We all like to believe that the next toy or activity we buy for our kids will engage them for at least half an hour or so. We want to find that one activity where they can focus their attention toward something and ultimately give us a little break for just a few moments. I, certainly am guilty of seeing an advertisement out there with a child sitting next to a toy on the rug and believing “yes, I want my child to behave like that, I’ll go out and buy this toy”. But the reality is that it doesn’t often happen exactly as the advert will have us believe. In fact, sometimes the total opposite occurs. Sometimes the toy or activity you purchased is more trouble than its worth.
This articles talks about two such toys I will try not to be too defeatist about them and set out some ideas for better managing them in the future.
In first place, it’s the sandpit. Hardly surprising, is it?! For any parent that has bought a sand tray or installed a sandpit you know exactly what I am talking about. They are great for occupying a child’s time. My child loves her sand tray. However, it is more trouble than its worth.
The sand is either:
- Plonked onto your lawn, killing your grass over time;
- Thrown onto your paving, making the entire outside sandy;
- It’s brought into the house by tiny feet and tiny hands;
- Eventually in every child’s imaginative mind the sand MUST be mixed with dirt. And yes it becomes a dirt pit.
Ok, the first time you clean it up, it’s not so bad. The second time, you think to yourself “but my child loves her sand tray”. The third time, it starts to get disturbing, the fourth, fifth, sixth…. seven hundredth time it’s just too much. You then sound military like with your children setting out a mat and towel and saying “wipe your hands and feet before you come in”! “No, not on the grass”! “Oh my goodness can’t you keep the dirt out”!
So how do you manage this activity? Do not buy one. Go to a park that has a sandpit. Let them destroy the park.
If you must install one, think hard about the decision. Think about the access to your house and manage the pathway. I find putting the sand tray onto a grassy area helps and have a little bowl of water by the door for little feet and hands to get washed before they enter. I also have a towel so they don’t slip when they come inside. Instil this rule at the outset as it is hard to change their ways. For instance, my daughter deliberately gets her hands and feet sandy so she can go to the bathroom to stand on the stool and wash her hands, so that she can spray the water all over the bathroom cabinet, so that she can fill her cup up with water so that she can flood the bathroom. I have installed this new system of water and towel by the door but every now and then if I am not making sure my daughter sticks to it, off to the bathroom she goes. If only I had the system in place at the outset.
Once you can have the rules for the sandpit play in place, hopefully it can reduce the clean-up time.
Photo: Stuart Miles, Freedigitalphotos.net
In number two position, it is Play-Doh. Don’t get me wrong, I love playing with Play-Doh with my girls. However, I think it should not be introduced to anyone under 3 years of age. Toddlers tend to eat it, pull it apart into miniscule bits and then fill every crack on the floors with it. When it is eaten or licked, the Play-Doh, naturally, gets sticky. This adds to the whole frustrating experience. What also tends to occur, well at least for me, is that I end up taking over the Play-Doh experience and trying to make something for my girls that kind of resembles the cupcake on the box. Next thing I know I have lost myself in trying to make my own Play-Doh art and when I come to I realise the room is trashed with Play-Doh everywhere because my girls have let loose and opened every tub, mixed the colours together and inserted Play-Doh into any crack or crevice they can find (including in my kitchen).
No, this activity is in fact more trouble than its worth if not managed or supervised properly.
There are ways to minimise the hassle Play-Doh can cause. I do suggest withholding buying Play-Doh activity sets until your child is above 3 years of age (exactly as suggested by Hasbro). If you are to give Play-Doh to a child under 3 years old, then I suggest using only two or three colours and no activity sets. Use a kitchen rolling pin, and a cutter and your child can focus their learning and motor skills on those two tasks. In fact this helps them to master those skills. It is far less distracting in this way too.
However, that being said, I can appreciate that these activities have also created for me, my fondest memories (albeit turning me into a military mum). I do love looking out of my window and seeing my girls make mud cakes, mixing and stirring their sand. I will not forget looking for my garlic press everywhere only to find it in their sandpit covered knee deep in sand and dirt. And one of my strongest memories of my smallest child will be her love of eating play-doh and her attempting to sneak in bites when I am not looking. I guess the difficulty is finding the right balance between the hassle and the joy.