Playful Perspectives: Age-appropriate play

Playful Perspectives is a new feature wherein your intrepid Toy Box Mommy (that’s me) and The Toy Guy jointly tackle a topic to give you twice the insight and perhaps slightly different takes on an issue.

This is a great topic for us to do the whole dueling perspectives on, because the Toy Guy is, well, a toy guy, and me, I’m a mom. He knows all about play theory, and I know about vacuuming up teeny tiny pieces of Legos and Polly Pockets. My relationship with how toys and kids best work together is really on a need-to-know basis. Did it make my son scream in frustration? Not appropriate! Did it cause my daughter to ask me to define a word I’d rather she not know yet? Not appropriate!

We’ve all had the experience of picking up a toy or book labeled with a recommended age range and thinking to ourselves, “Ha! Junior is old enough for this, no matter what they say. He’s advanced, you know.” So far as I know, there’s no Toy Police who will come after you for allowing your 7-year-old to participate in a game designed for ages 8 to Adult, after all.

I think the key—as with so much in parenting—is to use some common sense and pay attention. Common sense means things like realizing that letting an 11-year-old have a 12-and-up game is a very different concession than letting a 2-year-old have something labeled for ages 3-and-up. Safety first and all of that, naturally. Also please try to remember that it’s not a contest, here. Your child can be positively brilliant and still not ready for “older” toys, regardless of that mammoth IQ. Unless you popped out a middle-aged human, certain aspects of development and maturity simply cannot be rushed. Besides which, kids should be kids! Even the bright ones need to practice the skills that seemingly simple toys afford.

Paying attention is the corollary; if your little Shakespeare is flawlessly reading all the words on the page but has zero comprehension of what she’s saying, well then, perhaps it’s time to step back into something a bit less complex. And it should go without saying that children will beg and wheedle for whatever they perceive as cool, and regardless of the age of your child or the toy, if they are playing in a way that concerns you, it’s okay to say no (even if “everyone else’s mom says yes”). You’re the parent, and if you’re tuned in, you know your child best. Trust your gut.

What do you think? And don’t forget to go check out The Toy Guy’s take!

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