Remember. Remember way back…remember back to September and October in your childhood. School had just started, there was no cable, the only kids programming was on Saturday morning from about 6 – 10 AM, and one of the highlights of your day was going to the mailbox. What were you looking for? You know….the Sears Catalogue! If I had one in front of me right now, I bet I could flip it open to the toy section…I think it was usually around page 700 or so. Why do I know this?
My brother and I would literally spend hours pouring over that catalogue. My mom is a teacher who believes every moment is a teaching moment.We had a budget in our letters to Santa. We would write what we wanted, a description, and the page number. Practicing budgeting, math, prioritization, writing, and grammar. Not a bad training course on those topics, is it? And even better, we didn’t know we were learning… Oddly enough, that wasn’t the purpose of this posting, but it could be. I’ll explore this further in a future posting…
But there is more to the Sears Catalogue than our letter writing. It was the toys. My parent’s motto was “You have everything you need, and some of the things you want.” Since Michael and I didn’t get every toy we wanted, we had to prioritize and figure out where we’d get the most bang for our buck.
We decided that the shiniest, most hyped toys aren’t always the best toys. In fact, those shiny “must-have” items often weren’t around the next year. We would watch the ads, we’d listen to our friends, and we’d think, “Boy oh boy, I gotta have one of those!” When we got it, yes it was shiny. And yes, people were impressed we had it. But it usually only did one thing. Once it did that one thing, then what? Don’t get me started on those board games with instruction books 10-15 pages long! Most of our childhood board games (except Monopoly) are still near-pristine condition…except for the money and the dice. We found uses for the money and the dice.
Our favorite toys? They were ones that were easy to use and that we could use in a variety of ways. For example:
- We had cardboard bricks we made into houses, the USS Enterprise, or anything we could dream. (Yes, I played Star Trek. Yes, I’ll admit to a small amount, a very small amount, of nerd-ish-ness.)
- My parents are still using our Radio Flyer Red Wagon…it’s transitioned from toy, to play station wagon, to lemonade stand, to garden tool.
- We had a two-sided chalkboard…you can’t imagine all the uses we found for that – or maybe you can!
- An old-fashioned black tape recorder could tape voices, or be a tri-corder (nerd alert again), or a strange discovery in a hidden cave deep underwater.
- On rainy days mom would spread wax paper on the counter and break out a can of dad’s shaving cream so we could create sculptures and art work.
- Mom saved all of our egg cartons, paper towel rolls (great for speakers, telescopes, and art projects), and old crayons.
- We used old socks to make puppets.
- All my brother’s electric train could do was go around in circles. But with some of those cardboard bricks on the tracks you have a tunnel, or a cave, or an ambush. Add in some Tonka Trucks carrying GI Joe and Barbie and you’ve got spies deep in enemy territory or a couple on their honeymoon.
- A broom could be a horse, or a flying broom, or a prop, or a weapon, or something to clean up with.
- My brother had Legos that we used with Fisher Price, Barbie, GI Joe, electric trains, insects, Tonka trucks, Radio Flyer wagons, and everything else.
So let’s apply this to L&D. The shiniest, most hyped toys aren’t always the best toys.
If your toy requires hours/days/weeks for you to learn to use it, there may be a simpler alternative. If your toy can only do one thing, is it really cost-effective for you? You learned when you were a kid that the best toys have uses limited only by your imagination. Look at the toys you already have in your toybox, and forget what the directions say. How can you add in some puppet socks and cardboard bricks to create something new?
New toys can be good, don’t get me wrong. I LOVED my Simon and our Pong game. Just remember what you learned as a kid. What toys did you play with the most? Which toys helped you create something new and exciting? Which ones made you think? The shiniest, most hyped toys aren’t always the best toys. Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren’t.
CHALLENGE: Your parents left you alone, and you have a cardboard box (about 3-4 feet high and wide with no staples), paper towel cylinders, string, couch cushions, and other random items. What do you make/create/do with it?