“Toys are the patronizing tools of the oppressor.”

March 14, 2013

Notable Stats

Ignored Micro-Minute  (IMM) – The time it takes for you to realize that the basket full of toys you put in the kitchen to keep your one-year old occupied is totally useless. She prefers outlets.

Empty Box Swap Rate (EBSR) – The rate by which real toys lose their luster for the boxes they came in.

A toy is only as good as the box it came in. This isn’t a marketing comment in support of sexy, magnetic packaging, this is the stark and cold reality that there is a good chance your one year old will like the box way better than what came in it. Don’t be upset.

Of course there is more to it. Our one year old daughter knows that we want her to play with the toy. She is scoffing at the idea that she owes someone the courtesy of playing with it for at least a day or two. But her rebellion comes because she resents that we want her to play with this toy in part because we don’t want her to be doing something else. That we are using toys so she will not climb the oven or run to the every open door and window to begin her “escape.” Sure, we want her to be happy. We want her to explore, just not when I am frying a rasher of bacon and/or negotiating with our two pre-schoolers that are jockeying for who will crack the next egg.

Toys are apparently tools of oppression to our one year old. She usually just walks around them after a cursory assessment of what is in the toy basket. Every morning, she hopes that we added something really interesting, like a knife or a live electrical wire. Every day she looks for what could cause hospitalization and when she doesn’t find it, she looks for danger elsewhere. A box is still better than the toy itself, she rationalizes.

But what is the harm in her playing with the box anyway? It keeps her busy, which is our goal. If she can spend a solid 20 minutes on a pizza box then mission accomplished. Not really. We usually end up picking up shards of paper or cardboard especially after she realizes that she cannot convert these shards into hush money for the dogs. Once you are convinced that barking is a dog’s way of secretly revealing your plot to eat the microwave, I guess bribes do cross your mind.

One year old’s know what is interesting by what we try and hide from them. They develop a genuine distrust in our agenda to steer them to things that don’t take off four layers of skin by just grazing against it. They wonder why we keep closing that same door that leads to a staircase so steep that Mt. Everest sent it a tweet to me saying “I am impressed by the steepness of your stairs.” It is now to the point that whenever we put her in the kitchen (which has now been secretly converted into a bomb shelter that encloses her in it), she is mad. And whenever she hears the click of a gate, she goes ballistic. Jail her? How dare us do so! We have thwarted her plan to run off to nowhere in particular with a fork in her hand. How insensitive of us!

We thought toys would do the trick. How can she resist the 18 color, music wheel that has two signing heads? We hoped she would sit in plastic bliss and not move for two hours. We can get online, cook, call Mom, and even go outside and let the dogs watch her and when we returned, she would be in the same spot. Not a chance. She wants to do what we are doing or what her brother and sister are doing. I can appreciate her drive.

So next time you have a birthday party for a toddler and are shopping for a present, next time you slip around the corner to buy a gift for a one year old, consider the box it comes in. You can probably save money and time by buying just the box and giving the toy to charity.

- Doug Glanville

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