Who Needs a Thirty Dollar Toy

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Written by: Gienie Assink, Springfield Oregon

Ignorance is bliss, so we’ve heard, but isn’t that true for a child?  Manufacturers of “educational toys” will try to convince you otherwise, and sell you a specialized toy that is guaranteed to enhance your child’s ability to learn.  Thus, “fixing” what they call the problem so in today’s economy your child will not be left behind.

But most everyone would agree a child’s imagination is truly fascinating: Simply put!  For example, as adults we know the purpose of a spoon is to help us eat and serve food.  It is a utensil created to enhance our ability as humans to function better in society, and that is solely its purpose, right?  On the contrary: a spoon can also be GI Joe’s snow shovel, or perhaps many spoons together can serve as a pirate’s buried treasure. (Imagine my son’s delight when he found the spoon drawer and hit the jackpot!)

Extensive studies found that blocks, beads, peek-a-boo, and other old fashioned measures enhance cognitive, motor, and language development.  So what is the difference between educational toys like leapfrog learning centers or baby Einstein, which cost a day’s wages, and regular items found around the house?

Before answering this question, let me first explain what products like leap frog are and what they do. 

Leapfrog is one out of many companies that specialize in creating developmentally age appropriate educational toys for children.  Their aim is to help improve cognitive motor skills, and enhance sensory development of sight, smell, touch, and even training of the ear.

Their toys (most of which are battery operated) have multiple functions: usually narrative stories that include some sort of participation, loud music and even fancy bright flashing lights.

Granted pretty lights and familiar nursery tunes are exciting to children, but these systematic toys are surprisingly overwhelming and confusing to operate.  Most of these toys do not have volume control which over time can cause headaches and excessive ringing in the ears.  Gosh! I already feel sorry for the parents; imagine what they do to the child!

Even replacing batteries becomes expensive and annoying depending on excessive use of a toy.  Last time I checked, a spoon doesn’t come with flashing lights or a built in synthesizer, and it’s fairly cheap to maintain.  When was the last time you replaced your silverware?

The biggest problem with these “developmental” toys is their cost.  Not only is the initial purchase expensive, you also have to consider the cost of maintaining the toy.  After all, you as a parent are not purchasing a toy with a 30 dollar one time fee; you are “investing” in a life time of learning possibilities. (As well as a ridiculous amount of accessories which are indeed “must haves”).

Early childhood development requires parental involvement. It’s up to the parents to become more educated consumers. Nothing proves educational toys are a better fit for your child.  What’s the difference between sorting colored socks and sorting colored blocks? Who needs a 30 dollar toy?

Toy manufacturers are so concerned about marketing their product; they aren’t really concerned about the greater picture.  The truth is a 30 dollar toy may end up costing your child’s imagination and social development.

What’s the price tag on that?