Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Toys vs. Life

If there's one thing I've learned about toys, it's that they're really for parents in the first eighteen months of life. And I have no problem with that.

N would rather march about with a canoe paddle over his shoulder than put shapes on his felt board. He prefers putting candles in their holders to putting multi-colored rings on a dowel. He's more likely to swoon over a beach full of rocks than his sandbox.

So does that mean I've stopped buying toys? Stopped arranging invitations to play on toy tables and furniture throughout the house? Stopped thinking of Melissa and Doug as best friends of mine?

Not so much.

Toys are there for me. When we're in the car. When I'm trying to get lunch ready. When I can't think of another way to rearrange the furniture for climbing and jumping and cruising.

But I'm also aware that they are a (pleasant) sideshow to the main event - real life, real world. So N and I get out in it as much as we can. We wade in the lake. We wander safe green spaces. We examine butterflies and see if sticks fit into sewer grates.

Will I continue to make green jello sensory tables and line little horses up on his table while he is asleep? Yes. And I'm hoping these things will become more and more fun.

There are all kinds of play, and for a toddler, the whole world is a playground. What toys offer is some on-location fun and the chance of a little break from the search for everything in the world, for, you guessed it, the parents, whose needs still really are relevant.

Many people have mentioned to me that kids have too many toys. That the best push for creativity is to have less, not more. None of these people were new parents of new toddlers. And I'm not necessarily disagreeing with them. But the bottom line is, toys help. And every now and then, the magic moment comes when your tiny one finds a thrill in the playtime you've created, and you can both rest in that magic for half an hour.

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