This article first appeared in a 2013 issue of Mother & Baby.
Toys and playthings are an integral part of any child’s growing years. Both pediatricians and child psychologists agree that playtime is very essential to the development of a child. It is a tutorial for life really. While playing with their toys they take decisions, develop their imagination and enhance their confidence and adaptability. Toys present the world in miniature for kids.
Have you had a look at a toy shop recently?
They are the replicas of those in any western country. If you want dolls there is the fantastically proportioned Barbie of the golden locks and blue eyes. Of course there is an “Indian Barbie” stuck somewhere in the pile. Even the cute little baby dolls are foreign looking – blond and fair skinned. There just aren’t enough dolls of Indian origin in the market.
Then there is the movie and cartoon franchise. There again Disney cartoons and Superheroes like Spiderman wrestle for children’s attention. Even the Holi pichkaries are splattered with these imported mascots. Children would think that the world is like that only.
Children grow up surrounded with these toys and they become their point of reference. This way little girls may grow up believing that it is imperative to have fair skin and blond locks to look good. When they look into the mirror and find a remarkably different type of face staring back, they get confused.
The manufacturer produces them and shopkeeper sells them for the simple reason that the kids prefer them.
India has a rich and vast cultural heritage which can only be kept alive if propagated to our children. Can there be a better medium than toys and games to pass on this great legacy?
In India there is a rapidly progressing toy manufacturing industry with a huge investment of over Rs. 1000 million per annum. However, this sector is mostly replicating the toys and ideas doing well in foreign countries. Any particular Indian originality in the toys manufactured by this sector is sorely missing. Of course, there are toys available that follow the Indian ethos and lifestyle. Parents just have to make a little effort to procure them.
It’s not that children should not appreciate other cultures. But it is always better if the child grows up surrounded by toys more in line with the atmosphere around. Having a toy based on indigenous themes is beneficial as they are simple and kids identify with then easily. There is a harmony between the toys and the local ethnic spirit as they are created in the regional context. The range is immense -from the colourful puppets depicting the tales of warriors and queens in Rajasthan to a wrestler in action in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.