“Slow Parenting”

Slowdown-day Are you familiar with the “Slow Parenting” movement?  I just learned about it during my recent trip to Spain and I think it’s something we all may want to know more about as it may have an impact on the toy industry.

The “Slow Parenting” concept is that childhood has gotten much too fast and much too competitive.  Here is how Carl Honoré, the author of The Power of Slow: Finding Balance and Fulfillment Beyond the Cult of Speed, defines it.

Slow parents give their children plenty of time and space to explore the world on their own terms. They keep the family schedule under control so that everyone has enough downtime to rest, reflect and just hang out together. They accept that bending over backwards to give children the best of everything may not always be the best policy. “Slow Parenting” means allowing our children to work out who they are rather than what we want them to be. Slow parents understand that childrearing should not be a cross between a competitive sport and product-development. It is not a project; it’s a journey.

“Slow Parenting” looks for toys that are simpler and allow the child to use its imagination more freely.  Many of these toys are homemade or created by artisans.  It is essentially a push back against mass produced toys or toys that do too much of the work for the child.  Here is how the “She Knows Parenting” blog puts it:

The types of toys “Slow Parenting” proponents encourage are open ended — toys that allow the child to use his imagination, creativity and natural curiosity instead of those that flash, blink, make noise and otherwise direct a child how to play.

…[E]njoy playing with cardboard boxes and other 'toys' that didn't dictate how [they] should [be used] ." Some recommendations are Legos or simple wooden building blocks…[B]asic Lego sets rather than the 'kits' that are supposed to build a specific object.

Other toys are not really toys at all — paper towel tubes, cotton balls, pillows, boxes of   different shapes and sizes, chairs and a blanket … the possibilities are endless.

At this point, it seems the concept still seems a bit amorphous but could be highly appealing to a rising Millennial generation, which unlike its parents and grandparents, feels the need to be more frugal and look for a higher value proposition that meets their personal ethics. 

Are you familiar with “Slow Parenting” and if you are can you give us further insights?


8 thoughts

  1. Carol Westby is a language and literacy researcher whose primary focus has been on the relationship between play skills and language development. At a recent educator’s conference, Dr.Westby noted the following:
    Many children of our time are arriving at school with play skills and pre-literacy skills that are delayed because the children have not spent enough time playing with non-representational toys such as blocks, modeling clay and even sticks and stones. Using objects like blocks to represent other things is the precursor to using letters to represent sounds. Hence, we should not be surprised that elementary school literacy is suffering today.
    Sounds like the slow parenting adherents are on to something. Will “slow parenting” affect the toy industry? I don’t know, but Dr.Westby mentioned that some of the toys she recommends as best for language enrichment and symbolic play can only be found at garage sales and antique stores. There’s food for thought.

  2. As both a new parent and toy designer, this definitely rings true. The slow parenting movement is real, however rarely referred to by name. I actually don’t think it’s a movement of choice but rather a movement of necessity. For the most part today’s generation of new parents have less disposable income and are forced to cut back on spending. They are placing a higher value on experiences with their children and the value of open ended play rather than providing them with directive toys. I see a huge discrepancy between this and mainstream toy companies who view the idea of “slow parenting” as a niche trend for either the very elite or earthy parents. It’s everywhere, just look at how many community gardens and mommy and me classes that have popped up across the country. In a time of 24/7 connectivity, the simplicity of our grandparents generation is ever more appealing.

  3. I’m familiar with Slow Parenting and Carl’s book (still reading it slowly, almost a year later 🙂 ). The premise is quite valid and indeed powerful. It is difficult to combat the current cult of speed, however. One still has to believe in the value of slow for its own sake. Our StoryPlay Cards fit in this mold to some degree. They aren’t a best seller but they do provide something good for children. The wheel will turn and we will recognize the limitations of speed. As Gandhi said, “there is more to life than increasing its speed.” And in the world of toys, this means that open-ended play will always have an important place in life.

  4. We just had a baby girl and both me and my husband are for “slow parenting”…just that we dint know a name for it earlier… . toys that are simpler and kindle the childs imagination are the way to go !!.we decided that we would buy her only abstract toys and toys that help build another ,we also decided tht we would help her create her own toyworld with the existing junk around .
    for example ….if she wants a musical instrument then we would tie a coconut shell to a stick and add rubberbands to it …and lo!!

  5. This article brings to mind a trend that is growing exponentially in Preschools toward the Reggio Emilia philosophy of learning. In a nutshell in the Reggio approach, the child is seen as having knowledge in them already. Rather than being empty buckets that you fill up with facts or feed pre-set toy ideas they are sponges filled with facts you can draw out. The child’s interests guides the creation of the curriculum.The curriculum is child centered, it is their interest that determines what is to be explored, thus it is an emergent curriculum. A key component of the Reggio philosophy centers on time. Preset schedules and routines are thrown out the window in favor of slowing way down and letting the child explore at their own pace. Divergent open ended thinking rather than convergent (one solution only) thinking is the name of the game. The Norman Rockwell illustration which depicts a child sitting happily lost in play in the empty cardboard box that a brand new shiny fire engine came in, totally ignoring the firetruck sums up the idea. As far as play is concerned. Keep play open ended, rekindle imagination.

  6. This sounds like the parenting of yore, aka how most of world brings up their children. I like it, but name is unfortunate.

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