At Dancing Bear we love to celebrate all things new, like the New Year and your new toys (hopefully some are from the Bear!). But now that the holidays are over and the kiddos are back in school, the glamour of those new toys might be fading — although Tom, our semi-retired owner, is still pretty excited about his new coffee maker in the office.
So what happens when that “new toy glamour” fades? How can parents be reassured that children will want to play with their toys all throughout the year?
When it comes to play, the Bear likes to keep things classic. In fact, we call it classic play.
Classic play comes about when the focus is taken off the toy and turned back to the child. Jenn Choi explains in her awesome article on specialty toys, “What toy stores (and parents) need to understand better is that for a product to be an effective learning tool, the child has to be able to use it to make inquiries and attempt to answer them.” Many times when a child has exhausted a new toy’s capabilities, she (and the parents) will think that the toy is no longer worth playing with. But when we shift the focus to the child and his imagination and creativity, play comes naturally. In other words, classic play is not about what a toy can do but what a child can do with the toy.
To give you an even better idea of this, Tom and our manager Lisa have shared their thoughts on how to encourage classic play.
How would you describe classic play?
Tom: The way I would describe classic play would be “play that comes natural.” We all learn through play. Children as well as adults are very inquisitive by nature, and by posing open-ended questions (or situations) we find that the answers always come when we encourage thinking outside the box. With respect to toys and classic play, I have always said, “A toy should never tell a child what to do, rather a child should always tell the toy what to do.”
Lisa: When I think of classic play I always think of Peter Pan and the Lost Boys — specifically from “Hook.” My favorite line comes from the scenes where the boys are trying to help Peter remember his favorite games from his childhood, and Tinkerbell says to him, “If you can’t imagine yourself as Peter Pan, you’ll never BE Peter Pan!” To me, it helps solidify the idea that kids, and even adults, learn best through playing and imagining.
What can parents do to encourage classic play for their kids?
Tom: Tell them to go outside and explore the world, ask questions, get dirty and above all, never be afraid to fail. Failure is okay. It’s how we learn.
Lisa: First of all, play with your kids! If a toy is being used in a way you wouldn’t expect — allow it. Don’t correct your children while they play. They know how to play already.
Secondly, don’t confine your children to playing with only store-bought toys. Kid-safe objects from around the house can be great play toys and game opportunities — like making a fort out of sheets in the living room! Think of things you did and loved to play with as a child and share them with the next generation.
Also, the current generation of kids, born anytime between 2005 and 2015, were the first generation to be born with technology in their hands. … Sometimes it takes a little extra encouragement to get them to put down the tech toys and play with the simple toys. Tech toys have their place, I really do believe that, but in order to get our kids thinking creatively, we have to give them more opportunities, like through classic play.
What are some ways that kids can experience classic play at the Dancing Bear?
Tom: None of our toys or games “tell the child what to do.” We have everything out to play with. We are the experts when it comes to play.
Lisa: Being battery-free automatically makes people think of old-fashioned toys and classic play. … In addition, we offer a variety of classes that create bonding moments through play between children and caretakers. Generally speaking, all of the toys we carry create classic play opportunities.
What is your expert advice on toys that make for great classic play?
Tom: I would say blocks, Keva planks, any building toys, all of the science toys — actually, the more I think of it, all of our toys make for great classic play.
Lisa: My favorites include: Magnatiles, Tegu Blocks, SmartMax (I guess anything magnetic is a win for me!), Schleich animals and dinosaurs, musical instruments, arts and crafts. Also, story telling games like Rory’s Story Cubes allow kids to think outside the box and verbalize some otherwise nonsensical ideas.
So, whether you’re at home, in the park, or visiting us at the Dancing Bear, we hope you’ll find many ways to play with your children all year long!