Desert Island Toys

Not long ago, (within my parents lifetime), we lived in a time where the acquisition of new stuff was exciting, a treat. You could go shopping for something and not be able to find it – even a trip to London to buy clothes didn’t always guarantee success. Now I feel the opposite -and the volume of things my family has and acquires increasingly feels like a burden, things to be sorted through, given away, etc. etc. I’ve reached ‘peak stuff’.

Two children five years apart seems to mean a lot of ‘stuff’. But I’ve begun to realise the obvious fact that all their things are just different variations on the same few themes. Rather than reinventing the wheel, it feels like companies are continually re-marketing the crayon. My impression from my children is that if they are in the mood for doing something, it doesn’t really matter what there is to do, they will find something to create or play. If they are not, then it isn’t a question of different stuff that will prompt their interest. And when they do play, they spend 90% of their time, playing with 10% of their stuff. It’s not my kids that are bored, it’s all the boxes of stuff that never sees the light of day.

So, what’s the law of diminishing returns for new stuff? If they’re not playing with lego, are the nano blocks ever going to get a look in? Once you’ve got one puzzle book on the shelf with only 3 pages completed, why will a different one get any more use?

If I had to take ten sets of toys to a desert island, I think with these top ten you would pretty much cover the bases.

1.    Something to throw and kick about.
2.    A bike, or something to ride
3.    Drawing and colouring materials
4.    Modelling material/ jewellery/sewing/models
5.    Construction toys (duplo, lego, kapla blocks)
6.    Dressing up, something for a den and toy kitchen/shop
7.    Model characters (preferably generic) and soft toys
8.    Books (fiction and non-fiction)
9.    Puzzles and board games/ pack of cards
10.  Music for dancing

I’m interested to know: what am I missing? Is this helpful in thinking about how to simplify life, or am I just mean?


6 thoughts on “Desert Island Toys

  1. This is timely: I’ve just seen the playroom of a neighbour’s five-year-old and was so shocked by the volume of stuff that I’m drafting a Christmas edict about how Francis would like ONE toy and no more from his doting relatives, and perhaps they could just give him books instead… He is of course a little smaller than the Masterminis, so my list would differ on that account; no dressing-up kit yet, or sewing materials, but I wouldn’t set up on any desert island without his Brio train set and his fire engine. And his various favourite teddy bears, and their bed, which he likes to sit in himself (two toys in one). Tricycle, ball, books, crayons, and I think we would be fine. There’s a package in the post to you, by the way. Sorry it took so long – the handover at work was incredibly time-consuming in the end. D xx

  2. I think vehicles are their own category. Francis doesn’t really differentiate between the trains that are supposed to have a character (Thomas the Tank Engine) and the other ones – or, at least, not yet. His joy in them is entirely related to their wheels! Perhaps the category is wheels, with bikes and scooters and toy cars and trains all a subset of same?

  3. After some hair tearing and much reading, I went down the Reggio Emilio route and took notes on what the children were playing with most, then removed all the extraneous clutter. We got the living room back and they were happy!

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