Don’t rely on plastic toys: Let your child’s imagination soar | Commentary – Orlando Sentinel

don’t-rely-on-plastic-toys:-let-your-child’s-imagination-soar-|-commentary-–-orlando-sentinel

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By Emily Garratt Guest Columnist | Dec 21, 2020 at 6: 00 AM With Christmas just around the corner, and the preponderance of plastics available in our stores, is it time that we look differently at plastic resources? With all the plastic toys that children will get for the holidays, is this harming their development and at the same time harming the environment? Within a child’s early years, plastic is seen everywhere — an abundance of color and toys that light up, make sounds and move — but many of the toys have limited play options. A child has limitless imagination, but does a plastic garage, castle or kitchen hold that back? Once a button has been pressed and understood, what can it do now? Nothing. Therefore, a child could become easily bored and move on to the next object, discarding that toy after a very short period of time. A cardboard box can be anything that day, providing a blank canvas for a child to create their toy, advancing their developmental skills by providing the opportunity to make whatever they desire: a fort, a race car, a house, a shop, or just a place to sit and wonder and explore. Recycling and reusing authentic resources not only protects the environment and supports nature but provides endless play opportunities. Garage sales and thrift stores can provide these resources — old clothes for the home corner, china figurines and animals for pretend, old teacups and teapots for the water. Industries can provide old cable reels, pipes, tubes and other resources, perfect for little hands and minds to explore to become racing drivers, architects or engineers. These resources that would have ended up in landfill sites taking years to decompose could find their way into different uses in the hands of a child. Such items can teach children to take care of things — a plastic cup and plate can be thrown around, whereas a china cup and plate requires children to be more careful, therefore teaching them consequences and risk. I’m not suggesting that we throw out all plastic toys. But I am suggesting that, as adults, we can be more mindful in what resources we use to promote child development. Dinosaurs are plastic, but they can “roam” in real leaves, sticks and pinecones. A small world can be made out of a cat tower, and a table made from Play-Doh with dried fruit, sticks and pinecones to imprint rather than plastic molds. A playroom set to look like a home, with old objects such as typewriters, phones, clothes and tea sets. An art area with beads or natural objects to paint with or copy. Outdoor areas with boxes, tubes, wooden crates already to be built into a house, car, garage or fairy land. These resources bring a sense of adventure and excitement to children’s play. Emily Garratt, a United Kingdom native who now lives in Clermont, has worked with children as part of early-intervention programs and special education for 20 years.
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