Let’s Talk about Toys

The holidays are now behind us and we find ourselves totally engrossed by the topic of toys.  Yes, toys—objects children, the grandkids for example, play with after Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa.   

One annoying object (noun) to which we object (verb)?  Screens.  We are amazed at the time kids spend playing games on computers or portable gaming monitors.  Not to mention the cost! Do kids read books anymore??  Do they even know they can read a book on a screen? 

Screens don’t require or encourage kids to move around or personally interact with anyone.  We won’t even get into the research indicating links to obesity, depression, and a poorer quality of life.  Nah.   

Yes, kids can play on a screen outside.  But that defeats the purpose of being outside…actually playing.  We think of playing as an activity that includes movement, creativity, and, hopefully, opportunities with peers to learn about collaboration and leadership.  We applaud bike riders, skateboarders, and roller skaters, as long as they wear helmets and refrain from texting.  

To be fair, screens aren’t limited to kids.  All of us have been in a restaurant and rolled our eyes at a family or group of friends looking at their phones…constantly.  You’re eating out.  It’s special.  Have a conversation even if it’s about the latest apps and available upgrades!

We oldies spent a lot of time inventing activities indoors and out when we were kids.  It was amazing what fun could be had with a sheet, clothespins, and a clothesline. Yes, a clothesline.  Showing our age!  Our old baby carriage became a stagecoach.  Hairy poison oak leaves became a bed in our imaginary camp.  Well, that wasn’t such a good idea.  We learned the hard way: “leaves of three, let them be.”

As girls, we played with a lot of dolls.  We loved the diversity…big, small, soft, hard, walking, talking.   Today, numerous dolls objectify women, are too sexy, send the wrong body images, or promote certain tasks and jobs inappropriately linked to gender.  What are these toys teaching our little girls???  Hmmm….not good!

Toys directed to boys seem generally the same—guns, good guys and bad guys, trucks, tanks, superheroes. Although, today, many of these characters have moved to outer space.  

A number of board and card games we played are still around.  But, the complexity of some new games boggles our minds.  Here’s our rule.  If the game’s instructions are more than two pages, we are not playing.

And while we applaud the educational value of various toys, we have observed many sitting on the shelf in favor of Minecraft, which, yes, we know, can have educational value.  We also know there are gamer tournaments and scholarships. But, like readying your kid to play professional sports, have a Plan B. 

We can’t discuss toys without remembering the tee shirt many guys used to wear: He who dies with the most toys wins.  Note the shirt says “he.”  Toys in this context, we surmise, are expensive cars, motorcycles, boats, etc.  It should have read: Toys=$, I win.  Personally, we always thought it was a foolish statement.  If you are dead, someone else simply inherits your estate and enjoys your toys.  They win.

Recent holiday shopping reminded us how choices available at the toy stores have really proliferated.  We were overwhelmed and had difficulty selecting what to buy.  When we were kids, we could count on both hands the number of toys we had.  Not today.  Kids’ rooms are jam-packed with toys.  Is that good news, we asked ourselves?  So, we Googled.  Nope, research indicates that children who have too many toys are more easily distracted and don’t enjoy quality playtime.  Fewer toys mean more creativity.

Our wrinkled wisdom for today:  We know grandparents, aunts, and uncles spoil children with lots of toys.  We suggest keeping some at your houses for the kids’ visits.  Donate toys to philanthropic organizations after the kids outgrow them.  Please don’t buy huge teddy bears; they are impossible to clean!  And, whatever you do, don’t buy toys that make noise, including musical instruments. (That flexible keyboard did not go over well with the kid’s parents.)  And, keep toys’ receipts.  You never know.  For their sanity, parents may want to return it.

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