Sunday, February 22, 2009

Toys or Tools?

Hunter has never liked "toys".

When he was six months old I would give him a box of baby toys and expect him to play with the contents for at least a good twenty minutes or so, but it never happened. He would give each toy the standard five-point scientific test (look at it, feel it, shake it and bang it to hear what sound it makes, taste it, and smell it, making use of every sensory pathway he had) which took about sixty seconds and then he was done with it. Only after reading Doman did I actually begin to realize the genius behind his experimenting. At the time I just thought he had a short attention span and was stubborn (Why won't you just play while I work on this?) but now I know that he just simply didn't need to play with it anymore, considering he had already learned everything there was to learn about it through his rigorous and systematic tests.

To say the least, the box of baby toys never got much use because after he had spent his sixty second on each toy in the box, he had no interest in all the nice toys we had bought him and was far more interested in playing with the cat food or chair leg or cardboard box. He generally could learn more about those things because, the cardboard box for example, could come apart so he could learn how it was made.

It's been a long time since the days of that box of baby toys, but Hunter has been through many toys of all kinds since then, and I've learned a great deal about kids and toys and what they really want (which isn't usually what we adults assume).

Of all the things I've learned, one of the most important things is how much kids don't even really like "toys". What they really like is tools.

Glenn Doman once said that if you watch little kids, you will see that they don't really make toys at all, they make tools. If you give a little kid a rock, he'll turn it into a hammer. If you give him a shell, he'll turn it into a bowl. The list could go on and on, but the point is that they are much more concerned about learning about the world (a survival skill) than they are about simply "playing". To little kids, learning is playing, and if they can get their hands on it, they will consistently choose real, useful things to work with over the toys we generally give them. Ungratefulness? No, just an unbridled desire to learn, and even more so, to be big - to grow up.

What really got me thinking again about this whole tools vs. toys thing was yesterday, when Hunter was being his usual self and helping out while I worked on a project (in this case, disassembling the brachiation ladder because I have to make some adjustments on it to make it fit into it's new location).

While I was using a power saw (which Hunter had to stay out of the way for, obviously) I looked over and saw Hunter with a Philips screwdriver (which he had got out himself, by the way) meticulously and efficiently unscrewing each of the very tiny screws that held on the plastic covering to a new tool set I had bought.

He worked on that tool case so diligently and persistently, you would have thought he was trying to open a chest full of candy or something. But this was even better than candy - it was real, meaningful, useful tools that were more enticing than any of his toys, with an interest which is a lot longer lasting.

Watching him with those tools really got me thinking about some things. For one, it made me realize how much Hunter loves tools. And I'm not just talking about hammers and screwdrivers, but about objects that are real and useful. A piano is a tool. A pair of scissors is a tool. A camera is a tool. So is a compass, a sketch book, a pencil, a globe, a rope, and a chair.

So after a little pondering, I came up with a brilliant (for me, at least) resolution: stop investing in toys and instead focus your money and energy on things that are more lasting, more valuable, and more entertaining: tools!

It just makes so much sense. For the one, Hunter finds real things much, much more appealing. He wants to be doing important things with the big people, and will, hands down, always drop his stuffed animals to help Grandpa hammer in a nail. So why not get him things that he will genuinely appreciate and use; get him what he really wants?

Secondly, tools last a lot longer than toys. A good hammer or fishing pole is a gift that will last all his life (or at least for many years), while a plastic tool bench will last a year or two before he's too big for it, or until the thrill wears off (which is sometimes only after a couple minutes). Tools will get more use than the toys, too, because he's so much more interested.

Thirdly, investing his time in worthwhile activities rather than just entertainment develops a worldview that is so important for future success in life. We have far, far too many people who simply want to be entertained constantly, and can't think creatively or get up and do something. If anything, that is the last thing I want for my son.

So you know what I did today? I went to the store and bought Hunter some birthday presents. The first gift? A net. A little $5, fishing-type net from Wal-mart. What is it for? Think fish, crawdads, toads, frogs, butterflies, snakes, or anything else a little boy might want to use it for.

Gift number two? A rope. Yes, a 3/4" thick, 10' long nylon rope that can be used for just about anything he wants. Oh, and learning to tie the many different Boy Scouts knots that will be part of our curriculum this summer. Imagine the creative potential that the simple rope can provide for a little boy in a big backyard.

So, say hello to my new parenting philosophy. Or, at least my new gift-buying philosophy. I think I'm going to have fun with this. And I know with certainty that Hunter will, too.

"And he hath filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship"

Exodus 35:31

Hunter is 3 years, 11 months old

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Young Picassos

Bathtub paints. Fun while it lasted, probably not too great for the skin.

Hunter's bangs were pink the next day, as well as his hands.

Not the greatest toy they ever played with but they sure had fun making mini masterpieces all over the tub, the walls, and each other.

"I will lay thy stones with fair
colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires."
Isaiah 54:11

Hunter is 3 years, 10 months old

Early Music Play

This video was taken in June of 2007, Hunter age 2, just a few months before we started doing the Doman programs.

"Therefore I will give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and I will sing praises unto thy name."
2 Samuel 22:50

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What is Real?

Hunter has been having an interesting struggle determining what defines real and unreal. To an almost-four-year-old, I'm sure it's not exactly the easiest thing to define.

A few months ago we had a discussion on the "realness" of Jesus. It wasn't that I was concerned that I was raising a three-year-old atheist, because, after all, in this same discussion we were also discussing the "realness" of George Washington and George W. Bush.

But even after the topic has come up numerous times, he still seems to be struggling with it.

Yesterday, on the walk home from the library we were having a lot of interesting discussions. At one point we were discussing what God wants us to do and he said to me in a very matter-of-fact way, "But Mom, God's not real."

It's somewhat difficult to answer the same question over and over again, especially when it is one of utmost importance. How can he think that God's not real?

I told him that of course God is real, if God is not real than where did everything come from? I asked him if he could make one single grain of dirt and of course, the answer was no, he can't.
"Can you say, 'Let there be a cat!' and make a cat out of nothing? How about an egg? Can you make an egg? Can you make a baby, or a tree, or a rock? We can't make anything, because we're just people. Only God can make things, and he made everything."

I continued, "Just because we can't see him with our eyes, it doesn't mean he doesn't exist. Here, cover your eyes. You can't see me right now, but that doesn't mean I'm not here. How about I cover my eyes. Just because I can't see you, it doesn't mean you don't exist. God is not made out of bones or flesh or dirt or wood or anything like that - he made those things, but that's not what he's made out of. God is a spirit, and we can't see a spirit with your eyes."

He laughed at the eye-covering example, satisfied for the moment, and we continued walking. But we've had this discussion many, many times, I would estimate probably at least half a dozen over the past few months.

I'm most likely making a big fuss over nothing. It's just hard to watch him, at three years old, so pertinently struggle with such a big concept that many adults haven't even come to terms with. We don't generally consider little kids much of theologians, but they do ask big questions, make serious observations, and are desperately trying to figure out not only the physical world, but the spiritual one as well.

And it is really difficult for me sometimes knowing that, even in my doing my best to help him understand, he still nonetheless has to make the journey on his own.

"Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear."
Hebrews 11:3
Hunter is 3 years, 10 months old

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Spring Fever

This evening, after Hunter's nap, I took him and Anthony outside again to make the most of this fleeting weather. They played in the backyard while I worked on cleaning up the breezeway. At first they played on the toys (which have been buried in snow for the past three months) but then for more than an hour all they wanted to do was work on their "garden". He made the most of many of the tools that got left out and was hauling around watering cans, sticks, and the hose. He kept taking little rocks and sticking them in the ground with bean poles, saying that he hopes his plants will grow.

And I thought I was the only one with garden fever.

It made me really hopeful about our garden this year, I know Hunter is going to love it and learn so, so much. I'll be learning a lot too, as it's going to be my first year having my own garden.

My goal is to have all the plans ready by March, I'll let you know how it goes!

"He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth;"
Psalm 104:14

Hunter is 3 years, 10 months old
Anthony is 2 years, 3 months old

A Vacation from Winter

We had a vacation from the weather today. Only in Indiana can we have three feet of snow one day and then it gets up to 60 degrees the next.

Yes, low and behold, we had a little "spring break" today. Even through we probably won't be seeing weather like this again for two months or more, we got a beautiful little gift from heaven - a one-day vacation from winter.

We walked home from the library and played baseball in a parking lot across the street (as all the melted snow made for a very muddy lawn). I was virtually in heaven and am now very spring-feverish. I just have to keep reminding myself that spring will come, so I need to try and make the most of winter while it lasts (Do that snow-flake crystal experiment? Work on some indoor projects? Plan the garden? Something like that).

Anyhow, we were very thankful for this little "vacation" and thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful day!

Psalm 92:1

Hunter is 3 years, 10 months old
Anthony is 2 years, 3 months old

Monday, February 9, 2009

Imaginative Play

Hunter doesn't watch movies much but, when he does, he remembers everything. For days and sometimes weeks after he's viewed a particular film he will randomly narrate certain parts of it, giggling about something humorous or questioning something serious.

He always amazes me with the detail with which he remembers something that he has only seen once and also with how much he analyzes the things in his life, pondering issues while I thought he was just staring out into space.

On one hand, that's a good thing but on the other hand, not so much. With such a memory, there is no hit-or-miss exposure to movies, games, or books. There is a huge responsibility that comes along with it - a responsibility to carefully guide what goes into his brain.

But lately he has not only been narrating with perfect detail every movie he has viewed in the past six months, but incorporating it into his dramatic play, too. Yes, recently he has been quite the actor and likes to take Anthony, Mommy, and all his toys on exciting adventures in an imaginary world where you can be anything that you want to be. This has been great, but it has got me thinking, What kind of things do I desire for him to be pretending? After all, the power of a child's play is great, and as saith the scriptures, "As [a child] thinketh in his heart, so is he".

So I have been encouraging and participating in all sorts of historic dramas as told in the Bible. The picture above depicts the boys playing Jonah and the great fish with a tumbling mat at the gym, and the picture to the left shows the boys playing David and Goliath as they throw bottle caps at the giant painting on the wall.

To say the least, they have loved it.

Hunter has, for some reason, always had a huge fascination with story-telling. No pictures, no flashing screens, just "tell me a story!" And now, instead of reenacting the scenes of Madagascar or The Lion King he is happily building a firm foundation in Biblical and historical literacy as well as, most importantly, developing a fear of the Lord.

"For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he..."
Proverbs 23:7

Hunter is 3 years, 10 months old

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Global Cooling

We haven't had a day without snow once this year. We've had years with a lot of snow, but never like this since I can remember! It has been snowing non-stop here since mid-November, with cold periods forecasting highs of negative three!

We've had about a foot and a half of snow on the ground since shortly after New Years. And now last night we have achieved almost three feet in many places... and it's still snowing!

I have been hearing that scientists from NASA and elsewhere are predicting that we will be experiencing a cycle of global cooling over the next ten years. Interesting phenomena, in spite of all the hype from Hollywood stars and liberal lobbyists. Sure puts a damper in their scare tactics!

But it's been some great fun and an awe-inspiring experience watching the snow all day. We didn't get to play in the snow today because it's been a continual downpour of white stuff all day, but we're sure to get out tomorrow - hopefully Hunter will be able to walk!

"Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created... Fire, and hail; snow, and vapours; stormy wind fulfilling his word"
Psalm 148:5,8

Hunter is 3 years, 10 months old