My wife and I are wannabe-minimalists. We try to reduce how much we consume, make our home a bit more organized and get rid of excess. We also like vintage items, so it’s always hard. Next to my desk, I have an old calculator from the 60s or 70s (I guess) that I picked up at a flea-market a few years ago. It’s just cool, but serves no purpose. Maybe I should get rid of it, but it’s still there. Next to my own Nokia 8210 from 1998 or so… I somehow got attached to this phone.
Our 5-year-old son is actually much more organised than we are. Naturally. He just enjoys tidying-up it seems. The other day he made his own bed, and then ours. It doesn’t happen everyday (unfortunately). But it’s just something he enjoys.
We did a fairly good job keeping his toys from mounting endlessly. I feel a bit evil for secretly (or not so secretly) giving or throwing away toys that he didn’t play with for a while. And we even try to have him give away one thing when he gets something new. I think it works really well.
Yesterday, we went to visit some friends. Their son is the same age as ours. We were amazed with the number of toys he had. Boxes and boxes with trains, cars, rail tracks. Cool stuff actually. Our son was having so much fun with all those toys. He even had a chance to borrow a train from his friend, and was happy playing with it.
But then I noticed something odd. He stopped playing with the train shortly after coming back home, and then he asked me for this bungee cord that he was messing around with recently. It’s a bungee cord from one of those trollies you use to pick heavy stuff. Not a toy. Potentially a bit dangerous.
I then realized that he played with this cord for a couple of weeks or so. Almost non stop…
He would attach one end to something, and then the other end to another thing. He tried to connect it to other objects and create some kind of a “chain-reaction”, pulling something that pulls something, that pulls the handle on the door and opens it. Like a Rude Goldberg Machine of some sort.
I also got a new computer screen recently (yes, I’m giving away the old one). He asked me if he can play with the cardboard box of the screen. The packaging… He likes cardboard boxes.
My wife and I were talking before going to sleep, and laughing that this boy we visited had so many toys, but ours has to do with bungee cords and cardboard boxes. I wasn’t sure if I’m proud that he enjoys those not-really-toy things, or ashamed that I withhold him from some real toys to play with.
I remember as a child, I also liked to tinker with “real” things, rather than play games. I think it helps with creativity and lets him explore things on his own more. Or maybe I’m just rationalising being stingy and depriving him from real toys??
There’s a very famous Children’s book author in Israel called Yehuda Atlas. I think his books first came out when I was a child, and they are still an all-time classics in Israel. He writes short stories/poems that capture childhood in a very succinct way.
There’s one particular poem he wrote, which I couldn’t find a translation for, so took the liberty of translating.
The new car, with the batteries,
I finished playing with after an hour or two.
The Lego, which was really expensive,
I built very quickly, it’s true.
The big ball was forgotten only after a couple of days,
And even on the bicycle, I only ride on weekends.
Only the broken stuff — bolts, nuts, screws and old springs —
That my dad threw away from his toolbox, those kinda things.
With those I can’t stop messing around and playing a great deal.
‘Cause these are no toys,
These are for real!