Who Needs Toys?

The boys have yards of train tracks and plenty of train cars to go with them. They have dozens of blocks — some with capital letters, some with lowercase, some with Chinese characters. They have balls of all sizes. Their car collection is as varied and diverse as any little boy could hope for (minus any motors, lights, and sounds, of course). There are crayons and markers scattered about the apartment and enough paper, stickers, and paint to cover an entire wall.

And yet.

Their favorite toys bear a striking resemblance to common household objects. I know, for example, that if I am baking, I can count on my dog-and-frog oven mitts to be re-purposed as hand puppets and to find their way to the nether-reaches of the apartment.

The oversize pillows we found in the as-is section of IKEA have been used as sandwich bread (to make squirmy peanut butter and pickle sandwiches — where the pickle looks and sounds much more like a little boy than a cucumber), as a train conductor’s cabin on the couch-train, as lily pads for hopping frogs, and as landing pads for budding jumpers. I probably pick them up off the floor and put them back on the couch a dozen times a day.

The foam roller is a favorite, for sure. I can hardly get it out before a certain little person has his grubby little paws on it and is testing its stability, again, as a chair and as a belly-roller. Once it has proven itself sturdy enough to handle his 25 pounds, he’s more than happy to let my legs have their turn, too.

And you wouldn’t believe (okay, maybe you would) the time spent pushing the same buttons on the printer over and over and over. Push “Power,” a light goes on! Push “Copy,” a blank paper comes out! Push “Power,” a light goes off! Now let’s do it again! And again! And again!

I’m sure many of you are familiar with IKEA’s children’s dishware. The colorful plastic plates and cups and bowls seem to be ubiquitous in any house with children under the age of five. They may be marketed as objects to hold food, but my boys know better. So many possibilities with those plastic discs and shovels. Which is why, despite having only two children, it is rare that I can find even one of the five cups to give them a drink out of when they ask. And also why, “Go look under the couch,” is so commonly heard around our apartment at dinner time.

I like having lots of toys for the boys to play with. I don’t begrudge one block or ball its place in our apartment. And although I do sometimes wish that we had a little more space to spread them out and put them to use, I totally love that the boys don’t really need them. I love that they find toys in whatever is lying around and can re-purpose anything to suit their needs. They can have their hand puppets as much as they want. Just as long as I can borrow them for a second to take the bread out of the oven.

What are your kids’ favorite “toys”?

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4 Comments

  1. Stephanie Bassett

    August 11th, 2011 at 12:28 am

    There is a funnel that has found a new home in my boys’ room. Also I was pleased as punch when George started playing with a big empty box without any prompting from me, and in ways we’d never played with a box before. Pretending to be a robot, and baking a pie (using blankets and random toys as filling).

    [Reply]

    lizzie Reply:

    The box! I love it. Isn’t that pretty much the pinnacle of imaginative play? Maybe Calvin and Hobbes has had too much of an influence on me, but I keep hoping we’ll end up with a transmogrifier in our house some day. 🙂

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  2. Colanders. My son tells me, “It’s a HAT mama!” Jumping on couch cushions too.

    [Reply]

    lizzie Reply:

    And a lovely hat it is. Did you make him a cape out of a dish towel? That would have been so perfect.

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  3. Making a ship on the couch with every conceivable bucket, toy, stuffed animal, blanket and pillow (include the actual couch cushions) in the house. The ship gets pretty tall! Currently the Swiffer is a “favorite” (added bonus of getting my floors somewhat clean). The squirt bottle is a winner, too. Its hard to finish ironing because we have to share the bottle, but at least he carries the bottle in one hand and a paper towel in the other and cleans as he goes.

    [Reply]

    lizzie Reply:

    I admire the fact that you clean frequently enough that he actually knows how it’s done! My boys know the vacuum inside and out, but, I sheepishly admit, would be at a loss for what to do with bottle of water and a paper towel.

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  4. Ha, he’s never seen me do it but in an effort to wipe up an entire squirt bottle of water that has been sprayed on the floor, dressers, walls, doors – I gave him a paper towel and told him he needs to wipe as he goes. Now it is part of the drill and seems fun for him. Luckily he seems to like cleaning (although not picking up!)

    [Reply]

    lizzie Reply:

    This is giving me some good ideas about channeling my boys’ energy into more productive pursuits . . . .

    [Reply]

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