With birthday week just around the corner, I had friends and family call me, asking what toys my the two of them would love to get this birthday! A fairly simple question, but the answer to which seemed so complicated that all I was able to respond was ‘My kids don’t really play with toys’!
Couple of hours later as I scrolled through my social media feed, a mom had asked on one of the groups – “Is it normal for my baby not to play with toys?”
Really ? Is that a reason to be worried. Internally, I was envious of her. My house looked like Dennis the Menace’s old hoarding truck right now, and if I have to find a place for one more toy, I might loose my sanity. Our house was home to more Hippos, lego blocks, noisy cars, fruit shaped pillows, Connect 4 checkers than family.
Toys that nobody plays with, or even remembers,of course.
Do my kids love toys? Well, of course they do, but it’s as short lived as Delhi’s rain shower in the summers!It’s there for a few days (sometimes couple of hours) and completely gone even before you appreciate it. Do they play with all of them most of the times? No. not really.
We have our few favourites like the Peppa Pig magnetic book set, the fisher-price medical kit, the fun doh, and the blackboard with an overflowing box of coloured chalks. But they prefer to have a little bit of screen time,horse riding class, jump around the garden,or run around with the neighbourhood kids. They are rarely any days through the year when they sit down in their rooms and doodle with the countless toys they have.
I spend hours going through toy boxes, clearing some parts of the clutter around the house (only to have it pile up in less than one week) , having some good stars and bad stars activity for cleaning days. Dadi time is more about cleaning stuff out to donate than play-time.They don’t miss any of them. They might throw a tantrum for a couple of hours if they suddenly remember one and then it all settles.
So they really don’t need any more toys! They are both 4 years old and between friends, family and visitors , they’ve ensured our toy box (actually the house!) pretty much has every vehicle, barbie dolls, action game and learning game that is available on the shelf. I often think about the wooden cabinet in my mom’s house which is loaded with coloured trolls, perfectly dry-cleaned teddy bears and lots of trinkets, hoping to pass them down to her grandchildren one day. Do I feel sentimental about my toys from childhood? Maybe just for those couple of minutes when I see one of the ‘kids of 1980’s’ videos on Youtube. Do I wish I owned them? Not really.
I worry my kids won’t have enough toys to fill each and every inch of our home or will be mad at me for donating a toy train. He bawled and cried for it at Hamleys as if he was being tortured and I continued to feel I would be the worst mom in the world for not buying it right there and then. So I bought it and explained to him that this was a birthday gift from Nani (two weeks early). He open it,showed the appropriate amount of excitement for a 3-year-old, and now I curse my decision because all it’s doing is collecting dust below a pile of other equally important toys somewhere in the room!
So every time I hear the golden words, “I’m bored, I want something to do”, I suggest one of these gazillion toys they couldn’t live without in the moment and remind them that they are still there, waiting to be played with. ‘Should we set-up your toy train?’, I ask excitedly as I’m met back with a complete blank look as they try to remember which toy I’m even talking about. ‘You know, the one Nani gave you for your birthday last year?” Nothing. “You know the one that has a real cool station and bright yellow tracks?, Finally a glimpse of recognition crosses their face as he says,’ No. I don’t like that anymore, want something else.”
You can’t blame them every time they say ‘I want something new!” – Think about how many times you’ve ensured you’ve made acquiring toys (or other material things) so simple and easy. There are no trade off systems – you want it – you get it. The excitement of a first cycle, The first Barbie, The first board game, seem so far away. Your ‘firsts’ are still far more clearer memories – you remember the day, what occasion did you get it on and how well you protected it until ‘death do us apart’.
It’s no Toy Story-like adventure at night when they go to sleep. Nope. It’s a horror story of broken toys, vehicles with their tracks missing, and ninja warriors with missing heads.
So, please, don’t buy my kids a toy. No matter how fabulous you think it will be, they will not lovingly think of anything or anyone every time they look at it. They’re kids. And they have too much crap as it is to reflect on which of their many relatives spoiled them with that particular car they forgot they even had.
Instead, spend time with them. With nuclear families on the rise, they are constantly looking for company. Take them to the park, an education class, dance with them, take them to the zoo, or even for some ice-cream down the road. They will love that more than any toy, I promise. They will remember it much longer too.
And if you still want to give them something, give them a book. You really can’t have too many books!Support them in their passions and support them exploring the world instead of acquiring more stuff.
When you think about it, none of us need more “stuff,” do we? Spend the money you had set aside for a gift for them, to go donate it to someone who really needs it much more than buying my kids a giant truck that will be forgotten in a week.