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Here’s a reality that is all to familiar to all of us- whether we have kids or not. Kids tolerate toys, but get the biggest thrill out of pilfering common household items to use in the place of expensive, engaging, and sometimes even educational toys. It doesn’t even matter if all your toys are throwback and wooden, handmade by organic artisans on a compound in Northern California. They could be violently neon with lights and buttons and the ability to fly. Kids choose to play with trash anytime, anyplace. They’re the original hipsters. “I’m too cool for legos. Pass that dirty sock over here though and prepare for fun!”
Here are some of my kids favorite non toy playthings.
Sticks. This is a broad category. The sharper and longer it is, the more appealing it becomes. Whether it be actual sticks from trees or a meter stick, the main goal here is to swing it around with wild abandon and hit a lamp. That or hit your sister in the face. Both are solid options.
Small pieces of plastic: In my house the most popular items to carry around are the plastic thing you peel off of the milk carton or the tab that closes the bread bag. Some play options include- putting in your mouth, throwing down a/c vent, hiding in couch cushions.
The recycling bin: Like flies congregate around a rotting carcass, so my children gravitate toward the recycling bin. (Please notice that I recycle, that’s a brag) I call this game- Make my house look like a dump heap because they simply pluck the recyclable of their choice out of the bin and spread them out randomly around the house. This is a really popular game when I am making dinner. I think I’m sitting on an old Stovetop box… I don’t even care.
Blankets: To drag. And roll on. But mostly to drag through the dirtiest part of the house.
Boxes: Listen, I can’t hate on a kid loving a box. I still remember the thrill it gave me when Mom let me play with an old refrigerator box in the basement.
Sharp objects: I would categorize these as mostly scissors and knives, but I’m pretty sure Maisy fashioned a shiv from a broken shred of basket detritus. “I could kill myself with this- so it’s fun!”
Toilet paper: Shred it, unroll it, eat it. It’s always fun.
The toilet scrubber: “Look mommy! I found a wand!” Ewwwwwww.
Next year for Christmas I’m not getting them any toys. I’m going to the Dollar Tree to fill a basket with cleaning supplies, then I’ll leave them in an accessible place and pretend I didn’t buy it for them. It’s the feeling of forbidden fruit that pulls them in.