If you live in the U.S. and have a life experience similar to mine, you've probably spent at least a bit of time in a house or two where the children's toys have literally taken over the entire place.
Overflowing from the toy chest out onto the floor long before the first child ever reached the ripe old age of one, and subsequently sprawling out to every nook and cranny of the home in a tremendous avalanche of toy products, which have often been marketed with the "education" of those who play with them featured prominently on the box.
Of course, that doesn't keep them from being thrown in a heap with the rest of the stuff, waiting the liberation of the next yard sale or trip to the local charity for donation. And as grandparents, close family, friends, and assorted relations continually bring over heaping mounds of new ones to engage and entertain the youngsters for various holidays, Howard Chudacoff's new book Children at Play: An American History makes some interesting assertions.His central thesis is that "Kids should have their own world, and parents are nuisances," but he takes the time to quote a portion of another book which indicates that you can literally divide the history of play in America into two eras, "before" and "after" Mattel's decision in 1955 to advertise toys directly to children on national television 52 weeks a year by sponsoring The Mickey Mouse Club.
That led to all kinds of changes, not the least of which that the act of play itself was transformed from traditional forms like going outside and running around, or using your imagination to create toys from sticks while playing in places like playgrounds, to playing with pre-packaged, pre-planned toys that come equipped with a history and a mode of play already pre-destined indoors. And that, I think, has significant implications for the natural environment as well.
As the ever growing mound of new toys no one will ever really use takes over the home we are, of course, certainly not helping them to appreciate what they already have, or understand the fact that it actually takes energy and raw materials to produce them, or that it helps to contribute to global warming and resource depletion of the natural kind while we deplete our financial resources ensuring that they've got a shiny new toy "this week" in the process either.
I'm also willing to bet that there are more than a few children out there with little in their college savings account, but with thousands of dollars of unused toys just laying around on the floor as well.
In the interests of full disclosure, and with a significant number of nephews, one niece, some cousins, and even a few friends children on whom, occasionally, my wife and I have lavished gifts, I'll be making no claims of personal purity on this subject matter, though I will say that we've often moved in recent years to purchasing books and giving donations to the college fund in place of a new toy.
I will also not pretend for even a second that it won't be a real challenge to manage the influx of new toys as my own son grows up, as he certainly has all those same family relations as we do, and as they are some of the best friends and relatives one could hope for I do suspect that they'll most likely be reciprocating our generosity over the years. But I do, however, hope that in some fashion we can begin to find our way through this maddening onslaught of excess toys.
After all, I do suspect the kids already have far more than they'll ever be able to use in their lifetime, and they may not even notice a few less under the tree in favor of a new book or addition to the college fund. And who knows for sure, but just maybe a trip to the local playground is in order; I've heard there's no line forming to use the swing.
via:: The NYT