There is a lot of talking about children growing up too fast these days and they don’t know how to play any more. A while back I wrote about the Power of Play and how difficult it was for our two adopted boys to learn to play. I also wrote about the screen addiction our boys brought with them following their first adoption breakdown and how that hindered them in their healthy social development.
If you visit our house for the first time and take notice of the toys we have lying all around the house you would easily make the mistake of assuming we have 2 toddlers. In reality, our boys are 6 and 7; in a few weeks time they turn 7 and 8. So, why don’t we buy them age appropriate toys??
How do you define age appropriateness?
While I was researching this subject I came across lots of websites that offer guidance and useful articles from Parents.com to WebMD.com (click on the links for the actual articles) just to mention the 2 biggest advocate groups. And because we live in the digital age I also looked at their rating system, which is called PEGI. With PEGI I was very pleased to discover that they emphasise ‘The age rating is not intended to indicate the difficulty of the game or the skill required to play it‘ I think this is the key to understand our children’s playing habits and to know which games and toys will be helpful in their development and entertainment and which will cause more challenges.
Is it too childish?
When I went into a toy shop recently the helpful shop assistant asked me right away ‘How old is your child?‘ so she could direct me to the age appropriate isle. ‘It depends‘ was my response and you can imagine the looks I got.
According to his birth certificate he is 2 weeks shy from being 8. So, naturally the type of toys he should be getting for his upcoming birthday include video games with moderate violence and mild-moderate language, medium level complicated Lego sets, archery kit with sharp projectiles, puzzles over 500 pieces, or board games that require medium complex logical or mathematical skills to be enjoyable. Needless to say, he can’t manage any of them! Just to give you some examples:
- He came to us with a Nintendo DS game rated PEGI 7 called Transformers. It involves a lot of killing, shouting, bad language, burning people alive… He was so confused he didn’t even believe me that the Autobats were the good guys and all he could think about was ‘torching the welcome wagon‘ and ‘the bigger the damage the more points you get’. All his drawings included weapons and everybody got killed and everything exploded and was destroyed. He was so cross with us when we took it away from him and we were so cross with the Foster Carer who gave it to him, just because he asked for it (‘all my classmates have it, I am almost 7 after all, I promise to be quiet if you buy it…‘)
- They also had a wii racing game rated PEGI 5+ so we thought that shouldn’t be a problem. Well, our 6 year old often had nightmares in which the ‘giant evil penguin from this game‘ was chasing him. Just between us, there were no evil looking penguins in the game, just some big inflated CUTE penguins to cheer racers in the crowd – but for some reason he perceived it as scary. So this game was taken away as well until later. Together with Batman and a few others…
- We have a Christmas tradition of working on a puzzle together. For the boys’ first Christmas with us we bough them an age appropriate one; we thought they might be able to manage it with our help. Well, we were wrong. Not just in believing that all those tiny pieces will not be lost in no time, but also in expecting them to sit still for more than 5 minutes (‘it’s so boring, it’s too hard, I don’t understand how to find a match, but these 2 pieces belong together just by their cut out shapes…’)
- A few weeks ago we visited another church family for lunch. They have an 8 year old boy who had some archery toys. Without going into details my 6 year old managed to shoot him in the eye and then was surprised when the boy was screaming in pain because ‘in ninja turtles they always do this for fun and they never cry’.
According to his mental and emotional age he is only 4…
He is quite tall and when he is in a happy chatty mood he could convince anybody that he is a brilliant 8 years old young man who knows everything about space and has excellent deduction skills. But a toy, which is designed to entertain such intelligence is usually very hard for him to solve or enjoy and instead of educational fun moments we get deep frustration and angry outbursts, which put him in a state of panic and it almost always results in a massive meltdown.
Both boys have missed out on so many developmental stages and not having age appropriate toys is just another indication of the neglect they were subjected to. So, instead of going to the isle for young men, I headed towards the toddler section. It didn’t take long to find the ducks! 🙂
Until recently they never had regular bath times like normal children do due to the constant wetting and soiling (they got regular showers whenever they had an accident). But a few months ago 6 started to have dry nights so he can enjoy now a bath every evening he hasn’t wet. It seems to motivate 7 as well to listen to his body more and don’t wait till the very last moment so lately he also had some special bath times. I say special, because for these boys it is indeed very rare and special, although it is getting more regular now! So when I saw those colourful plastic ducks (see picture above) I knew my boys will love them! Those ducks came with an age recommendation of ‘under 2’, but since they have never had bath toys in their lives they embrace it now fully. In a sense when I am pushing the ducks towards them in the bath filled with bubbles we not only have a jolly good time, but I am also filling in the gaps in their development. I am sure soon they will think it’s childish, but for the time being they love it!