Recently, I read Tom Hodgkinson’s The Idle Parent. One of the many points he makes in that book is that children actually don’t need very many toys, if any. When allowed, they show a natural ingenuity to make fun out of everyday objects and with everyday activities, which I’ve certainly experienced with the Girl.
I mostly hate plasticky toys anyway. They are made cheaply and break easily. And in the manufacturing process, they don’t take into account that their crappy little cost-effective toy will one day be given a name by a little Girl, who will test the limits of that toy proportionate to how much she loves it.
FACT: while writing this, I was asked to help fix a toy that the Girl had broken; a rubber lizard called Lissie. The Girl had stretched Lissie’s arms until one of them broke off. Do you know how hard it is to re-attach a tiny, rubber arm with sticky-back plastic and glue? It ain’t easy, folks. Especially with a Girl who’s teary, begging you to help her Lissie.
But, The Girl doesn’t really need plasticky objects which are cheaply made, and often slickly sold. She can pour her love into anything. That is the wondrous ability of childhood, which is so easily lost in adulthood.
Recently, as many of you may know, I’ve celebrated a birthday, with birthdays being a favourite activity/event for the Girl. We went to my mum’s house, and she helped her Nana make the cake; mixing the ingredients, and (of course) licking the beaters. When it came time to frost the cake, and to apply the necessary sprinkles, The Girl was right in there.
And getting back to the whole toys thing, her contribution to present time was taking the blue and purple tissue paper sheets inside my gift-bag, tearing them into strips, and encouraging all of us to make something fun out of them as we sat, post-dinner. She suggested a tie for me, a bracelet for someone else. And for herself, she became adorned with a makeshift hair-ribbon.
Ribbons are universally loved.
This is not to say that The Girl has no toys, or that I am not prepared to buy them. In fact, I was thinking of doing a mini-series on some of her stuffie managarie, for posterity.
But, it’s really just a matter of perspective. Toys are not things to own just to own them. They should be tools to activate the imagination. Because, it’s the imagination which is the thing to invest in, so that she can carry that power with her into adulthood, along with the idea that objects should serve to continue to develop that imagination, which is something worth investing in no matter how old one is.
Lissie isn’t a rubber lizard. She’s transformed into a sparkling personality by the Girl’s imagination. The tissue paper ribbon isn’t really tissue paper. It’s transformed into the finest silk by the Girl’s creative brain.
It’s only the manufacturing process that lets her down.