My wife is a Play Therapist with 2 masters degrees in the subject. The organization of a play space with limited and well chosen toys is key.
Additionally if you give a child an electronic toy that lights up and makes a lot of noise and does a specific thing, the kid will usually play with it less, because they find their options are limited. Whereas, if you give a kid a wooden spoon and a pot to play with they can find a 1001 uses for it!
She has a rule for herself to not have more toys than it would take to clean up in 10 minutes.
Here is a talk she recently gave to parents at our pre-school. She talks about this issue at the 33 min mark.
BTW., I just shared it with my cow-orkers, and the first reaction was: <<And so one day, you buy yourself a $1200 drone, then come home after work and see your kid smiling and saying "daddy, daddy! look, I took it apart all by myself!"...>> ;).
If he desconstructs his favorite electronic toy and isn't able to get it working again, that's an opportunity for a lesson on how to take things apart without causing (more) damage, how cheaply and non-repairably many things are built (and the value of good design), how anything is repairable if you're cussed and resourceful enough (and when not to be), or any number of other lessons, limited only by your imagination.
It might not be exactly this, but we have spent over a decade training our relatives, and after 6 children, we only get clothes (win!), wooden toys (win!), and board-games/puzzles (win!).
Otherwise, start asking for gift receipts or find out where they shopped so you can, “find something similar”...
A young child (0 to ~3 years) does not understand electronics. The input output response from a battery device cannot be easily guessed from only physical examination, thus it is not a good toy to develop a mental model.
I would much rather my child (at a very early age), form the basic mental models of the physical world so that she can predict how the world will react around her. Throwing a ball, banging a percussive instrument, stacking blocks. These all help form physical models of the world.
What solidified this belief for me was watching my ~11 month old frantically pushing the button on a battery operated rocking horse she had received as a present from her aunt. My child could not understand why the horse had made noise before, but (once I took the batteries out) did not make noise. After seeing that, I realized that we needed to make things simpler before we made them more complex.
On the other hand, my 2 year old niece can easily take an iPad, unlock it, swipe through the pages and folders, find YouTube, and watch videos. And in an ever-increasing electronics-driven world, I don't think it's bad to learn some of those skills at that age. (Though her screentime is limited and she also plays with wooden toys etc.)
Ofcourse explaining a battery or 'the internet' would be too complex at that age, but apparently the 'input output response from a battery device can be easily guessed'.
Tell me, where do you draw the line in your personal life for needing scientific evidence before making a choice? Surely you did not have scientific evidence for every single decision you've made.
That’s the thing about parenting: you will have to make thousands and thousand of decisions without the benefit of rigorous peer-reviewed studies. You can’t wait for the science, because your kids are growing up now.
It's true you can't wait for science. But it's important to realize when something is mostly an arbitrary choice. The anti-tech sentiment that's popular in parenting these days is exactly that - an arbitrary choice without solid foundations.
Perhaps there is a sort of knee-jerk retro-hippie back-to-the-basics trend happening nowadays. But the choice to limit children's exposure to electronic gadgets really isn't arbitrary anywhere I've seen it.
It's more typically reasoned, even painstakingly thought-out choice. One made based on insufficient information, yes, but also with limited time to make the decision.
For example, it is obvious to me from direct observation of my own kids that a box of polished wooden blocks leads to higher-quality play than any of the electronic mainstream crap that they've gotten as gifts: the creative process of building, non-predetermined outcomes, some thinking required, trial-and-error is rewarded, obvious self-satisfaction (and alternatively, frustration), etc.
Likewise, I could provide a litany of reasons why I think spending 30 minutes with a paper coloring or drawing book is an unambiguously better activity for my kids than an unrestricted iPad (which == YouTube, nearly 100% of the time).
An iPad locked to one of the drawing programs — that's pretty different. Once they've mastered crayons and pens on paper, I'll let them do that pretty much as long as they want to.
These decisions might not all have "solid foundations" — perhaps I'm wrong in some of my assumptions. But they also aren't "arbitrary". There is reasoning behind them, even if the reasoning may not be totally correct, and the data is necessarily incomplete.
I suspect the same is true for most parents.
If it helps we can argue that it breaks the "Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize" guideline.
My wife and I agree on these things and think it best for our child. Our relatives and cousins look at us like we are from another planet LOL!
When our first kid was born, we just told everyone, "Toys that take batteries will have the batteries taken out. If taking the batteries out defeats the purpose of the toy, we will instead take it straight to Goodwill."
We had two instances of people giving him an electronic toy anyway. Both happened before he had really developed object permanence, so he didn't even notice when that Christmas gift was gone on December 26. The giver (both were from the same person) remembered, though, and it hasn't been a problem since.
She probably still thinks we're jerks, but most people with non-adult kids reacted positively and even said they wished they had thought to do the same thing.
Obvs the whole "before they develop object permanence" thing means this probably doesn't work if you don't start before or soon after your first child's birth.
My kids had remote controlled car before they were able to push buttons. For that reason.
I honestly dont understand hate some people have against those things. Blinking and sounding toys have same future as old school toys - few chosen become favorite and stuck in bed, the rest forgotten in drawer or box relatively soon. No reason to fear them.
But it’s hard when it comes to birthdays or Xmas gifts from others. My sister in law offered for their last birthday a playmobil police car to my son and a Frozen pearls craft set to my daughter.
At the end, both my kids played with the car and made bracelets with pearl. But, seriously...
Wrong. At six months he picked out the single car in between the dolls, toy food etc, turned it around, started moving the wheels and making noises.
Older then six months, six months old are not bringing toys to people due to lack of ability to crawl effectively.
I also remember what 6 months old are like. If their actions are proof of universal anything to you, then it is your own bias. They don't play pretend knowingly yet, they only mimic a bit. Nor are cosistent.
But interesting is that whenever child or me does or wish something gender noncomforming, like almost always, someone feels the need to explain that someone else is gender conforming.
That said, I am afraid the Internet is a game changer here. I didn't have Internet access since... ~13, AFAIR, and even that was over dial-up. Given how today there's infinite amounts of brain crack streaming down the ever wider tubes, I fear a kid left in front of an Internet-connected computer will never get bored enough to start tinkering.
So I'm all for lots of unsupervised computer time, but for my future kids, I plan to not introduce Internet access too soon. Mind you - I'm not worried about the content (porn and other usual scares), just about it being like more addictive TV.
Are you sure? What about people growing up with cars, curious about what goes on under the hood from childhood, with references available on how they work, that they can connect to what they've seen themselves? Maybe this gives an edge over those whose learning started later?
Human technology is a long ladder of improvements one generation makes over the one prior. It's not obvious that stone age toys are the best preparation for contributing to the next step of the ladder.
Well, I guess we let the kids play with those presents for the holidays they were given in. Then, after the grandparents have departed, the toys slowly start "disappearing"...
We put them in a special closet that the kids still have access to.
Every once in a while the kids will dive into that closet and rediscover some of the louder flashier toys.
But, mainly, it's just the simple stuff left out on the shelves for every day access.
It reminds me of 'attract mode' used in slot machines and arcades games, though I at least see that there's direct commercial benefit to this.
Stealing my child's attention for no significant gain to them is plain wrong. Perhaps the commercial rationale is that the toy appears to be more popular than it really is, leading to further sales.
Or perhaps the developers just had a few hundred bytes and a timer interrupt to spare.
And good toys (which tend to live a lot longer than crap ones) too can be taken to the goodwill later on and then will make someone else happy.
I also like the suggestion here to take them apart and use it as a learning experience, knowing that they probably won't get put back together in working order.
If that idea offends you, I will say again: I also really like the idea of taking them apart, knowing they are unlikely to get put back together in working order. So if the idea of donating them doesn't work for you, go with that.
Or come up with some other solution. My comment in a forum in no way impels you to do as I said.
So we (wife and I) had an idea. Instead of gifting them toys, take that money and put it in their savings account (one account per kid). We slowly managed to convince the rest of the immediate family (grandmas resisted a bit) to follow the example and now the kids have a growing savings account (which hopefully they'll appreciate later in life).
With that said, we didn't stop giving them toys altogether, they just get a lot less toys which makes the ones they get that much more special.
This has greatly improved the value (in our mind) of the gifts. We especially like gifts that are enjoyed with the gift giver.
Just be open with people and they'll usually respond positively (in our experience).
Believe me, drums and whistles can be noisy too :-D !
If we judged toys purely on how long kids played with them, Christmas would be just a pile of ipads. I don't have kids, but do watch in amazement as young parents buy toys less for the child and more to reinforce their theories of scientific parenting. The kid's brain will develop with or without the "correct" toys. Maybe confinement to such "play areas" is the issue. I don't confine my puppy to pay in a particular zone of approval. Why a child? My play area as a kid was 'the house' or wherever else I found myself.
It's sad but after a few days we have to tell them the box is being retired and stored away or recycled (only to be replaced in a few weeks when another large box arrives).
Kids are remarkably similar. Give them the love and attention they need. But otherwise, stand back and let them get on with it. It's the time when you stand back and let them get on with it that their imagination is exercised. Showing them how to imagine things doesn't help them as much as you might think. Stop them from killing or horribly injuring themselves.
Cannot disagree more. I hate seeing people who buy cats or puppies as some sort of parenting bootcamp, only to abandon them when things go south. Don't do this. If you are unsure if your boyfriend would make a good dad, wait until you are sure. Don't get a puppy as a test of your relationship because it is the puppy that will suffer when you break up.
Not everyone buys pets to test their boyfriend or relationship. Some people actually commit to their pets until the pet lives into old age and dies of natural causes.
You are right, a pet is not just for Christmas.
Sure, they take up more space than Lego or Mecards or Beybaldes, but absolutely can't beat them for entertainment value.
To be fair his mother eventually had to take him away from the box to keep him on his feeding and nap schedule. He cried all the way up the stairs because he wanted to keep playing with the box. But his dad opened the box when the child couldn't see it and eventually all was well when he discovered the bike inside. It wasn't intentional cruelty as much as the crushing disappointment visited on any child that has to do what his parents want.
If you are interested in watching future talks that she gives you can signup to her mailing list here:
I want to add that I prefer an electronic game like Simon than a general purpose device like a mobile phone. If you play with the real Simon you can be more focused than playing Simon in a mobile device where they can quickly jump to any other app.
A comment from /r/science:
> Toddlers were taken to a room they had never been to
> before and were given at most 30 minutes to play with
> the toys. They switched toys more often when there
> were 16 vs. 4 toys and played with more toys overall.
> Duration of play will naturally be an inverse of that
> - and if the kids wanted to check out all the toys
> first before deciding to which one to use, which you
> would expect them to do in a new environment, that's
> naturally going to skew the statistics. The conclusion
> that they were more distracted by other toys in the 16
> toy condition is unsurprising since all the toys were
> novel. But it would seem rare that toddlers would be
> given 16 new toys all at once and it's certainly
> possible that if all the toys were familiar, they might
> engage for longer and more in-depth types of play with
> certain toys regardless of how many were present.
But when we go to her cousin's houses, she has to play with every toy for five minutes. Same with when they come to our house.
Or at the very least people should have to supply their predicted outcomes at the outset to stop the constant p hacking that's been going on.
No, it's not a big bang result. That is a good thing. For a long time, psychology has had a real problem with studies whose reach exceed their grasp. This study appears to me to be an example of exactly the kind of sober, incrementalist work that we need to see more of in psychology. It takes a big hypothesis ("giving kids a lot of toys is harmful to their attention span in the long run"), picks a smaller sub-hypothesis off of it ("if kids have fewer toys, their individual sessions with each toy will be longer") and then tests just that bit. Like they suggest at the end of the abstract, this result indicates that it would be sensible to proceed to the next iteration.
Call it "lean science" if a buzzword is necessary.
> If it were, there would be no reason to be conducting studies like this
I don't understand why. The simplest model is to believe there's no relationship (zero parameters). The study gives evidence of a relationship (one parameter). The other commenter was suggesting a parabolic relationship (two parameters), an unnecessary complexity.
The best policy is to believe the simplest model that is consistent with the evidence. If a new study observes the behavior at 6 toys and 8 toys that doesn't line up with the previous study, then I might believe a more complex relationship. Or might go back to believing no relationship.
> The hypothesis that fewer toys in children’s environments would improve the quality of play, measured by three variables, was supported.
But given they only conducted a paired difference test for 4 toys and 16 toys, they can only conclude that there's a statistically significant difference between 4 and 16 toys. This is very different than saying fewer toys correlate to any result, because when one says "fewer toys correlate to X", it implies that the correlation stands for any two numbers of toys, and that's not what the study looked at.
But consider that threads here are already drawing parallels to Montessori education, personal anecdotes, etc. People are used to big bang results and will happily draw conclusions that aligns with their world view even if the wording in a paper isn't exactly what a scientific study actually means to say.
I must be missing something. Isn't this obvious? One hour of play time / 16 toys is less time per toy then one hour of play time / 4 toys.
So if the kid plays with toy A for 1 minute, then toy B for 1 minute, then toy A for 1 minute again, then toy B for 1 minute again, the number of interest for each toy is 1, not 2.
I would expect if the number of toys didn't have an impact on creativity or attention span, the following:
"Kids switch toys just as often, not matter how many toys they have" And I would expect that because children have limited attention spans - they want to switch after x time.
Yes, the cumulative play time per toy is obvious, but the individual sessions getting longer isn't very obvious.
The result implies, at the very least, that the kids plan out how much to play with each toy based on how many toys there are
Accumulated time would be the longer, but not each session.
But I’m not going to pay to find out what they actually did.
At home, my children have more than enough toys, to the point that when presented with the full set, they loll about listlessly and overwhelmed by choice.
I've tried to follow the preschool's lead and select a few that are out at any one time. I think it helps, and also makes for a quicker clean up.
We have a lot of incidental toys that are essentially rubbish; they get pulled out and scattered around each play time without actually being played with.
I can't help but believe that this has long-term developmental effects.
I cannot say explicitly that all ADHD people have this trait, but having done a lot of reading and attended a lot of counselling sessions on it to learn to cope with children having it, it appears as though we're not alone in this. It's fairly common for ADHD kids to be able to hyper-focus on topics of interest.
My topic of interest from an extremely young age was figuring out how things work, making them work and making them work better. It's no surprise therefore that I ended up as a programmer.
I often fancied the idea of getting dolls. But Lego and papers were my true playmates.
Yeah, kids - shiny outside, scruffy inside.
Though toys from car boot sales were awesome. They were often damaged and you can break and chuck them around without parents getting too mad about it. Shame, these days car boot sales are literally mechanical bits and pieces and chipped crockeries...
Less open tabs, less open windows, Less monitors, less projects tend to make one focus better.
I'm not a kid anymore and the more programming languages I try to play with, leads to me the same state of lack of creativity and problem solving.
I could say that about overloading one with books, games and movies as well.
Whether you think that this adaptation is a reasonable one, or whether these are useful observations for a child to use to inform their expectations about the world, I'm not sure I can say. But this is the rational strategy under straightforward assumptions about the utility function that our adaptations approximate. Furthermore, I expect that I would observe identical behavior in adults - for example, consider your takings at a buffet as a function of the number of options and your familiarity with them - and in fact that a non-negligible part of HN often exercises this same strategy consciously and rationally.
I love when a study affirms something I'm doing...parenting usually feels like educated guessing...
Another advantage is that some toys never make it out of the cardboard box, you can donate/recycle them.
There's a lot more exploration and, frankly, fun in the former.
But let's not forget, the child is not the toy manufacturer's customer: the parent, grandparent, or parent of the birthday-party-invitee is the customer. Toys are designed to appeal to them.
Each to his own.
A lot of kids seem to end up with an extremely dirty and damaged doll that they loved to death.
EDIT: or without regular availability.
I'd guess the issue is that the toys are designed to so that they will get picked up in a toy store. They have to get off the shelf and to the checkout, they don't have to entertain one jot beyond that ...
Sticks, there's a visualization step or two somewhere in there, too. I'm not specifically aware of any research directly investigating the relationship between the degree or intensity of imaginative play and focus, but I wouldn't be at all surprised — read: fully expect — to find them strongly positively correlated.
It's only now that I'm a parent that I realize what a genius parenting strategy this is. I wear myself out trying to complete a fruitless labour in the hope of achieving impossible success. No 8 year old on the face of the planet is ever going to damn a river of that size with a pile of rocks. FOR HOURS I WOULD DO THIS!
What all kids need are an endless pile of rocks and a river. Best. Toy. Ever.
Maybe we should have less schools and less "research" because so much of it seems like useless busy body work to justify academics' salaries.
And of course, such topics like these are great because it latches onto the simple-minded people's anecdotes as the comments here reflect.
ALSO, don't overly guide the child on 'how' to interact with a toy or object. Let them figure it out and they'll come up with uses you didn't think of.
> Total expenditures for public elementary and secondary schools in the United States in 2013–14 amounted to $634 billion, or $12,509 per public school student enrolled in the fall (in constant 2015–16 dollars).
Note that many Montessori schools offer access to financial help. The key benefits are said to be derived between the ages of 3 and 6. My daughters both started at age 2, still going, I wish I had had that kind of education.
Knocking off 100k for <foo> leaves 500k between the 5 staff, which is 100k each.
1. Individual autonomy of the student in time management. To give an example, in 1st through 5th grade I wrote up a new contract at the beginning of the week with my teacher with a list of goals to accomplish by the end of the week, and then maybe half the day was pre-scheduled lessons from the teacher (some whole-class, some mini group, some individual), and then you could choose when you'd work on each lesson/goal at any given time. If you didn't want to do your math lesson until 3pm you didn't have to. You could do reading first then math later. Or vice versa. So in a sense you're learning time management and planning at a much earlier age and you're given freedom to make mistakes there, learn the perils of procrastination (or fail to learn them and develop bad habits from an early age which I saw to be quite common among my peers), and you feel like you're in less of a prison (after having autonomy up until 9th grade when I left Montessori you have no idea how much highschool felt like prison).
In middle school (6th through 8th) they took that a step further, and you might be given a list of objectives that needed to be done in a number of weeks or even in a quarter, and it was up to you to spend the 8 hours a day effectively to accomplish them by the end. It was therefore quite common for students to slack and just chat with each other for large portions of time only to crunch at the end. You could theoretically have hardly any homework if you just worked all day at school or you could slack for weeks on weeks then work all night very night and weekends for a few weeks at the end.
2. Student autonomy of location and freedom of movement. You were not forced to sit at a desk all day, you could move around the large daycare-like classroom, sit on the floor with students over there, or work at a table over here, or use an abacus over there. In elementary there was an emphasis on hands on learning. Learning the letters by having the teacher guide you to trace them in sand. Learning multiplication and division using physical beads and blocks to give you an understanding of multiplication with a geometric, spatial analogy. So you might hae a lesson scheduled to play 'the banker's game' where the teacher would take you over to some blocks and have you add, subtract, multiply, or do division using beads (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysIvxeErRp0)
There was less of that physical grounding in later elementary and practically none in middle school but you were free to move around and be wherever you wanted to be in the classroom, with whichever students you wanted to be with, or be alone. And to a certain extent you were allowed to waste time or socialize as well.
3. At times, freedom to determine the medium through which you would present or demonstrate your knowledge, and freedom to choose topics or subjects to study to a greater extent and at a much earlier age than is common in normal school. Montessori seems to place more emphasis on student-curiosity as the mechanism for choosing project subjects, medium of presentation (it's quite common for you to be able to choose to "learn" and then present some social studies subject through an essay, or a powerpoint, or a poster board, or a speech, or maybe even through a play.
4. Emphasis on student government and Socractic processes. My middle school program had us collectively run a community meeting for the class for about 20-60 minutes each day, the moderation/facilitation of the meeting rotated each week to a new group of 3-5 students, you had a portion of the meeting for acknowledgements (acknowledging someone else's accomplishment in the class), problem solving (raising issues or problems affecting the class community), which led into proposals (suggesting a proposal of a rule change, an action to be taken, etc. to solve the "problem" - example - purchase lockboxes with student funds to store scissors since people kept stealing/losing them -, then argument and debate, then proposal of any amendments or tabling the discussion, then a voting section to vote for, against, or abstain for those proposals. It was kind of a parliamentary system which was a little more complicated than that but that's the basic idea. And we had a lot of Socratic discussions as well, usually at the end of a meeting (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socratic_questioning). Of and we had to write a class constitution via a constitutional convention and then our meetings followed that constitution.
5. Overall experimental learning methods. An example would be that in our 7th-8th combined classroom, all of the freedom meant that one quarter our class was being extremely lazy and not doing work so we were missing deadlines. The teachers decided to take the students who had missed deadlines and named them the 'structured' group and put them in one room where speaking was no longer allowed without raising your hand. And the students who didn't have any missed deadlines were allowed to be in the other room and still chit chat, freely speak with each other, and be mostly autonomous. Once you got caught up again and didn't have any past due projects, you could leave the 'structured' no talking room and rejoin the rest of the class. This motivated a lot of students who'd been slacking to get caught up. Of course, there were some who were stuck in the quiet room for weeks.
The funniest part is that as barbaric and prison-like that 'silent' room seemed at the time to us, it turned out that normal highschool turned out to be almost exactly like that 'torture' room. Go figure.
6. Last, inequality of educational outcome. Many, many of my peers were exemplary students and the freedom allowed them to pursue their passions, become excellent students who were well beyond the normal curriculum in a specific subject that they were passionate about, and were excellent writers, speakers, collaborators, and had great time management skills. But other students took the freedom to chit chat and not work, hippy grading system, and other freedoms and just didn't do anything or wasted time. Many students in particular at my school district got a very poor grounding in math. So your mileage my vary.
I'm curious - what are your feelings on the strategy of spending so many years in the private school then switching to public for high school? I gather that it was a pretty big jump so far as personal freedoms - do you feel as though you were able to get more out of high school than those around you, or did you feel unnecessarily restrained?
Just wanted to throw that out as aspirational. There's truly nothing about a Montessori classroom that need be more expensive except for the training, the high cost of which is just a function of the lack of economies of scale.
I don't know that I would say that I got more out of high school than those around me. I would say educational culture is the most important factor - in the sense of being in a classroom with students who respect their teachers and with parents at home who pay attention to they child's performance and behavior. And I was lucky enough to attend both Montessori and traditional schools at a middle to upper middle class school so we were able to take those things for granted.
I would say that I had a much broader exposure to thinking outside of the box, of being self-led, and of taking initiative than most of the other students. But I also had more of an independent streak, a desire to be free, and a questioning of authority.
I was a model student in high school for other personality and I-feel-need-to-prove-myself reasons that are separate from Montessori vs. traditional debate. So I can't judge how my prior education influenced my performance in high school.
But I can say without a doubt that I felt like a dog locked in a cage.
The biggest side effect perhaps of moving from a Montessori program to a traditional one was that I became an incredibly active participant in class just to ease the boredom. If you go from a program where you're free to spend half the day on whatever you want, speak to your friends, and be wherever you want to a program where you're locked to a seat the entire day and can't freely have conversations, you have to find other ways to get interaction and to be able to speak. So I just constantly wanted to answer questions or ask questions in class just cause sitting there doing literally nothing was unbearable.
We should be asking ourselves what we're training our students to do when we have them sit and listen to an authority figure speak in a one sided conversation all day everyday. There's no two way conversation being had at schools. We're teaching our kids to sit down, shut up, and listen to what I think is right. Not to engage with the world.
I remember getting a few broken GI Joe from my cousin, with those, I used a screwdriver to pick up the good parts of them, and make good toys with weird arms and legs. These were supposed to be garbage but as usually having less stuff makes you more creative and I ended up with a few toys that nobody else had!