Monday, August 9, 2010

Toy Story 3 and The Importance of Play

Shortly after the debut of Toy Story 3, I took my grandsons for a night out at the movies. I had read it was considered one of the best movies of the year. I will go out on a limb and say that over time, I think it will be considered one of the outstanding children's movies of all times. I decided the primary reason I was so impressed with Toy Story 3 is because that it celebrates a concept that I always promoted as a child development person: "Play is a child's work."

Many people do not realize that play is how children learn, and therefore they have many missed opportunities. While my children were growing up, I kept a bucket of small toys and a bag of books in the mini-van so whenever we got stuck somewhere unexpectedly, we had something to do. They didn't have to act like little monsters in the lobby of wherever our appointment was, because I came prepared and they were entertained. During the years I was a social worker, my car was a popular place with small children because they knew I was going to have fun things to distract them.  When my children were little, I set up parts of the house in little learning centers and we did other things that promoted learning through play. I also taught my children to use scissors, pencils, and crayons while they were still in the high chair where I could safely track where the scissors and crayons were. I made tons of homemade play dough. Learning how to use little fingers and developing fine motor skills is as important as the large motor skills and all are connected to better brain development. We had stories every night, usually multiple stories, if I wasn't too tired. I can remember a few times being so sleepy after a very long day that during the story, the boys would wake me up as I fell asleep reading and tell me I was saying funny words. Sometimes I would ask their daddy to read the bedtime stories because I was too tired, but the boys didn't like Mike to read because they said, "he didn't know all the voices". I believe these are  some of the things that set the stage for their high grades in school, and for two of them - artistic skills. Our oldest drew a large recognizable dinosaur before the age of 3, our middle son drew numerous sharks, Ninja Turtles, and other boy stuff every time he could find paper and crayon. 

It was in this spirit, that the week of the Toy Story movie experience, we also had a field trip to acquire sand for the water table I had acquired in the early days of being a grandmother.  The boys found the addition of sand to be absolutely thrilling. They were out on my patio, so no harm was done. What can I say, we are easily entertained. We like Styrofoam packing materials, old boxes, and blanket tents too. 

There are many other things that were moving about Toy Story 3, but I don't want to spoil the movie for anyone who hasn't yet seen it. There is a philosophy of life regarding the future of our old toys. There is a message for day care providers to think about as well. Take the time to watch Toy Story 3, you may just learn something about yourself and your outlook on life. But, if you have a child moving out to go to college, you may need to save the DVD until you emotionally handle watching it. I had more than one person tell me they had to resist sobbing in the movie when it was at the theater, it was more emotionally touching than people realized it would be.  It is the perfect movie for children of all ages, there is something for everyone. The morning after we went to see the movie, my youngest little grandson started down the stairs and excitedly yelled out before he could get downstairs to me, "Grandma, Toy Story 3 was awesome." I concur he was right.

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