Mediocre Moms Don’t Need To Buy Toys
Let me start out by being completely honest: we are drowning in toys. I have an entire room dedicated to nothing but toys. In fact, when we bought this house, my husband and I specifically chose the model because it had a bonus room-for toys. This room does not include the toys that pile up in my children’s own rooms, or the errant ones that creep up in our family room from time to time. There are even toys in the cars. (Fun fact: one time, at a restaurant valet, the attendant brought us the wrong blue Honda. It was so clean in the back-seat, pristine and toy-less. For a half second, I thought about jumping in and taking it instead. But I alerted the attendant and told him that it was the other blue Honda where it looked like Toys-R-Us had thrown up in the back seat.)
Obviously we did not start off owning so many. In fact, when my daughter was a baby, I hardly got her any at all because a) she was a baby and b) she never played with them the correct way anyways. (She would stack them and use them to reach other non-toy items). But slowly, over time, the toys have taken over. Every birthday and holiday brings a new batch, and my secretive weeding out to goodwill process when the kids are at school only does so much. I will admit that my husband and I contribute to the problem. But a large amount comes from the grandparent circuit. (Those are the worst kind, because you can’t just get rid of those off the bat).
You would think that with all of these toys, my children would disappear for hours, completely engaged in their own personal play-land. They don’t. A few get played with, but most sit on the shelf, generally unused after one or two play sessions. I feel vindicated if I get twenty minutes out of a toy.
I’d like to blame electronics for the shift, and certainly we spend a fair amount playing on the computer, playing Nintendo, and watching T.V., but I don’t think that is the entire problem. I think the problem is that with so many toys, we make it difficult for the kids to be creative on their own.
Lest you think I am exaggerating, try a hypothetical this weekend. Go get your kids a cardboard box. If you didn’t order something from Amazon, pick it up from behind your local grocery store. Then give it to your kids. If you are feeling generous, give them some crayons, tape, and scissors, too. Then watch them go at it. We did this last weekend, and it was hours of fun. Let that sink in for a second. Hours of fun. From a box.
Of course we didn’t get the box specifically for that reason. We happened to buy some patio furniture which came with giant, over-sized boxes. But the kids considered them a special treat. They made it into a submarine and an airplane. They cut out windows and a door. I was actually impressed by their ingenuity.
But I am also curious. Why does a plain, empty, cardboard box entertain them for so much longer than piles upon piles of mostly talking, animatronic toys? I feel like with these toys, they do everything for the kids. They walk, talk, eat, and teach the alphabet. There is nothing left for the child to do.
When my daughter was little and my best friend had a little boy the same age, she too noted that all of the toys talked. She mused that our children would grow up wondering why banal objects like the sofa didn’t talk back. I don’t want to demonize all of these toys, because certainly my little ones have loved some of them, especially the ones that play music. But does every toy need to be animatronic?
Even as they get older, there are still toys with all of the bells and whistles that talk, sing, and light up. Both of my older children wanted some of these; I shot them down. (I especially said no to the pooping puppy pet that my son wanted and told him that if he was desperate to clean up pet poop he could be in charge of our real cats’ litter box. Unsurprisingly he turned me down).
But it’s not just the animatronic ones that seem to stifle creativity. There are plenty of useless figurines and action figures that you can set up just like the T.V. show or movie. (To be fair, we had these too growing up). Then what? Do you re-enact the film? At least with the castles and trains, my kids will set up a kingdom and do something with that. But I firmly say no to little useless baubles (I am looking at you, Shopkins).
Thankfully my daughter is not a big doll person. I am even less sure of what you do with those. Most of hers that she has gotten (from other sources, not me) end up tossed in a pile somewhere. But that whole line is a racket. (Lest you think I am kidding, check out the prices on the American Girl dolls. And that doesn’t even cover their outfits and unnecessary accessories. The outfits for those damn dolls cost more than an outfit I would purchase for myself).
Even legos have gotten less fun. Sure you could always build what was on the box, but the best was just having a giant box of them and making whatever you wanted. Today, they are marketed specifically for you to create what they have created, such as the Lego Girls Heart Town. (The ridiculous marketing to girls is another story for another time). Once you get the town set up, there is not much else to do. The big part of the fun in Legos is creating a masterpiece, not creating an already designed image and then playing with it.
I suppose you are wondering now what is left in the toy world that I would buy. I do still buy them, but I have tried to be smarter about my purchases. They are usually creative toys that the kids can build and take down over and over again and can turn it into whatever they like. My favorite has been these magnet shapes, because it is baby safe for my littlest and yet my two older ones can build shapes and towers. I am not always successful at just sticking to these toys but I have certainly tailored my purchases over the last five years. (Now if I could just get the grandparents on board). At the end of the day, however, I would still like to just bring home a big cardboard box.
I am mediocre mom!
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