Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Stripped Clean (or Stripped of Star Wars??)

Black Friday. I didn't hit the stores, but I sat at the computer. Equally dangerous. On Amazon, I watched a StarWars helmet go on sale for $19.99, regular (or MSRP) $49.99. I snatched it. For at least a year 'LilDude has commented on that helmet each time he's seen it at the store. Since it was now suddenly within our $25/person Christmas limit, I though it was a good idea.

But then I started having doubts. It's not a creative toy. It has limited uses. Takes up a lot of shelf space. And has the potential to cause HUGE arguments between two little boys.

But I was still stumped as to what to get LilDude. Although we don't have tons of toys (though I guess that's relative!), we have what we need. With five kids we long ago decided on what we wanted to focus on and what we didn't. We have the usual basics: balls, blocks, dolls, puzzles, games, books. And items of focus: Legos, Playmobile, and gads of the old kind of Fisher Price Little People (from my generation.) We really aren't in need of more stuff...especially if it doesn't lend itself to being:

1. Educational (at least in some way!)
2. Group oriented rather than single person oriented.

I started searching the internet. Again, dangerous. I found a fantastic marble roll system that seemed like the perfect thing for both little boys. Unfortunately, it would more than double the budget we set for the two kids.

But I considered doing it anyway.

Then, on Sunday, I was challenged by our youth in a wonderful service. They've been doing a book study, Stripped Clean, challenging them to think about how stuff gets in the way of a relationship with God. They did a powerful drama based on this:

...but changed it to reflect more "stuff" getting in the way of the girl's relationship with God. Quite a few people in the congregation teared up. They lined the stage walls with ads from black Friday.

But I kept thinking about that marble roll.

Then I went to swim lessons. Talked to another mom who used to be a preschool teacher. I asked her if she knew anything about this particular marble toy. She reminded me of a few things that I already knew but, in the throes of purchasing, had forgotten...

1. Children will use whatever is in their environment to explore a new level of development. They do not have to have the latest, greatest and most expensive. When I mentioned a cheaper marble system I'd considered she said that even though LilDude was close to being developmentally past it that he'd still get tons out of it, just in different ways. When I mentioned that even this system was expensive she laughed and said she only buys them at Goodwill...and over time she's built up quite a collection.

2. The least expensive stuff can be the most fun. Homemade playdough (at $3 for a huge mound) will see far more play than a Star Wars helmet. And it's cooperative, creative, and imaginative. I told her that this situation was particularly hard because 'LilDude rarely asks for specific toys. She smiled saying that her daughter doesn't either but has now mentioned a "bee helmet" several times. I asked if she was getting it. The reply? "No. Because I know what she needs."

3. Relationships are more important than stuff. Her family has a limit of $100 to spend at Christmas, but when they give something, they attach it to to go somewhere together. A sled and other outdoor snow toys to go with a day at the mountain.

The Star Wars helmet will be under someone else's tree this Christmas. It sold 1 minute after posting. And the spendy marble roll still belongs to the store. So far.


Sherri said...

Why don't you get out the cardboard toilet paper, paper towel, and wrapping paper tubes (which I know you've saved for such a time as this) and let them make their own marble rollers as described by MLC? The girls loved this project when they were younger--probably still would.

richmomma said...

How funny you'd mention that! I was thinking of it just this morning...told LilDude that we need to start collecting tubes. I actually don't have any wrapping paper tubes (see previous post!), but I'll figure something out. That unit doesn't really equate "toy" (which is what the one does that I'm looking at) but it's perfect timing as far as where he's at educationally. He was doing quasi marble roll timings with my mom's marble roll set this afternoon. I got out the MLC marbles to let him use with it.

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