Toys, Toys, Toys. And Toys.

3 08 2012

Hazel has a play area in our living room, where she has three bins of toys.  Each bin has a stuffed animal, a couple of books, a “big” toy, and several small toys.  She also has a bin of “kitchen toys,” which are random items from my cabinets.  She gets one bin at a time, and it usually lasts a couple of days before I rotate it.  Which seems totally reasonable to me.

But, then there is the little box of toys to play with in the kitchen, mostly more random kitchen items plus whatever empty cereal box or yogurt container I toss down there for the day.

Then there is the little bucket of toys (actually, a couple of rocks and a length of rope) next to the counter where my laptop sits.

Then there is the pile of toys in her carseat.

And then there is the collection of toys next to the bathroom.

Oh, and a bin of toys in her bedroom, for when we are both tired but not ready for nap.

Oh, yeah, and the toys hanging from her stroller.

Oh, yeah, and her bath toys.

When we scored big at a garage sale a couple of months ago, I did put a bunch of toys in “toy time-out,” to hopefully become interesting again.  But with her birthday coming up, it was time to take a toy inventory and see how utterly overwhelmed with crap we have actually become.  So all those toys got dumped onto her playmat for evaluation.  This is what it looked like:

(And since this is a sort of toy-hoarding confession, let me add that we also have a giant bucket of stuffed animals and a shelf full of books that didn’t get included in the spread.  Neither did her bath toys.)

Don’t get me wrong.  I love having all these toys.  And Hazel plays with every single one of them.  I’m grateful that we have all this, and we have great fun with our abundance of stuff.  And most days this summer, in the heat of the summer afternoon, I count on this pile of baby paraphernalia for my sanity – and I’m sure the winter freezes will emphasize the positive aspects of having a mind-boggling amount of toys.

But before I was a mother, I imagined I would have a dignified shelf of classic and beautifully arty toys for my kid.  All of which would be developmentally appropriate, brain-power-enhancing, and encouraging of open-ended, imaginative play.  Instead, I have the typically American cornucopia of brightly-colored, world-polluting, off-gassing, imported plastic junk (although we also have some very nice toys, some classic toys, and some pretty wood toys).

So how did I get sucked into this toy vortex?  And when did I drink the brightly-colored, world-polluting, off-gassing, imported Kool-Aid?

Granted, most of our toys are gifts, garage sale finds, hand-me-downs, and loaners.  But when someone offers to loan us some toys, or when I pass a garage sale, I jump on it – yes!  Please!  We need more toys!  We love toys!

Of course, I married an ecologist.  So when the topic of birthday gifts came up, and I said Little People Farm!  Fisher-Price puzzles!  Maybe a Laugh-n-Learn Kitchen!, Jason had to slow me down and make me breathe some fresh air, away from those toxic fumes rising from Hazel’s pile of stuff.

Because what does Hazel really need?

Okay, I know the answer to that.  She’s not even a year old.  She doesn’t need much at all.

But then there is me.  And if I see something that will make my little girl smile, I want it.  I want to see her see it, and watch it catch her eye, and watch that slow smile creep onto her face, and see her tentatively reach out for a preliminary touch before she grabs it and grins and looks back at me to see if I am also as impressed with this magnificent whatever  it happens to be.

Well, I know when I’m being ridiculous, so these toys got washed and re-sorted, and some are being put in time-out, and some are being given away (um… free toy from getting her picture taken with the Easter Bunny?  Goodbye.), and some are being returned to their rightful owner.

And Jason and I came to the agreement that we will only buy her one big brightly-colored, world-polluting, etc., plastic toy for her birthday.  Plus maybe a couple of small ones.

And when I look back on my fantasy toy box, with those beautiful wood toys and toys that encourage imaginative play, I will simply smile at who I thought I was a year ago, because (as I’ve already established) I knew nothing back then.  I didn’t know that when I would sell my soul for a moment’s peace, buying a lights-and-music flashy piece of plastic would seem cheap.  I didn’t know that while a baby is pretty happy playing with the same ten toys, I would get so sick of those toys I would pick up rocks for the toy box to add variety to our days.  I didn’t know how easy it would be to find new toys that would make Hazel super duper excited for ten minutes, and I didn’t know that those moments of my child’s excitement would be more addictive to me than any drug currently known to the human race.

Mostly, I didn’t know how much those damn wooden toys cost.

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One response

3 08 2012
Kate

Your picture of Hazel with her toys really gave me a chuckle! Same thing happening here with the boxes of toys in every corner of the house!

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