In 2014, 18 billion dollars was spent in the United States on traditional toys. These include everything from action figures to dolls to building sets. At 3.6 billion outdoor toys and sports toys were the largest portion of the 18 billion. I must confess I try hard not to. I say I am not going to. But doggone it! When those granz look up at you with those eyes and smother you with hugs and kisses and are just flat out adorable beyond description all my best laid plans crumble and I buy them toys. I try to stay on the side of educational or imaginative and creative, but let’s get real. Sometimes I just buy whatever they want because I can! This is Gramasylum after all where it’s pretty clear where much more powerful factors are in play than simply what is rational or cheap.
I am proud to say that I put away and stored, much to my husband’s chagrin, a few…okay a lot… of select toys from when my own children were little. We packed and moved them repeated times for 30 years before our first grandchild showed up. I saved some money that way, right? And I am even more pleased to say, and have pointed out to my husband often, that these are now some of the our grandchildren's favorites. A Fisher-Price doctor set is in the top five along with two Polly Pocket sets, Legos, and a canister with different shaped holes in the top and different colored shapes that fit into those holes. Bam! Some toys are classic. I even have a Mr. Potato Head from 35 years ago. I keep this toy in my office and it rocks all the kids who come in with their parents. It allows us to have somewhat meaningful adult conversation while the kiddos pull him apart and put him back together in strange and wonderful ways.
But anyone who has been a child and remembers or anyone who has had children or grandchildren know that the real child mesmerizer is not a particular toy but space. Yes. Space. Every child from the beginning of time until now loves having a special place to play. I don’t remember my mom or dad doing it for me but I know I did it for our three kids and now I do it for our granz. We take blankets and miscellaneous furniture and we drape it all to create a play space. Kids go nuts. “CeCe, Cece! Make me a tent!” The tent becomes a house, a hospital (where we use the 35 year old Fisher Price doctor set to play doctor), a school room. Whatever it becomes it occupies their imaginations for longer than any toy. Though it certainly does a number on general use of that particular space for the duration of the play it is otherwise free except for time and effort. No toy industry ringing up profits in this! But I have even more proof that space wins over toys. I have photographic proof! Every toy box I have ever used has itself become play space. The first toy box I used for my grandchildren was the bright blue elephant you see in this blog. Laurel was not even two when she started pulling all the toys out of the toy “box” and crawled in it to play. Who needs toys? You just need a fun space! Then just recently I got a new toy box. Not as fancy as the elephant but still a great fun space to play. (The blue elephant had become damaged from all the crawling in and out of it and duct tape could not longer hold it together so it had to be retired.) Kasen is three but the last time he visited he emptied the new toy box and crawled in as you can see in the other picture in this blog. The look on his face says it all. Who needs toys when you can have a fun little space just to be.
Special spaces are so easy and so much fun! Of course the challenge for Grama Cece in the tent version is getting in and out and up and down out of these spaces. The heart is willing. The body oh so resistant! It’s why I prefer the actual toy boxes for their play space. These spaces are so small even my little grandchildren know I cannot get into it with them! They are satisfied to have me just pretend with them while they are in these spaces. I pretend I can’t find them. I pretend they are a toy. I pretend I am going to cover them with toys. It’s about the space.