Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tools or Toys...

~Dad in his workshop making himself a new workbench~

My dad had a lot of great advice. I mentioned before his idea about "Grant Writing," in relation to kids and allowances, but another thing I learned from him was the art of giving gifts to kids. I remember it clearly--at that time I had 3 little boys and Dad and I were standing in his workshop. He was making something and I was holding some tools for him and I commented that he and Mom always gave such great gifts to the kids. At that time I was in a ladies Bible Study and that same week some of the moms were discussing how their kids got so much "toy junk" as gifts and they were lamenting it and wondering how they could curb the toys, limit the junk.

Dad said, "You have to give kids tools, not toys."

That was the advice. He didn't really elaborate--which if you knew my dad, you would be smiling because he generally elaborated on everything. Tools not Toys--actually, he didn't have time to elaborate because someone [with three boys six and under--it happened a lot] started crying in the house with Mom and I left Dad in his workshop to see what the trouble was. Then I was off to other things and the conversation never really got finished. But, when I was driving home that afternoon those words came back, "Tools not Toys."

It goes back to the thought that we are raising kids to be well adjusted, functioning adults that will one day hold jobs, have families and be responsible citizens. We just have our kids for a little while and during that time we are to prepare them to take their place in society. So they need to learn a lot along the way. They need to be molded and shaped and directed along the way--they need the tools, we need the tools, to get them there.

My Dad, way back when, was a history and shop teacher. And one thing he instilled in us from a young age is, "You have to have the right tool for the job." He would sometimes shake his head when he looked at my husband's tools in our early married life. Many times he would give us the correct tool for the job, or let us use his. I mean, you can not fix plumbing without a pipe wrench, or work with electricity without a volt tester.

The same is true with kids. What kids need are tools not toys. If folks could just get a handle on that, much of the junk found in the typical kid's section of most stores could be reduced by half or maybe even 90%. But, what is a tool? [Happy days in the sandbox]

Tools, in no particular order: Balls, blocks, dolls, flashlights, sand box, wagon, bike, swings, picnic table, paper and markers/crayons, legos, scissors, games, backpack, fishing pole, compass, knife [older child], mess kit, camping supplies, books, actual tools like a screwdriver and hammer, woodburning set, knitting or crochet or any kind of handwork, magnifying glass, leather craft, jump-rope, kid sized baking or cooking set, puzzles, kitchen set [play food and so on], a cash register and play money, paddle ball, a big empty box, capes and costumes, gardening items like a pail, shovel and so on...really most traditional toys. I consider Match Box type cars and most action figures tools too.

Toys, in no particular order: Anything that has batteries or makes noise that drives a mom crazy [anyone remember the Tooneyville Choo-Choo?], if it is meant for the child to watch it rather than interact with it, video games, computer games--even educational games can be toys if you are not careful, anything that is cheap plastic and will break easily, stuffed things that talk and entertain--really anything [Scotty, age three, he loved his Dr. Drew blocks] that is meant as an entertainment. I am sure if you and I went together to a big box store, we could find tons of toys that would fall in this category.

Now, I am not saying "NO TOYS EVER!" What I am saying is: Tools should be a child's main diet and toys should be like a dessert. Dessert is nice, but you only have occassionally, not at every meal.

Tools will encourage imagination, develop large and small muscles, and should get the child outside daily. Tools will stand the test of time, can usually be passed down from child to child in a family, and have a lot of play value.

So, the next time you need to give a gift to a child,remember my dad's words, "Tools not Toys." Thanks for advice Dad.

Take Care,

For some suggestions on how to do this, you might want to read my next post--how do I limit the toys I have?

For more of my Pre-School thoughts and suggestions:


  1. Your Dad sounds like my Dad. What wise men they are ;-)

  2. This is fantastic advice. I'd like to move more in this direction with my kids, but I wonder if you have any advice for how to handle/decrease the junk toys that the extended family tends to lavish upon us?

  3. Thanks Lori.
    I responded to your answer in my next blog post. Your question was so good I decided to another day exploring the possibilities on how to limit junk toys.