It may seem a strange topic to write about, but it’s becoming more and more clear to me the connection between a lot of issues children are having these days and the increase in cheap, mass-produced plastic toys and the use of electronic devices. Most children (mine included) are exposed to more and more toys, with less and less value. Gone are the days where one handmade toy would be savoured by a child for years, to be passed down generations that was built to last. What is the significance here? Firstly, the growth in the Chinese market has enabled toy companies (amongst many others) to be able to take their business overseas to produce more toys at less cost and more profit. This is a common fact known to most, with the most obvious downside being the loss to local businesses and onshore manufacturers who are forced to close down, unable to meet the financial competition of off-shore companies. The hidden and less known downside is the impact this is having on children’s natural ‘play’. Nature has a depth to it which mirrors that of our own being; it is rich in magic and life. It has been shown time and time again that children who spend more time outdoors connecting to nature have a reduced chance of developing anxiety related disorders, ADHD and the like. Nature provides the perfect opportunities for children to discover their own complex mystery, and to access the wisdom within their own souls. They get to witness the repetition of nature’s signatures such as the spirals inherent in all forms of life; the symmetry of a wildflower and the abundance of life growing simply for the pleasure of being.
None serves a greater purpose than existing purely for the love of being. Toys that have been crafted from nature, such as wooden toys, handsewn blankets and woollen hand-knitted dolls all contain these elements that are then brought to life within a child’s imagination. They contain a tangible energy that is incomparable to their plastic and synthetic counterparts. The richness of these toys provides the tactile joys most children today miss out on. Plastic toys have become a throwaway commodity, they lack value and meaning to children and so aren’t cherished or cared for as toys of the past were. Children know intuitively that there is something lacking in these toys. They may have a sudden rush of excitement to be given them but this fades very quickly. The child’s response is a direct reflection of the energetic value of the toy. Give most children a crystal, shell or something precious from nature and they will have a much greater connection to it and it will take pride of place in their bedroom, long outlasting their plastic neighbours.
Children thrive when spending time outdoors because it excites within them a connection that is akin to coming home. The stillness inherent within nature -the perfection of it all is but a mirror to their own true nature. Time spent playing on technology offers none of the depth that outdoor play does. Children are growing up in a fast-paced world, where global connection is now reality for them. They can access information at the touch of a button and learn about issues of global concern rather than simply local community concerns. This has its pros, and I believe is all part of the evolutionary progress towards a more united world; one where solutions are created globally and the role of the individual ‘I’ is superseded for a more encompassing and functional ‘we’. I don’t have an issue with children having access to technology per se, it would be like burying your head in the sand to resist the technological advances that are sweeping our world right now. However, I believe that whilst this connection to others is a form of progress, it needs to be supported equally with an inner movement, where children are supported and encouraged to listen to their hearts, from which all truly life-changing and world-changing ideas will emerge. Children need to be grounded in this world if they are to make a difference. They thrive off inner and outer connections. Some children have the balance tipped on the inner world, which results in a lack of connection to their surroundings, including family and friends. Other children are more plugged into the outer connection, often resulting in overactive and erratic behaviour. As with all things, it becomes a matter of moderation. It is often easy to see when the balance is being tipped in the wrong direction. I notice with my own children when there has been too much screen time that behaviour worsens and division within the family unit starts to occur. A few days spent playing outdoors with imaginative play sets the balance right again. Children need access to ‘real’ things in order to thrive; real living foods, real natural toys and real outdoor play. This fosters a sense of wellbeing that is naturally present within them and will enable them to then thrive at anything they set their minds to.