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Technology has brought immense prosperity to humans. What we might have considered a miracle just a few decades back has now become a reality. However, like everything else, technology does have its drawbacks as well. One of the few drawbacks that are related to this article is the internet.

With fast speed internet at our disposal, we can waste hours of our precious time watching hundreds of 10-second videos. This can be considered a fast food content for our mind, and just like fast food, it gives us immense pleasure, but it is harmful in the long run.

If you have asked someone in the ’70s whether he/she is a reader, you would probably get a ‘yes’ in most cases. However, with so much quick content to consume - that has its beginning, middle, and end within 5-7 minutes - why a book that easily lasts for days would remain interesting for this new generation. No wonder the number of readers is going down with time.

The same goes for toys. When you have so much entertainment on mobile, so much syllabus to cover in school, why would a parent want another way to make a day even more packed. Hence, an article contemplating the importance of these two things is necessary, especially in today’s day and age.

Why is a book a child’s best friend?
There are many superficial benefits of reading a book, like improving vocabulary and enhancing writing skills, but we will not talk about that. We are going to go much deeper than that.

Reason #1:
Have you ever spoken to a person from some other continent or country? The one common thing we all realize is how different we are from each other. And, at the same time, how many similarities we have with people from completely different backgrounds. It is okay to know the good and the bad of the people, but not knowing at all about them is worse than that because you start assuming things that turn out to be false in most cases.

In my case, I have grown up watching the western media painting a bad picture of the middle-east. So, I assumed that every person living in that part of the world is very intolerant towards other faiths. Then, a few years back, I read ‘Last Train to Istanbul’ by Ayse Kulin. It is a book about how the Turkish government (of a majority Muslim country) helped save thousands of Jews from the Holocaust. It was a mind-blowing book as it made me realize how stupid I was to form an opinion about people I never met. It struck me then how a mere book helped me open my mind to the greater realities and how I can expand my mind even more by reading more and more books. If we want to raise a generation of tolerant and liberal kids, then reading is of utmost importance.

Reason #2:
We have the tendency to become too self-centered, not caring about others. How many people can say that they can empathize with a fellow human? Reading a book allows you to see the world from other perspectives as well. For example, as a man, I can stay oblivious to the kind of harassment a woman faces daily. As I never faced it myself, I will never be able to attach myself to the feminist movement as strongly as I should. But, after reading about a book written by a woman or written by a man from a woman’s perspective, I am made aware of the realities that stay hidden in plain sight.

It makes me respect a woman more for achieving things despite every obstacle that society throws in her path, which most men never have to face. Although I have taken the example of man and woman in this case, this can be extended in every possible direction.

For example, reading The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga made me realize the plight of low-wage workers and what kind of terrible disparity we have in society. A kid who has never read a book from the perspective of a person from the lowest strata of society might become arrogant and abusive towards them.

On the other hand, a kid who has read a book like The White Tiger might feel more sympathetic and respectful towards them. To put it in the right words, reading books allow you to live several lives in just one lifetime.

Reason #3:
Many of you might be wondering what the two points that I have made before are equally true for the visual medium. For example, watching a video documentary about a lower-class person is likely to make your kid more aware of the disparity and more sympathetic towards it. Watching a movie about the Turkish role in saving Jews can equally make you aware that the perceptions can be wrong. Then, why it is important to spend hours reading a book.

If you are one of those people, then this last part is for you. First of all, reading a book allows you to stay in a story for a longer time. So, you can suffer from a village man who drives his boss around the city for a minimum wage. It helps every emotion to sink in perfectly. This can never happen with a 50 mins documentary. Although you have to choose between watching a documentary and a commercial movie, the former would be a better option.

Secondly, the audio-visual medium is like a perfect mother who wants to provide everything to her kid without raising a finger, but that is not good. With books, you have to use your brain; you have to use your imagination skills to give faces to the character and give designs to the street you have never seen. It is like a coloring book; you are given an outline, and you have to fill in the rest. The imaginative part of the brain will shine if you exercise it regularly. Hence, books will also help you and your kid to become more creative. And, creativity is a virtue that can be used by the author of a book and the owner of a company.

Why are toys a child’s best friend?
As we have discussed before, just like books, technology is also responsible for fading the toys' luster. With so many educational and entertaining apps, a tablet is easily overpowering toys. And yet, there are still some people who prefer toys over tablets. And we are going to know why.

Reason #1:
Just a decade from now, the toy manufacturers haven’t understood their true potential. It was all about fun and entertainment. Although, we did have a few toys like LEGOs that helped develop a child’s brain while she plays with them. Overall, toys were still a tool for entertainment and not development. Due to technology and change in the mindset of the people, the toy industry has changed completely. In today’s time, you can find a toy that focuses on any specific subject and skill. For example, Organic Chemistry Model Kit will help your kid understand the concepts of Chemistry better. In this kit, you’ll find pieces using which your kid can build molecular models in 3D. It is a much better way to study Chemistry than reading from a book.

I have just given one example, but it applies to almost all the subjects. Some toys target science, math, geography, etc. If a parent search for the right kind of toy actively, he will surely find one without much trouble. There is a toy called Kitki Three Sticks. The players have to build various Geometrical shapes, and depending upon the size and complexity of the shape, he/she will earn more and fewer points. You have to pick a topic, and you’ll find an appropriate toy for it, which will make the subject much more interesting and easier to learn.

Reason #2
As the toy companies have matured in terms of their purpose, they are making sure to integrate as much technology into their products. For example, just a few years back, Augmented Reality was a rare and expensive technology, and now, several toys incorporate it. Shifu is one of them. The Shifu globe incorporated augmented reality to provide the best learning experience. When you look at the globe through their app on the smartphone, you see various animals and things coming alive. It helps to engage the most distracted kids for a longer period.

There are tons of toys and toy companies that use smartphone apps to make learning more fun. OSMO is one of those companies. Popularly known for its first product, Genius. Osmo combines the virtual and the real world together. Your kid can interact with the app using the physical pieces provided in the set. Using the iPhone camera, the app scans the pieces and tells you whether the answer is correct or not.

I recently came across a toy set that has 6 robotic cubes. Each cube is a combination of hardware and software. The way you combine them decides what they will do. When you combine all of them, you get a bigger program. And, the best part about the set was that you can control them using a smartphone. If you think about it, just by playing with it, a kid is learning about coding and robot all at once.

Reason #3:
Whenever we think of art and creativity, our brain always points us to careers like Fashion, painting, or writing. However, if you think about it thoroughly, you’ll realize that creativity is useful for any field you choose.

A creative CEO of a company might find a completely new way to run the company that perfectly resonates with its soul. There are examples of big companies that brought in and fired CEOs after CEOs until the person who was creative enough came into the scene.

This is not just about your profession. Creativity helps you in each and every aspect of your life. But how many schools can one name that focus on making kids more creative? Our education systems are designed to feed our children a ton of information. Without ever teaching them the skills to use that information.

There is a gap between what a child needs and what the schools provide, and this gap can be filled using toys. For example, Story Cubes is one such toy. Each set has 9 cubes, and each cube has 6 pictures. You have to roll the dices and create stories depending on the pictures that showed up. Creativity will improve if you use that part of your brain often enough. And toys will help with that without making it look like work that you need to get over with.

In this article, we talked about how books and toys can be a kid’s best friend. Since both are a tool of development, and both are neglected by most parents, it was important to talk about them together. Parents need to emphasize each of these tools if they want an overall development for their kids.

Written by Ashish Best

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