Buy a child an expensive toy... they play with the wrapping paper and the box it came in?! Why?
We hear all the time people pondering over 'why parenting today seems to be considered harder than it was in any previous generation?'...
Is it that Mums and Dads today don't have as much resilience?
Is it that technology has clouded things?
Is it that we just parent differently?
Is it that life has gotten busier, noisier and therefore more hectic for parents to juggle it all?
We also often hear parents of the previous generation question 'why the expensive toys?, the latest wiz-bang contraption? When my children were young, a cardboard box covered us for a rainy day, or some chalk and a bit of concrete.'
The answer? I genuinely believe life is harder! Now before you go and tell your Mums and really get their backs up, let me explain.
No, we are not less resilient than our parents and theirs' before them. We are faced with a world that although advanced in many ways has lost sight of the simple things. Instead the world we are parenting in is complicated!
As parents today we are inundated with information and opinions about what we should be doing, what we shouldn't be doing, the latest item we 'must have', or the outcome for our child will be dire. The internet and rise of social media has meant that we are all TOO aware of what every other parent is or is not doing with their children. You can not make it through the local supermarket with out passing a child who is playing on a phone or iPad, another who is skating around on shoes with wheels. Everything is bright, loud and fast paced. All things children has been swept up in this storm of 'advancement'. And as parents we can't help but question if we are giving our own child those same opportunities and if not, why not?
Within this foggy plethora of information we parents are merely trying to do what we believe is best for our children.
We can buck the system if we wish and say our child will never look at a screen until they are at least 3years old... But who are we kidding?! Toddlers know how to swipe an iPhone with more precision than some adults. It isn't just because they have seen their parents do it, rather they have observed it in the world around them and it is literally everywhere!
The pace of modern life is the reality for our children, as they have never known anything different. They have no experience of when things were simpler.
But here is the interesting question... technology may have changed and advanced but has the way children develop cognitively, socially and emotionally?
I don't believe it has.
'Give a child a present and they will play with the wrapping paper!' This is as true now as it was 50 years ago.
Why? Because children are sponges who spend the first years of life learning about and exploring their world and everything that makes up that world.
For us a cardboard box seems, well, simple! But to a child it is fascinating - it opens and closes, it folds, it's smooth, it can be pushed or pulled, it can't be rolled which makes it different to a ball, why? It can be a train, a car, a bus, a boat, a house and more.
A whole world of questions and exploration from a simple box. And a whole world of development - fine motor movements in closing a lid, gross motor in pushing and pulling - the more force the faster it goes, sensory sensations in the sound it makes when it closes or the smoothness of the exterior and creative exploration in imagining it's a car, pretending to move an invisible steering wheel and 'brrooooming' to a new adventure.
Let's consider the same exploration from say a battery operated toy that makes different sounds when buttons are pushed. Cause and effect, yes, I push a button and something happens. Different noises, yes. But the range of learning is limited. A child isn't as likely to imagine this toy is anything other than it is. It isn't a blank canvas like a simple box can be.
As parents today we need to help our child see and explore the simple. It is so easy to get swept up in the storm of 'advancement'. And such an icky feeling to buck it and not get every latest craze.
But buck it you should (at least sometimes)! The next cardboard box delivery you get, keep it, see what learning can unfold within your house just by not recycling it for a week. Buy some good old fashioned chalk and draw on the ground or play hopscotch.
Your childs' life will only get busier, louder and more chaotic, so while they are a child, let them enjoy the simple things, or better yet take a break from the hustle and bustle yourself and enjoy it with them!