I do a lot of reading books about parenting, education, lifestyle, discipline, etc. (The term "a lot" is relative, of course; last year I read more than 70 books and this year I might read as many as 10.)
I'm looking for parenting and lifestyle methods that make sense for my little family and resonate with my personal values. I tend not to do things conventionally anyway, so a lot of what I'm considering and incorporating may be considered "alternative" to some, including some folks in my family. And what's a blog for if not to expound on one's inner thought life?
With that, I bring you one piece of my ongoing development as a parent. The advice-giver whose advice I'll share today is John Rosemond. Rosemond is no-nonsense and old-school. The book I just finished is the original 6 Point Plan, first published in like 1990 or something. The cover is really hilarious. There are more recent editions that are maybe helpful, but I kind of like the style of self-help from the late 80s and early 90s. It's so...convinced of itself. Anyway.
Here's an excerpt on toys that does a good summation of my own inclinations toward Gabriel's toy horde:
All truly creative toys have one characteristic in common: They encourage and enable children to perform what are called "transformations." A child performs a transformation whenever he uses something, anything, to represent something else. For instance, when a child takes a pinecone and sets it upright on the ground and calls it a tree, that's a transformation. Transformations are the essence of fantasy, which is, in turn, the essence of play. In a child's hands, an empty box becomes a boat, a car, a table, or anything else he wills it to be. A child can also transform himself into anyone he wants to be - Tarzan, Jane, or the neighborhood grocer. If a toy aids a child in making transformations, then it is well-worth the money spent on it, not to mention the time the child spends playing with it.
Toys which encourage transformations include creative materials such as clay, fingerpaints, and crayons. inside, there's the everyday household stuff of empty oatmeal cartons, Popsicle sticks, spoons, shoeboxes, empty spools of thread, straws, paper bags, buttons, pots and pans, and empty toilet paper rolls.
In addition to being safe, a good toy embodies four qualities:
- First, it presents a wide range of creative possibilities. It is capable of being many things, as defined by the child's imagination, rather than one thing, as defined by the manufacturer. In other words, it enables transformations.
- Second, it encourages manipulation. It can be taken apart and put together in various ways. Toys of this kind hold a child's interest because they stimulate creative behavior.
- Third, it's age-appropriate. You don't give a rubber duck to a ten-year-old any more than you give an electric train to a two-year-old....
- Fourth, it's durable. It will withstand a lot of abuse.
Rosemond includes things like LEGO, Lincoln Logs, and Erector as good toys. Also things like plain old dolls (not ones that cry and poop and whatever), wooden blocks, and musical instruments are good. Most anything you'll find in a "natural toys catalogue" these days would constitute a "good" toy by my definition, though there are certainly some things I prefer over others.
It's nice to have this framework to consider when looking for toys for Gabriel, and the specific "rule" about transformations. I get really taken by cool things like toy wooden push-reel mowers (instead of the plastic bubble mower) - it's wooden and natural and it even emulates a reel mower like the one I have, so it reflects reality. But it's a mower and there isn't much room for it to become something else, whereas the wooden baby walker wagon I have my eyes on could play loads of different roles for playing (a car, a wagon, a cart, a lawn mower, who knows what else). So I took the wooden reel toy off the wish list.
Rosemond also advocates having not-too-many toys, saying that clearing out the clutter and the visual noise makes play more possible. This sits well with both my desires for simplicity and my small budget. I don't want Gabriel growing up with a ton of stuff. I want him to have a "make it do" kind of childhood, where anything can become anything else and his imagination runs wild.
As I make my way through more books, I will share some thoughts. Up next is probably going to be a book on infant Montessori stuff. Did I just give you parenting whiplash? Oops...
Have you heard of John Rosemond? Whose parenting advice has meant the most to you? What was your favorite toy?