Some day care centers in Germany, a country that is perhaps best known for its annual event of heavy drinking, Oktoberfest, have reportedly banned children from playing with toys in an effort to prevent them from turning into wild-eyed drug addicts in their adult lives.
A recent report from the Atlantic shows that child-care providers across the country have implemented a “toy-free kindergarten program,” which is designed to give young minds the strength to deal with problems without developing addictive behavior.
“Without any toys, children have the time to develop their own ideas,” said Elisabeth Seifert, managing director of Aktion Jugendschutz, a nonprofit that supports this program. “In toy-free time, they don’t play with finished toys. They develop their own games. They play more together, so they can better develop psychosocial competencies.”
Seifart believes the program gives kids the power to not only like themselves more, as well as have empathy for their peers, but she insists it also helps spur their creativity and problem solving skills.
The idea is that if more kids are given these all-important tools early in life, they will be less likely to turn to drugs once they are turned loose into the madness of the real world.
Although this concept may sound a bit far-fetched, its basis actually originated decades ago from an addiction study group in the Bavarian district of Weilheim-Schongau. The bunch, which consisted of drug addiction specialists who worked with adult addicts, found that habit-forming behavior, at least for most folks, could be attributed to their early years.
This eventually led to the creation of a program for youngsters between the ages of three and six that eliminates items from a child’s life that are often leaned on during times of high stress or sadness. Of course, toys were determined to be the primary culprit.
Although the toy-free project started out slowly in the early 1990’s, hundreds of kindergartens throughout Germany, Switzerland and Austria have since put the program in place. Many more countries, including China, have also expressed interest in the now 25-year-old project.
Interestingly, while the Germans were first experimenting with this no toy policy, the United States was pushing programs like Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign and later D.A.R.E.—neither of which were ever shown to be effective in stopping kids from using drugs.
In fact, these programs have since been found to be more of a detriment.
Elizabeth Robertson, a professor at the University of Alabama, who is also responsible for drafting a children’s substance abuse prevention guide for the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told the Atlantic that “information-only” programs like D.A.R.E. do not work because they have a tendency to turn more kids on to drugs rather than discourage use.
Incidentally, these are the kinds of programs that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he would like to resurrect to combat the current drug epidemic in the United States.
“We need to say as Nancy Reagan said, ‘Just Say No.’ Don’t do it! There is no excuse for this. [Marijuana] is not recreational,” Sessions said. “We can do this again. We can reduce the use of drugs, save lives and turn back the surge in crime that inevitably follows in the wake of increased drug abuse.”
Although Germany’s program is wildly popular, there is not really any definitive evidence to prove that toy-free kindergarten actually reduces addiction rates.
But there is one method that does seem to be discouraging children from using drugs: legalization.
Last December, the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that fewer teenagers are using drugs these days than they have in the past 20 years. Some theories have emerged speculating that the uprising in interactive technology, such as smartphones and other electronic devices, should be credited with this phenomenon. However, additional studies from Colorado and Washington, where marijuana has been fully legal for the past few years, show absolutely no increase in teenage consumption.
Also, in Portugal, where all drugs were decriminalized back in 2001, adolescent drug use continues to decline. In fact, a study published in by the Institute on Drugs and Drug Addiction in 2013 found that “Portugal remains among the countries with the lowest prevalence of use for most of the substances, including heroin and prescription opioids.”