Do children really need toys?

Posted Tuesday 12th March 2013   By Ericka Waller

So picking up the same un-played with toys day after day has started to send me a bit loopy. After treading on a fairy godmother’s pointy plastic hat for the fifth time in as many minutes, I decided to take action.

I decided to conduct experiments on my children (I even wore a lab coat). Each day I got a different set of toys out, then sat back with my clipboard (pen attached with string) and watched what happened.

On day one I got out all the soft toys.

Like inquisitive birds, my brood circled them, making cooing noises. Then they started plucking at them, as seagulls attack a nappy through a bin-bag. After distributing the teddies as far and wide and messily as possible, they finally all honed in on the same one at once. Even though the soft toy in question had no redeemable feature or purpose. I think it is meant to be a sheep but didn’t look much like one (being purple and wearing a lederhosen.) Yet, like a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock film, my daughters squawked and flapped, pecking at one another’s eyes, desperate to all have the same sheep. The sheep struggled silently.

I did not intervene (it may have affected the independent variables of the experiment) but put red crosses in the boxes marked ‘utterly pointless and ‘only wanted because sibling wanted it for soft toys.

The next day I got out the Lego. Things started much the same. The only difference was that, unlike the soft-toys, when they came running at me to ‘dob’ on each other, they trod and tripped on pieces of Lego and cried even harder. (I hid behind my clipboard, not wanting to influence the variables). I put crosses in the potentially dangerous and utterly pointless’ boxes on my clipboard.

On day three I got out the Play-doh. They mixed all the different colours together to make brown poo and then ate it. I ticked the ‘no educational or nutritional value and ‘utterly pointless boxes on my clipboard.

On day four I got out all the pretend food. Rather than pretend cooking with them, they got out all the dolls clothes and dressed them up instead. I watched my eldest daughter struggle for fifteen minutes to put a bonnet on a knitted banana, while the other two pretended the plastic potatoes were lumps of poo and put them in their knickers.

I ticked the ‘utterly pointlessand ‘highlighted potential intellectual and social difficulties boxes on my chart.

On day five I got out nothing. Not a single toy. Instead I just sat in my slightly-grubby lab coat and watched.

To start with they circled the area, bored, kicking at a few chair legs. Then Thing-one got out the washing basket. They all piled in it and played at being an owl and a pussy cat going to sea. Then Thing-three emptied the Tupperware cupboard, and they spent a merry hour playing tea parties with their lunchboxes and sippy-cups. There was not a single argument or cross word.

Inspired, I let them into the garden, gave them three sticks and ran back inside to observe (as it was a bit cold).

They were fairies with wands. They were pirates with knives, they were cleaners with brooms, they were ‘handi-abled’ people with walking sticks. The list was endless.

I took off my lab-coat (okay, it was my mother-in-law’s old Primark dressing gown). My experiment was complete. My conclusion? Children don’t really play with toys. Save yourself a load of money. Arm them with a stick, a washing basket and a cupboard in the kitchen full of tupperware. If you tell them you don’t really want them to play with any of these items, they will enjoy them even more.

Sell the toys on ebay, or donate them all to charity and feel warm and fuzzy for the rest of the day.

I’ll end with the top five annoying things about toys:

1: Treading on them, especially Lego.

2: Tidying them up each day, especially if you have OCD like me and have to set out the fisher price picnic basket just so, or you can’t sleep at night.

3: When children tread on lids or jigsaw boxes so the cardboard side bits collapse. I am not sure why this is so annoying, but it is.

4: When your children NOISILY tip out a big box of toy food or figures, kick them about a bit, then run off to play with something else.

5: Batteries. You never have them for the toys you want. You can’t get them out the toys you hate. You always pick up the wrong ones when you go to the shop.  Your mother-in-law always tells you how the small round ones equal instant death if swallowed, every time she sees you.

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