Authentic thinking through authentic play

8th April, 2024

Written by Christine Burkholder

ECE Environments Author and Mentor
Toy isles are full of the latest colorful boxes that say that the toy inside will do it all. 

  • But what is lost when the toy does all the thinking?
  • Do we really want the toy to do it all?

The toy will sing to your child, recite colors, count in both English and Spanish and say the alphabet with a push of a button. The colorful package claims it is made to keep the child entertained, and occupied. All you have to do is add batteries.

Before you steer your shopping cart down that battery aisle, think for just a moment! 
Do you really want a toy to do all the thinking for your children, or do you want your children to think for themselves?

Letting a toddler interact with two cups and a ball can offer endless amounts of learning opportunities, as he learns cause and effect for himself, hides and reveals, fills and dumps.

Offering several steel reflective kitchen bowls might allow a tiny infant to find his own voice, as he sees a baby reflecting back at him in the metal of the bowl.

A child loves nothing more than to discover and wonder all on their own.
Hang a crystal in the window and let the sun catch it, creating this surprise interaction with the outdoors adds a bit of wonder to everyone's day.
You do not need to purchase a plastic replica of an item, but rather give the child the authentic object to manipulate. 

A quick rummage in your kitchen cabinets or trip to the thrift store will produce hours of fun with authentic pots and pans and mixing bowls and wooden spoons. It's always a fun event when you hunt for a tea set with a child. Thrift stores are sure to have tea kettles, sugar bowls and delicate teacups and saucers. Be sure to scavenge for some big hats and dress up frills to add to the tea party planning!

Be on the lookout for the perfect box. The old adage "they would rather play with the box" is so true.


Before you rush out to purchase the latest toy on the market, look around and see what you have that is real, something not created to do all the child's thinking, give the child something truly authentic to play with and enjoy watching magic happen.
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