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Have we been getting children’s playthings all wrong? (theguardian.com)
29 points by nigerian1981 3 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 31 comments

> In the 1970s and 80s, Gopnik and her colleagues [...] focused not on what children said, but on what they did in creative and problem-solving situations. “It turned out that even the youngest babies already knew more and learned more than we ever would have thought,” Gopnik went on.

This was one of the things that really surprised me when becoming a parent. If you take the time to just observe very small children doing their thing, they are surprisingly methodical, consistent, and hypothesis-driven. It looks like chaos at first, but then I've sort of come to realise that it's really about performing actions that are likely to trigger a response with high information content.

> it's really about performing actions that are likely to trigger a response with high information content.

My favorite metaphor about children: to them, life is a science experiment, and parents are the guinea pigs.

Judge people not for what they say but for what they do.

Yes. Children will play in a cardboard box, and together my sister and I can testify as living proof that children can play with anything you set before them.

I think middle-class parents are driven to keep-up-with-the-Joneses, and unfortunately the main drivers are the children themselves. Children are spoiled and exposed to all sorts of advertising in the guise of children's programming. Children's media is geared 100% to monetizing and productizing things and then having the children yelp at their parents in the grocery stores, in the toy stores, at home, at school, wherever, to please please please get me the new GI Joe or I won't be cool enough.

Yet like a cat, a child can take an emptied out cardboard box on Christmas and have it be the most wondrous source of joy for that entire year.

Encourage kids' creativity, encourage the magic of youth, encourage their innocence.

Avoid merch that is "creatively" marketed as toys.

A xylophone is just a fun toy. Claiming it is a conspiracy to educate your kids more is a bit silly. And so are a lot of the digs at various toys.

I had one when i was 6 or so.

While it was somewhat fun it was best in combination with a cassette deck to record the random noise to make an even worse cacophony.

I learned nothing from it and at some point it disappeared, probably due to my annoyed parents and/or the many note bricks i had lost over time.

I had a Glockenspiel as well and tried to make something from Lego to play it automatically when i was a bit older.

The sound of these "instruments" is still ingrained in my ears and they bleed a little from the memories.

I won’t buy my kids electronic toys, anything that makes noise or plays songs. When they’re given to my kids, I take the batteries out after a few days. They lose interest and go back to more imaginative toys, like legos, magnet tiles, marble runs, dress up clothes, crayons and painting, puzzles and games, etc.

The alphabet and counting? Read them books, count things with them.

My children's favorite pastimes: reading, building stuff with legos, drawing and painting, roughhousing, listening to audiobooks, climbing on a gym rack thingy that we got gifted from a neighbor.

Also: building things out of pillows, blankets, cooking pots and utensils, etc.

Videogames have become a bit of an issue with my oldest one (8). But he seems to spend a lot less time on them than most other boys that age. But he's not happy about it.

What's "roughhousing", Google gives me answer it should be "fighting"?

Wrestling, play fighting, that kind of thing. Chasing each other around with sticks until someone gets a scraped knee

My kid: Parents kid 1+

I should put in a base case and one child test. Eh, I'll do it later.

The author complains about figurines, matchbox car, Xylophones, tambourines and finger paints.

So, author would complain about your kids toys too.

Yes, they mention those, then go onto electronic toys in depth, and especially teaching the ABCs and numbers, which all seemed pretty inconsistent.

I don’t much care about what the article says. I care about my sanity and my kids playing nicely.

Ebook is more practical when going for vacation and should be pretty harmless (without backlight) for eyes.

I fail to see how is electronic piano not imaginative. I thought also about buying digital microscope, but kids are not interested (yet).

But yeah, my kids play most of the time with blocks/Lego or they use whatever they find to play instead of using toys how they are intended to be used.

Book wise, I strongly recommend co-reading Richard Scarry books. They are picture books, choc-a-bloc with characters engaged in various activities. You can play “I Spy,” naming games, invent stories, talk about the activities, hypothesize about what will happen next, etc etc etc. The possibilities are pretty much endless. They are hugely advantageous for developing vocabulary, reading skills, and connecting with your child.


This article is so long-winded and repeating the same things 5 times that I found it incredibly irritating to read. I stopped after about 70%. I'm surprised it survived the cutting floor in this form. The content itself is not so bad.

I felt the same way. Here's the paragraph that I found most useful:

After watching kids play with more than 100 different types of toy, the researchers concluded that simple, open-ended, non-realistic toys with multiple parts, like a random assortment of Lego, inspired the highest-quality play. While engaged with such toys, children were “more likely to be creative, engage in problem solving, interact with their peers, and use language,” the researchers wrote. Electronic toys, however, tended to limit kids’ play: “A simple wooden cash register in our study inspired children to engage in lots of conversations related to buying and selling – but a plastic cash register that produced sounds when buttons were pushed mostly inspired children to just push the buttons repeatedly.”

In that sense I think there's a strong parallel with household computing: a PC in the 80s was far closer to the wooden cash register than a tablet/phone of the 20s. (which mostly inspire adults to just scroll down repeatedly?)

Above the title it says "long read". You were warned!

I don't have a problem with a long read. I have a problem with a text whose content is stretched thin to such a degree that 65%+ of it can be removed without losing a single bit of information.

In my opinion this text does not respect the reader. It seems more like mental masturbation for the author while trickle feeding the reader with the information they are looking for.

Fully agree - it was infuriating to read. It kept setting up some idea then jumping to a different topic.


Are there better toys? Sure! But "All wrong"? The clickbait is strong with this one.

First, getting into Harvard should not be the goal of a child's toy. Not touching that, though.

More importantly, they're getting children wrong. In the US, since the 60s, children (teens) have been treated as a market demographic. Since the 80s even pre-teen children have been. Children should not be marketed to. Period.

I'm not only complaining about makeup sales or frivolous things like frisbees. I'm not only complaining about Transformers: more than meets the eye, because it's a bunch of media starring dolls you can buy.

Beyond those things, rather than target adults directly, for many decades now we have what is effectively corporate-funded psyops aimed at people's children.

We somehow care about the relative non-issues of drunk driving, child abduction and "stranger danger!", drugs, and more. Yet we don't seem concerned at all about children's desires being subverted to coopt their parents. We don't care about highly effective, efficient mechanisms of market capitalism pointed directly at our kids!

Thanks, the Guardian, for trying to raise the alarm while also raising a smokescreen.


> The history of toys is the history of teaching children to preoccupy themselves usefully and solitarily

WTF? No. The history of toys is largely the history of children creating play (where adults didn't intend it) and then sharing it. Humans are social. We make and use toys. We use toys other folks invented, too, and often in new ways. Toys are not anti-social.

That quote reads like someone who's only ever heard about vibrators and has heard that they're only used alone! (Out of touch, as it were.)

Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.

What if I write an article titled

> Can any headline that ends in a question mark be answered by the word no?

The original assertion is about headlines that are actually written, as headlines, in newspapers. It's possible to hypothesize many things, but until you show they're actually used, it's just a change of topic.

Hofstadter’s headline.

What about Schrödinger's headline ? What if first you have to observe the article content ?

Perish the thought.

To be fair, I don't think the author felt qualified to make an assertion. The title does reflect the investigation. I don't think deception is intended.

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