family life / parenting

children need toys, or do they?

IMG_0892[1] Four year old Zach and I had one of our only weeks together alone. The girls were at their activities during the day, so we found our way to a beach, a waterpark, or a playground for at least half an hour a day, so I could read.

The noise of four children is unquestionably louder than one, but the efforts expended on a single child seem pretty demanding, because there’s no one to entertain him but me.

On the other hand, I am often judging squabbles between at least two kiddos, and talking to two others simultaneously. Parenting is work, period.


Either way, though, bring a single child, or a flock of four, to a beach or waterpark, and I have considerably uninterrupted time. When I observe from afar, I see some pretty creative stuff happening. They’re making gullies, castles, burying each other in the sand, having water somersault contests, making friends with others with newer sand toys.

There was a time, left to her own devices, one daughter would spend hours of summer building clay bricks in the backyard. Perhaps it was the new soil that intrigued her. Maybe it was her way of carving quiet time away from siblings. I don’t know. But she poured water, smashed earth together and formed them, over and over and over, until it looked like the Egyptians moved into our backyard.

Take my son to the beach after an errand, without beach toys, just a simple blue and white fish net, and he finds stuff to do. He builds sandcastles too. He fishes for tadpoles. He sifts the river.

The notion that kids need a lot of toys is fed by Mattel, Fischer Price or the Christmas Wish catalogue. Come for a coffee to my home though, and I will settle your little one into well-procured miniature Toys R Us, so I won’t boast of my simplicity. I’d discovered all these notions much after my children were born.

If I had my children now, I would likely buy much fewer toys and certainly next to nothing plastic, because children are remarkably creatively when left to their own devices.

I want to know what you think. Let me know.

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