Thursday, July 14, 2005

Thinking Outside the Box

sorter toy

So I take out the sorter toy and place it in front of Kasia. I demonstrate how the red cube goes in the red square opening, the green triangle goes in the green triangular opening, the yellow cylinder goes in the yellow circle opening, and so on. I repeat the demonstration, open the sorter up and dump the blocks out on the floor, close it up, and hand it over for her to do.

Kasia gives me one of those "You're an idiot, Dad" looks, reaches over, opens the back of the sorter, and stuffs all the blocks in all at once, closes the toy, and hands it back to me.

What can I say? Apparently there was an easier way to do it....

This kind of thing happens a lot. We buy toys for kids that make sense to us as adults, but mean something completely different to the kids. Take Kasia's pirate ship bath toy. To me, it is a cool pirate ship. To Kasia, it is a convenient holder for her bathwater drinking cup. Now, I hadn't actually wanted Kasia to drink from the bath tub, and was pretty sure that was a rowboat attached to the pirate ship, but apparently it is the perfect drinking cup. The only other thing she uses the pirate ship for is to step on to help her climb out of the tub while I am trying to wash her hair.
But, when I stop to think of it, what experience of pirates does the typical toddler have? I mean, if they had met pirates, they probably would not subsequently want to be reminded of the experience by bath toys.

So why do we choose the themes we do for toys? Why is it we fill toddler's rooms with toys of farm animals and teach them the words for 'cow' and 'pig' and teach them to go 'moo' and 'oink' as four of the first twenty words they learn? This might have been essential vocabulary for kids a hundred years ago, but the closest my urban kids are likely to come to cows or pigs these days are the styrofoam packages in the Safeway meat counter. You know?

So who decided that Kasia's pjs should have ducks on them? "Quack" was literally her first 'word' after 'mama'. Is this essential learning?
Or is that the whole point, to pick easy and comfortably irrelevant content? I guess ducks are less political than having, say, pictures of Marx.
Okay, Marx wasn't all that cuddly, but you take my point.

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