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Choosing Playthings

Stuffed Animals build Creative Play
If you were to ask me about some of the most treasured memories I have of my childhood, I would have to start with stuffed animals. I can't even begin to explain how fast time flew by as my sister and I crawled around her bedroom floor, animating the plush toys and building a world of our own. We would set up houses in different bookshelves and underneath chairs, and spend hours on end bringing our favorite stuffed animals to life. Not only do I love these memories, but I think this kind of play should be encouraged for all children. During these times I was able to set my imagination free and develop not only creative ability, but skills that would aid in my interaction with others and dealing with problems I would face in my life.

Fred Rogers, the well-known host of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, demonstrated his knowledge of and skill interacting with children in his article "Choosing Playthings" where he stresses the importance of open-ended toys like dolls, blocks, stuffed animals, and art supplies during childhood. He explains that, often times, children will project their own feelings into their play, dealing with their situations in a world they have control over. Rogers expounds, "children play mainly about 'going away and coming back,' 'power and control,' 'good guy vs. bad guy,' 'nurturing and being nurtured,' and 'chase and rescue.' All of these themes are naturally related to the things that they are working on in their everyday lives."

Rogers' article highlights the fact that open-ended toys encourage children to release their anxieties, and help them cope with whatever they are dealing with. He mentions electronic toys and, while he admits they can definitely have a positive impact on children's learning, they can only do so much. Rogers describes them as "limited" and "repetitive." He goes on, "At their best and used selectively, electronic toys and video games can help children learn, problem-solve, and develop eye-hand coordination." But Rogers' point is that these toys do not inspire kids to develop their imagination. They limit the options for children's play when they could, instead, be drawing upon their own creativity.

Rogers leaves his readers with a thought, "Children's play is their work, and the more we encourage children to play, the more we will be giving them an important resource for learning and for growing -- all through their lives."

Read Mr. Rogers' entire article - Fred Rogers talks about Choosing Playthings

~ Holli