My granddaughter pulled toys out of my toy cupboard. She turned to her mother and commented, “I think Grandma has more toys than we do.”
Her mother just laughed. She knew who the real winner was, but Caroline is right. I do have a lot of toys. I like toys. I like to see little kids playing with building toys, gadgety toys, educational toys, dolls, trucks, blocks and child-sized tools.
Our visits to grandchildren’s homes begin with me pulling out perennial favorites and my most recent acquisitions from yard sales.
Earlier this year, we visited Sam in St. Louis. He met me at the door with a big smile and asked, “Where are your toys?”
I stuttered some explanation about the van being too full. The next time I went to visit I made sure I pulled out the remote control vehicles and asked my husband to be sure they all worked. He played with the funny car, replaced batteries in the choo choo engine and – after a lengthy tinkering session – deemed the bulldozer useable but lacking features from years of wear.
It has been a popular toy with little boys for a long time. Henry, 20 months, treated it exactly as Sam did two years ago. He smiled when the little machine roared, pushed the button that made it shout, “Caterpillar power!” and the proceeded to drag it around like a pull toy.
The boys fought over the yellow bulldozer, but only Sam showed any interest in the 12-inch-high anatomy man. I found it last summer and added it to my shelf of interesting stuff. I packed it as our science lesson of the day for our recent visit. Sam loved it. He immediately dismantled the man, took out his heart and lungs, the arm and leg bones and then the thumb-sized skull which held a marble-sized plastic brain.
“This is the first time I have ever seen a brain,” he said over and over. He opened the skull, put the brain in and out and closed it up again and again. I re-assembled Anatomy Man three or four times during our day and a half visit. Anatomy Man spilled his guts across the floor when Sam had him join a super hero adventure figure in play time. The three had a series of adventures that only Sam could explain. Sam wanted Anatomy Man to go home with him. His dad and I agreed that Anatomy Man could return to visit Sam another time.
The funny car succumbed to the rigors of chubby little hands grabbing its antennae one time too many. We tucked it away until we returned home and my husband had time and tools to re-attach it.
The other toys that time included books and a couple of building kits – too complicated for the baby, but just right for a first grader and pre-school student. Sophie and her scissors quickly discovered a stack of card-sized, colorful scrapbooking papers. As soon as she finished nailing together a little wooden shelf and cupboard she wanted to paste the paper on it.
We helped her carefully trace and cut out matching patterns for the back and sides. We helped her carefully align and glue it into place. We thought it was done. She selected another colorful page and began cutting out little squares to add anywhere and everywhere on the tiny shelf. We smiled and handed her the glue bottle. I did not tell her that I had saved five or six times as many pages at home for future visits.
A week later her cousin Caroline did about the same thing. She asked for stickers to use on a page of typing paper. I pulled out the pages of stickers I had received in fundraising envelopes, inside calendars and advertisements. She gloated over the pile of stickers. She even had enough to share them with her big brother and little sister. They used a few. She covered her entire sheet top to bottom and side to side with stickers. She loved it so much that she made a special trip out to the family car to make sure that page of used stickers went home with her.
While she peeled and stuck stickers, I pulled out a small, simple wood building kit for her big brother, Elijah. I offered to help with the instructions and building.
He shrugged, “I build Lego kits. I know how to follow instructions.” And he did. All I did was hold the pieces steady while he pounded. He pronounced it fit to take home.
They had their fun. I had mine as I watched them play with all my toys and put everything back in the cupboard for their next visit.