We have loads of toys here at the Bungalow. After all, we make wooden toys for a living. The Kids here have plenty of the same toys we sell, loads of toy prototypes, and scattered one-offs & specials too impractical to produce for sale.
And we have mass-produced, mass-marketed toys as well. We love and adore and appreciate the support of small boutique shops. They’re wonderful, sell awesome stuff that’s just about impossible to find anywhere else. And the people working the shop are terrific passionate people. But . . .
But they don’t sell Barbies. Or Strawberry Shortcake. Or Lights and Sirens On! Firetrucks. And Legos. We have loads of fun with Legos around here. Sure, the wooden toy maker’s kids have plastic toys. Sure, we’ve heard the arguments against these sort of toys. Overseas labor, bad for the environment, durability, etc. And while there are valid points to be made, the world is a complicated and cruel place. We haven’t seen the absolute rule that serves the best interests of the global community.
Mass-produced doesn’t have to mean cheap, and if you take care of the toys, they can hang around for a good while (of course we’re the biggest fans of quality handmade wooden toys – it’s just hard to hand carve a wooden doll that looks just like the ones on the television).
We are firm in having no pretend dangerous toys. We have no toys guns, knives, or swords (as if kids didn’t pretend every stick was a gun or sword anyway). And we certainly don’t endorse toy tools! Last year a gift toy chainsaw spent all of two minutes in the house. Our woodshop is in our basement, and while it’s safely behind a locked door we educate our kids on the dangers of these tools. It’s a hard and fast rule that tools are not toys. There are three saws in our shop that will cut off a hand just as easily as they cut wood. So we want none of our children in the habit of regarding any saw as a toy.
We’re comfortable with some mass-produced toys, but too many are groan inducing.
Like the countless primary-colored, battery-required, insanity-generating models. Especially tiresome are the “educational toys”. I’m pretty sure we’ve never bought one, but they show up here none-the-less (sort of like the dolls and trucks I swear are self-replicating). But you know those “learning toys” that “teach” shapes and colors. And the A, B, and C. Because all you really need in life are three letters.
I suppose one or two of these fellas wouldn’t be so bad, but after a few dozen of the battery hungry monsters accumulate . . .
The packages tout their benefits. Letter recognition. Color recognition. Hand/eye coordination. They’ll improve thinking skills and boost creativity. A greater understanding of math and geometry. Perhaps they’ll increase your child’s IQ. Good grief! Read enough of it and you’d think that singing light-up helicopter will have your kid solving algebra problems in kindergarten.
Even the non-battery operated toys tout their giftedness. We have a fun little block set that promotes color recognition and hand/eye coordination. Doesn’t picking wildflowers do the same thing?
You want a child to learn something? Teach them. Read to them. Once they learn to read on their own, buy them books. And paper. Pencils. Crayons and markers. Get em a cheap camera. Let em loose in the backyard, in the park, go explore your local urban environ. They’ll learn a ton, and I bet they’ll have fun doing it.
You want a child to have fun? Give them a toy. Make a toy with them. Play with them. Before long little worlds will be born and flourish. Great tales will be written by you and your child. You’ll both have a ton of fun, and I bet you’ll learn something while doing it.