Tuesday, February 22, 2011

On childhood, toys and simplicity

I was looking at an interior design book recently which was dedicated to ideas for child friendly space design.  It was a very attractively designed book which included ideas for children's bedrooms, play rooms and outside play structures.  There were a couple of ideas that could possibly be useful in my home but overall I kept thinking that as beautiful and elaborate and creative as these designs were, there was just something over the top about 95% of them.  Not to mention that it would probably be insanely expensive to implement even a fraction of the suggestions.  Does a child really need his/her bedroom to look like a castle or a some medieval or modern wonderland? How could a child ever find this kind of a room restful or restorative? Besides, more stuff means more mess.  What kids really need is space and time and opportunities to use their imaginations, to learn and discover, not to be bogged down with more and more stuff.  They don't need convoluted set ups to be happy or entertained, unless they are trained to expect and want these things.  Young children are very happy to play with very simple things that are already in the house or outdoors.  They need their parents' love, time and attention.  Overwhelming the children with too much materialism is a disservice to them.  Here is an excellent article from Geek Dad on 5 most popular toys of all time, which basically makes a similiar point.  Life is not an amusement park, but it's much more exciting and thrilling and full of adventure in a simpler, more wholesome and nuanced way.  Parents have to stress this to their kids and teach them to appreciate those kinds of things and not get trapped by endless bells and whistles and ever growing arsenal of fancy, beautifully packaged but otherwise gaudy, useless and shallow toys.  Goes for adults as well, but it's easier if one starts them young.


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