Parents, I have a tip for you —
You may just want to give up on any of your “grand plans” to have your children play with “toys” or even “educational” activities.
Because it’s not going to work.
Oh, h-e-double hockey sticks no. Your children are not amateurs. They will not succumb to playing with anything you actually want them to. Currently, I have an entire level of my house — an entire level, I tell you — devoted solely to my children’s playthings.
And do you think they use that level? That completely furnished and comfortable playroom that I spent hours obsessing over, mostly when I was pregnant and nesting and insisted my husband put together a brand-new shelving unit with perfectly coordinated chevron baskets that I was sure would be the catalyst to them spending mom-free hours playing down there?
Again, h-e- double hockey sticks no.
Many times I have actually witnessed at least one or all of my children, standing at the top of the stairs, wailing things like, “Why do you make us play in the basement??! How can you be so mean?!!” This, in response to my suggestion that perhaps they could play in the level of the house solely dedicated to everything on earth a child could possibly want, complete with an electronic keyboard, karaoke machine, trampoline, basketball hoop, and not one, but two play tents and kitchen sets. (For the record: all gifts or garage sale purchases.)
In witnessing such dramatics unfolding, I have learned that yes, it is possible for a mother’s eyes to actually roll out of her head and also that any money spent furnishing our home with children’s “playthings” would probably have been better spent purchasing the following 10 things that I have actually caught my children playing with instead.
1. Toilet paper
Children, especially around the age of 1, will have endless hours of fun unrolling tubes of toilet paper. Bonus points: Put the roll just out of your child’s reach, increasing the appeal. Kids love a challenge.
2. Feminine products
My girls enjoy adorning themselves in a variety of maxi-pads. Panty liners become pretend band-aids and also make fabulous designs when stuck to the wall. And as for those jumbo-sized tampons that I haven’t got the chance to use because I keep popping kids out left and right? They take center stage as excellent microphones, pretend lipstick, or magic wands.
3. Cell phones
The newer, fancier, and more expensive, the better. I believe my youngest daughter was about two days old when she started whining for me to hand over my cell phone whilst I selfishly tried to scroll Instagram during my 40th nursing session of the hour with her. Oh, and then there was the time my two-year-old tried to turn the pages of his actual, printed book by “swiping” the edge with his finger. Good lord, what is the world coming to??
4. Printers, fax machines, and other electronic devices
The buttons! The noises! The shiny white paper! If it’s important to you, it’s important for them … to break it.
5. Dirty shoes
Youngsters love to play with mom and dad’s shoes. Some people’s kids even enjoy licking the bottoms of shoes. But not mine, of course. That would be disgusting.
6. Permanent markers
I suggest you avoid the rush now and designate a wall in your home just for the use of permanent markers —but make sure you convince your kids that the wall is “off-limits” first. That’ll really entice those little rascals.
7. Leather couches
Do not, I repeat, do not fall prey to that common rookie mistake of buying trampolines or inflatable bouncy toys of any kind for your children. All they need is the nicest leather couch that money can buy. The urge to jump on every cushion, arm rest, and invisible seam will be irresistible.
8. Your adult entree
They don’t want the kid meal. Mickey Mouse pancakes are an insult (albeit a delicious one). They want your dinner. Preferably eaten while sitting in your lap, effectively eliminating any chance of you consuming a morsel.
9. Electrical outlets
Even after four children, I still don’t see the appeal of these death traps to the smallest of human beings. Why on earth does every.single.baby, without fail, at the exact moment they figure out how to propel their impossibly chunky bodies forward, make a beeline straight to stick their fingers in a socket surging with electrical currents? What is the appeal? And how can we take the power and allure of the everyday electrical socket and use it for the betterment of mankind? How?
There is nothing more alluring to small children than the irresistible chewy pull of this common breath freshener. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I never let them have it or maybe it’s because they secretly think they are eating candy whenever they manage to procure it, but my children are obsessed with gum. Usually stolen from their grandmother’s cupboard, I find hordes of shiny foil wrappers hidden in their rooms like precious prized possessions.
Should the earth go to crap tomorrow, I’m fairly certain I could feed our world with the amount of contraband Winterfresh gum hiding away in my daughter’s secret cubby. Because they never actually eat the gum — it’s more about having it around, like a trusty, shiny friend that comforts you with the promise of whiter teeth. And when I don’t find packs of uneaten gum in their rooms, I can always be guaranteed to find it mangled up in their hair.
Take it from this seasoned mother of four. These are the true essentials of parenting.
You may even find your child to be talented enough to combine entertainment options, such as jumping on the couch while simultaneously coloring it with a permanent marker. Or shoving your cell phone into the printer and faxing it to China.
Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.