Toys for the un-toy kid

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This Blue Jay California Oranges box came into the house just after Christmas.  Ever since, it has been the go-to item in our house.  This doesn’t surprise me in the least.  Not after five years of birthdays and Christmases as Esmé’s mama.  She’s the kind of kid who happily wanders into a toy store, looks around for a bit, and then happily leaves without asking for a thing.

Hawk, not so much.  Remember Halloween?  When we took Esmé and Hawk to Dilly Dally to trade their candy for a toy of their choice?  Esmé couldn’t find anything she wanted until she finally found the human body model, whereas Hawk had a hard time choosing between the 872 things he really, really, really wanted.

In over five years of parenting, we have yet to come across the toy that rocks Esmé’s world.  Some of our past and present inventory includes: blocks, dress-up, dolls, cars, balls, kites, board games, LEGO, play kitchen, Schleich animals, puppets, stuffed animals, magna tiles, and more.

So, what has captured her interest over the years?  Books (and yes, before you say it, of course that’s partly my influence, but I also know of lots of bookish parents who children are decidedly unbookish children, so who really knows?), making and building things from scratch, daydreaming, cooking and baking, playing and exploring outside, traveling, doing science experiments, drawing, swimming.

And what items have seen a lot of use and enjoyment?  What are some of my suggestions for gifts and ideas for the kid in your life who’s really into playing with things that have endless uses and applications?

Well, I still stand by blocks and toy kitchens and dolls and dress-up and run bikes and such, because those are nice staples to have in a child-centered home.  But for those of you looking outside the box, well, the answer might actually be in the box.

  • books
  • boxes
  • cardboard tubes of all shapes and sizes
  • tape of all sort; hockey, scotch, masking, electrical, duct, foil, paper
  • bucket and shovel
  • empty containers; jars, tubs, egg cartons, coffee tins
  • scoops, spoons, funnels, sieves
  • play silks
  • musical instruments
  • playdough (Auntie Ruth’s famous recipe here)
  • forts
  • blankets
  • pillows
  • microscope
  • stethoscope
  • bandages
  • my DSLR camera
  • parks, beaches and forests (we love these pocket guides for plant and wildlife)
  • knives
  • tools
  • sticks
  • rocks
  • water
  • sand

And her mp3 player – loaded with audio stories, audiobooks and music.  It has been so well loved that it is now forever stuck on the music app and has a shattered screen held together with tape, but it still does the trick.

As for that box? It has been a train, luggage, a library, a boat, a tractor, a “balloon-catcher thing,” a monster truck, a cat hauler and catnip joint, a bus, plane, dump truck, car, part of a marble run, a table, a store, a workbench, a chair, and a place to just hang out and eat snacks.  It has been hauled up and down the stairs, put to use inside and out, and still has a lot of miles on it.

Before we had children, we hoped we could encourage them to use their imaginations to fill their minds and time, and not have to house and acquire copious amounts of toys.  Philosophically and logistically, this was our goal.  I think it’s safe to say; mission accomplished so far!

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ps. Sorry for the fuzzy pictures.  I took these over a few months with my camera phone as part of my “mama coffee/reading time is brought to you by _____.”  I post what the kids are up to while I’m reading and enjoying my morning coffee.  I’m all for leaving kids alone so that they can come up with their own ways to entertain themselves.  But that’s a post for another day!

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