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by Victoria Tkachuk
2/25/2007 / Education
Date: November 6th, 2006
Item: Crayola invisible paint picture spinner contraption.
Intention: allows kids to "paint" pictures using ink that won't stain clothes
Growing up my sisters and I had several toys. In fact we had an entire toy bench (built by Dad) which held all of our stuffed animals, Legos and dolls, play dishes, etc. But few of these toys came to us brand new. My Dad was a college professor but we didn't have a lot of money, so when we did get new toys they always had to be shared between the three of us. Consequently we cherished each and every toy that came from an "actual store," meaning any store other than "thrift."
One of our favorite toys was something called a "Twirl-a-Paint," a battery-operated wheel you attached a piece of paper onto which you squirted paint on as it spun around. The end product, depending on color mixture and individual taste, looked like either a splatter of vomit or a glittery splatter of vomit (we only had three paints and some of us liked to experiment with alternative materials- Kleenex, oatmeal, pudding, etc.). I strongly believe the value of the Twirl-a-Paint lay not in its ability to create beautiful, or even fridge-worthy, works of art, but in the freedom it allowed. I know that sounds hokey, I know, but consider the following:
I saw an item advertised today that looked a lot like the Twirl-a-Paint. Same spinning wheel, same bottles of liquid to squirt onto a spinning piece of paper. It even comes with its own glitter (we always had to sneak some from Mom's craft supplies). But here's the catch: this new toy comes with invisible paint. I know what you're thinking and no, it's not paint that cloaks itself with mystery when the wrong eyes see it. It's nothing that clever. Just "paint" that only shows up on the special paper that comes with the toy. The idea is that, unlike normal paint, if the invisible stuff spills, it doesn't make a mess. So this is an improvement on old-fashioned paint you might say. It's progressive paint.
But is it progress for children to be robbed of all that is entailed by using regular paint? I remember the fun of mixing colors, making new colors, making ugly colors, making a mess. Painting with my fingers! Don't you recall fondly the first time you smooshed paint around on a paper? What joy! And what happened when it detoured out onto the floor? Someone came and cleaned it up. Big deal. Life didn't stop, it just got messy for a few minutes and then got cleaned up. And wasn't your day that much brighter, knowing you really dug into that painting project, dismissed the constraints of reality and just smooshed away?
I want to have kids that, when they grow up, remember what it was like to be kids and be messy. I want kids that know how to play. I will not buy them toys that do the playing for them.
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