A few months ago, the very low-tech, but nonetheless AWESOME stick was inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame. That’s right, I said stick. It takes its rightful place among other perennial favorites, including the cardboard box and the 64 pack of crayons with the built in sharpener (of course!). To qualify for this honor, a toy must must exemplify three very important qualities: learning, creativity, and discovery. The stick certainly meets that criteria. It can be a sword, firewood for a shipwreck survivor, woven into the roof of a fort or a Fairy House, a magic wand, or a thousand other things a child can dream up. And each day, that same stick (or one just like it), takes on life anew and can be part of yet another scene of creativity and wonder only limited by a child’s imagination.
How many expensive toys can we say that about? How many toys that your kids “just had to have” are now abandoned in the basement, laying broken under the bed, or gathering dust on a shelf? More than a few would be my guess. My friend David over at The Good Human wrote a great post the other day called, We Must Stop Living Throw-Away Lives, that got me thinking about the stick and this subject all over again.
So, here is my challenge to you: stop buying so many toys. It’s pretty much that easy. Letting kids engage their imaginations takes a lot less stuff — plain and simple. It is also a great way to get them outside into nature’s toy store, which has much less marketing dollars behind it, but is a far better value all the way around. Leaves, rocks, sticks, acorns, creeks, trees, and good old fashioned dirt will challenge children to create their own games and worlds of wonder. These simple, natural items are the building blocks of great play and countless adventures, and are there at the ready. No plastic. No batteries. No blinking lights or buzzing noises. No rules, nor right or wrong way to play or adult explanation needed, which is as it should be.
If you are really in the mood to buy a toy or bicycle (which is also in the Toy Hall of Fame, PS.), check out yard sales, thrift stores, and your local “Penny Saver” paper. You will be surprised at the great things you can find, without breaking the bank or requiring additional manufacturing or packaging. Or, why not set-up a Toy Swap with friends and neighbors? It’s a great way to pass toys along and get something “new” for the kids in your world. As we all try and lead more sustainable lives, we need to take the concept of recycle, reuse, and reduce to new areas of our lives, so why not play and toys?
Of course, it’s OK to buy new toys for special occasions, but challenge yourself to simplify and buy less overall. Odds are your kids won’t miss it, and I know you won’t miss the clutter.
Now, if you will excuse me, there is a stick outside that is just begging to be played with. I would hate to disappoint it.
See ya outside! – The Grass Stain Guru