I remember reading a fabulous article on Wired a few years ago on the top five best toys of all time. The list was a comprehensive one: stick, box, string, cardboard tube and dirt. Despite the fact that I often hear folks joking about what a waste it is to buy a child a toy since all they want to do is play with the box, we’re all still guilty of buying them toys. A lot of toys.
And I honestly can’t help myself, sometimes, when I see musical benches or ridiculously cute baskets of fabric vegetables. But with Christmas right around the corner, I’m especially cognizant of not only how few toys Miss E actually needs (I’m not prepared to say she doesn’t need any, and that may make me a no-good terrible consumer), but what kinds.
Browsing the discarded toys at the consignment shop where I frequently buy her clothes, I feel like I’m in a blinking, buzzing, battery-operated graveyard. And I feel like there’s a reason the aisles are overflowing with these kinds of toys, and why I’m guilty of digging deep in bins to get to the good stuff: wooden blocks, shape sorters, puzzles, sets of felt animals. All too often the toys that claim to be educational or purport to teach my daughter how to say please, thank you and calculate for X are merely entertaining her, not engaging, not encouraging exploration, and certainly not giving her imagination much room to work.
Are noisy toys evil? No. Are they causing my daughter harm? Probably not. But are they necessary? I just don’t think so (and I’m not the only one). She has a picnic basket that plays music when you open and close it that she loves, and I’m contented to keep it among her collection for the little bouncy dance that follows every opening and closing of the lid. But she also dances when I sing or when we listen to music, and she makes her own music with plastic containers full of rice and rattles and bells. I don’t think she needs to push a button to learn cause and effect or bright, flashing lights to reward her curiosity. The world is reward enough.