too many toys?

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.

My calculator and Nokia 8210

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.

Bungee cord with hooks

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.

That’s where I found the bungee cord today…

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.

Here he is attaching his own “laptop” to my old screen.

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??

Epilogue

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.

Yehuda Atlas: Vegam Hayeled Haze Hu Ani

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!

2 Replies to “too many toys?”

  1. Imagine which are the favorite toys of the twins… The real food boxes and bowls that we have in order to store food. They can play many hours with those things. It’s very interesting because they do have the option to select other toys (yes we have many boxes with trains, strollers, cars etc) but their favorite ones are the real things.
    Another interesting observation is that we go frequently to playgrounds. Although there you can find many interesting toys/activities their favorite thing is to just play with the soil. Although it’s quite dirty and we try to avoid it, they are always fascinated by just moving soil from one place to another. I’m not sure if this helps their creativity.

    The last few months they enjoy “reading” books (or more precisely they enjoy when we read them books).

  2. You replied to a comment of mine on HN about my side project. Your wife’s business sounded interesting, so I started poking around and ended up here. With a one-year old, this post caught my eye. Then I read your SEO post and it seems we think a lot a like. Anyways, if you’re still interested, the project is called ATTIC and it’s available at attic.city. Always happy to have feedback on it.

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