Toys, Consumerism and the Disappearance of Imaginative Play

Last night I had a chat with one of my very good friends who is about 4 months’ pregnant. Without my saying anything on the topic, she brought up the too-many-toys thing, so I recommended a book that I’ve been reading, Simplicity Parenting, to her. This might seem a bit strange, since I’m not a parent and not even pregnant yet, but a lot of these concepts are things I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I just recently found this book recently that really resonates with me, and I am happy to find out that my friend shares some of these feelings. As long as I’m not infertile or something, our kids should be close to the same age, and it will be good for our kids to have friends whose parents feel similarly about some of these issues, especially since I’m sure they’ll also have friends whose parents DON’T fee the same way, which will probably be hard for the kids to understand.

Anyway, here are some quote from the book about too-many-toys and some other things. (I would just blog my feelings, but a lot of them are perfectly described in the book, and using quotes is easier than re-articulating he same ideas in my own words.  )

As a society, however, we’ve signed on wholeheartedly to the notion that more, bigger, newer and faster all mean better. We’ve done so as a survival mechanism. It is a very basic, primitive drive (albeit with its own particularly manic, modern, Western spin). At its most basic level it is understandable, thought it no longer serves its original purpose, and we’ve taken it to the point where it actually threatens, rather than ensures, our survival. (p11)

Why simplify? Over the years, I’ve come to see how a child’s quirks or tendencies can be exacerbated by cumulative stress, I’ve seen how children can slide along the spectrum from quirk to disorder when they experience high levels of stress. If I had a bit chalkboard, I would write it as this formula: q + s = d; or: quirk plus stress equals disorder. (p24)

This echoes a book I read for my Complex Systems course, that talked about psychological disorders being basically this: a quirk or personality trait amplified into a disorder.

Children’s play [has become] less focused on activities, and more on the things involved, the toys themselves. (p57)

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