Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Ridiculously Long Toy Edition

Alison and I have recently been on a toy-buying binge. We somehow got it into our heads that Zoe’s childhood would not only be lacking without certain toys, but that she could possibly become developmentally stunted. However, being the cheapskates that we are we would not buy any of these ‘necessary’ toys new, so whenever we had a moment we would do a quick search of Craigslist. Unfortunately the items we were determined to find are hot items (reinforcing our belief that Zoe would suffer without them). Our binge was initially triggered by a couple of lucky finds at yard sales, a small, slightly wobbly trampoline that Zoe uses almost daily (and has only fallen off of once) that cost us only ten dollars, and a three dollar, sturdy metal toy stroller that replaced the cheap ten dollar one that she played with constantly (and broke when she sat in it). It was almost like a challenge; let’s find the toys Zoe needs as cheap as possible. First on the list was a water table. A water table, for those non-parents out there, is a basically a large basin on legs, and almost exclusively plastic. The non-parent might ask why not just fill a bucket with water? Because, it is the design itself--as is true of most children’s toys--that aids in their development. The large, molded slab of plastic actually makes your child smarter. After an exhaustive search Alison found a posting for a water table in the final seconds before we rushed out the door to pick up our sister-in-law from the airport (Alison was scanning Craigslist as she nursed Calder). It had been put out on the sidewalk, and it was FREE! We had to make a decision; a free water table or our sister-in-law. Long story short, we now have a water table, and have been heartened to see our little girl make daily trips out to the yard to frolic (or whatever one does with ones hands) in the water.

Next on our list was a small kitchen. All of Zoe’s friends have one, and Zoe will play at them for hours (or at least twenty minutes) at a stretch. Any toy that she will play with by herself is worth its weight in living room real estate. We automatically eliminated the plastic models that inundate Craigslist, and can be found for peanuts.* What we wanted was a tasteful, wooden model, and better still, a kitchen that came loaded with all the paraphernalia that is required in a toy kitchen (small pots and pans, plastic food, miniature jars of condiments and boxes of pantry staples, etc.). These kitchens can run into the hundreds of dollars when new, and we came to the conclusion, after many hours of searching, that a decent kitchen in good condition--and not painted some garish color--was going to cost us. But no matter how diligent we were we would often be the third of fourth caller. Also, for some reason everyone that is selling one of these kitchens lives an hour away from us. There’s probably some hidden Berkeley tax on these kiddy kitchens. Finally we were the first caller, so after Zoe’s swim class the entire family piled into the car and we made the trip to Marin County (we crossed a toll bridge, so you know it was a schlep getting there), were I was able to keenly negotiate the price of a three-year old Pottery Barn Kids kitchen down to only ninety dollars, and that low price included all the small pots and pans, plastic food, miniature jars of condiments and boxes of pantry staples that a child needs to make a fake gourmet meal.

There are some small signs that Zoe is a little overwhelmed with her recent bounty. We considered saving some of these recent finds for a birthday or holiday gift, but worried that she might quickly outgrow these items, but also we would have needed to seal off a room just to store them. There is the risk that she will not have any lasting interest in any of these things, and she will instead just ask us to read to her, as she did before we bought her all this stuff. We cannot let this happen. We must remain diligent in our search of Craigslist for good, cheap stuff, and steadfast in our efforts to fill every usable inch of space in our living room with crap developmental toys.

* My use of peanuts in the clichéd currency reference is an intentional, paradoxical reference, since peanuts are almost taboo in the universe of children these days.

No comments:

Post a Comment