Toys That Teach: A Lesson in Reverence, Gratitude, and Beauty

A toy is something your child spends precious time on and in this way acts as a teacher. The right toy can teach your child to care, to be vigilant and aware, to be careful, to appreciate, to love. In your child’s hands are the keys to learning to be grateful, to appreciate beauty, to have a sense of peace and reverence for life in all its forms… In the same way, the wrong toys can teach your child anger, frustration, contempt, insult and mockery. How many times have you seen this on the community playground? Children imitating the grotesque objects they have been playing with? Making faces and bullying the other kids. They are taking what they have taken, from their toys.

What can a plastic gadget teach your child? What lesson is hidden inside the action figure? When children have a room full of such toys, they often feel so overwhelmed that they choose not to play at all. The grandparents come and say that they are spoiled. Often when they choose to play, they do so in a very aggressive and destructive manner. They do not show any sense of love or care for these toys. They show no gratitude for these toys. These snarling and grimacing toys seem to be designed to instill or teach anger, frustration, and hatred. Ask yourself “what does my child get from such a toy?” If you watch your child closely you will find that his game lasts about 5 minutes tops and he ends up frustrated and overwhelmed. They look physically sick after playing like this, with these toys.

The reason for this is that children take all of their play and it becomes a part of who they are and who they are about to become. Children internalize everything around them. When exposed to ugly synthetic toys, children risk losing their sense of wonder, their sense of reverence and beauty. They begin to internalize the messages these toys convey: Hit, Stomp, Hit, Hit, Throw. Replace. These feelings then grow within our children. Their relationships become “synthetic” and their game turns ugly.

These kids then grow into teenagers who rampage with their teenage peers. They grew up thinking that almost anything can be replaced. Everything is meant to be handled roughly and without special care. They grow up on fast food and throw away self service toys which means nothing to them. They roam the world without concern for what they step on or knock over, believing that everything can be easily replaced or that it is the responsibility of everything that stands in their way to be strong enough to last. They break their battery-operated plastic gadgets and go in the trash. Unfortunately, in our mass-produced society, it’s often quickly replaced with one exactly the same. What does that teach our son?

Many parents don’t realize that the mind of a developing child is all-encompassing. These toys have a very negative impact on our children and their behavior changes from inherently good and loving to mean and spiteful. The small child learns more when he plays. Play is the child’s job and it is through play that the child learns to be an adult. Why then are we not more careful and conscious when we choose our children’s toys?

Most modern toys do not speak to the soul of the child. In this way, they can actually harm the child. They not only rob the child of his imagination and sense of wonder, but also create a shell over the child’s heart. Today’s toys are “dead.” Obviously, they are not beautiful. They have no energy coming from them. They’re just… ugly. Don’t our children, newcomers and still so entwined with the spirit world, deserve better?

Looking at the writings of Rudolf Steiner, founder of the Waldorf Schools, we discover that the first seven years of life the child should see and experience the world as a place of goodness. The child of this age learns mainly by imitation. Teachers trained in the Waldorf method of Education are taught to be fully aware of each and every movement, because they know that the child takes it all in, good or bad. Waldorf kindergartens are places of simple beauty for this reason. Children from the age of 7 to the onset of puberty should experience the world as a place of beauty, for through beauty they will gain a reverence for life, which they carry into their adult lives. The Waldorf method of education is based entirely on these beliefs.

Children need to have some simple toys, which need to be delicately cared for and cared for with love. They need toys that they can wash with their own hands, hang them in the air to dry, and fold them gently. They flourish when they play with toys, which must be carefully polished and can be repaired. They thrive when they have toys, which they know will pass on to their younger siblings. It is through this that they learn to have gratitude, reverence, and a sense of beauty for their surroundings and environment. Most modern toys simply don’t speak to the child’s soul.

What toys speak to the child? Silks, Wood, Nuts, Shells, Seeds, Stones, Crystals, Leaves, Ribbons and baskets to carry his treasures. These are the types of toys that speak to the soul of the child. These Natural Wonders inspire wonder and discovery, magic and wonder in your child. These toys have been created as “one of a kind” treasures. These toys are special and can become anything your child imagines them to be.

Consider pure silk scarves to play with. They are delicate and ethereal and seem to naturally awaken that sense of beauty awareness and reverence. They spark the child’s imagination and inspire his creativity. Children appreciate its simplicity, and yet they are so amazed by the magic that a simple rag can be transformed into so many wonderful things.

Wood is another example. It comes from a living, growing organism and has a lot of potential. Has this wood been carved or “decorated” by the creatures of the forest? What kind of tree does this wood come from? Imagine that no two pieces of wood will ever be exactly the same and your child can feel it and feel it when he holds this toy. What a lesson in gratitude for this piece of wood, which is played with here. What a wonderful discovery when, playing outside, your child finds this wonderful toy for himself…just as it was meant to be! Your child will carry this wood like a bundle, build with it like a block, cradle and hold it like a baby. This piece of wood can be turned into almost anything in your child’s imagination. Maybe grandpa can carve this little wood into an animal friend or gnome to go back to the garden.

These treasures are not easily replaced. If you’re not careful and you break a wooden toy (especially a handmade or found one), it’s really a tragedy because it’s one of a kind. If the child is lucky it can be repaired and will be cared for even more delicately because it has weakened. Of course, this will make the toy even more loved and appreciated for the injuries it carries and the effort that went into saving it.

Children today have adopted many of their attitudes towards life from the toys that have surrounded them in their childhood. Today’s mass-produced disposable toys are wasteful, ugly, and harm not only our children but our environment as well. They are impersonal and created for one purpose and one purpose only: to make money for their creators. The next obvious reason is that they break and are easily replaced, teaching your child to want more…

Remember, the toy your child is holding is your child’s teacher today.

It is up to you to decide what lesson your child will learn today from the toys you provide.

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