I also appreciated that the toys encouraged imaginative play.

Balance is a terrible word, but even with something as simple as a birthday present, we can introduce a different dimension into the lives of our children, writes Omeshnie Naidoo.

MY eldest son turned six a few weeks ago.

The day before his birthday he became anxious to know what presents were in store. He devised a guessing game, to try and figure it out. He had three tries at a time - reserved for moments when my patience -and good nature - were running low, and I might circum to his gruelling line of questioning.
The questions were astounding and telling of his generation.

I expected, “Is it big or small?”  What I got was, “Is it a book? You always get a book.” And the one that really stumped me,“Does it have a screen?”
In fact it did.

Screens are a normal aspect of life for ‘digital natives’, with many, more likely to be pictured newborn with a mobile phone in hand than a rattle.
(According to the United Nations, cellphones are more common in India than toilets.)

The insatiable demand and the rapid pace at which technology is evolving is encapsulated in the sentiments of my six-year-old, somewhat bored with screened devices and wanting a robot to do his homework or order pizza instead.

For us parents who live on the periphery of our children’s context, able to see in and out of this new culture, it’s a real struggle. We offer technology to ensure our children ‘keep up’ and offer everything else to ensure they don’t become consumed by the devices we’ve provided.

It’s interesting to note that The Pew Research Center hasn’t adopted a generational name badge, such as ‘digital natives’, for our children yet. They believe it’s too soon to tell which of the many forces acting upon young minds will shape them.

For me it's parents who must fight for these formative years. Balance is a terrible, tired word, but even with something as simple as a birthday present, we can introduce a different dimension into the lives of our children.

Fortuitously a large box of toys landed on my desk that same day before the party.

Inside were delightful toys, that whether they were selected to be nostalgic or not, reminded me of my own childhood.

Game’s range of private label brands included a bucket container of 101 plastic soldiers and military vehicles (R89.99) - there are also sets with dinosaurs and wild animals. These are the kind of miniatures my mom put on cakes to create animal farms or soccer fields.

A large magic writer (R129)- was the only toy you have to ‘swipe’ - but this action only really works as an eraser.

A baby bath tub with feeding accessories (R69.99) and of course a soft baby doll that makes sounds (R169).

There were much more but my favourite was the Kid Connection ice cream playset, which is a mini ice cream shop (R199). In a similar fold away table was a tool playset at the same price.

Vittal with his toy. Picture: Omeshnie Naidoo

The toys were affordable and steady which I think was the point Mass Discounters wanted to make, but as a mom what I loved was that they were not heavily branded -  I’ve often had to buy toys for names sake - and after the thrill has worn off, the toys is discarded. 

I also appreciated that the toys encouraged imaginative play.

I never thought that adding a felt road map under a diecast car would keep my child that busy!

Or that I would have to eat that many imaginary ice creams!

* Note: The toys were donated to Merry Hill Primary School in Bayview Chatsworth for their 50th Anniversary celebration prize giving.