It’s not that I am ungrateful for the toys that she gets given. Hey, I give her toys too and I have also been disappointed in how little of her imagination and attention they manage to hold.
My child does not play with toys.
I have tried everything to encourage her to explore her toys more. We try to play with them together, I have tried rotating them so not all the toys are always out or available at once, I have done research into the absolute top quality and most interesting looking toys, taking my cues from other things that Audrey is interested in but she is really and truly just not really that interested in any particular kind of toy at all.
I have pretty much given up on toys.
Here are a list of Audrey’s top ten ‘other’ things to play with. In no particular order,
Before this toy got broken, Audrey was not really interested in it, but since it got tangled beyond repair it has now become ‘the bird feeder’. Basically Audrey hangs it up on various hooks, doorknobs etc around the house and calls out to imaginary birds to get their dinner. She then hangs bits and bobs onto the broken slinky and they are the birds. That is the game.
Creating traps for burglars, ‘fixing’ pieces of furniture, taking things for a walk, throwing it up in the air, tying doors to each other etc etc, there really are a lot of things to be done with a piece of rope or string. Audrey will play with it for ages.
Real skipping rope though?
Nope, not interested.
Craft kit with threading involved?
Mmmmmm, let me see . . .
Nope, no, not interested.
What? You can’t see them?
Me neither, but I have been putting them to bed, making them dinner and putting the little buggers on the naughty step for the last couple of years.
I don’t know all their names but there’s definitely a naughty Violet (bit of a gang leader who Audrey loves to tell tales on), Tulip, Juni (perhaps a imaginary version of Audrey’s real life friend, Juno), there’s also a Violet-Tulip and a Tulip-Violet, oh and an imaginary dog named Fliff. Fliff has been dead for one hundred years and scares away monsters.
The princesses are often responsible for drawing on walls and making colossal messes.
(Our house is about 150 years old and I did once think of playing a prank on my husband Sam by mocking up a fake census from a hundred or so years ago that shows little girls called ‘Tulip’ and ‘Violet’ living here. Although actually, I hardly have time to make beans on toast let alone a falsified historical document.)
The sink has always been a favourite. Washing things, turning the tap on and off, filling up cups, drinking water, spitting water out and generally making a mess and getting soaked.
Hunting for stones, picking them up, washing them, drying them, naming them, making them a nest, putting them into pots, our bed etc. Stones are everywhere. They are in my pockets, Audrey’s pockets, the pockets of the changing bag and buggy, drawers and tins around the house, Audrey’s treasure box, they are everywhere! Should you leave a welly unattended for a few days in our house, it will soon be home to a small family of stones. Which brings me onto the next item.
Audrey will take a set of objects (not toys) but maybe plant pots, twigs, coins, plastic cups, Cheerios, bits of paper, stones, Tupperware containers and turn it into a family which she then plays with. There will be a Mummy and babies, a Daddy and a big sister. There will often be a rogue object which does not have a Mummy and Daddy, this object will then be adopted into the family. This is the game.
How about playmobil families with little baby buggies and accessories? How about a vintage dolls house, with a family and awesome little pieces of retro furniture and crockery, telephones, a light up fire, aga, real opening and closing cupboards and pets etc?
Nope, no, no thanks, not interested in playing with that.
Tip for any parent. If your child would like a treat at the supermarket, go to the party section and buy them a pack of balloons. When you get home blow them all up in the room where the least injuries will occur. If your children are anything like mine they will be absolutely delighted for hours. If you want to really splash out buy them a pack of punch balloons.
So. Much. Fun!
Audrey sometimes spends quite a bit of time in a little nest she likes to make for herself in the bottom of my wardrobe. She takes in blankets, camping lanterns, torches and all the pillows off our bed. Once she has played the game of making this nest she then likes to pretend that I am a ‘naughty teacher’ who makes her live in a cupboard.
The other night I got up to feed the baby and noticed that the wardrobe was glowing. For a moment it really freaked me out until I realised that Audrey had just forgotten to turn the light out in her little den.
This makes a mess but it’s a winner every time.
Not a toy one or a flimsy dressmakers one. A real, heavy metal one where the tape is clangy metal and bendy and snaps back into the box when you press a button. Hours of fun.
Washing the patio, watering the plants, filling up plastic bottles and tubs. Oooh! What happens if you put your finger over the end? Wow! Best thing ever!
So, there you go. Maybe toys are a bit of a con? Or maybe some kids would just rather play with ‘real things’ or would rather pretend that a plant pot is ‘a daddy’ rather than be given a playmobil or happy land ‘daddy’ character? Maybe the problem is that too much of the imagining is done for them with toys?
I don’t expect that kids had buckets full of toys a hundred years ago, but I expect that plenty of kids were enjoying playing with lengths of rope, stones, imaginary princesses and making little hide outs in the bottom of cupboards.
Kids will always play when given the chance and maybe they will always find the absolute best things to play with in a house, no matter how many Melissa and Doug educational toy sets you buy for them.