This Holiday Season, Rethink What Gifts You’re Buying For Kids

By Alisha Bennett, LMSW

I was recently looking for a play kitchen for my office and everything that came up on Google and Amazon had extensive details like dishwashers, coffee makers, and ice machines. It was very cute to see a mini kitchen that looks exactly like a real kitchen, but I wondered, how much will this allow for my students to use their imaginations?

As technology advances, we just keep wanting the next best thing, and this extends to our kids. We see the shiniest, smartest toy on the market and want that for our kids because of how much it’s going to “teach” them. But have you ever looked around at the toys in your child’s classroom? The place they spend 6 hours a day, 5 days a week? Here are some things you may see as you observe the next time you drop your child off:

  • Younger grades often have a dramatic play area. It usually has a wooden kitchen with just enough paint on it to let you know which part of the kitchen it is. There will be a few knobs on the stove and sink, a few cabinets, and some shelves. It’s just enough to give kids the right information about a  kitchen, but also allow for kids to use their imagination to play.

  • Shelves with different shaped wooden blocks with a building area. You’ll see Legos but not sets with directions to build a specific idea/outcome.

  • Magnatiles (square and triangle magnets), board games you grew up with, and wooden train sets.

What you may also notice is that the toys in a classroom don’t talk. The toys don’t give scripts or play for the kids. They don’t light up brightly and spin or shake. The toys are things kids can play with using their hands, build with, and generate their own scripts for different play ideas. 

This holiday season as you fill your amazon carts up and make your runs to the target toy section, try and rethink your toy purchases for your kids. A lot of the electronic and talking toys will tell you on the box all the things the toy will help your child do and learn. Maybe this year, simplify your child’s toy selection. Don’t go for the newest and most advanced, instead go for the simple toys. Maybe the ones that look more like the toys you had growing up. To read more about the impact of electronic toys, check out this piece from NPR.

Alisha Bennett is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy LCSW. If you would like support in prioritizing and taking care of your mental health, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.

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