Back to Basics for the Holidays

The holidays are a wondrous time of year, and I can't think of anything more wonderful than the joy brought to a child from a simple toy. With high tech gadgets all around us, it is tempting to rush out and buy the latest electronic games. This holiday season I am making a plea to go back to the basics. Not only is it more economical, but traditional toys capture a child's imagination in a way that a video game cannot.

A simple box of sidewalk chalk will bring out your child's inner artist and may also be used to draw those old-fashioned games like hopscotch, four-square and Tic Tac Toe. Small or large, bouncy balls can be thrown, kicked, hit with a stick, and, yes, bounced. Jump ropes, marbles, and soap bubbles all provide hours of entertainment.

Want your child to have the latest educational toy? Fear not. Even the Silicon Valley's high tech elite know that low tech is the smart choice.

A recent New York Times article revealed that executives at eBay, Google, Apple and Hewlett Packard send their kids to the Waldorf School of Los Altos where there is no computer in sight. Waldorf schools "subscribe to a teaching philosophy focused on physical activity and learning through creative, hands-on tasks." Something they have been doing for more than 100 years with great success.

On the other side of the country, New York City's upper class parents are turning to good old-fashioned wooden blocks to help their children learn math concepts. Many educators are "embracing blocks as an antidote to fine-motor-skill deficits and difficulty with unstructured activity, problems that they blame on too much time in front of screens and overly academic preschools."

So unplug this holiday season and give the gift of good old-fashioned play to the kids and adults on your list. And when the holidays are over, join our friend Bethe Almeras in taking the Christmas Box Challenge. One toy that never gets old: an empty box.