Our bed was stripped of sheets on washing day, the blankets and pillows piled on the floor. I heard Emily quietly singing to herself near the window, as she pulled on the blankets and pillows.
“Whatcha doing, baby?” I asked.
“I’m building my house,” she answered, “Come and help me, Mama, I need a roof.”
“I have the perfect roof for you, Emily, and it will have skylights!” I pulled the curtains over her and the pile of blankets and pillows and warned her not to pull hard on the ‘roof’ lest she pull the entire assembly down from the wall.
“Perfect!” she chirped and requested clips to help hold her ‘door’ shut. Several minutes later she was all set.
I fell for the learning toys gambit twice – with both my girls. I bought the learning games and the Dress Me dolls that have the snaps and buttons and zippers, because if I didn’t, how would they possibly learn about doing these important tasks? The joke was on me…neither child ever liked their Dress Me doll and learned just the way every other child learns, by seeing it done, wanting to be more independent, and eventually trying and trying until there was success.
Right now, at four, Emily watches our hands intently whenever we tie her shoes. I dread her asking me to teach her, because somehow I just know, I don’t necessarily know how to teach it. Perhaps she will just start doing it, just as she has done with buttons and zippers and snaps.
It constantly surprises me just how little our children actually need to learn. In some ways, I wonder if it isn’t better that they have almost nothing. Their focus can then be on the living world around them, interpersonal relationships, and even crafting their own toys and activities.
When I was young, I loved to play “Store.” I would pull out a folding stool, stack cans on it, and set up shop. I remember too that my dad would let me ‘cook’ at the kitchen table while he was busy cooking in the kitchen.
Long walks through the high mountain forests of Flagstaff, Arizona, or the damp foggy streets of San Francisco filled my childhood and adolescence. Usually with a dog by my side, I explored nature, playing in streams, poking at fallen logs, and digging into rocky outcroppings. I [ahem] also stole and ate apples from my city neighbor’s backyards…but really, there is no need to revisit my lawbreaking youth now is there?!
So I guess my point is this. If you have your phone in hand to call and order that set of Baby Einstein videos, or the latest and greatest (100% satisfaction guaranteed) Pillow Pet, or whatever…stop.
Do they need it? Will it change their lives? Will it help them understand life, improve them in some immeasurable way, or is it just another piece of stuff to move aside when its time for bed?
I look at my daughter’s room – which is a wreck of toys strewn about as well as far too many that creep out into the rest of the house – and I think, “This is way too many toys.”
Especially when you consider her interests – time with us, playing board games or hide and seek, playing out of doors with her friends, and being read to at night. Most of the things in her room are simply overkill.
Really…who needs toys?