What do you think Koopa is doing in this picture? Please choose an answer that, in your opinion, best describes the situation:
(a) Waiting for potatoes to cook so that he can make mashed potatoes for dinner;
(b) Contemplating the idea of buying me a new potato masher for Mother’s day;
(c) Blowing on the potato masher to see if he can knock it down while also holding it pinned down to the table with his fingers;
(d) Playing elevator.
In the past a couple of years, I have seen him playing train with a dishwasher (“The next station is Bloor, Bloor station”, he would say while slowly guiding the dishwasher rack out), playing printer with a chair (giving me the lead role of a piece of paper), and pretending that street lights are monsters. And these are just some of the many amazing transformations I’ve witnessed in my budding parenting career. I never know what will turn into what the next moment. I just know that I can’t take anything for granted any more, or think that I know anything about anything based purely on my knowledge of the world acquired in the past 31 years.
These days everything turns into elevators: a French Press, an Aeropress, Koopa’s sunglasses, a can opener (?!?), windows, closets, shoeboxes, notebooks. You name it. If you can name it, I bet it can become an elevator.
Clearly, toy companies cater mostly to adults. You know, in those dire moments when you’re desperately trying to get your kid to do something/stop doing something, you’re not gonna say “If you’re a good boy, Santa will get you a new… potato masher, so you can play elevator with it!” That’s just not gonna work. That’s what toys are for. Other than that, I don’t see how they’re superior to can openers. Koopa has plenty of toys but he either turns them into elevators or simply prefers kitchen utensils.
Same probably goes for any kid that ever walked the face of earth. My soviet childhood didn’t provide me with many exciting toys, and you would think that because there wasn’t so much stuff back then, I’d be particularly attached to what I did have. The truth is that I hardly remember what they were. What pops to to mind when I think ‘toys’ and ‘play’ as a child, is stuff that you can’t buy in a toy store: princes and princesses, and kings and queens from my mother’s extensive button collection (I remember very clearly what colors my favorite buttons were, and what names I gave them), little plain paper people that my grandmother used to cut out of paper for me, and little blond dolls made of dandelions and sticks. These are the things I can’t imagine my childhood without. Not stuff that was occasionally bought in a store and wrapped in pretty boxes and put under a tree.
So why do we need to bombard our kids with stuff then? Also, why do we have such an urge to fill our own lives with as much stuff as possible? Perhaps, if people, growing up, didn’t lose their ability to turn potato mashers into elevators, the world would be a much healthier and happier place.