I am now going to admit to some serious mommy guilt.
When my son was born, I asked friends and family to avoid giving us lots of electronic toys and gadgets. I strongly believe that too much immediate feedback and electronic stimulation is bad for our kids’ brain wiring. I think it teaches them to need constant feedback and hinders their ability to provide their own internal motivation. I want them to solve a problem and be proud to have solved it within themselves, not rely on a machine (or even another person) to give them validation.
Since my husband and I are pretty serious techies, it shouldn’t be a surprise that more than a few people ignored us. Some people chose educational gadgets and some just chose the loudest, blinking-est toys they could find. Still, my son managed to get through most of his first year on minimal electronic stimuli. And then I got pregnant with LadyBug and the TV became a bit more appealing. I didn’t feel too bad, though, because he was just about one at that point. I still focused on creative, open-ended toys like blocks, cars, craft supplies, puzzles, etc.
And then he discovered the computer. The fact is that Bug has always loved buttons. He was born to be a techie, honestly. There was not much I could do about it. With a dad who’s a software engineer and a mom who writes about technology for kids (and has her master’s degree in Technology in Education), it was sort of a lost cause. I mean, we met online for heaven’s sake. Anyway, Bug would spend forever on the computer or watching TV if we let him and somehow I feel bad for that. It’s often just the easiest choice, especially when I’m just waking up or trying to get my work done.
LadyBug isn’t really interested in the TV or the computer at all. She’ll watch for a few minutes or tap a few buttons and then she’s bouncing off to something new. She loves to read and take her of her baby (sigh) and climb on everything in sight. She’s got a shorter attention span (so ironic) than her electronically enamored brother, and just doesn’t have the patience for things that she can’t manipulate somehow.
Which brings me to the good news. LadyBug is turning 2 next week(!) and her grandparents asked what they should get for her. Since the kids are still young, I generally think in terms of what would be a good addition to the household toy inventory, with special emphasis on the toys that child would particularly enjoy. As I thought about how the kids spend their time, I was thrilled to realize that they choose the open ended, creative play more often than not. They like cars and trains, dress up, crafts, books, instruments, stuffed animals and dolls and their play kitchen. They are much less likely to choose toys that do one specific thing and can’t be used in multiple ways. They make up their own games and activities with each other and spend hours involved in them. Bug does a lot of storytelling play now as well, using stuffed animals and his beloved cars to create elaborate scenes.
So, for all of my less-than-perfect moments as a parent, my kids are still happily engaged by creative activities. I hope they are able to take that with them into the future!