Toys aren’t evil. But we’ve gotten out of hand lately.
Starting at a young age we are bombarded with bright colors, blinking lights, talking monkeys, and television programs with non-stop singing and laughter.
We just don’t have a couple of these things. We have all of them.
Look, toys have amazing potential. They help kids channel curiosity, develop imagination, and hone motor skills. They demonstrate principles of ownership and sharing. As we grow, exploring computers and technology builds skills that we can leverage as adults.
The thing is, we can achieve these benefits with far less.
Milligan is our first child. You know how this story goes. In addition to our own craziness, our parents, family, and friends made sure that she had enough rattles, whistles, clothes, books, and music machines to entertain an army.
Do you know what Milligan enjoyed the most? The empty boxes the toys came in. Her love of the toy lasted 5-10 minutes. But give her a couple different sized boxes and you could watch her go for hours.
Not only did she not need the overwhelm of stuff, she didn’t even want it. Rather, she’s now perfectly content with:
- Her Blue Puppy
- A couple books (Wooly Lamb, mostly)
- Spatulas or a wooden spoon
- Whatever mommy and daddy are playing with, and
- Just a few other things
In the past Milligan would completely disregard a large portion of her toys. With fewer options, she’s began to develop a deeper connection and thus a deeper mastery of them.
She’s banged around a wooden spoon enough to realize that it makes different sounds on the kitchen table, the carpet, or the couch. She’s noticed how the same plastic ball rolls differently across the title in the bathroom, then in does through the grass outside.
This seems much more intimate and meaningful than a light up piano that plays 80′s pop songs when you press the right buttons. Sure, she’s young. But I’m not convinced much of this changes as we age.
The ‘development’ excuse
It seems every product targeted at infants or toddlers has the same message:
“This product has been designed by a team of experts, armed with ground-breaking neuro-technology. The rhythm of the lights and the cadence of the beeps have been optimized to maximize your child’s growth and development.”
Ugh. Am I the only one overwhelmed by these messages?
These products may be fantastic, but are they really any more scientific than discovering how a slinky works? As parents, we need to make sure we are the ones consciously deciding what’s best for the growth of our children.
I’m all for supporting Milligan’s development, but I’d much rather take advice and toy suggestions from my grandmother, than from your highly compensated team of experts.
Simple, time-tested toys
Legacy toys are legacy toys for a reason.
- Hula Hoops
- Play Doh
- Lego Sets
- Simple Sports (a football, mitt, skates, etc…)
I don’t know about you, but I had every video game system imaginable when I was growing up. Atari, Nintendo, Sega, Dreamcast, Playstation, Xbox. Every year it seemed like we upgraded systems.
But almost none of my childhood memories stem from these machines. I had a lot of fun, but the impact soon faded. I remember building Legos with my brother, riding bikes down our street, building forts in the woods, throwing the football with my dad, or reading books with my mom.
It was these sorts of regular moments that shaped who I am today. Not the hours I spent playing Deion Sander’s Prime Time Football.
Get started today!
Round up the family and explain that you’ll be doing a new family project. Each member, including yourself, is going to be donating half their ‘toys’ to charity!
If your kids are old enough, have them bring out all their stuff into one place. Help them create one big list. Encourage them to tally up what they have and circle the half they’d most like to keep. Drive with them to donate the toys to needy kids or organize a garage sale and let them participate in the process.
Make it fun. Make it memorable.
Ultimately you may find that you learn more from this process than your children.