My kids are funny kids, in that they don't play with a lot of their toys. They play with all their toy horses, big and small. They don't play with any of their other toy animals. They play LEGOs sometimes, and blocks sometimes, if I bring them temptingly out. They don't play with any of their three Playmobil sets, all major purchases for special occasions. They play with their bikes and their scooters. They don't play with their dollhouse or their toy barn. They play with their jump ropes and their pogo stick. They don't play with their Beyblades or Hexbugs. They play with their stuffed animals. They don't play with their wooden swords and shields, or their dress-up clothes. They play with some of their games and puzzles, but not others.
Frankly, it has me baffled. If I could discern a pattern, I'd be happy to buy them only what I knew they'd play with, but I'm so far clueless. And I can't even go by what they want, necessarily: Willow pined for that special Playmobil pyramid for over a year before I finally found it on sale (and still it was expensive!), and she loves it, but has she played with it? Nope!
If y'all have heard me say once that we're on a tight budget, y'all have heard me say it a million times, so I'm not ashamed to tell you that I find it upsetting when I stretch our money to buy my kids a special gift, or even just use our regular spending money to buy them something ordinary at a garage sale, and they don't play with it. At the same time, a good toy is a good toy, and I hate to get rid of, say, the Beyblades and Hexbugs and the wooden swords and shields even though they're not played with, because they're great toys that I could see the kids really getting into, if they ever do.
Nevertheless, of course things have got to go, and every summer I agonize over sorting out the children's things that they've aged out of, that I don't think they'll ever play with, that might as well be re-homed while they're still in good shape, since the kids don't love them. This year, while going through their belongings and deciding that all the toy animals can stay, but that the stuffed animals that they're not actively playing with regularly can go, that all the wooden blocks and the LEGOs and the Geomags can stay, but that all the big cardboard blocks and the plastic ball pit balls can go, that most of the board games and puzzles can stay but the baby-ish ones can go (goodbye, Uncle Wiggly!), that the Playmobil sets and the dollhouse and barn can stay, but that all the dress-up stuff except for their wooden sword and shield sets can go, that only the handmade dolls and doll clothes can stay, and that the kid-sized wooden table and chairs can go, I came upon the girls' old turtle sandbox--who knew I still had THAT?!?
Willow played in that sandbox as a baby. Sydney played in that sandbox as a baby. They played there together as toddlers, and then I must have forgotten about it, because it hasn't been out in years. And, mirabile dictu, sitting right next to it in the garage was a big bag of sandbox sand.
It was an act of faith in setting that sandbox up instead of setting it aside for our garage sale. It's a pain to set up and a pain to tear down, and you have to remember to put the lid back when you're done, and the grass will die underneath it as it's too heavy to move, blah blah blah, and who knows if my kids would even want to play with it, really, even though they said they would? However, as a free-form toy, out in the outdoors, it counts for me as a "good" toy, and that's what ultimately got it its new summer home in the side yard.
So Matt set it up, and immediately one kid wandered over--
--and it wasn't long before she'd lured her sister over and they were deeply immersed in their imaginary play:
I'm attempting to build some parameters--a Collection Development Policy, if you will, for you fellow Library Science degree holders--about what possessions I buy my children, especially since it's so hard for me to let the children's things go if I've already acquired them. Here are a few ideas I've gleaned so far, although nothing complete:
- NO to play sets, wooden or not, high-quality or not
- NO to dress-up clothing and costumes
- YES to more play silks
- NO to more LEGO sets or add-ons to any of their building sets, unless they begin to show more interest in them
- YES to active toys and outdoor toys
- NO to new and different art supplies, unless they begin to show more interest in the variety of art supplies that we already own
- YES to more games and puzzles
- NO to "toy" anything--toy kitchens, toy doctor's kits, toy tools
- YES to real tools
- NO to more toys that have specific methods of play, such as Beyblades and Hexbugs
- NO to more craft or science kits, unless they begin to show more interest in completing the kits that they already own
- YES to fine coloring books, maze books, and other high-quality activity books
It's hard for me to fight my desire to give my children the widest range of experiences possible, including a multitude of high-quality toys, with the facts of our budget and our lack of space. I comfort myself with the plan to use some of the money that we make selling many of the children's things to buy Willow a real pocket knife, and Sydney some more play silks to dye, and the both of them a few more puzzles.
Oh, and spending money for Disney World...I'm sure NOBODY will be tempted to buy the kids any more crap they don't need at Disney World, of all places.