How does a child connect with a toy?
Unlike us, they're not looking for meaning yet. They are looking for function. They want to understand what a toy can do. We want them to find meaning in that toy. Why...? Because in Our world it is the meaning we have found in something that make us spend time with it.
A few days ago my kids & I were cleaning their play room while sorting out all the rubbish they have accumulated as birthday gifts & hand me downs. As we are sorting through the toys I sit them down at their play table each with a puzzle appropriate to their age so I have some space to think. My first & constant internal response was "why don't they play with this"..."& this....& this &..." so it continued in my virtual lecture to them that I was passionately preparing.
After lunch we continued to play with toys on the table while I was silently planning to make the best possible sense to my 6 & 3 year old about why they need to play with one toy at a time... At that moment, 1 year old monkey number 3 had just woken up from her midday nap & joined us at the table.
It is then that I started to see something unfold as she engaged in our figurine world of Mickey mouse...handy many...ice age...ninja turtles and the like scattered over the table. She copied our noises, followed our cues in her baby language & followed our lead until she was fully engaged in our virtual fantasy. For the first time I saw all 3 of them discover the meaning in a function-less toy. A figurine has no functional value other than representing a character in a story. As grownups we know the purpose of this is to encourage imagination & creative roll play & the sequence of events. But they don't understand that until we show them. We played around the table for an hour before their attention turned elsewhere.
Next time when you go shopping, base your purchase on
1. what you wish to develop in your child &
2. whether YOU will be able to play WITH them with that toy.
Every toy is designed to develop a specific area of growth.
If we as educated adults don't know what the toy is designed to develop & we fail to see the meaning of it...chances are good our kids will too.