This blog post has been contributed by Aparna Sanjay.
Growing up in a fairly typical middle-class family in the 70s and 80s and not having a luxurious or pampered lifestyle in any sense of the word, I was identical to nearly everyone else in my peer group in terms of socio-economic standing, aspirations and opportunities. As a parent, though, I find that my choices have been somewhat different. As adults, my contemporaries and I went on to flourishing careers based on a solid educational base. With increasingly affluence and confidence came the desire and ability to lavish upon our children the luxuries we never had as children. And why not? Be it gadgets, books, clothing, premium schools or toys, many children from India’s upper middle-class have it all.
I have always questioned this attitude simply because I subscribe to the common wisdom that money doesn’t buy happiness, children do not become brighter or better with fancier toys and absolutely nothing can substitute for an involved and encouraging parent. In the almost 6 years of my parenting journey, I am happy that I have largely practiced what I preached (something I can’t boast about my other resolutions!).
My children, a daughter aged two and a half and a son who is almost 6, have very few toys. Most of those are gifted by friends or relatives. When we lived in the US, I used to thrift a lot and was also part of a Moms Club which held clothing swaps and garage sales every 6 months. Many of the toys, books, clothes and shoes that I picked up there are still used by my children. We use toy and book libraries extensively.
I firmly believe that kids need only a few basic toys – balls, a few racquets and bats, colouring supplies, some playdough, and a couple of board games. Everything else is an extra. This summer vacation, I saw my son spend hours playing imaginary games, and both my kids happily occupied wandering around with a stick and a couple of pebbles. They chased butterflies, poked at the odd leech and strained to see a chameleon nestled in the branches of a tree. Such simple pleasures! I’m glad I resisted the temptation to structure their days with organized activities and just let them be. Yes they did get bored at times, but far less frequently than I thought they would!
Also Read : Toy Libraries
If I thought they would miss their toys and books, all they did was borrow pots and pans from their grandparents’ kitchen and play with them. I think we frequently underestimate children’s creativity and innovativeness. There is definitely a need for gadgets (I know parents who make excellent use of the Ipad to teach their kids and I myself have used several websites when I wanted to teach my son spelling or addition) but moderation and age-appropriateness are key. When it comes to toys, less indeed is more.
Also Read : De-cluttering and Organizing Kid’s Stuff