Regularly I receive e-mails requesting that I write a Mom’s Corner on a specific topic. Here is part of one such note:
There were a couple of areas I would really appreciate Teri tackling in future Corners. One area has to do with toys and suggestions for timeless, durable, worthwhile toys.
With Christmas quickly approaching, I thought this might be an appropriate subject for the December Mom’s Corner. Considering we have eight children in one family, we have had plenty of experience with toys!
Let me begin by sharing some of our goals for our children’s playtime that in turn translate into goals for toys. As we began our parenting adventure, Steve and I did not realize that the toys our children played with had an influence on their character development and even their future appetites. If we allowed the children to have a toy with an evil face, they played with it as an evil individual and their play took on an evil bent. If we gave our children an electronic game, they spent hours sitting and playing with it. They lost interest in any type of active or creative play. Your goals, even for how your child spends his playtime, are important.
We choose to shield our children from as much worldliness as possible. 1 John 2:15 tells us: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Therefore, we desire that our children be involved in pure, wholesome types of play. For example, we give the girls baby dolls rather than Barbie dolls. We would like for our daughters to desire to be nurturing mommies rather than possibly giving them a hunger for dating relationships.
We want the children to develop skills while they are playing. That means we will invest in puzzles, games, quality reading books, and even tools. Creativity is on our list of goals for playtime. Therefore, we avoid electronic toys with lots of “bells and whistles”—the kind with a never-ending thirst for batteries. In addition, we choose to avoid toys that are faddish. We didn’t have to decide if some of the Star Wars toys were okay or not. They fit into the category of faddish and therefore weren’t even considered.
We desire for the children to be developing hearts toward families and service even while they are playing. This, then, needs to be taken into consideration when we are picking out toys. Will this toy help my child toward the goal or hinder him?
Tricycles. We would much rather our children ride trikes for outside playtime than to ride around in a battery-operated sidewalk vehicle. Outside play is the time for exercise to build strong bodies and release energy!
Playing educational games is an activity I enjoy doing with my children. I feel like my time spent with them is not only quality time, but also time invested in their future. I schedule a half hour each afternoon to spend with just one child. We almost always use this time to play games together. Here are our favorites.
Takeoff. Takeoff is a game that teaches the names of countries, their major cities, and flags. Even my six-year-old can play it with a little bit of help. There is some strategy, but not much. My children will often beat me!
Muggins Math games. We have Knockout and Muggins. It is a two-sided wooden game board using marbles, numbered dice, and numbered game-board holes. Any child who is able to add and subtract can play these games. All of my children regularly request this game, even the one who can’t add or subtract. “You tell me where to put my marbles, Mommy,” she says.
Sum Swamp. Sum Swamp is a board game for children learning to add and subtract. It has cute little plastic swamp characters such as a frog and snail for game pieces. We have played this game so much that the numbers have worn off the dice.
Name That State. Name That State is a board game to teach the names of states and capitals. The younger children simply have to name the state. Older children and Mom have to give the state and its capital. They love it when Mom can’t remember the capital of Vermont or South Dakota!
Each year when I order school curriculum, I also order two to four new puzzles for the preschoolers. I have a wonderful collection of puzzles that my children love to work. Most are floor puzzles. We have puzzles of varying levels of difficulty. Some of the puzzles make for playtime after they are put together. One is a city just the right size for Matchbox cars. Several become props for other play. One is a rainforest. As we put it together, John will say, “Mom, what is this animal?”
“Well, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like that. Let’s look inside the box where it shows all the animals with their names on them.”
Our puzzles are kept in a closet, and they are only allowed out by permission. That helps to preserve them and to keep interest in them high each time they come out. I expect to have my puzzles be regularly asked for by my grandchildren in future years when they are at my house!
Legos and Playmobils
Legos are the timeworn standard in the Maxwell house. Sons and daughters, older and younger play with them day after day after day. We purchase the city, police, fire, rescue, and arctic sets. There are many sets that aren’t acceptable to our family’s standards. Usually this is because of an evil theme, or because they encourage play that we wouldn’t allow in real life. We were even able to purchase a large wooden display table from a store going out of business so the children can keep permanent Lego set-ups.
The children have spent hours and hours of playtime during cold winter and hot summer days with their Legos. They build and build; then they enjoy what they have made. The buildings and vehicles are redesigned and rearranged. A new play theme is begun. While many toys the children have had stay stuffed on a shelf, Legos are forever used in our home.
Playmobils are the second long-standing favorite of our children. While the sets are expensive, they are played with for years and years. We often rotate having Playmobils out or Legos. Every few months when the changeover occurs, the children will have an added excitement in their play.
As our boys enter their middle elementary grades, we begin looking for tools we can give them as gifts. Because we are training our children for their lives as adults, we want them to begin to see value in work and find it rewarding, even as a child. Our boys are given age-appropriate work tools such as hammers, screwdrivers, and even cordless drills. Of course, it is important to use discretion as to when a child is mature enough to safely handle the tool he would be given. Also, rules as to the tool’s usage and adult supervision while the child is handling it are musts!
One year when John was seven and Joseph was nine, they were each given a cordless drill for Christmas. They were thrilled. Steve had a project planned for after Christmas that he knew they could help him with, using their new drills. Over the past three years they have used them often in other work projects with their dad. They have even been able to loan them to their big brother for work on his house.
By giving your son tools, he will learn valuable home-maintenance skills, develop a willingness to work, build his personal tool supply, and have as much fun as playing. Collecting tools will provide a young man with the supplies he needs to help him maintain his home, yard, and vehicle when he is married with a home of his own.
Set Your Goals and Make Your Choices
Our children have grown up without television. They have enjoyed parental sheltering even in the toys they are allowed to play with. While some would mock such choices, we are watching pure, wholesome, delightful children grow into the same kinds of adults. Appetites are developed in childhood. Consider well what appetites the toys you are giving to your children fuel within them. May I encourage you to pray and seek the Lord for the biblical goals He would give you for your children’s playtimes. Then translate those goals into the toys you allow your children to have.