“Where my Oink and my Moo?” asks Isaac, scouring the house for his two favorite toys – a wooden pig and cow – which are actually just broken ice-cream spoon handles.
“Can I keep it? Please!” asks Antonella, picking up a baseball-sized rock next to a sidewalk planter. Once home, she gives her “pet” rock a bubble bath in the sink, wraps it in a wipey, and then adorns it with a purple barrette.
Our house is a garbage dump of plastic, Made-in-China, primary-color madness. It’s an orphanage for dozens of baby dolls of every shape and size. It’s a parking garage for a plethora of toy cars, trucks, and trains. It is this way, largely thanks to my parents and my in-laws, who obviously have stock in Toys “R” Us.
But even though they have all of these things, what my kids love to play with most are random objects, such as filthy, roadside rocks and defective silverware handles. Coincidentally, these were the hottest Christmas gifts during the Great Depression.
Issac’s “Oink” and “Moo” were originally handles to spoons from an ice cream gift basket I won in a raffle. There’s also a penguin and polar bear. He broke the spoon ends off almost immediately and has been captivated by the animal-shaped handles ever since. His other favorite toy is an old silver necklace of my wife’s, which he refers to as his “beads”, and which he uses to tether different toys together.
These objects can keep my son busy for hours. He’s always setting them up in elaborate scenes, such as the one shown here, which I like to call “Toy Animal Urinal.”
Besides her pet rock, Antonella also has a pet ladybug that she named “Lady.” After placing it inside a freezer bag, which she had me blow air into, Antonella showed Lady the ladybug a movie on her portable, kiddy-computer-thingamabob, which she calls her “pooter.” Later we relocated the insect to a more comfortable abode—a juice glass with a piece of perforated wax paper rubber-banded to the top. Lady has been “sleeping” for several days now, which doesn’t seem to worry my daughter in the least.
She also created a piece or art recently using a few parts from Isaac’s toy tool bench, a dish rag, and two of her proudest doodles. Personally I think it resembles a crude Etch-A-Sketch. For her next trick, she’ll be making a Rubik’s cube out of some wooden alphabet blocks and a jar of Skippy.
Oh, and she also likes to play with dental floss.
So you see, folks, you don’t have to buy in to the crazed consumerism that corporations are trying to sell to us as the “American Dream.” If you just let your kids use their imagination, they’ll realize that an empty toilet paper roll can be just as fun as a new Xbox 360. Does this mean I’ll never let my kids play video games? Of course not. My Atari 2600 is ready and waiting in the basement as soon as they’re old enough to operate a joystick.
I wish I could see into the future and figure out what free, random objects my kids will become enamored with next. That way I could save money on their birthdays or Christmas and just get them a piece of bark, a broken spatula, or maybe even a new pet stink bug.
Lord knows we’ve got plenty of those.