3 Methods for Reclaiming Childhood for the Modern Family
by Kate Saffle
A week ago
“They grow up so fast,” a sage grandmother says to a new mother, reminding her to hold onto those fleeting moments of childhood. Parenthood is a time of holding on and savoring of our days with our children before they leave our homes, not rushing their natural progression through all of the ages and stages. When our little ones are babies, we are careful to cover the electrical outlets, strap them into a car seat while driving, and create a soothing home environment. However, as our children grow out of the baby stage, it is often a nebulous time period in which we must set boundaries around their consumption of media, ideas, and technology. In other words, we sometimes worry more about the hot stove than remembering to filter out the adult word from their environment.
Our modern age, with all of its technology and media, makes it increasingly difficult to keep mature conversations and ideas out of our children’s awareness. It doesn’t help that the commercialization of children’s toys has created a trickle down effect of marketing mature toys to younger and younger children. In fact, there is an industry acronym used to describe this effect: KGOY or “kids getting older younger” and children as young as two are able to express brand loyalty. How does a parent create a safe environment that protects and honors the passage of childhood? Let’s look at three ways that parents can do so:
Minimizing the Adult World
Have you ever noticed the way children can listen so intently to adult conversation and remember things that you said long after you do? Children are little sponges, absorbing everything they hear and see, whether that’s a frightening news piece on the television, hearing Mom and Dad fighting about finances, or listening to provocative music on the radio, children are highly aware of the ideas being shared around them.
As parents, it is our duty to protect our children from concerning and frightening ideas at any age. Often there is an assumption that babies and small children are unaware, but we must proceed with the understanding that they are in fact hearing and absorbing anything in their environment. Save serious adult conversations for when the children are not around and monitor the television,computer, and radio for anything that is beyond a young child’s understanding.
We may also think that children need to understand the problems of the world since they are living in it, and there is value in this idea. However, the greatest gift you can give your child is innocence from many of the horrific occurrences happening around the world until they are old enough to comprehend them. Remember that young children reason from their own knowing of the world, and it is in this limited capacity that they will try to make sense of anything scary or mature. This is a valuable way to protect childhood.
Choose Non-Commercial Toys and Clothes
The next method for protecting the innocence of childhood is to step outside the commercialization of it. If you’ve walked down a toy aisle recently, you may have noticed that the toys are created less with the growth of the child in mind and instead with the focus on promoting major corporations. The point of a toy is to educate the child and spark their sense of wonder. Toys provide a form of childlike work and discovery, and the best ones often appeal to a wide variety of ages.
The difference between a set of wooden blocks and a fashion doll is vast; the blocks can become anything a child imagines, while the doll will only ever be an icon of beauty and style. In other words, the blocks are a blank canvas on which the child creates, while commercialized toys are really sophisticated marketing tools that influence the child.
As parents, we can choose toys that are open ended, spark curiosity, and are made with beautiful and thoughtful materials. They should be designed with the youngest child in mind and safe for a variety of ages. We can limit toys that ask our children to get older younger and instead celebrate their limited childhood through intentional purchases.
Delay the Introduction of Technology
Finally, one of the best ways to create a safer home environment that filters out the adult world is to delay and limit technology. Every time we turn on a television or a screen, we invite marketers and media to communicate with our families. The impact can be significant, especially with young children who are still forming their understanding of the world. Rather than letting corporations influence and teach our children, we can limit or delay the introduction of technology.
We will discuss technology, and ways to reduce its usage more deeply in an upcoming article; however, know that waiting to introduce screens can have a positive impact on the entire family. The world of the young child is found in the comfort of a simple and nurturing home and not online.
Creating a simplicity parenting home is more than just decluttering, but of imagining a sanctuary for children to grow up slowly and intentionally. We can foster their growth and honor their childhood by minimizing the adult world, disconnecting from commercial toys and products, and delaying the introduction of technology.
Which of these steps will you try first?