The Joy of Simple Toys

Each year at this time I’m always amazed by all the new, ever-more-sophisticated toys I see advertised. Sometimes I find myself wondering if maybe they might be just a little too…complicated.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against sophisticated toys…there may even be a few that I wouldn’t mind checking out. But all this advertising got me thinking about the childhood toys that evoke my favorite memories. I remember a few store-bought toys over the years that I really loved. Building blocks and Erector Sets come to mind and of course there were Lincoln Logs, toy cars and trucks…the usual boy-type toys.

But my strongest childhood memories don’t come from a toy store. Instead, ordinary household objects (oh, say, for example, an empty cardboard box) were what provided me with hours of imaginative entertainment. All my fondest and most vivid memories of playtime are of the times when I imagined my own adventures using simple toys for my props.

galaxian boxOne of the best things about kids is their endless capacity for imagination and the joy they get out of it. And it’s truly amazing to watch how they can play with the simplest thing and make it become anything they want. That was certainly the case with me. Imagination is a crucial skill: it allows us to see beyond what’s in front of us and envisage what could be…it’s a skill that serves us well as we become problem-solving adults. The seeds of that ability are sown in imaginative childhood play.

To all of my blog readers: I’d love to hear your memories about your favorite toy or activity as a child. Please don’t be shy.

Here’s something I wrote years ago to pay homage to what I think of as one of the greatest of all simple toys…the cardboard box.

The Box

The hours seemed like minutes
in a world that I had made.
My adventures without limits
outdid the video arcade.

As captain of my own ship,
I could go from place to place.
At speeds that baffled science,
I explored uncharted space.

What destination will I choose?
My crew is standing by.
The computer says we’re ready,
and the ship is good to fly.

So I fired up the engines,
about to start my ride,
when my mother interrupted,
“Take that filthy box outside!”


  1. Lynne Holder says:

    When I was a child I used to try and figure out how to catch a bird under a box propped up on a stick with a string attached to it. My next door neighbor and I would spend hours trying to catch the bird….Of course, the bird always escaped. I didn’t know what I was going to do with the bird once I caught it, but that problem solved itself!

    Then when I grew up and became a falconer I trapped and trained a wild raptor. Who knew?

  2. Don M. Winn says:

    How fun is that! I used to do the same thing but in trying to catch a rabbit—a box held up on one side by a stick with a string attached and a carrot for bait. Never caught a rabbit though…but neither did Elmer Fudd, which should have told me something. I guess I watched too many Looney Tunes when I was a kid. 🙂

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