Why Lemony?
(the “About Me” page)

March 15, 2004

How I pick out toys

I was recently asked how I pick out toys for my children and what I look for. Here's my story. Way before I was married even, I started collecting books for my future children. My huge love for children's books made them seem indispensable, and I couldn't wait to share them and carry on the literary tradition in our family. That's still my favorite toy for my kids because it does great things for them on so many levels- from giving them more lap time to accustoming them to reading left to right, not to mention the actual content of the books, which is a whole world unto itself. So I started with what I love. When it came to the barrage of input from media sources, though, I started to quaver (a mix of quivering and wavering). I felt insecure by all the flashy commercials on TV and in shiny catalogs, etc. "If my child didn't have the Fisher Price Kick Start Gym, would her gross motor skills be forever impaired?" was an actual thought process I went through when Georgia was a baby. I bought the dern thing and the tinny 'music' that it played was SO irritating to me that I winced every time Georgia cutely kicked at it. What was the matter with me? Rosie O'Donnell swore by this thing. She assured me that it was the very best thing for my baby. I was a sucker. I got played. My insecurities led me down the wrong road.

I've tried to learn from lessons like that. Now I try to keep up with the cognitive and motor developments that come with each stage of their growth and try to assist them through play (Dr. Sears' books explain these stages very well and how to play with your small children with things you can find around the house), and I try not to let advertising connect with that process too much. I learned from Dr. Sears and other down-to-earth types that a child's favorite toys are her parents. My kids want me more than any toy I could buy them. Isn't that a boost to the ego? This has two implications for me. The first is that the pressure is off for me to find them the ultimate toys and make sure I can afford to keep up with getting them all. The second is that whatever toys I do buy, I better love them myself, since I'm going to be playing with them, teaching with them, learning from the experience of them, living with them sitting in my house, and picking them up off the floor repeatedly.

The toys that fit that description for me are usually made of wood or are muted, lovely colors (or both). They are relatively simple things that inspire imaginitive play. They are beautiful. They are often things that build a bridge between the child and adult worlds. Things that fit this description are sometimes very expensive (large and beautiful wooden toys, child-size furniture, Montessori-type 'works'), and sometimes they are almost free, they're so cheap (a ribbon on a stick, a little rubber ball, fruit scented soap, office supplies, etc.).

My continuing challenge is just to relax and have fun when I'm picking out toys and imagine what it would be like to play with whatever it is with my children. It's a place for the limits of my own imagination to be tested and to grow.

Posted by Bahiyyih at March 15, 2004 08:54 PM

Dear Bahiyyih:

I love it that you care about books and wooden toys. One of my very favorite toys is a set of wooden blocks with bridges and towers and things. Ånd you know I love books. Çhildren who have been read to are probably the best educated people in the world. Everything in the world is at your fingertips. Its just that you cant keep up with everything.
Love to you,

Posted by: Patty at March 16, 2004 07:28 PM

Dear Bahiyyih-

I too have been collecting toys since before I was married, although at the time I began, I would have explained that they were for me, rather than future children. I still think on some level they are for me, especially the books. And Little Bill...

I am amazed at the ability of children to find joy and play with the smallest and seemingly most insignificant items. I recall my little sister, surrounded by a flood of toys comparable to Noah's time (she got mine, my brother's and her own), engrossed with a picture she had drawn and some yarn and paper clips. She would carry that around all day, despite the assortment of newest and latest contraptions available to her.

Kids love to use their minds! It's more fun that way!

I am inspired by your posting to keep it simple when it comes to future toy buying... for others and myself!

Posted by: lizzy at March 17, 2004 11:59 AM

Hooray for simple toys. I used to play in the sandbox for many hours and also with any water I could find outside, which reminds me that some of the most fascinating toys are the free ones that you find on the ground, like sticks and leaves and acorns. I also (like your sister) used to (and still do) like to play with any office supplies or craft supplies that I can get my hands on. And I could go on and on about children's books, but I guess I already have in other posts! But I just have to say that I found out that bell hooks has written a children's book, 'Happy to be Nappy'. I heard her reading it on a CD. It's very sweet.

Posted by: Bahiyyih at March 18, 2004 01:38 PM