Former FCC Commissioner Nicholas Johnson once said, “All television is educational television. The question is what is it teaching?”
The same could be said about toys. All toys teach. The question is, what are they teaching?
Let’s look at the three ways “how” they teach, and you’ll understand the “what” from there.
#1 IMPORTANT LIFE SKILLS
The Great Toys teach important life skills such as Communication, Cooperation, Problem Solving, Planning & Strategy, Logical Thinking, and Cause & Effect.
Let’s take Dolls for example.
When your child plays with a doll, what does she do? She talks to the doll and gives the doll a voice with which to reply (communication). She invites other friends & their dolls to play with her (communication & cooperation). She sets up tea parties, setting tables, figuring out who sits where and what the schedule of events will be (planning & strategy). She plays out scenes where her doll is sick and needs her help (problem solving). She mimics roles of responsibility by being “responsible” for her baby and must think through her actions and how they affect her doll (logical thinking). If she has a doll that cries, she is also learning cause & effect.
Dolls definitely teach.
Construction toys like Blocks and Kullerbü teach Planning, Science, Math, and Engineering.
Role Play toys like Little Friends foster Creativity and Imagination – another form of teaching. As Ralph Waldo Emerson so eloquently said, “The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.”
These are the obvious lessons. Some of the ways toys teach are less apparent.
#2 HIDDEN LESSONS
Many people like to rip Barbie over her unrealistic body dimensions and how it shaped the way people view women’s beauty. Then in 2001 MGA launched the Bratz Dolls – all the things we hated about Barbie with a bratty attitude thrown in. Those first kids who played with Bratz are now in their twenties.
Do you think the doll choices you make for your child influence them? It is certainly worth considering.
Superheroes are HUGE right now. Yet at the beginning of the pandemic, we realized that the true Heroes were our front-line workers – healthcare, fire, and police.
The difference? The first group fights evil. It is always a good versus evil, us versus them showdown. The second group helps people who are hurt or in danger. It is the powerful helping the less fortunate.
Which hidden lesson do you want to encourage?
(Hint: there are no wrong answers, only food for thought.)
#3 THE LESSON OF QUALITY
You have probably said this yourself. “They just don’t make things the way they used to.”
In a world that stresses reduce, reuse, recycle, why do we buy so many disposable items? Why do we choose cheap over well-made? Why do we value price over quality?
This lesson is not lost on your kids. When there is no value placed on quality products, how do we teach kids the value of quality work? How can we ask our kids to do quality schoolwork when we show by our actions that quality does not count? When we accept the notion that “cheaper is better” we are saying that hard work is not necessary, that attention to detail is not important, and that putting in a little more effort is not worth it.
Our children learn what to value by watching where we put our priorities.
When you buy high quality toys built to last, you teach your children that there is value in hard work and in doing things the right way. You teach your children that it is okay to expect the best. Those are valuable lessons.
The bottom line is this. All toys teach. But not all lessons are the same. When you understand the ways they teach the only question left is; what do you want your children to learn?
Phil Wrzesinski, National Sales Manager, HABA USA
Phil, like his grandfather and father before him, has been in the toy industry his entire life, helping thousands of parents make the best choices of toys for their kids.