THE WORLD OF MAKE-BELIEVE.
An old lady was living in solitary grandeur in her three-storey mansion, surrounded by hundreds of new one-storey houses. Once she decided to give a party and invited the children from the development to it. The next day when a parent of one of the children asked her how the party had gone, she replied, “Times have changed even more than I dreamed. I had called in a magician and a ventriloquist, but the children said they were sick of looking at them on TV. All they wanted to do all afternoon was slide down my banisters!”
When a child is born into a household, the whole family (which includes grandparents, aunts, uncles and older cousins) rejoices. Relatives and friends pour in, singing out greetings and bringing gifts for the little infant. These gifts are usually articles of use or toys to amuse.
When I gave birth to a daughter after three sons, many took pity on me and gifted me dresses, knowing very well that I might act sensibly and use the hand-me-downs that the older boys outgrew. One family gifted my daughter a cute little cuddly doll and, suddenly, I was taken back in time to when I was a little girl myself. I tried to recall all the toys that I played with. I had a rocking horse, I remembered, and there were two dolls; one, a baby who would drink ‘milk’ and ‘cry’. I remember sewing dresses for her with my own hands. The other doll was a young lady, whose long tresses I had cut to suit my bobbed hair, an act I later repented but could not reverse. These two dolls stayed on in my life until I got married. When I passed them on to my eldest son (hoping to make him grow into a sensitive young man), he promptly disassembled it (as I should have known he’d do)!
The world of make-believe is a real world for children. The choice of toys we make for them determines how they will perceive the world around them and what values they will imbibe. A little girl has an inborn instinct to be a mother. A little boy loves his array of cars and delights in pulling them apart to discover what’s inside and then fixing it right once again.
If you look at the toys sold in the shops today and compare it to the ones you and I played with as kids, what do you observe? The toys today reflect the values that our world wants to teach its little ones. So Barbie dolls that resemble fashion models and Transformers that terrorise and torture are on sale nowadays. Do you want your child to imbibe these values? Do you have a choice in deciding what your children should play with? Can you create a better toy world for your kids?
Look into the toy basket or trunk today and, for each toy your child possesses, ask yourself this vital question: “What value will my child learn from this toy?” If you get an answer that displeases you, chuck that toy out into the bin. Don’t give it to another child; that is only passing on the muck!
Whenever you are shopping for a toy for your child or to present one to someone else’s child, keep this vital question in mind always. If you receive an inappropriate gift, consider returning it back to the shop for a more ‘valuable’ one or discarding it altogether, but not without explaining to the friend or relative who gave it to you, the reason for doing so. The next time around she/he will think before getting any child a toy that is not good for his/her welfare.
Toys can also teach children values that the world may not want them to learn, but ones which you uphold. For instance, when I bought my daughter a tea set, she was delighted but, more than her, my sons were excited with the gift. Sometimes, my youngest boy and she play ‘Tea Party’ and invite me to join in. And when the boys play with their cars, my daughter happily joins in too.
There are many educational toys one can pick up at stores and there are people who create puppets, doll houses, etc., but, in my personal opinion, you should create a toy world of your own with your children’s help. As young students, we learnt to make living rooms from match boxes, waste wrapping paper, cloth pieces and other discarded materials. We used rolled up socks as soft balls. We excelled in origami designs; I enjoy passing on this art to my children. Occasionally, they play a game called ‘House House’ wherein a huge bed-sheet, tied to four chairs, functions as a roof. I allow them to take pillows, a mat and some cooking utensils and cutlery. The boys play along; they love being Dad and have an imaginary car/bike to drive them to work. Oh, there is so much fun creating and inventing games and using personalised toys.
The things we do as kids remain in our memories forever; it is time you gave your children good toys and great memories. Build in them a love for family and community and a thirst for knowledge through the wise choice of toys. Play with them whenever they ask you to, for the time spent will not only revive your spirit but will also strengthen the bond between them and you. Your children will soon outgrow their toys but the values that they learn will stand in good stead for a long, long time to come. (943 words)
This is the unedited version. The edited version was published in Sunday Mirror, Herald on 26th Sept 2010.