Play and toys and children go together like summer and sunshine and grass. It is just natural for children to play. This helps them to develop other instincts and skills.
Toys can teach, train, and influence the children. My brothers and I often rode horses which were only sticks about five feet long. We would straddle the sticks and ride all around the barnyard. Those horses ran, bucked, kicked and even whinnied. They were real horses to us when we combined the sticks with our physical strength and imaginations. Now I like real horses due, in part, to the fact that I exercised my imagination that way when I was a boy.
Little girls play with dolls and by adding a little imagination they actually love them and cuddle them as though they were real babies. They learn this way.
Once a five-year-old nephew of mine appeared in front of me with a toy pistol and "fired" it at me three or four times in fast succession. I said something to his mother about the bad influence this was having on her child. She didn't think there was anything to my suggestion and said, "It's just in play. That's the way for the boy to get it out of his system." She was mistaken. That is the way to really get it into the system.
Too many toys can be bad for children. Some parents do not seem to realize that. Once I went into a home where the living room was so strewn with trucks, blocks, dolls, cars, tricycles, etc., that I had to hunt my way across the room. After lunch this generous young father took me to see the children's room in the basement. This room was so full of toys it made the living room look mild.
Children with too many toys tend to be bored and passive, since there is nothing left for their imaginations. They are unfortunate.
Toys should be simple. A fancy, expensively dressed doll serves well as an ornament or to keep for a souvenir, but a simple "Raggedy Ann" doll will give more real satisfaction as a toy.
Too many toys are products of grown folks' ideas of what a child likes. When my brothers and I were small, my mother would let us use the kitchen chairs and a big blanket to make houses and barns on the kitchen floor. We thoroughly enjoyed our playing with them. More recently I have seen boys and girls who were soon bored though playing with nicely built, painted toy barns or doll houses. It is probably due to the fact that there is nothing left for the imagination. The faculty of imagination is more important to happiness and proper development of a child than most people realize.
It is perfectly normal for a child to want to play. Some parents who do not understand think children play in order to work off surplus energy. You might as well say that people eat just to get rid of the food they have on hand. God gives the child extra energy so he can play and develop as a person. A puppy doesn't play to get rid of its energy. The play instict is included in its make-up so that it can develop into a strong fighter and self-defender, which qualities a dog needs to survive.
Since play is a normal activity, one should never belittle a child or cause him to feel embarrassed because of it. The child should never be made to feel that he is playing because "he is not big enough to know better." Of course, when an older child plays instead of coming straight home from school, it is another matter. He should know that there are times for play and times for other things. However, children should not be overworked--each child must have a certain amount of playtime.
Organized games and table games that have rules are important for the child who is older. The free play of a small child should decrease as he grows older. Organized games which involve physical exercise are profitable for growing children also.
Table games are not intended for physical exercise, but they develop mental abilities. These games often help "hard losers" get over their weakness.
Small children must be watched when they engage in free play. They could injure each other or themselves. When they are very young, they need to be made aware of dangers and of their responsibility toward playmates.
Sometimes parents will learn by listening to children play. Two little boys were playing in another room just off the kitchen where their mother was working. The boys had lost a small toy penknife. Their mother listened when one of the boys said to the other, "I am going to ask Jesus where it is." Then both stopped playing while one prayed a short prayer. When he finished the prayer, he said right away, "I know now where it is," and went to a closet and found it just where the Lord told him to look.
Improper kinds of play and games must be avoided. As was mentioned before, play and games influence a child's life, and there are some activities which are wrong. Some people disagree on this point, but I feel I have observed and experienced enough to be sure that some types of play have bad influences on children.
"Cops and Robbers" is one such game. Why should a child's world be colored with this type of activity? I can see nothing which would prove that children who play this game would be deterred from doing similar things after they grow up. It would only make them tolerant toward violence.
When I was a young boy, my grandmother gave me a whole set of toy soldiers that could be lined up for battle. I was too young to know the danger in playing with these things, and I am thankful that after I played with them only two or three days, my mother gently took them away from me and got rid of them, telling me war was wrong.
I have seen boys ten to fifteen years of age daring each other to do certain things that were dangerous, like jumping from high places or taking chances in dangerous acts. This type of free play should never be permitted.
Card-playing should not be found in a Christian home, not only because the game is used in gambling, but the symbols and marks on the cards seem to be related to occult powers and magic. Playing any game that involves throwing dice can get children used to dice to they will later easily learn to gamble.
Some benefits from play should be mentioned also. Note the following:
From Practical Pointers for Training Your Child
by Lloy A. Kniss (age 75 at the time of the writing!)
© copyright 1975, Christian Light Publications, Harrisonburg, VA
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