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5 Best Toys of All Time

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 9.29.59 AMIt’s birthday season around our house. Since all eight Grands were springtime babies, I’m shopping – almost like Christmas. Legos, paint sets, American Girl clothes, riding toys, super hero figures, play dough. Gifts for Grands from ages 1to 11. And I know what would really ignite their creativity and they love to play with, but can you imagine a child’s response after tearing open a birthday present and finding sticks?

This column is inspired by an article on wired.com and written by a self-professed geek dad, Jonathan H. Liu. He wrote that he worked hard to narrow down a long list to five items that no kid should be without. A list that fits everyone’s budget and appropriate for all ages. Time-tested and kid-approved. I’d add parent and grandparent-approved. Liu’s choices of 5 Best Toys of All Time are a stick, a box, string, a cardboard tube, and dirt.

I amend his list to include a stick, a box, dirt, water, and a balloon.

  1. Stick. All sizes. I rode one as a horse that went as fast as I could run and I never fell off.  A stick is a giant pencil to write in mud and sand. It lifts leaves from a running creek. And, even though parents prohibit violence, a stick is a sword and a club and a rifle. There’s something about hitting a large tree trunk or big rock with a stick that makes you feel good.
  2. Box. Who hasn’t created a clubhouse from an appliance box? Shoeboxes with doors cut in the ends are train tunnels and garages. Decorated boxes create a neighborhood – stores, homes, and businesses.
  3. Dirt. I’ve written about my Grands’ dirt pile. The one that’s a climb-to-the-top-of-the-mountain and a track for toy racecars and bicycles. A place to dig. When one Grand was five years old, she screamed, “Mama, Lucy’s in my dirt!” Her dirt, where she was digging a hole to pour water, another best gift. Hide a few treasures, shiny trinkets or seashells or colorful rocks, and watch a kid dig. And then there’s pretend food. During my childhood, I patted enough mud pies to feed the multitudes.
  4. Water. A creek. A swimming pool. A bucket of water. Kids like water. How many have been entertained all afternoon with a pail full of water and an old paintbrush? Paint a concrete driveway and watch it dry, and then paint it again. A bucket or sink full of water, a funnel, pouring pitchers, and empty bowls – all a toddler needs to be happy.
  5. Balloon. “Blow it up, Gran! Let’s play balloons!” my four-year-old Grand said to me. Hide the balloon. Take turns hitting it to keep it up in the air. Try to toss it like a ball. Sit on it, but don’t burst it. Make it stick to the wall. Punch it, but not Gran who is holding it. Blow up another and let it swish thru the air. Blow it up, tie a knot, prick it with a pin.

So eight birthdays and eight boxes filled with sticks, balloons, and two zip lock bags: one filled with dirt, the other with water. My shopping is finished.

But I won’t because my Grands have sticks, boxes, dirt, water, and balloons and they play with them daily. That’s how I know these are the 5 Best Toys of All Time – at least for my Grands.


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