(It isn’t toys.)
- buttons… I bought a bucket o’ buttons at the start of the school year with fond plans for little girls sitting quietly, stringing them while we have math class with the bigs. Surprise. They don’t string them, but they use them for currency, or hatch them like eggs, or carry them around like rare treasure in the toes of clean socks.
- socks… All of my children hate to wear socks. We have radiant heat in our floors, so the house is cozy and we go bare footed all winter. Somehow, the short people decided that socks are playthings. For the boys, they make perfect missiles, lumped up in balls. When they can’t find a pair for going away, we look for the balls under the basement steps and unlump them. The girls use their socks for wallets, knotting their pennies or little doll shoes or special hair bands into them. The only thing worse than unlumping socks is unknotting them after a few days of being dragged around, tied to a little girl’s belt.
- cardboard boxes. This is the confession of a weary mother, I suppose: I quickly double up and plunge empty cereal boxes deep into the trash can. There are only so many short lived crafts one can be called on to bear reasonably. The sturdier boxes become everything from masks to swords and shields to doll houses, all taped or stapled within an inch of being real construction materials.
- tape… Prodigious amounts of tape. Duck tape, packaging tape, scotch tape, electrical tape. To be fair, they ask before they start dispensing any of it except scotch tape. I might as well get a regular Amazon subscribe and save shipment of scotch tape.
- paper and scissors. We have at least two pairs of adult scissors, two pairs of juniors, two pairs for fat hands, and two pairs of Strictly Off Limits Fabric Scissors. Today we needed to cut something, and found only one rickety pair from when I was in school, no kidding. It is a little unhandy when you really, really need them, but lost scissors sure do cut down on the insane amount of snibbled paper that results from one simple little dinosaur construction. Yeah, Greg. I can always find him by the trail of paper.
- blankets… Blankets are nests waiting to happen. They are tents and mountains and saddles and spy blinds. The boys went through a streak this winter where they would climb quietly up the stairs in their blankets, then inch along the hall way like little lumps of unfolded laundry, very subtly spying on the household activities. This activity was greatly enhanced once they had enough money saved to buy a set of walkie talkies.
- shoes… It isn’t enough to cache treasures in socks. Sometimes you need a few shoes as well. It is a fairly common proceeding at our house to dump shiny pebbles or bits of chalk out of shoes before donning them.
- which brings us to rocks… free and plentiful and the bane of a housewife. Oh dear, how I try to be patient with rock collections, but I really detest stepping on a sharp bit of limestone when I am least expecting it.
- sticks… These are such versatile playthings. You can gather a whole bunch and build a little fire, saving out the long straight ones for roasting marshmallows. We have various teetering teepees on our property, built out of humble sticks. Of course, our boys constantly, and I mean constantly, use them for guns and pistols and bows and arrows. Does anybody know what is with that?
- string and rope… My stash of bits of yarn is pretty much in constant demand. Occasionally I buy a roll of jute or some cheap string for projects, but when that runs out, lo and behold, I start seeing odds and ends out of my ribbon box. And that… does not make me happy! One morning this week Gregory was humming happily, creating some odd bit, when I noticed a strange bulge down the front of his britches. Then I saw that he was dispensing green yarn out of the front of his pants, where he had put the ball of yarn so that it wouldn’t roll away every time he needed it. At least that is what he said, but I think he may have deluded himself that his mother wouldn’t notice.
That is a start. We are definitely not top customers at Toys R Us, if you see what I mean. With the minimalist position we have taken on the toybox, there are still times I actually wish they would all just pick out a nice one-piece toy and play with it for one hour. And oh, I can hardly wait for the best play place of all to open up to us all: our backyard!
Edit: Right after I posted this, I found such a fascinating photo journey of children with their favorite toys. I look at the faces of the little Africans who have one stuffed monkey, and compare them to the children with a broad array of beautiful stuff… It isn’t in the amount of things, but in the richness of the imagination, that is what I say.