Thinking Outside the (Toy) Box

Reading in the Dark

Angel’s Favorite New Game to play with Uncle James involves a flashlight (his), a book (hers) and a dark room (any). Maybe Santa could bring her one of her own?

The ads on tv for children’s’ toys get more depressing each year, to my thinking. Too many things that beep, buzz and talk; not enough things that allow for the open-ended play that stimulates little imaginations. Even my Beloved Books aren’tΒ spared – Angel and I gave up going to Story Time at the bookstore when corporate decreed that they would use it to pass around the store-branded e-reader, loaded with the day’s selections, to all the kids.Β Yes, we live in a Digital World, but does a child under the age of 5 really need his or her own computer?

So we’re trying to think of non-toys to bring some Christmas Joy. Any ideas? The flashlight is obviously going to be in her stocking – Santa and I have discussed it.

(My grandmother once gave me a big box of band-aids…Best idea ever, according to my mother!)

The 4 O’Clock (and a friend):

December 2 2012 4 pm

Lots of clouds yesterday, and a few summerlike downpours. Highs in the mid 50’s.

Didn’t we have snow the day before?

And, you know, it isn’t easy to crouch down to get a photo…

Dog, On Duty

When someone keeps nosing your elbow.


39 thoughts on “Thinking Outside the (Toy) Box

  1. One of my favorite ideas is to get that one favorite toy and wrap it up with box after box, after box. The thrill of the opening is just what she needs to get in the holiday spirit. Imaginative play is perfect for this age group. A box of dress up clothes and shoes, scarfs and handbags is a fun way to pass the time. Art supplies? play money and a play cash register? A set of drums? LOL now I know I am making you laugh… Good luck. BAM

  2. Sounds like Angel has some fun ideas for games! A few years back my daughter asked for a stick and a box for Christmas. The stick became her pony, to ride in the garden (because her parents are way to mean to buy her a real horse), and the box (a very big box) was her house where she spent most of the holiday!

  3. Some child safe gardening tools – her size. A small patch of garden somewhere for a “Fairy Garden”, ceramic toadstools, frogs and little gnomes – some could even be plain to be painted by Herself. Some books with pop-ups thingies in them to open. Oh heck ….. give in and buy her her own laptop πŸ™‚ Laura

  4. love your thinking here Marie – un-toys sound like a great way to go. I’m being very bah-humbug about Christmas, I’m desparately trying to not have to spend any money in the run up to Christmas, buy anything – I get grumpier and grumpier about the sales and this whole thing called shopping.
    Has she tried making or flying a kite? Maybe a bit young, but you can make teeny ones.

  5. One year my Momma made a whole bunch of toys for us out of cardboard (we were a tad poor, I see now) but I was delighted. Although, older than Angel. I had a stage with little curtains, a dollhouse with four rooms, but the very best was a huge box I could crawl in an out of that was a wonderful playhouse just for me, until it collapsed. By then I was done with it also.

    Thanks for the memories, Marie!


    ΒΈ.β€’*Β¨*β€’β™ͺβ™«β™«β™ͺMerry Christmas to you β™ͺβ™«β€’*Β¨*β€’.ΒΈΒΈβ™₯

  6. I had forgotten about the band aids!!! You did have great fun. I got a lawnmower box from Ed for Jody’s toys. He emptied the toys and got in the box!!! Play dough is good, Your friends have good ideas and more will probably come later!!

  7. I loved reading under blankets with a flashlight when I was kid. How about bean bags to toss in games? A sled? Home made play dough? Oh, I love the garden ideas. And the boxes…a couple of big ones.

  8. When I was little someone made a farmyard for me… a piece of board, with some wood stuck around the edge as a wall, and a simple building with a removable roof and different “rooms”. It developed and grew as I got older. Some green leather as the grass, silver foil as a pond, and pocket money animals added every time we made a trip to town. Later I had a racing horse trailer and a jeep! Fencing and horse jumps etc were all homemade and I spent years playing with it! πŸ˜€ Good memories!

  9. I was a big fan of blocks to build houses, car tracks, bridges, and imaginary cities out of. Wrapping paper tubes, old sheets, and rubber bands make a great Fort Kit… And then there are books πŸ™‚ The Snowman was one of my favorites for years.

  10. It seems to me that kids usually like the simplest toys best. When my nieces and nephews were little my parents had a big set of wooden blocks in a cabinet in the family room and when the kids would visit they always made a beeline for the blocks. They never, ever seemed to tire of them.

    I think my favorite thing to play with when I was Angel’s age was a broom. Considering how much Angel enjoyed growing those pumpkins, I bet she would LOVE her own garden tools!

    My default gift for kids when I don’t know what else to get them is art supplies. I’ve never known a kid who didn’t love a big pad of drawing paper.

  11. lol! I have someone nosing my right hand as I try to use the mouse to navigate my way around while visiting blogs. I’m not sure if Izzy (the cat) is really interested in my hand or the mouse.

    As for toys, I agree with you wholeheartedly. It’s not just the toys, but this propensity to keep children completely and utterly occupied every waking second with some task (structured play). I think the best gift we can give them is time to play as they will. No beeps, no buzzes, no structure, no tasks. A big cardboard box has always been a favorite with the little ones around here. They can decorate the box, play in the box, pretend the box is their house, their bat cave, their whatever. I used to keep a stack of newsprint paper around for coloring, painting, making collages, etc.

    • I love the newsprint idea. The boundaries of their drawing is so much bigger. If there is a newspaper that prints their own papers they will sometimes give away the ends of the rolls. Or at lease they did years ago. It’s a teacher’s dream!!! We would lay the children down on the paper and draw around them. Three is a bit young for this, but later…..

  12. Recently a nat’l news program told of a pre-school where the “name-brand” toys were all replaced with boxes of varying sizes. Not only did the children seem to enjoy the boxes more, they played better together, with even shy kids getting involved.
    So, Marie, I think you should buy yourself a new refrigerator or washer/dryer so that you can make this the best Christmas ever for your Li’l Angel.

  13. I was going to say band-aids, but you beat me to it. A family friend always gave the kids in her family a flashlight with extra batteries, a box of band-aids, and a box of crayons and a coloring book or pad of paper. My son’s favorite gift when he was young was a refrigerator box. I know I’m repeating things but I thought I’d reiterate that these are great gifts. Recession-friendly, too!

  14. It has been so long since my girls were that age, I don’t remember, stuff for the snow? What about gardening things. I love the idea of the torch, and the band-aids is pretty good, though you might you are trying to get band-aids off all sorts of things. I’m sure whatever you get she will love.

    • Stickers wind up everywhere, but band-aids are either on her baby dolls, or covering imaginary boo-boos on her arms…
      And, you’re right – she’s going to love the whole day, no matter what’s actually under the tree…

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