By Jennifer Joyner
The other day I was shopping with my 2-year-old son, and as we often do, we ended up in the toy section. Dylan and I walked the aisles, and he picked up toy after toy. Each of which flashed a series of colorful lights and spoke, made sound effects or played music when you pushed a button.
He particularly enjoyed a rocket ship that counted down, lit up, and then made noises like it was blasting off.
Another favorite was a mechanical Mickey Mouse that played music as the figure hit his hands on a drum and danced.
He was having a great time. Next, he picked up a package of Play-Doh. He turned it around in his hands a couple of times, looking confused. “Where's the button, mommy?” he asked.
I laughed. “There's no button, sweetheart. This isn't that kind of toy.”
He frowned and stared a the package for a moment before setting it down. Later on, we had a similar conversation surrounding a toy car.
This got me to thinking. Looking around, I saw that about 80 percent of the toys sold at Walmart that were geared toward Dylan's age group are similar to the ones I mentioned above. I wonder what the effect will be on our children.
Is their attention span going to be completely shot, even more than my generation's is? Will reading books or playing outside seem too boring to bother with? Will the Internet cause them to grow increasingly impatient with anything that doesn't pop up within seconds after they decide on a whim to look at it?
I know every generation worries about the next. In fact, the baby boomers would probably laugh at someone my age writing about “the good old days.” But I remember when the most fun I could think of having was playing Kick the Can with my cousins. I loved playing jacks and cards and jumping rope. And I'll never forget making paper dolls with my grandmother. I hope my son has experiences like that.
I know people from every generation feel like their children are lacking something or missing out in some way. So, that probably means that my son will turn out just fine, just as I did.
I will continue to make it a point to ensure he has plenty of toys that require him to actually do something outside of pushing a button and that engage his imagination. This will require me to not go out and buy the newest, flashiest toy in the stores, but I think that's OK.
Don't get me wrong, some of those toys are really neat. Overall, I'm incredibly grateful for our access to technology. Technology has empowered us in many ways. But with the power technology gives us, we have a responsibility to use it correctly and exercise self control to not become completely lazy.
Our kids should play with toys that keep them active in some way, and to set an example we should make an effort to stay active as well. Just because there is a machine to do something or a convenient way to access something doesn't mean we shouldn't try do things ourselves.
That is, unless they come up with a robot that folds and puts away laundry. I think I could live with that.