De-commercializing the Child by tout est des roses

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Blog to Inspire finalist tout-est-des-roses is Sara Sophia, who blogs to share her joy, her everyday adventures and happy findings, things she loves and things that move her.

Eight years ago our first child was born,
a wee little man who came into the world
all shiny and new on the eve of Christmas.
I sat in the hospital bed nursing him, eating fruitcake,
and thinking about all the things I wanted for his life.


and, of course, The Perfect Childhood.
Free of insecurity, fear, and full of love-love-love.

“It will be so simple,” I remember thinking, picking a pecan out of my cake,
“It will be clean and white and summer breezes every day all the time.
Just me and this little one–-reading books in the rocking chair,
and taking walks in the woods.”

Close up face

But of course, how could I have known then
that modern parenthood meant inheriting an instantaneous army.
An army of robotic teddy bears, zoo creatures, farm creatures, swamp creatures.
Of Thomas the Tank Engine, Bob the Builder, Legos
and bright shiny race cars that made our peaceful home
sound like a Nascar track.
There were logo’s and emblems on everything and suddenly my child
was completely commercialized.
My child was a walking billboard.
An overstimulated, never-satisfied, LOUD billboard.
It happened so fast, so overnight…..
that we never knew what hit us.

Child playing with blocks

We saw our quiet little boy, especially amidst the holiday kerfuffle,
actually forget how to play. He would sit, staring about him
at the massive plastic extravagance,
and not even know where to begin.

Where DOES one begin in the midst of a small toy army that plays FOR you?

Well, from my experience from years of working with children—
they either smash it,
or look at it boredly, and watch it do its thing.
The dilemma of the modern child in a nutshell.

I would love to say that my husband and I immediately
put a halt to the retail nonsense
(we have a BIG family)…but, I must admit it took a little longer than that.
After all, this was just the way it WAS.
There was nothing we could do, right?

Child playing with wood

It wasn’t until I was expecting our second son
that I found something that made sense.

I just happened to pick up a book on Waldorf teaching from our library, and it was as though a light bulb had been turned on inside my head. I was introduced to the concept of “play with a purpose” and thereafter read everything I could gather on the subject. I realized that encouraging my child’s life skills through natural, imaginative play was such an important part of his upbringing.
That keeping my child from mainstream toys
wasn’t simply a difficult way of making myself feel like a better parent
….(which was one take I heard early on)….
but a way to teach him care in every area of his life.

Siblings chat

We began slowly, waiting patiently until the shiny playthings would inevitably break, and then replacing them with a sensory toy. A set of maple blocks, a stack of folded playsilks, paints and an easel….and working with our little ones to teach them new ways of play. Before we knew it, we didn’t have children wildly crashing about in their bedrooms, but children who were working intently:
each game becoming a lesson they were teaching themselves.
YES, there is still a heavy dosing of whoops and hollers when the “pirate ship” is docked outside in the yard—and I wouldn’t have it any other way:)
But the point is I have seen children go from squabbles and frustration
to hours of beautiful sharing and insight–
whether they are storming the castle together, or playing chess.

Siblings play

It hasn’t always been as easy as it is now,
and there are still struggles to keep the air filled with peace.
It is hard to explain to extended family such “hippie” viewpoints sometimes.
But, we know we are doing our very best
to provide a learning lifestyle for our children.
One that will facilitate what they need,
rather than what would be easiest to give them.

This holiday season, I encourage you to give careful thought
where the purchasing of toys is concerned.

Will this toy help him embrace creativity?
Will it stimulate his imagination?
Will it help him learn to be generous?
For this is the beauty-filled youth I know we all want to give our little ones…
the childhood that will teach them
to think beyond themselves and make a difference.

Play outside

The childhood that will help them see farther—through natural play.

Read about the Blog to Inspire contest and read posts by the rest of the finalists.

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