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2009/03/31 / LAW

Food for Thought.

2009-02-24-0532 

Actually it’s not about food.  [I did get a snack last night so I’m not so obsessed this morning] 

This is an old favorite of mine, an article by Pamela Paul of the Huffington Post.   Getting prepared to set up a new household, I found myself going back to this article and doing some serious thinking.

I’ve always thought the kids had waaaaaaaaaay too many toys.  We don’t get much on our own, other than books and art/craft supplies, but we’re fortunate enough to have some ace spoilers in the kids’ grandparents and other relations. 

I try to weed out the fluff on a regular basis, but I guess it kind of snuck up on me this time.   Taking each item in the house, bubble wrapping it, and packing it into boxes has made me realize anew just how much… well… crap we have.

Pamela speaks wisely.  We’re all guilty.  Hey, if one Littlest Pet Shop critter is good, 10 is better.  How about a whole village of animals?  One car is fun?  Why not a whole garage full of them!  Why just have one plain old coloring book when you can get the latest All New Ginormous Flashy Better-Than-Ever Coloring Extravaganza Now With Stickers and One Bajillion Pages of Fun!  

I remember the puffy sticker age fondly.  But then I find myself  ordering a box of 6000 stickers online.  They now sit patientlyas I struggle to figure out what to do with them and curse myself for stupidity.    Every other day I distribute a handful of them.  The kids live for stickers, but I can tell we’ve hit the saturation point already on these guys.  There’s only so much sticking one can do in a day.  And there are only five different kinds of sheets in the bunch.  Why did I think it was a good idea to have 1200 shiny fish? or smiley faces? or flowers?  We are never going to get through them.  I’m already sick of that damn smiley face.   If any of you parents need some stickers, send me your address. 

As I type this, I’m seeing with my mind’s eye the five, count ’em, five, sets of 100 rainbow markers stashed in a box.  This was not my doing.  I think the kids’ Papa, in addition to being ridiculously generous with the children, might have a touch of early dementia.  All five sets of these markers have entered the house in the last month.

I could blather on for hours on this topic, but the boxes and tape guns wait.  As much as I’m tempted to fill our garbage bin today with at least half of all the kid stuff, I think I am going to pack it all up. On the other end, perhaps, I won’t unpack it all.  Maybe there will be a corner in the garage I can stash the goods so I can do a toy rotation. [I’ve read a ton of articles about this, but of course I can’t quickly find them now, so next time I’ll share]  

Maybe in our new life I can start weeding out the mess and take another peek at this article  from Simple Mom about cheap and free entertainment for kids.  We all have seen our child enjoy the box more than the toy inside at Christmas.  In the meantime maybe this on Unclutterer will give us some ideas on how to manage the deluge.

 

Okay, I just got a call from our real estate agent and am now in serious wait-and-pray mode.  We should hear later today whether we have a home in NC or are still going to have to plan on living in one of those cardboard boxes.  I had intended on writing a coherent post this morning, but now I’m too distracted.  Luckily I don’t think my four fans will mind.  So now I’ll just slap Pamela’s article down here for your reading pleasure.  Read and discuss!

Raise the Price of Toys
Pamela Paul, Huffington Post
2008-04-30

If you’re a woman of a certain age — not that old actually — in your thirties, you’ll remember the puffy sticker. You will remember, as I do, those moments during school recess when you and your fellow second-graders took out your sticker albums to show off and trade goods. And you will remember the supreme worth of the puffy sticker — held in esteem above all other stickers — glitter, fuzzy, even those shiny, almost vinyl-like stickers you’d get in the 25 cent gumball machine, often emblazoned with “Grease” or “AC/DC.” The glory of the puffy Hello Kitty!

You’ll remember the days when it was a huge deal to buy a new sticker at the stationary store. How the sales person had to be summoned to cut off a purchased sticker from one of the display rolls so that you could take home your prize. Stickers back then cost a dime or a quarter, no small sum, especially if like me, your allowance was 10 cents a week. (Yes, I’m in my thirties — not my sixties!) Children once “made do” with allowances of less than a dollar.

And so, like me, you were probably initially thrilled when you saw how the price of a sticker has plummeted since our days of deprivation. Today, a mega made-in-China book of stickers sells for $6.99 at the local CVS and comes packed with over 100 pages of glossy stickers. 700 in all! as the cover burst blares. Naturally, I scooped one up for my then three-year-old daughter.

But here’s what happened. Beatrice had too many stickers. WAY too many stickers. She had so many stickers she didn’t know what to do. Rather than care for and treasure them the way I did , she wantonly stuck them on shoes, jeans, furniture, walls and the stroller. She stuck them on me and on her baby brother. The end result is that she couldn’t care less about stickers. They are meaningless.

In our abundance, something has been lost.

The average child in America gets seventy new toys a year, and the United States, with 4 percent of the world’s children, consumes 40 percent of the world’s toys. This is doing our children no good. Rather than bulldozing their way through dozens of one-note, breakable, and possibly harmful toys, children benefit from repetitive use of old favorites, finding new ways to play with them as their minds mature and expand.

So many of us lament the fact that elementary, high school and even college students today seem creatively bankrupt, bereft of problem-solving skills, and completely lacking resourcefulness. Is it any surprise when we cater to them from infancy with a barrage of cheap toys. That they treat their playthings carelessly, fail to value material goods, and become indifferent to waste? And that they then complain of boredom as they get older?

Kids would be a lot better off getting five new toys a year and playing with them 50 different ways. The best toys, after all, are the ones that look most “boring” from the outside. A good rule of thumb is that toys should be 10% toy, 90% child. It’s what a child puts into a toy that counts. Take plain wooden blocks. At two months, a baby chews on the block and learns what wood tastes and feels like. At six months, he learns to throw the block and at ten months, he bangs them together. By age four, he is building castles and bridges.

Toys are so cheap that it’s hard to rationalize not buying them. But perhaps we need to raise the price of toys so that parents and children learn to value them again.

In the meantime, get rid of the toys — or better yet, give them away. Cut down on the useless childrearing paraphernalia. You’ll be giving your child a lot more.

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2 Comments

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  1. Jessica / Apr 1 2009 09:28

    What is it with markers? I will tell you it doesn’t get better as they get older. I have seven thousand markers in this house all nicely stored ina rolly plastic storage thingy. The stickers have dwindled and I still have some laying around that I just cannot throw away. Want them? I’ll gladly send them so you will have something other than those five sheets to look at!

  2. Allison Worthington / Apr 6 2009 18:52

    Amen!

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