Monday, December 31, 2007

toys and/or trash?

dame got new sandals today -- they squeak when he walks. the best part is that he's afraid of the squeaky noise and doesn't understand where it's coming from. he thinks the noise is coming from behind him so he runs (or quickly totters), which only increases the squeaking and thus, it is a cycle he cannot break.

i've been thinking about the kids and their lack of toys, particularly because now that they are totally comfortable with having me around, they come in asking for the strangest things to play with. okay, not the strangest, considering that when i was a kid i played with buttons and spider carcasses, but i guess in my adult stage, i've forgotten how much fun a tictac in a tictac box can be or the entertainment value of a string tied around an old ring.

my american paranoid nature is also freaked out to see the kids putting plastic bags on their heads (suffocation!) and batting around old batteries (choking hazard! punctured battery = acid all over hands and face!). even a sheet of colorful paper (paper cuts!) will be passed around as lovingly as american kids would pass around a furby or tamagachi or whatever it is that american kids play with these days.

i complain about how creativity is not really fostered in the children here, but regardless of all the american art classes, crayons, coloring books, crafts, etc., american kids are equally -- if not more -- void of an imaginative spirit. some others & i were just recently musing about how we no longer even see tv commercials for board games anymore. these days, our mechanized, electronic world does the thinking for children and leave adults like me thinking that the kids in senegal will be better off leaving behind their plastic bags and bits of metal odds and ends for "real" toys. is that development? does "development" coincide with children losing the ability to find fun in filling an old can with dirt? i don't know -- because it makes me sad to see that, but it also makes me sad to see a child glued to a computer screen with only their eyeballs and right hand on a mouse moving.

i always felt that my mother gave me a good balance of toys and imagination. as a kid, i could spend hours pounding nails into a plank of wood just as much as i could play with my barbie dreamboat. i want to play with the kids here and introduce them to art and games and toys, but how much is too much? will i spoil them? will i give them a taste of a life that is only available when aissatou the volunteer is around? essentially, the kids are playing with what i deem to be trash, but who's to say that tickle me elmo or matchbox cars aren't trash either?

1 comment:

Branden said...

Not to diminish the thought provoking questions you’ve posed – I for one believe that imagination is diminished by western technology and “toys” – but did you really play with poor spider carcasses when you were a kid??