The most enlightening advice I've received as a parent has been about toys. When celebrating our first Christmas my aunt warned me not to buy my son too many gifts because he'd be more entertained by the wrapping and boxes. She was totally right. And as my son quickly approaches his third birthday, he is still intrigued by the most unusual things. Like a kitten, he will play with a bit of string or a piece of ribbon for hours on end.
I once found him playing with a fabric belt from one of my shirts. I have no idea where that has vanished to, but he seemed to be enjoying himself, so I let him have it. Don't get me wrong, he enjoys "real" toys, too -- but I believe that when he plays with the unconventional toys, he is letting his imagination run free. He will often take toys that are made for one purpose and change them to be what he wants them to be.
For instance, I bought him a pegboard game, which is designed to improve dexterity, help with counting and learning colors. He used the peg board on the first day and subsequently used the pegs to make rocket ships. He is still learning the skills that the game was designed to teach; however, he has fashioned it in his own creative way. My mother just commented on his creative playing yesterday when she saw him with an old necklace of mine. She said, "he has so many toys and yet, he plays with the strangest things!" She is correct, but despite my knowledge that he will create toys, I still purchase things for him. Recently I've focused on purchasing him books, because, in addition to his creative toys he truly has enough "real" toys to fill two toy chests -- and I still have gifts from Christmas that I haven't given him because he has too much stuff!
He does play with his real toys, and mine, too. He will request to play the games or watch the movies I have downloaded for him on my iPhone. I frequently oblige him, because I know that his imagination soars, and letting him play with my electronic devices does not stifle his creativity. After about 10 minutes of playing with my phone, he will often play in the "tunnel" made from an empty box that used to house my husband's bookcase. When we were visiting my mother for her birthday a few weeks ago, he found a new toy: A container full of toothpicks was left on the table, and he literally played with the toothpicks for hours.
I was in the living room watching a movie, and after about five minutes of quiet, I became suspicious. Toddlers that are too quiet generally mean that something is amiss. When I went into the kitchen, I discovered him building a tiny world, replete with sound effects and dialogue. I quietly left the room and observed him from the couch. I was amazed by both his ingenuity and his focus. Even in this era of electronic games and toys that would have defied my imagination when I was growing up, my son can find joy in the simple things. Who needs toys when a piece of ribbon and a box will do?
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Renee is a BlogHer contributing editor and writes her personal blog, Cutie Booty Cakes, named for her clever son.
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