Simple Toys, Simple Joys
Siena and I have just had a mad half hour playing with some pink balloons. The husband blew them up yesterday as part of her pre-birthday celebrations with the grandparents (she turns 3 on Wednesday). It got me to thinking about how the simplest toys are usually the greatest fun. As I mentioned a thousand times before on here, we have limited funds at the moment. Putting a positive spin on that (as always) is the fact that it makes you far more resourceful. It helps that Siena is our second child so we had lots of toys left over from when Grace was little (back when we had a lot more disposable income). I had saved a lot of Grace’s toys over the years thinking we would have another child. By the time we were coming up to the five year mark of not having managed to provide a sibling, I had resigned myself to emptying the loft of all the toys that we no longer needed. Luckily I am the world’s greatest procrastinator and only got round to getting rid of a few things before I found myself very unexpectedly pregnant with Siena.
I love charity shops and they have been a real lifesaver for giving Siena a treat. She loves it when I suggest popping to the nearby town with its abundance of shops and their goodies. Her current favourite is cars and we have picked up enough over the past few months to start our very own car dealership. We almost come to blows with other toddlers over who spotted the toy first. My advice is get in there quick when it comes to charity shop toys and the early bird definitely catches the worm (or the dumper truck). I know that some people can be a bit funny about charity shop toys and might not even think of going in there. I think as long as you give something a wipe or a wash it’s fine. God knows how many germs and stuff are on toys that you let your kids play with at mum’s and tots groups (sorry to anyone who runs such a group and religiously Dettols the toys).
Aside from that, like many parents I am always tickled by the toys that aren’t really toys but bring joy to a little one’s life. I think it was my lovely mum that inspired this. When my little brother and I were little she would come up with ways of entertaining us that didn’t cost much money. I’m a child of the seventies and things could be tight then too, and there were four kids in my family. My mum was very much ahead of her time and embraced the wholefood and healthiness industry way before these clean eating ‘gurus’ had even been able to consume a gluten-free rusk. She was also an early adopter of the theory that additives in food could cause issues in children. With this in mind she liked to encourage us to eat as healthy as possible. Once, she saw an offer for some wheatgerm, so she ordered six months worth. It was only when it arrived that she realised that she had misunderstood the weight of it and rather than ordering pounds she had ordered kilos! And the icing on the cake was the fact that it only had a three week use-by date! She did what anyone who had grown up during the Second World War would have done and used the excess wheatgerm to make us our very own sandpit or germpit! We didn’t care and had great fun playing with it, although I seem to remember it was rubbish for making sandcastles.
Another momentous occasion tied in with the habitual rainy weather of the North West of England. She was stuck for something to do with us one wet afternoon so came up with the idea of buying two plastic dustbins (remember dustbins?) She put them both in front of the fire (far enough for them not to melt of course) and filled them both with warm water. My brother and I were both small enough to get in one each and we had a ball that afternoon, it was like having your own private jacuzzi or hot tub! No bubbles though (well there might have been some in my brother’s tub, I can’t possibly comment). I have very fond memories of those times, although to some they might seem kind of primitive.
Likewise with both of my girls I have enjoyed seeing their excitement and imagination fired by what might appear to be an ordinary object. Of course we all know that old saying about children (and cats) preferring to play with the box and leaving the shiny new toy to one side. Siena has also had great fun with various items in our house. The rubber whisk in the kitchen is magical, it has been a number of things including a magic wand, a screwdriver and a walking stick. The wicker tea-cup shaped basket which I used to keep her little baby socks in now doubles as her best hat, which she calls her Cup of Tea hat. We have saved plenty of photos of her wearing that to share with future love interests all in the name of family humiliation!!
Even her new knickers have proved to be great toys providing little tents for her cars. The table looked like Glastonbury without the mud and was a real testament to the fact that my darling daughter will do anything to avoid potty-training.
Most kids like mud and Siena and her cousin are no exception. They recently had a fabulous time playing in some large plant pots that my dad had in his garden. It reminded me of a time when my brother and I had a whole mud pie picnic. Even though it was many years ago now, I can still remember flattening the mud down into my cooking pans like I was making the best Victoria Sponge. I’m very excited about Siena’s new nursery which she starts in September as they have a big outdoor space with a mud kitchen. I’m expecting a very muddy child, think Stig of the Dump meets Fungus the Bogeyman!
As I said it’s coming up to her birthday on Wednesday and whilst I know that she will get some toys that probably do everything short of trying to decide if we are leaving the EU, I think she’ll probably still prefer the boxes and the bubblewrap!