As a youngish adult, I am at a point in my life where my friends are starting families of their own. Looking at the crazes that seem to sweep the country in toys each year (Furby, Elmo, Pokemon) has got me thinking back to my own childhood and what toys I valued most. I can remember the crazes of my younger days–Garbage Pail Kids, GI Joe, and Cabbage Patch Kids (mom actually was PUSHED by a deranged parent desperate to get one for her daughter). It seems to me that then, and probably now, “fad” toys were good for about two weeks–once the coveted item had been seen by all of your envious friends, it sat at the bottom of the toy chest.
There were some toys that provided constant joy to me–my Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars, all of my construction toys and blocks, but the one thing I always enjoyed most cost nothing and wasn’t a toy at all.
I am speaking of the ever-popular cardboard box. Nothing inspired more hours of fun than a large appliance box, obtained free from the shipping dock of the local furniture store. Placed on the front lawn, with hastily cut windows and doors, the box became an instant fort. I remember one particularly dry summer when Mom carted home two large refrigerator boxes. Placed end-to-end, the “fort” seemed huge to my younger sister and myself. The windows were created by cutting I-shaped slits in the corrugated material, allowing them to be folded back (instant shutters). This particular fort even had the luxury of skylights, and with a box of Crayola markers sis and I created instant “wallpaper.”
My tip to parents is this: nothing will entertain your children longer than their own imaginations. Create a stimulating environment for them by supplying materials–give them carte blanche to make a mess. Years from now, the extra hours spent cleaning up after them won’t be remembered (I guarantee mom remembers the fun we had in our cardboard fort much better than she remembers how we dug up her gladiolas to create our own garden for it). Enjoy your children, push up your sleeves and jump right in there with them, you might have fun rediscovering your own inner child!