Toys are important
Quarreling and fighting, big talk and “bad” words, and sex play are often more frequent when children do not have enough to stimulate their play. The pre-school child needs wisely chosen toys to play with. Their toys should be sturdy enough to stand rough, hard usage. They should be basic, so that the child can use them for many purposes. Outdoor equipment should be planned to keep several children happy at a time. Parents should want other children to play in their yard, for it is through playing together that preschool children learn how to get along with one another. It is well to give some thought to the needs of the children on the block when outdoor equipment is being planned. A sandbox and a swing are good equipment for every yard, as they can be used for both individual and group play. But if a neighbor has a jungle gym, it might be well to consider a slide or a playhouse for one’s yard so as to provide a variety of equipment on the block. Sturdy, wide boards and large but light packing boxes add to the children’s fun. They can be turned into houses and boats, trains and airplanes, as imagination suggests.
If possible, a child should have a tricycle and a wagon to push and pull. Some older pre-school children can use jump ropes and roller skates, but the coordination required is too difficult for others All pre-schoolers can use balls of various sizes, though large balls are usually best, as they can be kicked around. Pre-school children should be encouraged to throw and catch, for these are skills they will need when they get to school. Most of them will not do very well, but they can have fun beginning to learn. Water should be part of the preschool child’s play when the weather is warm enough. A wading pool in the backyard can offer much fun on hot summer days. Such a pool should be emptied if an adult is not to be around, for it creates a hazard for a very small child. Watering cans and small pails of water in the sandbox offer many opportunities; a pan in which boats can sail or dolls can swim gives added fun. Children need freedom to play with sand, mud, and water, even though they do get dirty and messed up.
For indoor play, a few strong, well-chosen toys that can be used for many purposes and combined in many ways are a better investment than mechanical or flimsy toys that look attractive at the moment but are soon broken or discarded. Since toys are a major part of the pre-school child’s education, they need to be chosen with care and thought. Many children fail to show interest in their toys or to take care of them, because the ones which are given to them are so flimsy they break quickly and easily and are frustrating to use. Many a playroom becomes cluttered with parts and odds and ends of broken and discarded toys. Good toys, wisely chosen, are much more easily taken care of by the small child, as well as being enjoyed more fully and creatively. The child who keeps whining because he has nothing to do is often a child who does not have the right toys to challenge his interest.
Most preschool children enjoy playing with blocks. These have endless possibilities for all kinds of play, and for combinations with small dolls, airplanes, cars, or farm animals. Blocks should be of all sizes and kinds so that they can be adapted to building many different kinds of things. The “kindergarten” blocks are excellent but expensive. A clever father, however, can often make similar blocks. It is well to look at the kindergarten blocks first, and then, if they are too costly, buy other blocks as much like them as possible.
Poster paints or crayons with large sheets of newsprint or wrapping paper provide many happy, creative hours. Both the plastic clay and the water clay, which can be made into little dishes and then painted and kept, satisfy the pre-schooler’s need to get his hands into something which he can pound and mold. If clay is provided on a tray or on a newspaper at the kitchen table, he soon learns not to smear it on the floor or the furniture.
Dramatic play fills much of the time of a pre-school child. He enjoys playing house and store, cowboy and doctor. A few realistic props add to his pleasure. Housekeeping toys, doll beds, brooms, a small stove, cooking dishes, or a doctor’s kit all add to the fun of dramatic play. A dress-up box containing high-heeled shoes, old dresses, hats, pocketbooks, beads, and all the other “makings” for costumes provide much fun for four- and five-year-olds.
A child should be allowed to use his toys as he wants and to combine them in many ways. The only exception should be such things as paints and crayons, which should be used from the beginning only with paper. The child should not be allowed to use crayons on walls or mark up his books and other toys. If he is once allowed to begin, there is often great difficulty in checking him later. Give paints and crayons to a child only with the paper on which he will work, so that he thinks of the two together. In the same way a child can soon learn that clay is used only on a certain tray or on the kitchen or playroom table. Parts of games and puzzles should also be kept together, or the value of the game or puzzle will be lost. A child can soon learn that games and puzzles are not taken out and strewn around, but are more fun when they are used and put away again for another time. It is not a kindness to children to allow them to destroy and mix up their games and puzzles. In the playroom it is good to have a game shelf, a paint-and-clay shelf, and then shelves for the toys on which there are no restrictions. It is usually best to keep paints, crayons, and special games out of reach of very small children. (Continue below to page 7)