Too Many Toys!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

After picking up the toys day after day only to find them all scattered a few hours later, I had had enough. Pioneer children used to be happy with their corn cob dolls and button spinners. Why do our children need so many different colors, noises, and options? I realized that Joshua didn't really play with his toys. He didn't build with the blocks, drive the cars, or put the puzzles together. Instead he would dump everything out and then push the step stool around or climb under the dining room chairs, wading through toys to do so. So I put the toys away.

In the closet now are organized storage containers full of little wooden animals, matchbox cars, and magnetic building thingys. The puzzles are out of reach and the dominos are in their box. And the floor is clear! Oh, I left out some toys: the wooden firetruck and car, "Red" from Cars, a couple of Cheveron Cars, and other toys that don't scatter pieces underfoot. Do you think Joshua feels deprived?

On the contrary. Our house has felt so much more peaceful (well I think it has helped a little anyway). Joshua and Lucy aren't screaming over toys as much anymore. Instead they follow each other around and "fly like a bird" from the coffee table to the couch. Plus, cleaning up the room every night is a much less daunting task.

Now, lest all the generous relatives who gave us the magnet things and the puzzles in the first place get offended, let me explain that we are still using them—just one at a time. There are wooden blocks all over Joshua's floor right now. And you know what? There's a "church" in the middle of them! All of the arch shaped pieces have the little half circles fitted into them. I really think that Joshua's creativity had been overwhelmed by all the choices. Now that there is only one option at a time, he can see how they are supposed to work.

Whenever I go look at toys, I'm attracted to the beautifully painted wooden ones, lovely in their simplicity (and silence!). I like the lace up shapes that are supposed to inspire creativity. But it seems like Christmas time comes around and what do the kids end up playing with? The plastic ambulence that has a siren and the steering wheel that revs up the engine when they turn the key and plays the same catchy song over and over when they turn on the radio. The wooden firetruck and cars with block shaped people get shoved aside and forgotten. Why?

Laziness. It's easier to push a button and let the car make it's own siren sound than to create the sound one's self. And the block people don't look very real. It takes a fertile imagination to look at the squarish shaped wooden cars and see a fireturck or a race car. It takes diligence to weave the laces around the triangles, sqares, and circles. Would kids these days even know what to do with a button spinner or feel any love towards a corn cob dressed up in baby clothes?

Of course kids gravitate towards the bright lights and sounds. Don't we all too easily gravitate towards the TV? But does that mean that we should forget the simple toys because "they just won't play with them!" I don't think so. Sometimes kids need encouragement in using their imaginations. Remember Miracle on 34th Street?

Kris Kringle:Do you know what imagination is?
Susie:That's when you see things and they are not really there.
Kris Kringle:That can be caused by other things too. Imagination is a place by itself, a separate country. You've heard of the French nation, the British nation, well, this is the imagination. It's a wonderful place. How would you like to be able make snowballs in summertime, or have a ship all to yourself that makes daily trips to China and Australia, or how would you like to be the Statue of Liberty in the morning and in the afternoon fly south with a flock of geese?

If children are surrounded by buttons, lights, and noises, all they see is the surface of a thing and they begin to lose the ability to look past that and discover all the other things a thing could become. A stick is just a stick until you use your imagination to transform it into a bow, a sword, or the North Pole.

I don't want my children reliant on big toy factories in China for their fun. Just because it's easier to play with those toys doesn't mean it's better. (By the way, just because it's old fashioned doesn't mean it's better either.) So as I put stuff in the closet, I also sent some things out the door. I want the kids to have more fun in the backyard with some twine, sheets, and clothes pins than they would in a McDonalds play area.

Although, they are still ecstatic to play with those loud trucks with their friends!

Back to Recent Journey Chronicles