As we all probably all know, since ancient times human beings have always had the need to build tools to interact with the environment around them, not only to protect themselves but also to get food. In particular, he created for himself what he needed for hunting, fishing and everything that would guarantee his survival. In short, the ability to imagine and construct artifacts has always been part of our genetic heritage. Artifacts that, thanks to our ingenuity and creativity, allow us both to express ourselves creatively (think about the graffiti on the walls of the caverns) and to interface with the outside world in the most appropriate way possible.
At the same time, the human being has always manifested also another innate tendency, common also to the other mammals, that is the propensity to play, to play recreation. As a result, since the dawn of time it has worked to recreate objects for this purpose. The materials with which the primitive toys were made were initially stone and wood and represented miniatures, like rudimentary little dolls and small tools. The importance of this activity, in its formative meaning already for our ancestors, is reinforced by its ancient historical genesis. Moreover, as already mentioned earlier, we can see a biological feedback of this activity, comparing with other mammals. In fact, this is a particular feature that we also have in common with other species. Puppies of other animal species also learn from an early age to stimulate their cognitive abilities and improve their practical skills in the game. Think of cats, for example, who play with the ball and train to hunt, perfecting attention and agility. How do we improve our skills?
As we have seen, it is from the beginning of history that we use particular objects to develop our imagination and our relationship with the world. The canonical and more classic toys, inserted in the scenarios of imagination, have always been dolls or soldiers, just to name a few of the evergreens. Fake kitchens with which to simulate the preparation of tasty dishes, a disproportionate wealth of imaginary scenarios, in which to test our skills of thought and socialization. The quality of the materials used has evolved more and more, gradually improving over the centuries; fake wooden weapons, terracotta models, rag dolls, soldiers, spindles and many other pieces such as these have seen a series of transformations from the most rudimentary model to the most equipped and multifunctional.
Initially they were sometimes very simple objects, essential in design and functionality, but certainly complementary to the imaginative capacity of their small end users. The basic idea was to make the children interact with each other, or to put the child in a position to solve a problem. Think about the different types of puzzles, or even just the games that the little one chooses. But in order to get a more precise idea of what could be the favourite balocchi in childhood in the past, or even just out of pure curiosity on the subject, we would have to point out some museums with a theme. One of these is the toy and child museum in Cormano, Lombardy.
In the museum we will find objects and testimonies, which are like snapshots that photograph a piece of history, a portion of a time in continuous development, as is the technological progress at the top creative level of industrial playful production, which has then established itself on the market. Of course, as the decades have gone by, the complexity of children's games and toys has grown, so we have moved from the simple wooden doll to the cart used as a means of transport; and from the stick imagined as a horse to puzzles. The variety of different games, and how they have evolved over the course of history, tell us on the one hand about the social changes that have occurred in a specific historical era, but also provide us with information about the influence that technological progress has had on the intellectual development of children. We are all the product of the society in which we live, but we are also responsible for some of the choices we decide to make.
For example, if we take a closer look at the moment in which we live, we can see how certain behaviours that are now almost automatic can become contraindications that we can limit. How many positive effects has the digital revolution had on our society? There are countless, but here we also consider how this has impacted on the way our children play. The increased possibility of access to the web for an ever-increasing proportion of the population has allowed a massive spread of tablets and smartphones even among the smallest. How can this affect children's fun? Let's look at the other side of the coin: while we are sure that some possibilities have increased from the point of view of entertainment for children, on the other hand we also recognize how the pervasiveness of the various portable devices is side-by-side with not entirely positive attitudes. Screens of any size, from smart phones to tablets, do not always but sometimes almost invade our spaces without even realizing it. This happens to adults first, just think of when we meet for dinner with our loved ones, or we go to the pub with friends, and maybe while we wait to order, we want to see the latest news around the web. How many times do we dwell for a moment to check the various feeds on Facebook, just a "moment" that then becomes half an hour? And here we isolate ourselves from the present moment. Nothing serious, but it is time that we could spend a hundred different ways.
Many times, we run in the same way also with children, especially when we are out or we are busy with something important: unconsciously, in fact, we often use these magic instruments, these hypnotic totems that, immediately, with a song, a video clip, or a play full of colorful images and sounds with nice and cheerful motifs keep children good.These are powerful diversions that can be used in some cases, for example if the child is whimsical, or simply to distract him a little bit, but at what price? If we exclude the use and enjoyment of fun but also educational programs or applications, or if we make an exception for the greater propensity to read e-books or children's magazines, then we say that it would be better to discourage this common practice. In fact, according to researchers at the medical school of the University of Boston, the continuous use of the tablet or the vision of the screen of the mobile phone to calm a whim, harms the child's ability to self-check their emotions. The ability to regulate oneself in times of crisis or boredom is forged autonomously by the brain, and it is important to allow this type of "training", even if the first solution may seem the most effective at the moment. We think a little bit of muscle stretching, stretching tense muscles must take place gradually to be really beneficial and bring good long-term results.
Yes, as a method to distract, it works, but by taking inspiration from this research, we can meditate on what it really means to "distract". Usually, we think of distraction as something that should bring us elsewhere with attention, the etymological meaning of this word is in fact distrah?re, i. e. pulling here and there,"separating", moving away in some way from reality or from the moment you are living. In the long run, this could be more harmful than beneficial, because passive distraction tends to "cover" and mask emotions, not handle them in the right way. In light of this, hobbies and pastimes, as well as children's games, should be a form of active distraction, so as to allow, in addition to healthy leisure, also the improvement of one's emotional balance, as well as the increase of discernment and problem solving. Just about the ability to solve problems, do you remember Rubik's cube? The famous Hungarian-born puzzle puzzle, awarded in 1980 as the game of the year for the annual German event, is an excellent example of a game that enhances the problem-solving ability. There are many positive arguments in support of a return to the game in its most genuine and traditional sense.
And then, seeing that they grow so fast, we can take advantage of it and, instead of always resorting to the blue lights of our screens as the only emergency resource to reassure the little ones, we can educate them in a preventive way to be quieter, so to speak, autonomous. Of course it does not mean that they will stop whitewashing, but they will be able to gain more fun from richer and, so to speak, more nourishing occupations for the spirit. We can make a difference, we can help them to have fun in different ways, in an active way.
We fill their bedrooms with toys and interactive games that can spur their intellect, acting positively on the expression of their emotions. After having had fun, maybe even having learned new notions, we will be able to teach the children how to store their favorite games in special containers, so as to maintain order and cleanliness. Let's look at what are the main possibilities available today in the world of children's games, what are the most popular product categories and which games we can direct to inspire our children and make them at the same time calmer and serene. Puzzles, as you know, are interactive games that train fantasy and patience, in which you have to insert pieces of cardboard of varying sizes between them to complete an image. Invented by a London engraver and cartographer, the subject of the puzzle was initially hand-painted on wood, which was then cut into various shapes with a die-cutter. Today the support is the cardboard, on which the image to be recomposed is glued. The traditional shape is usually rectangular, but there are also puzzles with more unpredictable shapes, such as roundish, very nice shapes.
Surprising experiments and shapes do not end here: there are also puzzles that develop vertically, always following the classic rectangular shape but that, instead of the traditional "window"design, runs in height stretching upwards. Others, on the other hand, follow the same direction, in the sense of upheaval of forms, and perhaps have trains running all the way on a line that stretches horizontally. Others still depict some of the world's most famous monuments, an added value given that they also bring geographical knowledge. Or there are puzzles with puzzles printed on top of the drawing only, without color, which can then color or repaint the children themselves. The most common subjects for these games are mostly animals or funny and cheerful fantastic characters, who animate the imagination of our children, while at the same time sharpening their wits and sense of reasoning. The beauty of puzzles is that they can be played alone or in groups. And then, once finished, maybe together with some friends or the whole family, it can be nice to hang these little masterpieces on the wall, to give a cheerful and personal impression to your corner of the games or your own room.
And what about drawing boards? Who hasn't had at least one child? Yes, I am talking about the classic slate ones, not the magnetic ones. A beautiful blackboard that can be erased is a further idea to promote play and creativity. And here too, the imagination and originality of design can make a difference, in fact, there are many different types, from those to be hung on the wall to those from the ground with shelves to support the chalks and the cassino. The offer of the market is rich in proposals for all different tastes; the most classic designs are then flanked by the most modern ones, that playing with shapes and materials, gives the illusion of being something different: in fact, some boards replicate the form of digital devices most used by adults, such as tablets, smartphones and portable PCs. Practically, the "game" is in the mixture of meanings: these are blackboards for drawing, made in various formats, that aesthetically recall the concept of mobile devices.
In this way, classic and modern blend into a toy with a traditional flavor, but which recalls through the illusion of appearances something else. It's a fun way to prolong the childhood that seems to be getting thinner and thinner. Not to mention the various puppets, like a cheerful company, maybe some colourful and cute amyramids, which are a sort of cute puppets made with crochet. These toys have always existed and convey a sense of joy and joy, as well as warmth: pillows in the shape of whale, owl or octopus, with a thousand bright colors keep company much better than a blue screen, and in addition they give a decorative touch. What to say then about the constructions, so many colored bricks to learn to distinguish shapes and colors, and to always build new things. Or plasticine, or the various moldable pastes with which the little ones can express creativity and fantasy, having fun modeling through the hands or with the help of the forms everything they want.
Eventually, after so much fun it doesn't stay very neat anymore around the room. If you're imagining a sea of games scattered around, where you don't even find socks in the end, imagine again. Organizing in the best way possible the environment in which children play is the best way for them to have fun, feeling safe and really free to wander around with fantasy. Also in this case, the proposals are really endless, you can choose the toy containers you prefer, having as reference a very wide range of different options. It is important to ensure that the materials are safe, childproof and easy to clean. There are containers with the most amazing and entertaining shapes and brilliant colours. The containers can be in the form of baskets or poufs, with more or less small dimensions, or pocket systems to be arranged next to the bed, in a practical and fun way. Better if made of cotton and washable, these glove boxes can also be fixed to the wall, even at child height.
Some of the more unusual, but also more humorous solutions are represented by fake wheelbarrows, which can contain all the most bulky toys. For those with smaller sizes, containers with different compartments are also fine, always made of fabric, perhaps with cheerful and colourful prints. But also nice trunks, so that depending on the possibilities of space and the strength of the materials, we can fill our containers, to keep our children's playing environment always in order. The function of the containers is not only to contain and collect: they can help create a cheerful and inspirational atmosphere, they are a bit like toolboxes, the tools of fantasy and growth and if they are colorful, fun and witty, it will be a pleasure to store the tools once the energy is exhausted. In the end, all their games, as we have seen, perform at least two important functions: entertainment and the emotional and intellectual nourishment of our children. Let us not miss the opportunity to make the best contribution to their growth.
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