Toys That Teach: A Lesson in Reverence, Gratitude, and Beauty
A toy is something in which your child invests valuable time and thus acts as a teacher. The right toy can teach your child to care, to be alert and aware, to be careful, to appreciate, to love. In your child’s hands are the keys to learning to be grateful, to appreciate beauty, to have a sense of peace and reverence for life in all its forms… Similarly, inappropriate toys can teach your child anger, frustration, neglect , insult and mockery. How many times have you seen this on the playground? Children imitating the grotesque objects they played with? Making faces and bullying other children. They take out what they took from their toys.
What can a plastic contraption teach your child? What lesson is hidden in the action figure? When children have a room full of such toys, they are often so overwhelmed that they choose not to play at all. Grandma and Grandpa come and say they are spoiled. Often, when they decide to play, they play in a very aggressive and destructive manner. They show no sense of love or care for these toys. They show no gratitude for these toys. These growling and grimacing toys seem designed to instill or teach anger, frustration and hatred. Ask yourself “what does my child gain from such a toy?” If you watch your child closely, you will find that their play lasts for about 5 minutes at most and they end up frustrated and overwhelmed. They physically look bad after playing like this, with these toys.
The reason for this is that children take everything from their play and it becomes part of who they are and who they will become. Children internalize everything from their surroundings. When exposed to synthetic and ugly toys, children are at risk of losing their sense of awe, their sense of awe and beauty. They begin to pick up on the messages these toys send: hit, stomp, hit and hit, throw away. Change. These feelings then grow in our children. Their relationship becomes “synthetic” and their game becomes ugly.
These kids then grow up to be teenagers who bulldoze through and over their fellow teenagers. They have grown up thinking that almost anything can be replaced. It’s all meant to be rough and tumble. They grow up eating fast food and throwing away toys that mean nothing to them. They blaze through the world unconcerned about what will be stepped on or torn down, believing that everything can be easily replaced or that it is the responsibility of everything in their path to be strong enough to endure. They break their plastic battery operated devices and go in the trash. Unfortunately, in our mass-produced society, it is often quickly replaced by one just like it. What is this teaching our child?
Many parents don’t realize that a developing child’s mind takes over everything. These toys have a very negative impact on our children and their behavior changes from inherently good and loving to bad and mean. A toddler learns most when he plays. Play is the work of the child, and through play the child learns to be an adult. So why aren’t we more careful and conscious when choosing our children’s toys?
Most modern toys do not speak to the child’s soul. In this way, they can actually harm the child. Not only do they rob the child of his/her imagination and sense of wonder, but they create a shell over the child’s heart. Today’s toys are “dead”. They are obviously not pretty. They have no energy coming from them. They’re just…ugly. Don’t our children, who have only recently arrived and are still so intertwined with the spirit world, deserve something more?
Looking at the writings of Rudolph Steiner, the founder of Waldorf schools, we find that during the first seven years of life a child must see and experience the world as a place of goodness. The child in this age group learns mostly through imitation. Teachers trained in the Waldorf education method are taught to be fully aware of every movement because they know that their child perceives everything, good or bad. For this reason, Waldorf kindergartens are places of simple beauty. Children from the age of 7 to the beginning of puberty should experience the world as a place of beauty, because through beauty they will gain a reverence for life that they will carry into their adult lives. The Waldorf method of education is based entirely on these beliefs.
Children should have a few simple toys, ones that should be delicately cared for and cared for with love. They need toys that they can wash with their own hands, hang to air dry and carefully fold. They flourish when they play with toys that need to be carefully polished and that can be repaired. They thrive when they have toys they know they will pass on to their younger siblings. It is through this that they learn to feel gratitude, reverence and a sense of beauty towards their environment and surroundings. Most modern toys simply do not speak to a child’s soul.
Which toys speak to the child? Silks, trees, nuts, shells, seeds, stones, crystals, leaves, ribbons and small baskets in which to carry their treasures. These are the types of toys that speak to a child’s soul. These natural wonders inspire awe and discovery, magic and wonder in your child. These toys are created as “one-of-a-kind” treasures. These toys are special and can become anything your child imagines.
Consider pure silk scarves for play. They are delicate and ethereal and seem to naturally awaken a sense of awareness of beauty and awe. They awaken the child’s imagination and inspire his creativity. Children appreciate their simplicity and yet marvel so much at the magic that a simple little cloth can be transformed into so many wonderful things.
A tree is another example. It comes from a living, growing organism and has so much potential. Was this tree carved or “decorated” by the creatures of the forest? What kind of tree did this tree come from? Imagine that no two pieces of wood will ever be exactly the same, and your child can sense and feel this when holding this toy. What a lesson in gratitude for this piece of wood you are playing with here. What a wonderful discovery when playing outside, your child finds this wonderful toy all by himself…just as it was meant to be! Your child will carry this tree like a parcel, build with it like a block, swing and hold it like a baby. This piece of wood can become almost anything in your child’s imagination. Perhaps Grandpa can carve this little tree into an animal friend or gnome to return to the garden.
Such treasures are not easily replaced. If you’re not careful and break a wooden toy (especially a handmade or found one), it’s a real tragedy because it’s one of a kind. If the child is lucky, he can recover and will be cared for even more delicately because he has lost weight. Of course, this will make the toy be loved and appreciated even more because of the wounds it bears and the efforts it took to save it.
Today’s children have adopted many of their attitudes in life because of the toys they were surrounded by in childhood. Today’s mass-produced, disposable toys are wasteful, ugly, and harmful not only to our children, but also to the environment. They are impersonal and created for one and only one purpose – to make money for their creators. The next obvious reason is that they break and are easily replaced, teaching your child to want more…
Remember, the toy your child is holding is your child’s teacher today.
It is up to you to decide what lesson your child will learn today from the toys you provide.
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