Toys and Entertainment

I knew from the start that I’d like Ewan to have as little toys as possible because of space constraints. With toys cluttering floor space at home, how are we to live? On top of that, I was not ready to part with the furniture we had painstakingly chosen to fit the theme of our new house. 
More importantly, I do not wish for him to own 40% of the world’s toys like 3% of the American children. Statistics extracted from People summary on toy consumption read that America has 3.1% of the world’s children but they buy 40% of the world’s toys. I have also discovered that the average number of toys a child receives a year is 70. Isn’t that obscene?
Today, Ewan takes over the entire living room with his toys of which only 5 were bought by us – a piano, a ukelele, a shape sorter, a Lettersaurus and a discovery box. I kept to my convictions but daddy  believed that Ewan’s getting bored and needs more. So we opened all his Christmas and birthday presents to make up to the current mess at home. Thank you friends and family for all your gifts cause they really are in good use. Ewan plays with them daily and the toys haven’t tire him out totally. Still, I know he needs less than what he now owned to learn the many critical skills in life. Unfortunately, our society is much wealthier today and we have the spending power to buy (and buy and buy). Just 2 hours ago, we strolled through Toys “R” Us and saw a toy we thought Ewan would really love – Sand and Water table. I was tempted to cave in but we said No. Even if he should have a new toy, there should be an occasion to receive one. That’s two in a year – Christmas and Birthday!
Have you been inspired by Gabriele Galimberti‘s recent project on Toy Stories? I certainly have and kept going back to his pictures and applaud them with awe. This Italian photographer spent 18 months travelling 58 countries photographing children with their toys. He uncovered a common trait amongst all these children and that is, they all want to play. However, one difference he spotted between the richer ones and the poorer ones were:
“The richest children were more possessive. At the beginning, they wouldn’t want me to touch their toys, and I would need more time before they would let me play with them”

“In poorer countries, it was much easier. Even if they only had two or three toys, they didn’t really care. In Africa, the kids would mostly play with their friends outside.”
Isn’t it a strange finding? I would have thought the poorer children will be the possessive ones because those are their only toy they will ever own. Even as children, we tend to become too attached to our material possessions when we live in abundance. Toy Stories remind us of a study in 2011 reported by Gallup on “Who are the most positive people on earth?”. They are surprisingly not the rich nor stable. Did you feel well-rested yesterday? Were you treated with respect all day yesterday? Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday? Panama, Paraguay and El Salvador responded the highest number of “Yes” to all the emotions asked about. Do click on the link about where Singaporeans stand.
Let us take a look at some of my favourite portraits by Gabriele Balimberti.
Maudy, of Kalulushi, Zambia, found an abandoned box of sunglasses on the street and those became her favorite toy.

Tangwizi, of Keekorok, Kenya, lives in a Maasai village made of dung and straw. His bed consists of rags thrown together on the ground, and at night, he sleeps with a stuffed monkey.

Stella, of Montecchio, Italy, loves her dolls and frilly dresses.
Watcharapon, Bangkok, Thailand, loves motorbikes. His father has a scooter and every morning puts his helmet before leaving the house. He loves to imitate his father.
Noel, of Dallas, wants to be a pilot. His favourite activity is putting his Lego figurines on a Boeing jet his father gave him and letting them fly.

Galimberti shared that all these children were heavily influenced by their parents. A Latvian mother who drove a taxi for a living showered her son with miniature cars; the Italian farmer whose daughter proudly displayed her plastic rakes, hoes and spades. Again, at Toys “R” Us, we walked passed a basketful of balls and daddy got so excited, he wanted to buy them al – basketball, football, soccer ball, what have you balls! My reply was simple. All these balls serve the same purpose i.e. to bounce and kick. Isn’t one sufficient to satisfy Ewan’s needs? *hahah* but oh no… we buy toys to satisfy our own needs. The toys a child have at home reveal the hopes and ambitions of those who bought them in the first place. Don’t you agree? All these pointed me only to one conclusion. That I hope my son not grow up taking things for granted because he knows he can have anything he asks for. I’d like him to appreciate every gift he receives – toys or not. We are not able to stop buying toys totally but gratefulness is key. In the meantime, we will be evicting the toys he has outgrown out of our living room and I aim to downsize his indoor play area (and have his play time moved outdoors).

To walk the talk, we encouraged more craft time at home this week. I have been putting off messy play times because I dread the cleaning up but that is the lousiest excuse ever! When I was setting up the paint session this morning in the balcony, Ewan looked in excitement and kept pleading to get off his high chair to see what the commotion’s about outside. When he saw me laying the play mat out, lined it with newspaper and shaking the paint, he reached out for the paintbrush and refused to let it go.

Edible finger paint isn’t the best kind of paint to keep an art piece because it is made of food products and they oxidises. Which meant it didn’t stay purple for too long.

Clean slate of white

Squeeze out the purple!
Happy with Mess
Mum & Baby
Yesterday, father and son spent some time drawing with crayons. We did some circular scribbles, bass & trebles, quavers and staff. Daddy is always worrying about his table getting drawn on, his shirt getting coloured and everything dirty. I fondly recall how daddy stood 2 metres away from Ewan’s cake smash at his first birthday celebration. My friends couldn’t stop laughing at Meyer’s perpetual chant, “Oh nO no No no no no…. it’s so messy. Ohhhh my goodness, mummy’s crazy! Aiiiyoooooo Ewan’s so dirty!”
So, knowing how much daddy didn’t like stains, our tools are all washable and edible. Don’t be so paranoid ok daddy? Growing up with such explorations are precious!

Washable Crayolas
Concentrating on his drawings

The beginning of a song
Dad & Baby
Such activities will open our children up to love books, music, colouring and painting. A love for art will help them better appreciate beauty, emotions and communication in their world. Their social skills will also heightened when they interact with other children and adults. With too many toys, their attention span will also be affected because the choices are far too large. The list is long including learning to be become less selfish and take greater care of things. 
I have successfully kept Ewan away from the television and i-products as day-fillers or babysitters. Recently, I introduced Hi-5 on TV and he enjoyed Tim & his friends. He can hardly sit still and stare at the screen for more than 2 minutes, which I am happy to learn. He will reach out for his toys or books during that 30 minute screen time and come back to the show when an interesting song comes up. I am also heartened that he’d scream at me to read his books over turning on the television for a cartoon. I was told, “Let Ewan watch TV la for goodness sake! He can learn ABCs and 123s from TV you know”. Seriously? I kept quiet because I would prefer to be the one educating him about 123s rather than a screen. Games on iPhones and iPads are still out of bounds until further notice. 
It is the toughest job on earth to come up with activities we can do together. Sometimes, I just want to laze and do absolutely nothing with him. But that’s not my call. He is growing up so fast, I may not be able to satisfy his play needs by his second birthday. If he gets bored, me trying to pacify him from his tears is more difficult than going to Happy Willow! 
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