The Best Toys Are The Simple Ones

I remember a friend saying one day that they bought their boys some awesome toys — with a terrific price tag — and on Christmas morning the boys would open their gifts and be all excited. They’d spend a couple of hours playing with their new loaders, dump trucks, tractors or whatever.

Then they’d set their gifts aside and spend the rest of Christmas day playing with the boxes the toys came in. They’d pile them full of stuff and drag them around or build forts and climb in them. Those boxes provided hours of entertainment for their sons.

The following is an article my friend Margaret Penner Toews wrote about their children’s toys.  Something for gift-buying parents to keep in mind.

Toys R Us certainly know well the psyche of the modern parent! Enslaved by the wants of their children, a hostage of the television ad, and addicted to convenience, Mom & Dad plod down the aisles of the toy store. Gazing fixedly upward at the high shelves of merchandise, or kneeling down to scrutinize the low shelves, they go to all lengths to look for the magic amusement that will keep their children occupied.

At the age of one, my daughter, surrounded by colourful tops and rattles, loved nothing more than to play with a piece of string. She waxed downright inventive with all that she could do with it.

The fondest memory my oldest sons have seems to be of “the barrel”, though they had trucks and loaders in abundance in the sandbox and bicycles to ride.

One day Dad had come home with a barrel he had found. He drilled four holes at strategic points and strung a rope through them. Locating four sturdy trees in our back yard, he tied the ropes to some branches and the barrel became the boys’ bucking bronco which took them on many a wild ride through Sherwood Forest as well as all over the V Bar V Ranch by turns! Sometimes it became a ship tossing on the ocean, sometimes a big semi truck humping over rough mountain roads. It kept them busy for a few years…and out of my hair!

When our children were still young we moved from ‘the bronco’ to live on a hillside. I was after my husband to erect a bonafide swing: two tall poles cemented into the ground to suspend chains with proper seating attached. He was a busy man, however. One day he hurriedly secured a hefty rope to a massive branch hanging over the hill and tied a fist-sized knot at the end. The children still speak fondly of their “Tarzan” escapades.

When I was a child toys were almost non-existent. I had a doll, a cradle for it, and one wind-up tin train that buzzed around and around on a painted tin plate. When I was bored my mother would give me a pencil and a scribbler filled with writing that my sister had done in her high-school assignments. I would lie on the floor for hours and meticulously rewrite. all she’d written, following her lines.

I was also supplied with blank scribblers and a watercolour set. There was little I liked more. I could draw, paint my own pictures, fold pages into shapes (forty years later I learned it was called ‘origami’), write books and letters and poems. The blank page has been a challenge to me ever since.

Are we robbing our children of something vital when we take away their need for imagination by giving them too many toys? Toys in moderation are an asset, but the child’s imagination gets dull from disuse if his/her amusement is always tailor-made.

We have never had a television in our home as a matter of principle. Too much of what is presented is either morally corrupt, unrealistic, or propagandist in essence — and the small fraction of good there is we can do without. We have preferred not to be dictated to as to what is best to eat, wear, own, or think. We have had the added bonus of not having to appease the children’s entreaties for toys they have seen in the ads on TV. I have cherished that freedom immensely. Nor did I need to be afraid of all the violence they would see whenever I left the room. It is a freedom I would wish for parents everywhere.

Toys R Us perhaps fills a vital place, but give a child enough rope and he will probably fill it on his own!


6 thoughts on “The Best Toys Are The Simple Ones

  1. We stopped over spending years ago, even on the grandchildren! They will be out in the yard making their own new toys and games anyway so why fight the mob? We do get things they need and I have been amazed at how much they enjoy that, or they are just good actors!


  2. Mom and Dad got tired of us spending all day watching TV so it was removed from the house and after two weeks of sheer boredom suddenly we began inventing our own table games from scratch, inventing our own language, roller skating, building huge cities of old boxes in the living room, learning how to play instruments, and writing our own book of fables… Having expensive “toys”, even as an adult, just keeps the imagination from existing. Loved your article.


    • Thank you for your comment. I’m afraid that children today who spend so much time in front of screens are growing up seriously deprived, mentally and physically weak. But no one seems to know what to do about it. Your folks were wise!


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