I know about having a Little People Farm. I used to have one. Then all the little people grew up, thankfully, and moved away. But this post isn’t about that, it’s about the joy of toys. More specifically, the joy of toys with a million pieces, toys that take over all the living space, that require batteries you don’t have, a phillips head screwdriver, and a tumbler of red wine. Toys that are breathtaking, that cause little kids to gasp, whole farms in big boxes, clans and factions inside, endless permutations.
The little boy in this picture might not look blown away but it’s early and the box hasn’t been opened yet. He can’t read, you see, so he doesn’t know what’s in store. His grandmother, on the other hand, knows the box is crammed with little people and their little animals, so she’s happy on his behalf. Besides, she will be going home soon and won’t ever have to herd up the little creatures.
For the past many years, I’ve felt like I’ve lost my knack for finding the stupendous toy. A toy’s potential for contributing to a child’s learning somehow became paramount in my mind. Toys ought to teach something – a skill, a concept, critical thinking. These are things that come in small boxes, though. Opening them is tedious and polite.
Now I realize that educational toys is the vegetarianism of childhood play. We ought to like them because they’re good for us, but they’re bran flakes next to M & M’s. Let’s be frank. Educational toys is a concept that goes right along with the weird thought that a “child’s job is playing.”
This Christmas I want to reconnect with the outrageous toy. I have one child who will be here at Christmas and I am feeling the great, irresistible urge to have something huge and amazing hidden in a closet with a ribbon tied to it that the little kiddo will have to trace up and down stairs, around furniture, maybe outside around parked cars, and finally to the closet. Not expensive — just big and outrageous. And, of course, inconvenient and educationally useless.
Update to follow, December 25th.