Modern Toys Creativity and the Parent’s Dilemma

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The majority of toys today are plastic, light up, ding, are related to movies and TV shows or are in some other way connected with technology.

I have mixed feelings about this. I’m not against technology, I use it and enjoy the benefits. Like it or not, we weren’t born in the 1800′s and can’t go back in time. Incidentally, I think much of the romanticizing about the past is largely just that – romantic – but not based in reality. Times before modern technology and science were hard – if we just look at the life expectancy in that time, we can see that – as people rarely lived to forty as recently as the 1800′s.

Scientists discovered that brain growth is the greatest between 0-4 years of age. The scientists who conducted the study hoped that the results would encourage better preschool investment – instead they said that it spawned a new niche in toys, parents trying to make their children into baby Einstein’s. But that’s another issue in and of itself.

Now it’s hard to know what to believe. Advertisers are rarely held accountable for their claims.

Children are naturally very curious. J plays with the remote control for the TV and stacks blocks and stacking rings. He wants to know how things work.

We limit the number of electronic toys to the ones his grandparents/other family members give him. The same thing with movie and TV character toys. Since studies say that generic toys promote the most creativity and imagination, I’d rather that be the majority of what J has.

However – we live in a modern world. Technology is everywhere. We can’t really escape that. J grabs for my iPad and iPhone, and rearranges the apps (he’s deleted a few too). I monitor him and direct him to kid friendly apps. He usually loses interests after a few minutes and goes and plays with his blocks.

He watches an episode of Curious George now and then. I let him. But just one. Most of his day he spends playing. The majority of the time it’s with generic toys – a ball or a boat in the pool, or blocks. But he likes his Elmo from his grandparents too – though he hasn’t seen Sesame Street yet, so I doubt he has made the connection of who it is supposed to be.

So where is the middle? For us I feel like this works well enough. I know it’ll change and be modified as he gets older. As our culture swings from one extreme to another, forging the way to a happy medium is always a challenge.

Modern Toys Creativity and the Parent’s Dilemma

20140721-165542-60942592.jpg

The majority of toys today are plastic, light up, ding, are related to movies and TV shows or are in some other way connected with technology.

I have mixed feelings about this. I’m not against technology, I use it and enjoy the benefits. Like it or not, we weren’t born in the 1800′s and can’t go back in time. Incidentally, I think much of the romanticizing about the past is largely just that – romantic – but not based in reality. Times before modern technology and science were hard – if we just look at the life expectancy in that time, we can see that – as people rarely lived to forty as recently as the 1800′s.

Scientists discovered that brain growth is the greatest between 0-4 years of age. The scientists who conducted the study hoped that the results would encourage better preschool investment – instead they said that it spawned a new niche in toys, parents trying to make their children into baby Einstein’s. But that’s another issue in and of itself.

Now it’s hard to know what to believe. Advertisers are rarely held accountable for their claims.

Children are naturally very curious. J plays with the remote control for the TV and stacks blocks and stacking rings. He wants to know how things work.

We limit the number of electronic toys to the ones his grandparents/other family members give him. The same thing with movie and TV character toys. Since studies say that generic toys promote the most creativity and imagination, I’d rather that be the majority of what J has.

However – we live in a modern world. Technology is everywhere. We can’t really escape that. J grabs for my iPad and iPhone, and rearranges the apps (he’s deleted a few too). I monitor him and direct him to kid friendly apps. He usually loses interests after a few minutes and goes and plays with his blocks.

He watches an episode of Curious George now and then. I let him. But just one. Most of his day he spends playing. The majority of the time it’s with generic toys – a ball or a boat in the pool, or blocks. But he likes his Elmo from his grandparents too – though he hasn’t seen Sesame Street yet, so I doubt he has made the connection of who it is supposed to be.

So where is the middle? For us I feel like this works well enough. I know it’ll change and be modified as he gets older. As our culture swings from one extreme to another, forging the way to a happy medium is always a challenge.

Things Forgotten

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My son thinks that TV’s are touchscreen.

I had to think hard a few days ago to remember how to mail a form. Like with the stamp – does it attach to the mailbox? How do I send this?

There are times when I forget that you don’t have to wait three days toilet paper and cleaning supplies to come in the mail. I could go buy them at the store. But I don’t.

I could go to the bank – but I don’t.

My mom got out a phone book to look up the address of a business while I was at her house recently. I’d forgotten you could do that.

My uncle printed out directions from mapquest. I’d forgotten you could do that.

Technology changes quickly. Sometimes we get so used to it that we forget that we used to manage just fine doing it another way.

Life creeps in and the changes sometimes we barely notice. When did I start looking places up online anyway? I don’t remember.

Most of those changes are pretty neutral in and of themselves. Yet the affects are far reaching. The internet. The car. The smart phone.

What is something you have forgotten?

Aguas Calientes

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At the base of the mountains to go up to Machu Picchu is a small town called Aguas Calientes – hot water in English, so named because of the natural hot springs that flow in the village.

It’s an interesting little town in many ways one of the fascinating things about it is the complete lack of motor infrastructure.

There is a bus stop and two train stations. Otherwise, the town is completely inaccessible to vehicles.

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The streets are narrow and built into the sides of the mountain. Some of the streets are staircases – especially when you walk away from the tourist district and get to the regular neighborhood areas.

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Two rivers meet at the edge of the town, and footbridges span the rivers. There is a bridge for the trains, but not for the buses, so about half of the town has no vehicle in it whatsoever.

And this, from what I was able to understand is how the people want to keep it.

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There is a lot of concern with the number of tourists at Machu Picchu. While tourism accounts for much of Aguas Calientes economy, the people are also very aware of the encroaching damage to their national treasure. Development is purposefully limited.

It was refreshing to walk through the high mountain town, and explore the streets and markets. The air is clean and jungle is lush. And the Peruvians would prefer to keep it that way.

World Wednesdays

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I often run across articles throughout the week that amaze, encourage or disturb me in one way or another. I’m planning to start posting these regularly. If you have one that should be included, please link it in the comment section!

The picture above is from Feng Huang, Hunan PRC about nine years ago. Feng Huang is a beautiful city in southern China that is currently flooding. It is awful to follow the news and see the damage in a town that I enjoyed so much several times over. Thinking of and praying for the people there in one of the friendliest places I have ever been.

In better news, it appears that the US is trying to start new and better relations with China. This is encouraging as diplomatic relations with each other are vital for the future and prosperity of both countries.

Also on China, the WTO has stated that tariffs on Chinese Solar panels may be illegal. Thoughts?

The Panama Canal expansion project is taking longer than expected due to delays because of funding.

Japan, still trying to answer demand in after the 2011 earthquake put nuclear power on hold just upped their investment in solar again.

Finland wants to make cars in Helsinki obsolete in ten years. Meanwhile Sweden and Denmark are considering adding bike infrastructure across Europe’s second largest bridge.

At the end of this, I realize that these are mostly places I have been and know well. Um……that probably going to be a trend. I’ll try and include info from places I haven’t been as much as I can as well though!

The World Cup

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This morning, the day after the World Cup, I watched five little boys, including my own running through the park, kicking a soccer ball. The boys were at youngest (mine) 15 months and the oldest was three.

No doubt some of them will play football later, but today soccer is the game of choice. It’s a sport they can all do – even if they don’t know the rules yet. Even if they aren’t really playing to win yet. They can run and kick.

Much has been written about the rise of soccer and interest in the World Cup this time around. Some cite it as proof of the nations decay (note to Ann Coulter, your great grandpa probably played American football when it was still known as “rugby”) others just make fun of it and opine about football season not being in session – memes and articles abound on Facebook. But funny as all that was, even more people were watching and paying attention. That is new.

I think there maybe a couple reason for this, and not the ones cited on Facebook. Soccer is a sport that equalizes nations – rich and poor. Children with a ball can run in and kick in the parks, no matter age or economic background. American sports by contrast, are expensive. They require equipment which may not be accessible to the poorer neighborhoods and especially poorer countries.

American football is a variation of rugby. Rugby is a split from soccer (football) that occurred in the 1850′s when the British league decided to standardize the sport so in a manner of speaking, soccer is American Football’s “grandparent,” as is mush of the culture of the United States. Soccer rose in popularity for a time while American football was threatened to be banned under Theodore Roosevelt, due to the high number of fatalities involved in the game. It fell as the US improved the (cost prohibitive) football gear, and entered into a period of isolation from the rest of the world.

Why is it back now? My guess is two reasons – globalization and economics.

Soccer is a sport that is followed and played worldwide. Much of this is due to the expense (see for example the short film on the tmb panyee fc on YouTube or Vimeo) as the game is cheap and easy to play anywhere. Likely part of the reason it is a favorite for “soccer moms” is this price as well. Uniforms, gear, clubs are expenses that add up quickly for parents, making certain sports unreasonable until the child reaches an age when the public schools can fund much of their athletics through taxes. The community sports, as they are self-funded to a larger degree, have to come from the parents, and so soccer becomes an appealing choice for thrifty parents even though that may not have been the sport of choice that the parents would prefer to watch. Children then, look back at their childhoods of playing soccer with fondness, so thirty years later as the games are on national TV, those children (and the ones that will follow them) are tuning in. Every World Cup, this group grows.

On the worldwide scale, as the US is needing to move out of it’s relative isolation due to it’s need to buy and sell in the world international economy. Capitalism and competition have gone global and in this globalization, the world has flattened. Once again, economics come into play as the countries of the world that are poorer (such as the US’s long nemesis, Ghana) can compete with wealthier nations. As globalization continues to make world events more the norm, soccer will continue to be dominant because of economics.

So whether you love soccer, hate it, or fall (like most) somewhere in the middle, it’s likely the economics and slow waltz toward globalization aren’t going to change any time soon. So pray the US gets better at soccer and enjoy the people watching at least if not the game itself. The beautiful game isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The Lantern

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After the blackout last week I realized we didn’t have any backup lights. I pulled the solar lights off the gate, and used them in the house, but it would have been nice to have something in the house without taking the path lights out.

So I got online, did a bit of research and ordered one of these lights. D-light lanterns are surprisingly bright. I left it out in the sun for a few hours and it casts a lot of light.

Last night, my husband’s car battery died. Again. This has been happening a lot recently so we decided to just get a new battery. But then he had to change it on a dark street. The lanterns (2) however provided plenty of light.

I’m not a fan of lighting candles in a blackout with a busy toddler in the house. There is just a lot that could go wrong with that. So here is a great alternative.

You charge the light once and it’s good to sit in the closet for up to a year. It can also pull a charge from a laptop if you forget and need to charge it at night for some reason (of course this means you need to have a charged laptop on hand – and my ancient MacBook no longer holds a charge for long, but theoretically….)

So for blackouts and random emergencies – these are a great thing to have on hand!