A Simple Toy

Today’s guest post comes from Laura of A Pug in the Kitchen.

While I was pregnant with my son, I spent a lot of time reading.  I read everything I could get my hands on concerning pregnancy, child-rearing, education, green lifestyles, the list was endless.  While I was reading, I picked up a few books on the marketing game that is played against parents.  Even though I read about it and knew what I was going to be up against, I am honestly surprised at how there are days when I feel sidelined by my choice to lead a simpler life. 


I’ve never considered myself to be tremendously materialistic or trendy.  The only reason why I bought a new pair of shoes this past fall was because the pair I was wearing at the time fell apart.  While I was walking.  I’m not concerned about appearing to have it all together.  It doesn’t bother me in the least bit to shop at garage sales and thrift stores.  I have no problem making my own meals and clipping coupons.  These things don’t bother me.  My husband works a typical day and I pick up a few hours a week tutoring math.  We garden, use cloth diapers, cook from scratch and recycle.  There aren’t grand vacations on our calendars and we don’t have the newest cars.  We spend time together as a family as much as we can and our ideal weekend is one that has no obligations so that we can stay at home, moving with the flow of the day.

When I registered for my baby shower, I was shocked at all the absurd products on the market geared toward making my life as a new mother “easier”.  Since I don’t like clutter and chaos, I eschewed the battery operated snot sucker for a tissue.  We bought 2 dozen cloth diapers and a laundry basket.  I didn’t have one bottle in the house since I planned to breastfeed until he was at least 1.  The toys were cloth or wood.  I felt good about my choices until my friend registered for her shower.  Then I started to compare.  This being the inherit downfall of society, I fell prey to its allure and started to feel bad for my son.

For the first time ever, I felt bad that my son’s toys were wooden and didn’t have bells and whistles as I watched the other baby play with an obnoxious toy that wouldn’t stop asking us to come out and play.  As our children got older, the toys got more involved and flashier.  I felt worse whenever a play date would end.  All this time, I had been going under the premise that I had survived just fine without fancy toys and had learned to role play and imagine without having all sorts of prompts and mechanized voices telling me what to do.  Suddenly, I wondered if my own growth had been stunted by not having a play laptop.

Being a simple parent isn’t what society is geared toward these days and if you choose to be simple in your lifestyle, people act as though you are depriving your children of all the joy life has to offer.  Of course, post-partum hormones play a big role in these feelings, but it is also due in part to whether or not you have found support.  I am gathering my community of mothers around me who understand why I’ve made my choices and encourage me.  We compare our diaper results and trade recipes for dinner.  Together we ooh and ahh over locally crafted puzzles.  And they helped me to see that my child is healthy and happy without all the hoopla.  Now, I realize when I come home from an overstimulating play date that he’s been stressed, not that he’s missing the toys.  Watching his face light up when he sees his favorite dump truck makes me realize that when it comes down to it, he’d rather be at home with me, playing with his puzzles or building with his blocks or chasing the dogs around the house. 

It’s taken me a while to reconcile both sides of the toy store.  Being a parent for me is now about finding balance.  We have lots of cloth and wooden toys, but we also have Tonka trucks made out of plastic.  My boy loves trucks; wooden, metal, plastic, and recycled plastic.  None of them do anything; they are powered by imagination and little hands guiding them down the path of their dreams.  So in the end, my home-birthed, cloth-diapered, local-foods-eating son is learning how to use the incredible mind he was gifted with and how to make his own fun instead of waiting for a toy to flash its pretty lights.  For me, this is a simple success.

Laura is an advocate of things green, natural and even a little crunchy after leaving her career as a Toxicology researcher when it became evident to her what was really going on behind all the pretty labels.  Today, she can be found in the garden, in the kitchen, playing with her 1 year old son, crafting or stealing a few moments to read.  Feeding people real, local and simple food that isn’t deceptively healthy is her passion.  Check out Laura’s blog A Pug in the Kitchen or follow her on twitter @Beansprouthair.  


Filed under Living from Scratch, parenting, Sustainable Living

5 responses to “A Simple Toy

  1. I did this too and managed to avoid most of the junk by not getting any myself and attempting to guide everyone else. We have ended up with a fair amount of junk but most of it only lasts a few days or weeks or was just left without batteries 🙂 Results so far are two very artistic and imaginative boys who do know how to think for themselves. Eldest is now a teenager and has a very enquiring mind. He is good at both science and art with english and music not far behind. Youngest wants to join the royal ballet and be an artist. He can also pick up any musical instrument and just play it although his real instrument is the cello. I don’t push anything and these choices are their own (although I do make them do the occasional bit of practice).

    The proof is in the pudding – go for it 🙂

    viv in nz

  2. Thanks so much for this post as we begin to enter the toy era! My favorite toys were dolls, blocks and my dollhouse, all of which allow for lots of creativity!

    Ed and I have pledged to be video game free, no tv’s in bedrooms, and “go play outside!” parents. We’ll see how that goes!

  3. leslie

    My kids have a very limited supply of toys. Compared to their friends anyway. Most of what they have consists of art supplies and building classics, like leggos, blocks, and train tracks. When other kids come over they ask where the rest of our toys are. I always say…”This is all we need to be happy.” My kids really do not feel deprived, and actually seem less overwhelmed with what to do. They are creative and play outside for the majority of most days. We also only allow our children TV/Computer/Video games on weekends only.

    My kids are happier than most. They have learned how to interact and entertain themselves without screens. We also believe in activity limiting. Lots of nights at home together with homecooked meals and NO running from activity to activity. I think unstructured time is important!!! It helps you learn to be content with a simple life:)

  4. Terry aka Goatldi

    Don’t fret. You are not alone! Nor are you the first generation of mother’s to go down this path.
    The children will be fine. Our son had a nursery painted in bright orange, yellow and red to stimulate his mind. He had cloth diapers, best toys were wooden spoons, empty oatmeal boxes with a non-threatening something in them to add some bang and top adhered tightly. Hours of pleasure there with the noise. He nursed until a month before his sister arrived, he was 32 months old. And I could go on.
    My point? He is now 36 years, not months. With two girls of his own, a lovely wife and his mother proudly adds a vice-principal in a middle school. Highly respected by his peers, a community leader and strong member of his family’s church youth ministry team. His sister did well also.
    So all the bells and whistles? Not worth a damn without family, good solid values and growing up with what is right. Relax, enjoy them. They grow up and out way too fast!

  5. Thank you for your wonderful comments… made me tear up a little! Liam actually has about 1/3 of his toy options available right now as we are getting ready to move and things are making their way over to the new house. He’s having a wonderful time playing the piano, taking apart all the puzzles and building with the blocks. There isn’t a lot to do, but he’s so busy doing things with his mind that he doesn’t seem to even notice! Since he’s walking now, things are a little more interesting to him that previously went unnoticed, so I’m looking forward to taking him to the zoo this Friday. I’m realizing more and more that childhood is what you make of it. He’s happy because we’re happy and enjoying every moment of him!

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