Tuesday repost: Educational value

Here is this weeks re-post, it has always intrigued me to watch the reasoning parents put behind the advice they give their children on how to spend pocket/holiday money, this led to the post I made last September and I’ve a feeling I’ll be delving into something similar on Thursday. Sorry for the sporadic posting over the past few weeks, I’m hammering on with our web site on Thursdays now and that used to be my main day for blogging. I’ll try and get back on track this week.

I’ve made the decision that this week (and possibly from now on) I’ll be doing a post on toys in general and then another about a specific toy that either of my sons (or I myself) enjoy. Hope this works, if people don’t like the new set-up let me know and I’ll go back to the normal of one a week.

Parents (and in this I’m really referring mostly to dads) occasionally go through a peculiar process of persuasion with their kids in the shop where the kid has picked a toy but the parent thinks a more expensive toy would be better value. To be honest there really isn’t anything wrong with this, provided they’re right about value and this is the odd bit because value is a slightly relative notion: e.g. a child who likes cars and doesn’t really play outdoors much is unlikely to play with a kite, regardless of the quality of the product (though of course there’s nothing wrong with showing them something new) so there’s little value to be had in getting him/her a kite.

The strangest value judgement by far is when parents assess value based on developmental contribution (that is allocating value based on how much the toy helps their child to develop). We parents can’t help but hear about the latest ideas about how to get our kids to reach their ‘potential’ but some parents allow this to steer all the decisions they make regarding their children. Some toy companies specialise in the kind of advertising which appeals to this mentality (leapfrog springs to mind) and though their toys may provide the developmental assistance advertised this doesn’t mean that other toys (which aren’t advertised in this way) can’t.

A bouncy ball can help hand eye coordination, any dice based board game can contribute to early numeracy, dolls and other character-based toys aid in language development and in social awareness (not to mention imagination), jigsaws stimulate the shape recognition capacities that will assist children in understanding further mathematical concepts which they will encounter later in their school career (and the same could be said of any construction toy), the list can go on and on. There isn’t a toy in the shop that I couldn’t describe in a way that points out some developmental benefit which it can provide.

Keeping this in mind then it seems odd to refuse the child a cheaper toy solely based on the fact that it’s seems less enabling of a child’s development. Of course if there’s some specific thing that the kid needs help with perhaps the parent will need to consider toys that might help them a bit but when the child is just looking to spend some holiday/pocket money it seems a bit of a shame to force them to spend their own money (as far as they are concerned) on something more ‘educational’. What better way to put a child off of something?

What’s more really good learning resources don’t have to cost a fortune. I remember a customer a while ago whose daughter was having problems with recognising numbers and with counting, what was worse was the girl had started to put up a block whenever her mother approached the subject with her. I suggested that she get some spotted dice and some number dice and try playing light hearted games with them (keeping talk of the numbers to a minimum), starting off just using the spotted dice (since she could count the spots) and moving on to introduce the numbered dice so as to start the girl off with a countable quantity and then slowly introduce her to the symbols which represent those quantities. After concerted effort from the mum the girl ended up not only picking it up but she jumped up to be one of the best at maths in her class. The dice cost a total of 80p for the four of them. Very good value I’d say.

We also sell maths games , books and activity books which are great for specific tricky subjects but if you have the time and the energy you can get similar results with just a set of dice. So what am I trying to say? I suppose its this, when a kid has pocket money it’s for something fun and frivolous, educational toys etc. are the parent’s domain and they don’t have to be expensive. Logan (my oldest son) doesn’t get pocket money, instead he gets stickers then he gets to pick a toy of about £7-8 when he reaches 20 stickers, it can take him over a fortnight to collect up enough and at the end of that fortnight I seriously can’t imagine insisting that he buy something based solely on it’s educational merits. Those kind of resources are for me to get hold of.

Development is a tricky issue for parents: we all have our own idea of how to bring our kids along but along the way we have to sometimes let them buy what we might regard as nonsense. If they don’t get to be a bit silly as kids when will they?

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