that was fun.

    But like was said above, I think it’s in large part, what the parents are doing.Report

    • Guy in reply to Damon says:

      I had the sets. I would build them according to the instructions, and try to keep them intact. Then they would break, and I would have long since lost the instructions, so I would build my own stuff. I think the big change in legos from the period before the sets to the period after was the introduction of the figures and the framing of the bricks as a set for the figures to be part of, rather than the direct thing being worked. I think this is a pretty neutral reframe.Report

      • Damon in reply to Guy says:

        For me it was a pretty big re frame. Given my space ships were not build to accommodate a figure. I had a early space set. I don’t recall what it was, but I had one guy in a space suit. I used him separately.Report

  7. dragonfrog says:

    They may be theoretically capable of pretending that an ambulance is a doll – but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it happen. If you watch some kids playing, only a doll is darn well a doll. If the doll is specifically a character from a movie they’ve seen, then the doll will only ever be that character, barring arm-twisting by an adult.

    Playing with the kid, you may be able to negotiate with them to allow you to play the Princess Jasmine doll as a firefigher name Sarah, but eavesdrop on them next time you see that doll out, and I promise you it’s going to be Princess Jasmine, not any other character.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to dragonfrog says:

      True, if the child has any concept of who Princess Jasmine is. If they’ve never seen Aladdin, or any other show that places Jasmine in context to a larger backdrop, then she’s just a female doll with dark skin & pretty clothes.Report

    • Alan Scott in reply to dragonfrog says:

      Yeah… Kazzy is the one around here who knows the most about this age range, but I’m kinda under the impression that a child’s imagination is still limited in range (if not intensity) at the age they’re making trucks go vroom and playing with plastic bananas.Report