What’s in a Toy?


We were running some errands one weekend when I walked into a Toy store for an urgent purchase with my 4-year-old. I knew it was a mistake – going there with him – as soon as we walked in. The dizzying display of choices was front and center. It was way too much stimulation for my son. He was in Toy heaven. He half skipped, half ran from aisle to aisle. He wanted to buy everything. He chanted continuously “I need more toys!”. It set me thinking.


My son has a room full of toys. Some we bought, some flooded our premises on birthdays and some were handed down. The sheer quantity of it was not something I could have imagined possessing when I was a child. We had just a few – some bought for special occasions and some gifts. This included some simple stacking rings bought from the market, race cars given by our neighbor, a couple of dolls gifted by a doting Uncle, little steel cooking utensils. It wasn’t too much. But it was enough. We learned to share the toys among ourselves. We were excited about visiting neighbors and friends who had other toys and I dare say we took really good care of what we had. But regardless of the number of toys we had, playtime held the same magic for me as a child as it does for my son.


The joy of playtime is not directly proportional to the number of toys one has. It is not the Toy itself that holds the child’s rapture. It is the experience around it and the promise it brings. For my son, it is the excitement of what his favorite Aunt sent him, the anticipation of getting his Christmas wish list fulfilled, the simple joy of tearing open packages with his family on his birthday. It is the magic of holding something new, discovering what it can do and doing things no-one else could have dreamed of with it. Making planes out of spoons, hens out of paper plates, bracelets out of rubber bands and a boat out of puzzle pieces.


So that day at the Toy store, I stood my ground and did not concede to my son’s wishes. I promised to buy him something he wanted for his upcoming birthday and explained that he would have to wait. I finished up at the checkout counter and was bracing for the tantrum that would follow me to the car. I needn’t have worried.


As soon as we stepped out, my son dashed off to run like a cheetah to the car, jumped like a Kangaroo into his seat just so he could reach before his brother. He looked at me brimming with excitement and asked: “Did I win?”


I smiled and said, “I guess we all did!”

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