Thursday, February 7, 2008


I find it fascinating to watch infants. I know they don't do much, but the new baby is learning so fast. Just yesterday he figured out that if he turns his head in addition to moving his eyes he is better able to see the world around him. He's so advanced for his age. On the other hand, I was holding him last night while my wife was changing into pajamas and he kept moving his open mouth over my arm, trying to eat (rooting). He hasn't learned that Dads aren't good at that sort of thing.

The other day someone asked about toys. Boy do I have a thing or two to say about toys. I was just talking to my wife about this. During the summer it seems that they don't need toys at all. Give them a couple of sticks, a piece of string and a rock and they will spend months playing outside with or without them. During the winter, however, my wife sometimes feels like we've just played with everything that we have. Notices that is how my wife feels. The boys really don't care. They like having a couple of options, but they'll have fun playing with whatever.

So here's what we've got in our house. We have 'little people' and playmobil that encourage imaginative play. Except the old version of the 'little people' turned out to be choking hazards, now all of the little people are obese. I don't know what I think about that. We have legos, play-dough, tinker toys and kinex for building stuff. (I think this is cool, it's a computer that plays tic-tac-toe made entirely from tinkertoys.) Ironically the boys have lots of toy cars that they love playing with, but they still know that if we are getting ready to go somewhere they better go get their bike helmet. We also have one doll and lots of stuffed animals because we think it's important that the boys have the opportunity to play with dolls if they want. I think it's interesting how they will play with the doll when my wife is pregnant. It's like they know they need to practice for the real thing. We have some dress-up outfits so the boys can pretend to be something during their play. We also have a core set of books for the boys to read. Well, for us to read to the boys at this point. We are actually trying to keep our book collection fairly small and then use the library regularly.

Our toy buying principles are fairly simple. Number one (my wife is a HUGE supporter of this) no commercial characters. Cars, Nemo, Power Rangers; are they movies/shows or are they the most powerful marketing tool that businesses could come up with? Anyway, we don't keep commercialized characters around our home. I think it's interesting when my oldest boy plays cars (he has seen the movie), he will often play with Thunder McQueen and Fire McQueen (one for each hand) who will help out the other (unnamed) cars. But the character in the movie was 'Lightning McQueen'... Yeah, we're not sure what happened to him.

Number two buying principle, nothing that takes batteries. Or if it does 'take' batteries the toy must undergo a battery-ectomy (removal of batteries) before the toy enters the house. We do have a couple alphabet boards where the boys touch letters and it makes sounds and whatnot. We keep those in the van for when the boys need to be entertained without much of our help. We haven't been in the van for two weeks now... those toys don't get used much, but they are handy. I think I missed one in the list of toys above, we also have musical instruments. You see, the lack of batteries isn't because the noises drive me nuts (although that is true), it is because without batteries the boys have to use the toy rather than just being entertained by it. The musical instruments sometimes drive me nuts as well, but I bear it because it's "music" or at least the exploration of music and probably better than what I'll have to put up with when they are teenagers.

Our final big buying principle is far more vague. We just don't buy stuff. My wife and I have passed many birthdays and Christmases where we simply didn't buy our kids anything. Some people may think that's harsh, but we get more than enough from grandparents. We will occassionally buy a legos set that is on a good sale (voila, my addiction to plastic reappears). For example, the older two boys got a lego set from the baby when it was born so that it put some attention on the older boys and not just the baby.

We also maintain a principle to get rid of stuff when it becomes excessive. When the drawers and cabinets start overflowing with toys, we go through and eliminate some. We can then either re-gift them or give them to the Goodwill or whatever. Is it hard to give away things that were given to us? Yes, it absolutely is. We recognize that a toy is more than a material, it is the thought of a relative and hopefully reminds our kids of their distant family that they should remember. But we just can't keep stuff forever. If it is time for us to get rid of something we will do our best to get it to someone who can continue to use.

Wow, for something so simple as toys, I had a lot of complex principles that I use to regulate their flux through our home.

Sorry about the spelling mistakes, my spell checker on the blogger page won't work and my spelling and typing just isn't very good.


TV Free said...

Yes, toys are a hard thing at our house. The boys would probably be content with far less than what we have; I think I have only heard Mugwump say, "I'm bored" once.

We also have a few board games and puzzles. I think the key to the stuff that we keep, and keep using, is the interactivity of it. Is the toy entertaining my kid or is my kid using the toy as a tool to entertain himself? I read somewhere that for Christmas, a family would only give their children "tools." Don't think hammers, but learning tools (books, challenging games or puzzles), art tools, building tools (kinex, legos, etc), and the like. I thought it was a great idea.

CoconutKate said...

I love to hear Fae entertaining herself with her doll house people. I think that, and the little kitchen and dishes, are the best toys we own. True, they are ALL plastic, but its VERY hard to find toys that aren't. We enjoy reading your makes us think about things we probably wouldn't pay any attention to otherwise. Congratulations on baby S! :0)