Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A taxonomy of toys

Mommy’s least favorite toys

Train tracks. They take up my entire foyer, because to have a satisfying track with lots of bridges and tunnels and forks would only fit on a train table if the train table were the size of my entire foyer. The kids can now mostly reassemble the track when it breaks, but for a long time, they couldn’t. Bonus: When you step on a wooden train track on a tile or hardwood floor in the dark, it slides. And you fall. And you break pieces. The first pieces to break are usually the expensive ones. But the kids play super sweetly together on it, so I don’t put it away. So upon entering my house, the VERY FIRST thing you will probably see is an elaborate wooden train track universe.

Polly Pockets. Can any child young enough to enjoy Polly Pockets actually change Polly’s outfit herself? No? I didn’t think so. I can barely do it without ripping the clothes and swearing a bit. And the tiny tiny shoes. Ugh. But the shoes are the best parts of some of the outfits, so I can’t bring myself to throw them away. Much as I can’t bring myself to get rid of unnecessary shoes in my own closet. I have shoe issues.

Slot cars. These are awesome. For 5 seconds until the car runs off the track and the kid can’t line it back up properly.

Anything requiring cables that hook to your TV set. Not only does Mommy not really know where to hook that stuff, but my kids are in an “I do it myself” stage. No good will come of this.

Megabloks road/ramp toys. Marketed with all of their favorite characters (Dora roller coaster, Thomas the train ramp universe), these are from the devil. They’re not compatible with Legos or Duplos, and they are inferior structurally. Of course, the ramps and roller coasters only work when assembled, and they have to be assembled in very specific ways. There never seem to be quite enough pieces. You need a manual to know how the thing is supposed to go together. Oh, and they fall apart easily. This is a bad combination. Tragically, children love them, so if you buy them, do yourself a favor and memorize the instructions, because you’ll be assembling it over and over.

Pick-up sticks. I got my kids some Disney “game packs” as one of their rewards for filling up their marble jars (our behavior modification system-du-jour). Disney Princess and Cars the Movie. Awesome. The dominoes are fantastic. Much higher quality than I would expect from a <$10 item. It also came with card games (Go Fish, Crazy 8’s, etc.) that I thought would be too advanced for them, but they’re perfect. But pick-up sticks? Really? I can barely play this game. These are basically just annoying plastic detritus that I have to pick up. Hence the name, I guess.

Any toy that makes noise and does not turn itself off.

Any toy that makes noise.

Kids’ least favorite toys

Sock monkeys. They played with these for 5 minutes when they first got them and have not touched them since. But I love sock monkeys, so I have not been able to get rid of them yet.

Any Polly Pocket outfit that is not a princess ball gown. If I’m going to be dressing and undressing that little plastic ho, I want to put her in the 70’s retro bell-bottomed cat suit, or the 60’s mod mini-dress. Come on, look how awesome that is. Oh, it’s not pink, sparkly, and floor length. Right. My bad.

Any toy that I bring to occupy them in restaurants or waiting rooms.

Any similar or even identical toy I offer to help with a toy dispute. That toy, even if identical to the toy being disputed, is wrong in every way.

Kids’ favorite toys

Cars the Movie cars. They’re always a little more expensive than you want them to be, but for $5-6, my son can be made happy beyond compare. I should be dreading the new movie merch, but I’m not. Those little cars bring him so much joy, and at least I won’t be scouring ebay and paying too much for the discontinued cars from the first movie anymore.

Princess Polly Pockets. These are the only ones that get any real play in my house. Save yourself the trouble and just get the Disney Princess pack.

Teeny-tiny Mario characters. Teeny-tiny squinkies. Teeny-tiny Toy Story characters. You get the idea. The smaller, the better. My kids are not quite four, and I have lost about a year of my life searching my house for items that are less than an inch long.

Any toy I have put away to sell at a yard sale or give to my nephew. If found, these will go suddenly and immediately into daily circulation.

A small cord lock that fell off the drawstring on a pair of Daddy’s shorts. A scrap of old dry cleaning receipt with a Tinkerbell sticker on it. Throw away nothing.

Mommy’s favorite toys

Hullabaloo. This is seriously the least annoying kids’ game ever. Many a Candyland request has been circumvented by suggesting we play Hullabaloo instead.

Aquadoodle and magnadoodle. Art without mess=happy mommy.

Matchbox car environments. The princess palace that folds down from full-sized play house to small suitcase. Pretty much any large pleasing toy that folds small enough to fit in the 15X15” Ikea Expedit shelf system cubbies.

Sock monkeys. I know. There’s something wrong with me. Why do I love sock monkeys so much? I don’t know.


  1. Wait until your boy is old enough for Transformers. I have sat with those directions and pulled, prodded and flipped more robot pieces than I care to admit. I am the only one in the house who can actually Transform them. Or I used to be. Boy is getting better at it; and of course now he's losing interest.

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  3. All I want for my children is to widen their imagination when it comes to reality. That's why I let them play what they want to play, as long as it's good for them.

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