A Visit to the Toy Store



When was the last time you visited a large toy store? If it’s been a while, you’re in for a real surprise – a shocking overload to the senses actually. Be prepared, you’ll see every conceivable form of plastic configuration the mind can concoct. I caution you – it has a hypnotic effect.

Yesterday I entered the colorful maze looking for one simple item and quickly found myself swallowed up by floor to ceiling boxes of plastic fantastic STUFF.

One of the rows had mechanical toy dogs on one side and talking baby dolls on the other. High pitched barks mingled with unnatural baby cries filled the isle each time an unsuspecting shopper walked by.

There was even an entire isle dedicated to toy horses. Twenty feet long by ten feet high of them. There were stuffed horses, tiny horses, tall horses, fantasy horses – horses with hair, horses with saddles, families of horses and every other piece of paraphernalia to go with them.

The deeper I went the more fascinated I became. Isle after isle told children how to play. Dollhouses, castles, costumes, miniature furniture, games, electronic devices – it was endless. Even the books were automated.

I found myself craving wood – real wood. The kind that smells real, feels real and looks real. I searched for old fashioned building blocks and was horrified to learn they didn’t sell them.

Alarms began to ring in my mind. Non battery-operated alarms.

Children need, we all need – more than TOYS, we’re designed to be creators. Block play is essential for the healthy development of young children. They don’t require an instruction manual with automated parts to enjoy blocks – they just need blocks and space to create.

We’re getting too comfortable in a world that thinks for us – that controls our play – that has plasticized every aspect of our environment.

I had to examine my own insatiable appetite for stuff and stimuli. How much is too much? Do I choose items and devices with predictable outcomes rather than create new ones for myself?

When I surfaced for air, my heart felt sad for the lack of open spaces our children experience. Safety, keeping the educational edge, entertainment and ease – all want to choke out the freedom our children need to become the future for their own generation – thinkers, investors, creators. More than mere mastery – living, breathing, creators.

Do you remember the things that gave you joy as a child? Were they even ‘things’?

I remember playing horse, not playing with toy horses. I spent hours galloping through open grassy fields pretending to be a four legged creature. I remember building forts with twigs, brush and dirt. No one taught me how to build a fort – I built it with imagination and endless unsupervised hours of play.

We need the same as adults. We need real. We need open space, cleared space, real space to regenerate and create. Without it, I worry for the people we will become.


Linked with #GiveMeGrace

19 replies on “A Visit to the Toy Store”

    1. Fostering imagination in young children rates extremely high in my book. Thanks for FB sharing, Louis.

  1. Thanks for the warning, won’t be going shopping anytime soon. Several worthwhile nuggets to chew on here. Nicely done.

  2. I hear you, Pat. Looks like the mega-corporations have taken hold of our kids’ world. My husband still crafts wooden puzzles for baby gifts. And you’d think we’d given the doting parents a million bucks.

    The call to a more minimalist lifestyle impacts what we choose to have our little ones play with, learn from, yes?

    Have a wonderful weekend, friend …

    1. It’s somehow not surprising to hear your husband makes wooden puzzles – what a wonderful gift that is. I had the privilege of visiting Community Playthings in England last fall. They understand the importance of natural products, simplicity of design and the value of building imagination. It was very inspirational.

      And yes I agree, developing and implementing a minimalist viewpoint as a family is worth investigating early on.

      You have a glorious weekend too, Linda. Hope it includes something frivolous and fun!

  3. Don’t most children enjoy the packaging more than the product when they’re little? Just think of how many houses, ships, forts and lemon aide stands were built from an empty box. Life as it should be!

    1. Isn’t that the truth, Elizabeth. It certainly is how life should be. Hope your weekend includes clear spaces and plenty of time to create! Bless you.

  4. Well said, Pat. Children discovering nature, the beach and the forest, and building and creating from God’s creation has always been my favorite. Pinecones, pods, rocks, shells . . . Real stuff for investigation and joyful exploration.
    Thank you!!!

    1. I wish you (and every young parent, for that matter) could have visited Mr Noah’s Nursery with me in England. Watching 2 & 3yr old children enjoy their lovely Forest School was one of the most remarkable experiences I’ve ever encountered. Mud, fire pit, playing in streams, endless discovery….really, really good stuff :))

  5. I couldn’t agree more! Our days as children were not filled with stuff but with hours on end of outdoor imaginative playing! I’m next to you at Lisha’s.

    1. It’s really nice to meet you Elizabeth. You’re a gifted photographer with a big heart. Blessings to you!

  6. Boy did you hit the nail on the head! I guess you might say there is too much of a good thing when it comes to all the electronic toys and gadgets. The younger kids no longer use their imagination and the older they get they are robbed of the true art of communicating by actual talking and listening not by sending a text message.

    1. I hate to admit how comfortable I’ve become with the ease of texting. We were designed to have flesh to flesh communion – electronic communication should never take precedence over that.

      Thanks for chiming in Toni, I appreciate it (even though it’s online, ha).

  7. Well put, Pat. My oldest granddaughter, now 6yo, always loves when I give her a pad of construction paper, markers & scissors. We began this from a very young age. While it has been messy at times and yes (!!!) my coffee table has lines from markers on it, she has learned to be creative & keeps herself busy for a long time. Thanks for the reminder to buy some more colored paper 🙂 Blessings!

    1. The blessed reminders of uninterrupted creative moments resting on your coffee table will grow more and more precious to both of you as time goes by. The investment you’ve made into her life cannot be measured.

      Thanks so much for sharing.

  8. Hi Pat..I’m late this week but so glad I came back to read your post. I share your feelings, your desire for open spaces and wooden toys. I try to keep the balance in our home and use the park every chance I get for free play outdoors. In the city play grounds are popular and I choose the open spaces every time. There the play is creatively unstructured. I think its so good for them. Always a joy to read your words friend.

    1. Your life in the city is so foreign and interesting to me Lisha, and yet I feel kindred to the person you are. Thanks for reading and commenting – you’re not late – just a busy, busy momma with a great big heart.

      Be blessed today.

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