I’ve just read a great blog post from a fab online store I stumbled across today, all because I was searching for one of these…
So, anyhow, do yourself a favour and read this article because this great article has only strengthened my belief in slowing down our lives to a mid-century pace…
With love, Mrs Jones x
What in the world is the Slow Toy movement? Like the Slow Food and the Slow Fashion movements, we now have a Slow Toy movement and thank goodness for that. Along with their darling baby there are two things that arrive at the house of every new parent 1. noise and 2. plastic.
Toy trends of the recent past insist the louder and more plastic the better. Walk up and down the aisles of the biggest toy stores and you notice most toys today need batteries because they do something. Sometimes they even masquerade as educational, think of the loud A’s, K’s, P’s resounding through your living room –but the tide is changing. A new movement is gaining momentum.
It’s called the Slow Toy movement and it celebrates old-fashioned ideas of play because children don’t actually need all the bells and whistles. The theory is that children can be taught and encouraged to explore their own ideas, through listening and by giving them creatively designed toys. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to take the time to get down on your knees and play with your kids, this will help them slow down long enough to ignite their imaginations.
Thierry Bourret, a French toy distributor in the UK coined the term in 2011. Bourret also founded the Slow Toy Awards, held annually in London, they award toys that are well made and nicely designed. There is an element of educating children on taste, the way you would teach a child to enjoy the flavour of a tomato, but most importantly– the toys must allow children to make a world of their own. Another important goal of the Slow Toy movement is to buy ethically and it’s no coincidence that many of the manufacturers of slow toys are small family companies. The inspiration often stemming from their own genuine parenting values and not from the board rooms interested in licensing TV characters. Your purchase helps to support a way of life for villagers, crafts people, families and artists.
There are similarities to the Slow Food movement as well, like the desire to draw attention to the drawbacks to the globalization of toy brands. Why should ever little girl in the world want to be a Disney princess? There is a risk of homogeneity and not celebrating individual differences. The reason it’s so important to wake up to this new trend is because there is sound science backing up its benefits for our children. Studies, including one recently published by the Mid Continent Research for Early Learning, an important learning think tank in the US, have shown that when children have time to engage in unstructured play and make-believe they develop a critical cognitive skill called executive function. Executive function helps kids to self-regulate, which means controlling their emotions and behaviours.
The study concluded that, “today’s 5-year-olds were acting at the level of 3-year-olds 60 years ago, and today’s 7-year-olds were barely approaching the level of a 5-year-old 60 years ago”. The study explains that self-regulation is incredibly important. Poor executive function is associated with drug use and crime. It goes so far as to say that a good executive function is a better predictor of success in school than a child’s IQ, which is really quite revolutionary. Howard Chudacoff, a cultural historian at Brown University, publishes on the subject a history of play. He has studied the radical changes that occurred in the second half of the 20th century. He says, “Instead of spending their time in autonomous shifting make-believe, children were supplied with ever more specific toys for play and predetermined scripts.
Essentially, instead of playing pirate with a tree branch they played Star Wars with a toy light saber.” Chudacoff calls this the commercialization and co-operation of child’s play. In other words those loud plastic toys may be doing our kids a disservice. Let kids do what they do best, use their imagination to explore the world. And then hope that you can keep that spirit alive well into adulthood. “