My thoughts as the family birthday season approaches.
I believe every parent at some stage in their adventure with a new baby comes to a realization that their kid does not need every new thing that comes their way. The mega-list in the back of the pregnancy magazine that details every blessed thing to help you prepare for baby? Mmm…maybe used half of the list. The “must-have” toys for the season? Most of them would be ignored.
Trooper started this realization process for me after his first Christmas home with us (his very first was spent in the NICU). Eager to spoil our boy, and with his therapists pointing out several toys that would help engage him (I made sure he had all the recommended ones), Trooper received a stash of loot that would turn his brothers green with envy. However, he only really liked and played with about three of the toys. Tops. Over the next year, many of those “must-haves” found their way to a donation center.
Of course, this should have clued me that kids’ needs are really pretty simple. Over the next few years we pared down our lists for them, and one year requested nothing with batteries because all those battery-operated toys had a tendency to run down at the same time… grr. Last year I helped Rascal write his first letter to Santa Claus, and he asked for one thing for himself and each brother (but couldn’t think of anything for his three month old sister 😉 ). Just one thing. I doubt this year he’ll be so brief, but it was charming nevertheless. All Rascal wanted was a space shuttle toy, and he has played with it all year so far (he did receive other toys as well, of course).
That’s the criterion for our toy buying these days. For Trooper: will it really engage his interest/imagination/other skills and would this be something that would last? For the others: Is the plastic worth the price? Will it be something that they’ll play with all year? Will it help with imaginative play? And—except for Thomas the Tank Engine and John Deere, who eked their way past our original plan not to get the kids too many “branded” items—does it belong to a fad or brand that is going to die out in a year or two?
I’m sure the toy manufacturers would disapprove of my quest for toy box simplicity, but honestly, I would rather my kids have a few good toys and a surplus of imagination in lieu of a surfeit of toys and ennui.