As creepy as it might sound to some, I really wish I knew more children.
I would love kids of my own one day, but I’m not in any kind of baby-making relationship at the moment, so that’s still a way’s off. And I could go on about the magic of Christmas yadda-yadda and how children are the real joy. But I won’t. I just want an excuse to go toy shopping more often.
Every year, we have a gathering with my mum’s best friends family, which now includes her four grandchildren. Every year, I panic slightly because I don’t know these kids super-well (even though I adore them) and worry that, oh no, maybe Sage doesn’t wander around telling people she’s really a fairy anymore or that Nathan cares not a whit for dinosaurs. But every year, I walk into Mrs Tiggy Winkle’s or Playvalue and just gawk at all the cool shit and wish I could do it more often.
Often times, the ‘cool shit’ is just new flavours of LEGO (not all of which I approve of – our lego was 90% rectangular AND WE LIKED IT) or Playmobil (I bought the Playmobil HAZMAT worker for a grown-up friend a few years ago). This year? I discovered Melissa & Doug.
I had not really heard of them before, being neither a parent nor a daytime tv viewer, but I guess they’re a big deal? And that I should have known that they are super fun crafty people? Even in the two small shelves I saw, there was tons of cool shit. Then, after I got to work post-shopping, I made the mistake of hitting their website.
Searching their website is slightly reminiscent of our old-school version of web shopping, circling what we wanted in the Sears Wishbook so that my grandparents could order and fetch them at the Sears pick-up office in their small town. Seriously, I nearly got a crayon to draw on my monitor.
Now this gentleman has done reviews of many of the 1980s Wish Books, for which I am grateful. They are a major trip down memory lane, though he is a bit more boyish than I was, seeing as I was a sometimes girly-girl. The Omnibot on that page, though, was my Biggest Wish EVER, but all I got was a Dustbot (a couple of years later) instead, which kinda kept my desk a little cleaner. I did have a Pound Puppy, though. And I was always fascinated by the rock tumbler, but I think my mum thought/knew they were a scam.
As fancy as the stuff in the Sears catalogue was (sometimes), the other thing I got to waxing poetic (a little) about were the cheaper, ‘retro’ toys at Tiggy Winkle’s. I very nearly bought Adam (aged 9) a set of balsa wood airplane gliders and/or some Silly Putty. Cheap gifts, but ones that would have got a helluva lot of use in our house.
They also had Mad Libs, cheap penny whistles, and ‘invisible ink’ maze books of the kind that older relatives used to buy at drug stores in hopes of keeping the car quiet for 10 damned minutes of a epic road trip. Sadly no Woolly Willies (heh), though.
Even though I was buying presents for ‘modern’ kids of an entirely different generation, I have a feeling that these kids (aged 3, 6, 6, and 9 – the six-year-olds are cousins, not twins) would have had a lot of fun with any of these things.
Three of the kids I was buying for live in a very creative house where video games and tv are limited. Their front room is used by a Waldorf school. So for all the kids, I try to get things that are a bit more cerebral, hence the Melissa & Doug gawking (and purchasing for some). But their parents remember how cool toys were when we were kids and wouldn’t have minded anything we bought as long as it wasn’t electronically, beepily noisy (musical instruments are A-OK – Sage, aged 6, plays the harmonica in her dad’s band sometimes). So maybe next year, I won’t go for the more educational options (the crystal-growing kit – also retro, also something I never got – or the puzzle or the paint-your-own-treasure-box). Maybe a Slinky, or a Jacob’s ladder, or a Moon Sand* will do.
(*I would never actually buy Moon Sand for the children of parents I LIKED. That stuff is pure evil and was quickly deemed an OUTSIDE ONLY toy after it got into the shag-pile carpet on more than one occasion. See also: Play-Doh.)