I’ve been going through the playroom and trying to weed out what I don’t think of as “essential” toys. It’s got me thinking about consumerism and what message I am passing on to my boys, the message that has the greatest impact on them which are my actions not what I say. My kids don’t watch tv with commercials but they’re still inundated with messages of consumption. (I’m editing this to add that I myself am totally and completely addicted to television. I’m owning up to it because I can hear Ted thinking it) I’ve been talking with my oldest about commercials and how it’s somebody’s job to make you think you need something and that commercials/advertisements often try and take away people’s power to choose what they want/need, particularly in terms of gender. I feel like we’ve done a good job of acknowledging when the kids want something at the store, “That toy DOES look like fun. We’re not getting any toys today. Maybe you could add that to your wish list.” or something like that. It really has worked for us and they don’t EXPECT stuff every time we enter a store. I feel really good about this aspect of our parenting.
AND YET, there is this back door that is wide open and leaking STUFF into our home big time. Thrift stores, yard sales and rummage sales, you know the drill. One of my first times away from our son after he was born was a trip around town checking out the yard sales. I remember the feeling of freedom and excitement mixed in with the worry of being away from my newborn. My Saturday mornings have really become my time for myself, my time to feel like I’m “providing” for my family, and a way to feel victorious. I love bringing home toys and checking how much they cost new on the internet. The playmobil firetruck for $5, the 2 full sets of color blocks I found at two different sales in the same day for $4 total, and the handmade felt Waldorf finger puppets I got for a few bucks to name (brag) a few. I guess I’ve realized for a while now that it’s the same impact on our house in terms of STUFF and on the boys in terms of CONSUMING toys but I’m also starting to see the impact on my oldest. Wanting more, expecting more. I’m sure some of it is developmental but I have to take some responsibility. Ultimately the kids don’t know the difference between a bargain and an expensive toy right off the shelf. Stuff begets stuff.
So I’m trying to find a balance. I still like to hunt and search but I don’t have to buy or keep everything. I’m thinking of opening an etsy shop with funky vintage finds. I think it would be a good balance between doing something I love and minimizing the impact on my family. Maybe that can be my catch, “Fill your house with my found crap so my kids can live simply!” I’ve clearly got a head for business AND advertising.
Here are the toys that I think are the best tools to help my kids with the work of play:
“The maple-wood blocks . . . are in my fingers to this day,” Frank Lloyd Wright (he said it better than I could)
This is my favorite Playmobil family. I think I love these little plastic people more than my boys, and they are obsessed. They’ve also opened up our house to war toys, and that’s a whole other post…
Playsilks and dressup in general. My oldest and I dyed these using koolaid and curry powder (on the yellow). These silks and all the others I could find for this photo have been used to help my oldest become everything from a pharoah to a doctor and have been used in endless games of peek-a-boo with my little one.
Dolls (paper or otherwise) aren’t just for girls. You can see feeding the babies is a favorite pastime while bathing them doesn’t rank as high, much like real life!. (you know I’m holding my tongue about that fabulous thrifted wagon)
(I’ve already posted this photo but I couldn’t find any other’s of the boys using these big foam blocks/mats.) When my little one was born I wanted to find something that enabled both boys to play together even when they were at such developmentally different stages. These have worked great and they keep finding different ways to play with them. In the beginning while my little one was laying on the mats drooling my older one built a structure close by and made the little one a “foreman”. Now there is a lot of jumping from one to the other with a little wrestling thrown in.
And this isn’t a toy but it has been a great solution for making the playroom work for both boys. We got an IKEA bunk bed and the upper bunk, or “loft” as my big guy calls it, is for my eldest and all his little tiny toys that are choking hazards for the little one (who is only now easing up with the putting stuff in his mouth). The bottom bunk is a cozy book reading, pirate ship sailing, guest bed sleeping zone and so far this has worked really well for us.
Sandbox, an oldie but a goodie. Something I remember from time to time is to use things that aren’t meant to be toys as toys. In the sandbox that might be tubes from the recycling bin and in the tub it’s usually a hand mixer and all the funnels from the kitchen!
And to wrap up my list: balls, and art supplies, and music and what’s your AND?
Check out Green Jello she’s doing a great toy week!
Full disclosure, I just came back from Charlie and Pat’s (love them) and I DID pick up a few things. What can I say, I’m a work in progress!
Edit: Here’s a new book and a link on the topic:
Wired Magazine talking about Reagan deregulating children’s television (I’m talking to you Tickle Me Elmo) and Star Wars toys. Which is crazy because Star Wars still holds such power, it’s the hot game on the playground in Pre-K and it’s the hotbutton topic among parents who are concerned with the amount of scripted play S.W. can create.