HuffPost Parents offered up a real jewel recently. The article was a wake-up call, a call to action for parents. It focused on, of all things, a package insert from a toy whose message hailed from the 1970’s. It was something that may have been discarded without a thought, but instead proved to be quite forward-thinking and profound.
Daniel Fry discovered the insert while he was playing LEGO with his niece and nephew at their great-grandmother’s house. The makers of the iconic (and still current) toy line from LEGO wrote that package insert to parents back in 1974, over 40 years ago. Its message?
The Letter Reads:
The urge to create is equally strong in all children. Boys and girls. It’s the imagination that counts. Not skill. You build whatever comes into your head, the way you want it. A bed or a truck. A dolls’ house or a spaceship. A lot of boys like dolls’ houses. They’re more human than spaceships. A lot of girls prefer spaceships. They’re more exciting than dolls’ houses. The most important thing is to put the right material in their hands and let them create whatever appeals to them.”
What can we as parents learn from this? There’s quite a bit of good food for thought in that short paragraph, actually.
- Humans are ever-so-prone to categorizing things, (and people) all too frequently. We may tend to think of the color blue and trucks for boys, and pink toy strollers with dolls inside for little girls.
- When we contain someone within a box that says, “these are your boundaries for creativity, nothing else is acceptable,” we run the risk of stifling personal expression and stunting imagination. Of course I’m not suggesting that there should be no boundaries at all: disrespect for personal property, injuring self or others, and dishonesty, for example, are all frowned upon in most world societies.
- Even worse, by predetermining creative boundaries for children, we send a message that if they want something outside those boundaries, there is something fundamentally wrong about them. Something wrong with who they are. That creates shame. And nothing is more toxic than shame.
- Imagination DOES count. Imaginative play in childhood lays the groundwork for problem-solving skills we require in adulthood.
- When kids feel free create whatever they imagine, the way they want it, it gives them a sense of control. Kids who grow up with a good sense of what control feels like are less likely to go through life feeling like helpless victims.