Conversation Highlights: The Sunday Edition, June 2, 2019

How to Choose Non-Commercial Toys that Promote Creative Free Play this Holiday Season

TRUCE Action Guides: Toys, Media & Children

TRUCE is a national group of educators deeply concerned about the impact of children’s entertainment and toys on their play and behavior. Their goal is to raise public awareness about the negative effects of violent, sexualized, and stereotyped toys and media on children, families, schools, and society.

It’s Black Friday and many parents have holiday gift buying on their minds.  The discussion of holiday buying looms large in our community, with folks chatting about buying local, buying handmade, and buying non-commercial.

Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment (TRUCE), a Massachusetts based group of educators concerned about how children’s toys and entertainment are affecting the play and behavior of kids, has a few guides available on media and play that will help aid parents in making informed decisions and choices when it comes to toys that promote creative free play:

Toys, Play & Young Children Action Guide

This guide will help parents and educators promote children’s creative and constructive play, and make informed choices about toys, and work with others at home, school, and in the community to support positive play.

In this guide TRUCE highlights that toys have high play value when they…

  • Can be used in many ways.
  • Allow children to be in charge of the play.
  • Appeal to children at more than one age or level of development.
  • Are not linked to video games, computers, TV, or movies.
  • Can be used with other toys for new and more complex play.
  • Will stand the test of time and continue to be part of play as children develop new interests and
  • Promote respectful, non-stereotyped, non-violent interactions among children.
  • Help children develop skills important for further learning and a sense of mastery.
  • Can be used by children to play alone as well as with others. Can be enjoyed by both girls and boys.

TRUCE invites parents to copy and distribute their guides to help spread the word in your community.  Download this guide here:

TRUCE: Toys, Play & Young Children Action Guide (pdf)
TRUCE: Toys, Play & Young Children Action Guide (Spanish pdf)

Infant & Toddler Play, Toys & Media Action Guide

Want to provide your little one with experiences that will enhance healthy play and development? This guide will help you understand why quality play is vital for your child’s growth and what you can do to support it.

In this guide TRUCE warns parents to  “Beware of BRANDING! Children’s media characters are often used by marketers on toys, clothing, and foods to capture young children’s attention. Why is this a problem? Whenever kids see it, they want it because it’s familiar. These kinds of licensing agreements, which support branding efforts, can lead to unwise buying choices, unhealthy eating habits and nagging.”

Download this guide here:

TRUCE: Infant & Toddler Play, Toys & Media Action Guide (Spanish pdf)
TRUCE: Infant & Toddler Play, Toys & Media Action Guide (pdf)

To learn more about TRUCE, visit


Q&A: How to Promote Creative Free Play For Our Kids


Get creative outside in urban spaces ... Keep a box of sidewalk chalk in your bag and car, and give it to the kids whenever there's a sidewalk or black top around for creative free-play! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

What can we do as parents (and as a society) to protect and promote creative free play for our kids? Share your suggestions, ideas and questions:

  • Joshua M. Gannon-Salomon shares: “More wild spaces, especially within easy reach of inner cities.”
  • Laura Hoffman shares: “Send them outside!”
  • Andrew DeSiervo shares: “Get out of the way.”
  • Amy Sundari Finlay shares: “Skip the soccer? Not that it’s bad, but, at least in our town, it means DAILY practices in high school. Too much structured time!”
  • Marya Zilberberg shares: “Remember that sticker, Kill Your Television? Well, an update for the 21st century: Kill your screens!”
  • Pauline Delton shares: “See where and how they like to be creative and allow it. Might even mean some screen time. My 5 1/2 year old has an amazing capacity for creating landscapes and structures on Minecraft, but he also does it a ton with real-life blocks of all kinds. It’s a nice mixture of what he can do with materials in his hands and the amazing stuff he can create in his mind (that he couldn’t produce with his hands due to lack of materials). Game-creators are amazingly creative. I’m not a gamer myself, but I’ve been impressed. – For non-screen creativity, having craft supplies where they can be reached has helped us. Whatever I’m okay with him using is at his level, and he knows (as do his friends) where to go for those items. And, yea, we don’t do anything super structured. I think the most structured activity we have is getting together with a homeschooling group weekly…but those are pretty much free-play events. If he wanted something structured, so be it, but he hasn’t as of yet. – Joshua, so true! I was reading Last Child in the Woods and got really anxious about how I don’t know where we could go to climb a tree without someone (property owner, sanctuary volunteer, etc.) possibly reprimanding us or asking us to get down. Makes the world seem SOOOOO small.”
  • Janet McLaurin shares: “My kids started treasure boxes of things they found when they were little -I realized they were collecting shiny things that I thought were trash like bottle caps. Also encourage them to make their own trading cards-great characters and games come out of these -you don’t have to buy creativity for them- hang a clothes line for them out to their play structure and tie on a basket to send across.”
  • Shoshona King shares: “Independent Study (aka-homeschool).”
  • Swansea Benham Bleicher shares: “Have free unscheduled time at home!”

The Importance of Creative Play in a Commercialized World

Hilltown Families presents…

The Importance of Creative Play
in a Commercialized World
A Community Conversation with Dr. Susan Linn
Tuesday, Nov 15th from 7-9pm
Meekins Library • Williamsburg, MA

Co-sponsored by the Media Education Foundation and the Odyssey Bookshop.

Hilltown Families presents “The Importance of Creative Play in a Commercialized World” with Dr. Susan Linn, author of The Case for Make Believe and Consuming Kids on Tuesday, November 15th from 7-9pm in the Hawks~Hayden Community Room at the Meekins Library, 2 Williams Street in Williamsburg, MA (FREE).

In the critically acclaimed Consuming Kids, Dr. Linn, the nation’s leading advocate for protecting children from corporate marketers, provided an unsparing look at modern childhood molded by commercialism. In her book, The Case for Make Believe, Dr. Linn argues that while play is crucial to human development and children are born with an innate capacity for make believe, the convergence of ubiquitous technology and unfettered commercialism actually prevents them from playing.

In an era when toys come from television and media companies sell videos as brain-builders for babies, Dr. Linn lays out the inextricable links between play, creativity, and health, showing us how and why to preserve the space for make believe that children need to be happy and to become productive adults. Dr. Linn will speak about her book and help generate ideas for preserving non-commercialized creative play, especially around the holidays. - Join us on Tuesday, Nov 15th from 7-9pm for a community conversation with Dr. Susan Linn in Williamsburg . (FREE)

This talk is free and open to all adults and older students studying the effects of commercialization and childhood development. A Q&A session will follow along with a book signing.  Titles will be available for sale on site in limited quantities.

Book Giveaway: We’re giving away a couple of copies of The Case for Make Believe to our readers. Find out how you can enter to win below.  Deadline to enter to win is November 14th by 12noon.


Susan Linn, Ed.D. is co-founder and director of The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and an Instructor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. An award-winning producer, writer, and puppeteer, she is the author of The Case for Make Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World, and Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood and lectures internationally on reclaiming childhood from corporate marketers. She has been featured on Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, The Today Show, The Colbert Report and Good Morning America.  In 2006, she received the American Psychological Association’s Presidential Citation for her work on behalf of children. Dr. Linn lives in Brookline, MA.


A Q&A session will follow the talk and Hilltown Families invites the community to submit questions to Dr. Linn in advance about the importance of make believe and how to preserve creative play for our children. Submit your questions in the comment field below and be entered to win a copy of Dr. Linn’s book, The Case for Make Believe. Must include your full name and town to be eligible to win. We’ll randomly draw winners and will share the results below. Winner does not need to be present at the event to win.

Questions can also be submitted to

This is the first in a series of Community Conversations presented by Hilltown Families that invite the community to engage in conversations on the themes of helping children connect to the good inside each of them and their development of empathy for others and the world around them.

❤  Thank you ❤ to our co-sponsors of “The Importance of Creative Play in a Commercialized World,” the Media Education Foundation and the Odyssey Bookshop.

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