Friday, August 13, 2010

Less is More

Have you ever stood in a supermarket aisle and felt completely overwhelmed by the number of choices available? I'm all for choices and especially for freedom of choice. Recently however I was standing at the supermarket aisle and felt that if I didn't get out of there soon, I would have a panic attack. I was buying band-aids. Simple...right? Not really because I realized that I could buy waterproof, clear or a multi-box that had various sizes. I could buy Spiderman or Cinderella. I could get them with or without ointment. I could buy band-aid brand or the store brand. Suddenly I was sucked in to comparing prices and quantities and quality and I stood there numb and unable to make a decision.

I often write about Little Tikes and how I don't like all that plastic. I really don't have anything against Little Tikes. There are built well and built to last. I think my problem is when I walk by daycare center or home daycares and I see Little Tikes toys strewn in the yard like weeds. I find it overwhelming, like trying to find a box of band-aids in the supermarket aisle.

When you walk into Ivy League Daycare the first thing you'll notice is that it doesn't look like a "preschool". We did this on purpose for two reasons. First, it is our home and we want it to look like a home and secondly, I find being surrounded by primary colors for 10 hours a day overstimulating. The colors on our walls are muted, the furniture is painted in a serene light green. There are splashes of red and yes there is even some plastic, but not much at all. There are toys, but only enough so that the children can choose what to play with without being overwhelmed by choice.

What about stimulating their creativity? I smile whenever someone asks about this. I think that in an effort to sell products, companies have put on a great campaign and we parents have taken the bait, hook, line and sinker. The campaign states something along the lines that we must stimulate our child's imagination or creativity by buying them this (usually brightly colored plastic) toy. Actually nothing can be further from the truth! First, your child comes equipped with an active imagination and geared for creativity. I think that as parents and educators, we should provide some thing to allow their imagination to take flight, but we need not go out and spend a fortune to do it. Paper, crayons, paint, rocks, shells, scraps of cloths, needle, thread. Other than that, some pots and pans, a broom and dustpan and you have hours of entertainment for your child.

For a while, my children had a ton of toys, yet more often than not, they were making forts with the sofa cushions or making "music" with the pots and pans. They would "wash" dishes for hours. They made fishing poles from sticks and yarn. My daughter still beams with delight at the sight of Styrofoam.

The whole purpose of an imagination is to actually leave something to the imagination. Let the kids color in the primary colors. Let them build something from scratch. Maybe you won't even recognize what it is, but to them, it's a bird or a plane. I'm excited to see all the wonderful things children are capable of doing once they are in an environment that allows them to do it.