I have a difficult relationship with children’s toys. My difficulty maybe born from the fact that I did not get many toys as a child. At least I do not remember getting many. What I do remember is making “stuff”. I was never really good at making “stuff” but it was fun. I never felt deprived, I just did not know any other way. I do remember once asking for a plastic pickup truck. I received it and promptly took it apart. I am sure I got more than that, but I do not remember any others. What I remember to this day is the “stuff” I tried to make and the “stuff” I succeeded in making. The experience was my reward.

How to replicate that experience with my two daughters is going to be a challenge. They already have more toys that I had in my entire childhood and they continue to receive more. I hate toys not just because I consider them a waste of hard-earned resources, but because most toys are disposable objects of materialism. Most toys teach our kids to be comfortable spending money on goods that are disposable in content and quality.

The peer pressure to give our kids toys is immense and unrelenting. It is ever-present and both subtle and obnoxious. The subtle pressure is suggesting to us that not allowing our kids toys will make them stand out as different, that it will harm their self-image. This suggestion is without evidence and contrary to the facts. The challenge to all parents is to prepare our children for the full breath of experience that is adult life. How we execute that charge will determine our children’s chance of success in life.

How do we face down the pressure and give our children that running start? I would suggest that we embrace the toy giving culture. It may seem counter to what I have said so far but we can always use popular culture to our advantage if we look carefully for the diamonds in the rough. I suggest that we give toys sparingly and only items that are educational and multi-dimensional. All toys should meet these criteria; teach scientific facts, have varied uses and be challenging and reuseable.

Toys should be special treats. They should be significant and memorable. One or two memorable toys per year should complement a year filled with memorable experiences.

Go make some memories while finding those extraordinary toys.

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