Friday, September 25, 2009

Too many toys

Back in the day, kids played with sticks and rocks… but look how times have changed

In the current climate of frugality due to unemployment and high costs of living, I was amazed this week to read what Queensland’s richest man gave his daughter for her 15th birthday.
Was it an iPod? Designer sunglasses? DVDs or a new mobile phone? Diamond earrings perhaps? No, not even close.
Mining billionaire Clive Palmer bought his daughter Emily a $5.3 million super-yacht.
“Thank you Dad, but I don’t know my starboard from my bilge pump,” she might have said, although it’s more likely she said: “Hectic Dad, that is totally phat, fo shizzle! My rents are the bomb.”
Palmer was slammed by child psychologists who said it was a dangerous gift for a teenager.
“It breeds irresponsibility and an expectation that Daddy can always fix things,” author Dr John Irvine said.
“I don’t think it is teaching anything about the value of money or return for effort or hard savings.
“It’s an ego thing – Dad showing off – instead of teaching them to earn what they yearn.”
Psychologist Renee Mill said it’s common for the rich and famous to spoil their children but they get used to it their whole lives.
“If they lose that money, then nine times out of 10 those kids, as adults, have tremendous difficulty getting on their feet and looking after themselves,” she said.
“The main role for a parent is to teach your child and I would be asking, what can they learn from this gift?”
Personally I think the public’s reaction to Palmer’s gift giving is a classic example of tall poppy syndrome.
After all, he is boosting the economy by spending his money! Apparently the yacht was worth $8 million so he’s certainly taught his daughter how to buy a bargain.
Palmer can do whatever he likes with his money, but it does raise the question of how much is too much?

Are our children so spoiled that they have lost the value of a dollar (money comes out of a hole in the wall, doesn’t it?), the value of giving, and even worse, their imaginations?

Nowadays children are swamped with toys from a very early age.
They are given DVDs when they are born to turn them into little geniuses, a bike before they can walk, and so many books they make school libraries seem redundant.
Parents are actually allocating rooms in their homes as “play rooms” to find space for all the toys, complete with their own television and DVD player.
There are many possible reasons for this increase in consumption of Barbies, Lego and Matchbox cars.
Perhaps the fact that most of us are working longer hours, we have less time to play with our children so we give them a room full of toys to compensate.
Are we all trying to keep up with the Joneses? I know some mums get “toy envy” as soon as they join a mother’s group.
They see the whizz-bang musical swing, play mats and rockers used by other mums, and they feel they need to get one for their child, too.
The misconception that these items are “good” for our children, that is, good for their development, results in more disposable income heading straight to China.
And are so called “educational” toys, puzzles and games, just a gimmick so we don’t feel guilty for spending more waking hours working than spending one-on-one time? Are parents relying on toys to teach their kids?
I’m sure I’m not the first parent who’s thought: “Well, if it’s educational, then it’s got to be good for her!”
As children get older the pressure to fit in with their peers mounts and that’s when it becomes harder for parents to set limits and teach their children appropriate values.
One friend of mine made the astute observation that too many toys could be the reason why children have trouble sleeping – they are overstimulated.
I don’t think our kids are suffering too much by an abundance of toys, so long as parents continue to teach children to appreciate and value these gifts (and look after them), and limit the idiot box (which is also where they are drawn in by advertisers).
Their imagination may wane if your child becomes a TV addict, but creative play is not hard to initiate.
Keep a craft box, pencils and paper handy, empty boxes and bed sheets, and then watch their little minds work.

My daughter’s latest toy is a trumpet made from a toilet roll and almost once a fortnight our living room is turned into a cubby house with sheets draped from one chair to another.
When she has outgrown some toys, we’ll be making trips to the charity shops or passing them on to friends and family, so she can enjoy – and learn – the gift of giving.


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