The nature of children is such that when they are born they feel the desire to play. This is common with both human beings and animals. Playing allows children to develop a good coordination and muscles. Toys test the existing barriers in children’s imaginations between fantasy and reality.
The key roles of the toys in children’s lives are to teach them how to share and communicate with each other. While playing, kids develop the ability to solve problems, logical thinking, to plan and work out strategies, cause and effect procedures. For most children it is the main occupation.
Unfortunately, many new toys of our time are not quite educational. Each year we can see how a new wicked twist is added to the toys (skulls, plastic mummies, dolls that vomit). Despite this, such toys are very popular. They tend to develop violence in little children’s heads. Of course, it is sometimes common for boys to behave in an aggressive way; however, it does not mean that this natural outburst of aggression should be encouraged. Aggressive behavior does not mean that the child will become a criminal in future, but let us think of the morals that a child will have while playing with guns all the time, or prostitute-like dolls (Wrzesinski, 2006).
There is no single toy that does not bring certain education to the child. All of them teach something. The question just remains what message they carry.
For example, when a girl plays with a doll, she often talks to the doll and then replies in the voice of the doll (communication). The girl can invite other friends to play together (cooperation and communication). She sets tables for a tea party, showing everyone who sits where and what is going to happen next (planning and strategy). The girl likes to make up scenes when there dolls are sick or need help (problem solving). She is responsible for her baby-doll and has to think how to behave with it and what consequences her behavior can have on the doll (logical thinking). In case the girl has a doll that can cry she learns about cause and effect.
On the other hand, famous Barbie dolls foster eating disorders and negative thoughts about girls’ appearance as the looks the Barbie doll has is usually impossible to attain. However, Barbies are also dentists, McDonald’s workers, and doctors showing would-be women that beauty is not a fault and being feminine does not mean to be shallow or not quite clever (Wrzesinski, 2006).
The next good example is “G. I. Joe” commercial which was released in the 1960s. The commercial depicts soldiers with all their ammunition and happy boys playing with them. It shows us the war in a very positive light which can easily lead to boys’ perception of the war as of something very good. Unfortunately, such hidden impact of the child’s subconsciousness can have fatal effects in the future as the child learns that the war is a good thing to happen so why not to provoke it?
On the other hand, the “G. I. Joe”, Superman, Power Rangers and other similar toys educate masculinity in would-be men. They teach them about ‘bad guys’ who have to be defeated in order to protect those who children love. Various Rescue Heroes allow boys to learn a vital lesson that poor and weaker human beings should be protected, and that they need to help those who are in danger (Wrzesinski, 2006).
Quality of toys matters a lot. Qualitative toys show children that hard work has a high value and it is good to expect the best from life.
To conclude I would like to stress once again that toys teach children as much as all the people they meet during their life so it is up to parents what lessons they want their children to learn.