My step-sister, Tamara Robbins Griffith wrote this really great article about choosing a mobile for her son's room. In it she quotes me saying that I will be saving toys for my grandchildren. Yes, my kids are 5, 3 and 2! So it is completely crazy that I am thinking about saving toys for my grandkids, but it is true.
My kids are getting older and they are growing out of a lot of their baby toys and when I am going through the toys, I put them into categories - Craigslist, for friends, junk/recycling, donation or keep for some future unknown purpose (my grandkids pile). The things that most often end up on Craiglist or for friends are the big plastic toys - the exersaucer, the lightup learning table, the bouncy chair, etc.. The things that end up in the junk/recycling pile are the cheap little toys they never played with, the toys that broke because they were poorly made and the toys that have parts missing, or quiet often chewed up by the dog. The donation pile is always the biggest, with mounds of unloved stuffed animals (I'm sure some other kids will love them) and piles of books and clothing. But the pile I love best are the things I am keeping for my grandkids. So far in this collection, are all my favourite items of clothing, handmade baby blankets from when they were newborns and a couple of very loved books. I think I have a bit of a complex about it, as my mom only kept two dresses from when I was a baby - a blue polka-dotted dress that I wore for my first birthday pictures and a white silky dress with red details that I wore when I was two. When I was a kid I loved those dresses and always dreamed about having a girl one day and putting my baby dresses on her. Of course, by the time I did have a girl, and asked my mom to find me the dresses, they were no where to be found. My mom didn't have the same attachment to the dresses as I did, apparently.
So perhaps my attachment to saving special items stems from that, but I think there is a lot of nostalgia in playing with something that your parents played with and in knowing a toy is so well made that it will last for generations. Today, in my daughters preschool class, I was working with her on a wood puzzle. You could tell it was old, but I was shocked that the puzzle was dated 1974! It is almost 40 years old and other than a very outdated picture of a boy in a dentist chair and a few scratches on in, you would never know. To my daughter, the puzzle was just a great as the brand new one of the firefighter we did next.
I like to think that a lot of toys I sell at Giving Gifts have that heirloom quality to them. Toys like Anamalz and PlanToys and even the ImagiPlay toys and Blabla dolls are all toys that will last my kids years and years, unlike the exersaucer which was indispensable for 8 months and never played with again (slightly broken, it was passed on to a friend). My son has had his PlanToys Road and Rail set for 4 years and I'm sure he'll play with it for another 4 at least and when he is done setting up the train track for the millionth time, it is definitely going in the pile of items to keep and save as it will be just as great in 40 years as it is now. Anamalz are another toy that I plan to keep forever. They encourage unlimited imaginative play and we've used them in so many different settings over the years. From turning their barn into a classroom - the elephant is usually the teacher - to having a wild dance party on the treehouse. If they can think of it we've done it with Anamalz. They are toys that all my kids can play with at the same time that I know will look just as perfect in 40 years even if they are played with on a daily basis. They may even make it to my great-grandkids!
We were at Science World a couple of weeks ago and I read that the average kid in North America has 600 toys! With three kids, that would mean 1800 toys in our house! I'm not ready to count all the toys we have, but I am betting it is far less than that. When I buy toys, I really try to look for quality over quantity and toys that are environmentally friendly, ethically made, encourage imaginative play and will last for years. Of course, I do appreciate my step-sisters great eye for design, so toys that look beautiful too, are even better!
PS - If you are interested in what type of mobile I chose for my kids. It was a Tiny Love mobile with lights and sound that I really believed would make my kids smarter. Of course, part of it broke soon after we got it and the rest of it broke soon after our third baby stopped using it. The music box part of the mobile was very well used and if my kids turn out to have an appreciation for Bach and Beethoven it is most likely linked to that music box!