I started a list of the toys that Liam’s father and I bought for him. I found what we chose to purchase for him to be rather interesting. Silicone pinch cups and mini cooking utensils, three or four wooden rattle type toys, a square of yellow silk, and books. I feel a measure of satisfaction that for the most part these are toys that have kept his interest over the months. And the other items we’ve gotten for him, art supplies like sidewalk chalk, egg-shaped crayons, an easel, and finger paints, and the metal buckets and watering can for sand, mud, and water play will likely gain more use as he ages.

I’m hoping that my writing down what we buy for him will curb any spontaneous or frivolous purchases. I want that list to reflect my values; I want to practice what I preach, so to speak. If I want him to be frugal with his money, to value craftsmanship and natural materials, to enjoy a good story, to be involved in growing our garden and creating our meals, to appreciate the outdoors and develop a love for nature, to be creative and make things he finds beautiful, interesting, or intriguing, I must provide for him the means, and not inundate him with stuff.

We’ve inherited quite a few toys from my nephew (thankfully, almost all are not plastic), and the grandparents have done their fair share contributing to our collection, but we are lucky in that they are all on board with our goal of Simplicity Parenting, so most of the toys we have are made of natural materials, allow for creative play, and don’t require batteries (There’s more to it than just this, but the book by Kim John Payne explains it better than I can). In addition to the types of toys we give our son, we are also trying hard to limit the number of toys that Liam has to play with at any given time, lest he be overwhelmed by choice and then underwhelmed because he lacks attachment to any particular toys. It is a challenge. As I look across our living room floor, I realize it is time to cull again, and maybe rotate a few toys into and out of storage.

Some specific toys we won’t be able to discard or put away right now are Liam’s wooden cars. I am repeatedly surprised by how engrossed he can become playing with his “car, car.” He likes to zoom it around on our hardwood floors making engine noises. He enjoys careening all three of his hand-me-down cars off the edge of a dining room chair. He will also stretch up onto his tippy toes to push one along the windowsill and has learned to sign for help when it’s rolled to a place out of reach behind the table. Cars are his favorite toys now, at fifteen months of age. I wonder what will be next. I hope that, sometimes, it will be a toy that is written on my list, that on occasion, his dad and I will choose something for him that he truly relishes.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Toy Story.”

5 thoughts on “Toys

  1. Plastic. It’s an amazing thing. Our civilization wouldn’t exist without it. It’s cheap, easily molded, durable. It’s everywhere. No wonder, either, as manufacturers have capitalized on it to great success. Not a tenth (exaggeration to make a point) of our products would exist without it. Space exploration would not exist without it (not an exaggeration).

    Even so, there’s something about a solid wooden toy that seems more- I don’t know- personal? Natural? I seem to be lacking an adequate word right now. Are these wooden toys better than their plastic cousins? They are different, but different does not necessarily equate to better. And, perhaps, I’m just being a nostalgic hipster about it all.

    There are many things I wholly agree with on this Simplicity Parenting adventure we’ve embarked upon. One is that seizure inducing blinking lights and noises are out of place in our household. Another is that time spent in front of a screen where entertainment is fed to you (our kid) is destructive. Technology mogul Steve Jobs sequestered technology from his children for good reason. He was aware of the effect it had on him and knew that such an effect would be detrimental to the development of children. No matter what the marketing department touts as educational.

    I grew up on television. Simplicity Parenting calls it “screen time”; that entertainment that you turn your brain off to enjoy. I didn’t start reading books until I was well into my teenage years. But, with Liam, he is already engrossed in the children’s books we read to him and brings us books he wants us to read. He’s even “reading” books. I saw it again last night when we were changing him for bed and I handed him the “Peek a who?” book. He’s opening it, looking at the pictures, and saying the words. Correctly! “Peek a boo!” “Peek a choo choo!” It absolutely fills my heart with joy watching this little guy grow and learn and figure things out. It’s amazing!

    Screen time would destroy that. Gone would be that engaged, clever mind that loves exploring and discovering and understanding. It would break my heart. Sure, he gets frustrated, but that frustration is part of the process, part of growing.

    I see us providing for him an environment that nurtures his growth. And so, in that environment we need to bring in the appropriate tools and stimuli. A frantically flashing, screeching noise device that consumes AAA batteries hourly finds no place in our carefully considered environment. No, but the little wooden cars and the wooden blocks and the stuffed dolls do. And this is an easy distinction. We are defining plastic toys as the noise makers and the light flashers. But what about the little plastic car that rolls around and makes no noise but what Liam adds with his little zrrooom zrroooms? They fit the Simplicity Parenting philosophy. Must toys be made of metal and/or wood to be acceptable?

    There’s some cause for concern with plastics. BPAs, for instance. Kids tend to stick objects in their mouths, much like puppies, as a way of exploring and understanding. As plastics breakdown, the chemicals in them begin to leach. BPAs (and countless other chemicals) are in all of us. As adults we are fairly resilient and robust. Small amounts of chemicals do not harm us. But, for children, those same levels of exposure induce far more dramatic effects. The issue is not just the concentration level, though, but that the child is still developing. Artificial and synthetic chemicals can cause that development to change, to be different, to mutate, causing a butterfly effect that cascades throughout the child’s growth. Sometimes these agents can do serious harm to the child. Sometimes the harm starts small, but grows over time. So, to answer the question I posed: We should avoid plastic toys.

    This isn’t to say everything artificial is harmful. Nor is everything natural not harmful (arsenic, cyanide). But, it’s a fair assumption to consider wooden and metal toys are probably not as potentially chemically harmful to children. Granted, there’s paints and glues that could cause harm, so it’s important to investigate the specific toy in question. But, as a first pass on toy consideration, disallowing plastics is a decent place to start.


  2. You can’t spoil a kid with good books. 🙂
    I like your choices, and give you early encouragement as he gets older in keeping to your convictions. It gets harder! Don’t worry, you can revise and remain true to yourself. It’s allowed in the (unwritten, but oft-referred to) Official Parenting Handbook For The Ages.


    1. I’d like to get my hands on that handbook! Thanks for the encouragement. I totally believe it gets harder, especially once friends and friends’ parents come into the picture. It’ll be a trip. I appreciate the permission to revise; I think you’re right, that it’s going to be important to allow myself some lee-way, some space to rethink and reconsider; it’s all just an educated guess, really.


  3. Cutting down on the amount of toys also cuts down on the amount of things that need to be put away later. I’m still working on that aspect, tried getting rid of some toys by having a garage sale but it rained and I hardly sold a thing. We definitely have way too many toys at our house but on the flip side most of them are educational.


    1. I agree it is a challenge. I’m hoping we can make it a ritual, the seasonal toy purge, so it becomes just a part of what we do each spring, summer, fall, and winter. We’ll see. Sometimes it seems like toys are unnecessary; Liam spent most of the morning playing with napkin rings and old wine corks we’re saving for some reason that I’m forgetting now.


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