Our children are constantly bombarded with images of shiny new bits of plastic in colourful wrappings. Adverts on tv, in comics, online, in the laminated book of dreams known as the Argos catalog. Even kids’ tv shows seem to be nothing more than vehicles to sell us associated toys. A walk around Tesco can be dangerous and expensive if you happen to wander too close to the screaming neons of the toy aisle.
Our kids are being programmed to desire these cheaply made, expensively priced plastic playthings, and once they want them, they won’t be persuaded otherwise.
My sitting room and my daughter’s room are covered in boxes containing toys. The kids have a crate of cars, three crates of teddies and other soft toys, a large box of Sylvainian families, an equally large box of octonauts, shelves of craft toys, a kitchen and several kilos of play food, Lego by the bucketful, and a massive collection of wooden railway tracks. That’s not everything…
Despite this considerable selection of playtime goodies, there are other items which rank among the favourite toys. In the bath are a jug and an empty bubblebath bottle. In my daughter’s room is a box full of toilet roll middles, egg cartons, cheesy football tubs and miniature cereal boxes. The lounge is home to wrapping paper tubes, empty water bottles and cast offs from my wife’s wool supplies.
These “toys” have to be stored alongside the shop bought variety, and are treated with as much care as the most expensive items that belong to the kids. The reason why? These items don’t have a single purpose.
The multi level garage from the early learning centre is a multi level garage from the early learning centre. The long cardboard tube has already been a telescope, a sword, a broom, a microphone, a megaphone, and a medical instrument this morning.
The child size plastic kitchen is always a child size plastic kitchen. The empty lemonade bottle is now a spaceship, a car, a baby bopper (big sisters are lovely, aren’t they?), wheels for a car, a robot…
So what exactly is the greatest toy on earth? A child’s imagination.
If you tell a child what a toy is, that is what the toy will always be. But if you let a child decide, the possibilities are endless.