368565_blogMy daughter got invited to a birthday party for a girl she attended pre-school with. This was one of those dreaded “I-don’t-know-the-parents-or-child-so-I’m-not-sure-what-to-get-them” kind of parties. My daughter and I went to the toy store together where she quickly chose a Disney princess toy for her friend. My daugter herself doesn’t know much about or play with Disney princess toys, but she remembered how much her friend liked them in pre-school, and even though I’m not one to support commercialized toys, I thought it was sweet of my daughter to be so thoughtful, so we got it for her.

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At the party, it was quickly apparent to me (but not my daughter thank goodness) that Disney princesses were so last month. How did I figure that out? Could it be the singing Hannah Montana balloon or the Hannah Montana matching partyware? Hm. And then when present time arrived, practically every one was Hannah Montana (or High School Musical!) something. Backpack, CD, clothes, a game, and the best one of all: tickets to a Hannah Montana concert from her parents. I thought this girl was turning five, I thought to myself. She was elated of course. I missed her reaction to my daughter’s gift. Thankfully, my daughter was just happy to have given it to her.

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But the party left me feeling really concerned about my daughter’s upcoming Kindergarten at public school. Hannah Montana, High School Musical and Bratz doll merchandise are not things I want my daughter interested in or playing with. These television shows were designed for tweens and teens, not kindergarteners! And I don’t understand the parents who support their children’s interest in these types of toys. Are they that fixated on their children’s popularity that they are willing to forego the innocence of their children’s childhood?

Childhood is short. I think it is a parent’s job to keep their child innocent of some things and to be able to say “no” when their child shows interest in something too old for his or her development. It’s our responsibility as grown ups to monitor the kinds of television shows they watch, the computer games they play, and the kinds of toys and clothes that they want us to buy. And it’s our responsibility to encourage our children’s sense of wonder, imagination, and free play.

Common Sense Media explains that this phenonmenon of very young children playing with toys intended for older children is called “age creep,” the disconnect between all of the various target ranges of what’s being marketed to your kids. Girls and boys alike are asking for and being given play materials that are too advanced, too mature, too violent, too sexy. In short, not age appropriate. Often these items are a result of a popular new movie (like Transformers) and/or television hype (like Hannah Montana).

What can you do to avoid age creep?

  • Don’t buy commercial toys, which are often the worst culprits.
  • Request that no one else buy commercial toys for your child.
  • Talk to your child about your values and the toys she or he can play with.
  • Monitor the television, movies and computer games your child is exposed to. Follow the ratings.
  • Make time to play with your child every day. When you engage in age appropriate play with them, they will associate it with good feelings and special times.
  • Read Hold Onto Your Kids By Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate. Learn why parents need to matter more than peers.
  • If your child’s birthday is coming up, do something different:
  1. Ask for donations to a child-chosen charity. Half of the money goes to the charity and the other half goes to your child who gets to choose a special gift. Or you could have a “Twoonie” or “Fiver” party where each child brings two twoonies (Canada) or two five dollar bills. One goes to the child and the other one goes to the charity. This way everyone brings the same dollar amount which can prevent feelings of awkwardness.
  2. To learn ways to avoid the commercial partyware and decorations, this post at Our Big Earth is brimming with green ideas, many of which I plan to use at my own daughter’s upcoming fifth birthday party.

What are your suggestions to help prevent your child from growing up too fast?

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17 Responses to “How To Prevent Your Child From Growing Up Too Fast”

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  15. #15 Our Semi-Green Birthday Party | Breastfeeding Moms Unite Says:

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