We officially made it past the first birthday mark, which means we officially have toys, lots of them. I’m not docking toys in general – lord knows even I was getting bored of our tupperware – but as I was sitting on the living room floor trying to strategically distribute our new toys amongst our different rooms – a few upstairs, a few downstairs, a couple for grandma’s and a couple tucked into the closet for later – I found myself getting a little overwhelmed. And I thought to myself, if I’m getting overwhelmed, how do kids feel?
For starters, there were just a lot. Too many for me to disperse and too many to keep focus on one. Maybe if there had been less, I wouldn’t have gone down this rabbit hole of overwhelmed-ness in the first place.
Then, there was size. Some of the toys were more compact, but others were big, like too big for me to tuck away when guests come over. Like if I put all of them out we’ll have no room to actually play. On top of being big, many were also loud… and bright… and had 1,000,000 buttons. A single toy seemed to have all the bells and whistles a kid would ever need. Except “seemed” and “need” are the keywords in that statement because that’s not how it really works… at all.
I will tell you firsthand that of all the cool toys my child received, he still likes basic balls and blocks the most. If your toy came with balls and blocks – you win. No brownie points for bright lights and buzzards.
Really, it’s not an epiphany why children are drawn toward wrapping paper, boxes, tupperware or any other objects that seem “normal.” Less is more when your mind is clear, your brain can think and your imagination can run wild, meaning we don’t actually need half the toys we accumulate or all the fancy upgrades to go along. Some basics would do just fine.
Bang the wooden spoon on a bowl.
Put the square peg in the square hole.
Throw a ball back and forth.
Drop the ball through the hoop.
Stack some blocks.
Climb a stool.
Yet why do people still get so caught up in the need for kids to have only the most elaborate of toys? And why do people think I’m a Scrooge when I frown at the suggestion of yet another fancy, fully loaded oversized activity center that my child may interact with for two seconds before he goes and finds another ball… or shoe… or box… or maybe the first activity center he already has?
I’m such an advocate for giving children both the physical and mental space to be curious, creative, imaginative and inspired. If their toys do all of the work for them, though – sing, dance, count, command – then that doesn’t leave much left for them to figure out themselves. And if there are too many toys vying for attention, then engagement is lost there too.
We are saturated with overstimulation, adults and kids alike. So let’s ditch the batteries for a moment, soak in some peace and quiet, explore, be curious and just play.
Basic toy stimulation = creative inspiration and play imagination.