Tony Long of Wired News has a blistering criticism of what he saw recently at The American International Toy Fair in Manhattan. Apparently, most of what the $22 billion industry will soon be hoisting upon little Johnny and Suzy is a bunch of high tech gadgets that require little imagination:
And let's not use the flimsy argument that children must be prepared for the coming world that they'll inhabit. There's plenty of time for disillusionment to set in later, plenty of time to learn how to text-message or use a computer. It's important for small children, especially, to enjoy the wonder of life for as long as possible, and that means letting things unfold simply and naturally, at a leisurely pace.I couldn't agree more. My kids watch TV and play computer-- and they'd do it all day too if they could. But it's the simple toys that spark a child's imagination. Growing up, I was entertained by Lincoln Logs, baseball cards, and a bike. With my kids, hours go by with dolls, doll houses, paints, crayons, games, Superman costumes, Veggie Tale characters, and books.
It also means allowing children to develop their own imaginations, a process that is not enhanced by inundating them with a bunch of tech crap. Toys, simple and unadorned, feed the imagination. "Toys" that hit you between the eyes with a two-by-four and command you to follow a series of prompts do not. To put it another way: It's the kid who's supposed to be using her imagination, not the toy.
Toys play a crucial role in a person's development, as the poet William Blake declares:
"The child's toys and the old man's reasons are the fruits of the two seasons."