Cheap Toddler Entertainment

This is such a cliché story that everyone jokes about but I felt the need to share it regardless and continue my petition against the rampant consumerism plaguing families today (or perhaps I’m simply trying to justify my cheapness). My wife, currently on maternity leave with our second daughter Everly, has had her hands full with Miss Eliza, our 2 year old. The constant breastfeeding has given Eliza full run of the house for short spurts while my wife is handcuffed to the couch feeding Everly. We have been trying to find more and more ways to occupy the little monster, but she consumes activities with an insatiable appetite. She’s read piles and piles of books, has hand me down toys covering the living room, and puzzles and instruments galore. My mom, however, finally took pity on her lack of amusements (yeah right) and bought Eliza her own ‘kitchen set’, complete with dishes and food.

Eliza was elated with her special present, while I looked at it with an eye roll, knowing it was going to cost me a half-hour to assemble and was ultimately just another set of things for me to have to clean up on a 14 times per day rotation. Just what we need NANA! THANKS A LOT! All kidding aside, Eliza got a huge kick out of her special new play set and immediately started ‘cooking’ in her new kitchen and stuffing plastic food items into both my wife’s and my mouths whenever she could. Honestly, the plastic oatmeal has been shoved into my face so many times I almost took a bite last night just to avoid actually cooking.

My daughter may love her kitchen set, but it has ultimately taken a back seat to the real treasure received from Nana. The box the kitchen set came in. Like I said, everybody makes this joke around the holidays so this isn’t a unique story, but I find it interesting nonetheless. So the first evolution of the box (fairly large for a 2 year old) was just climbing in and out ‘hiding’. Next came using the box as a desk and getting to color directly on the box rather than on paper. Then daddy cut her out a window. Then daddy covered the whole box in pink construction paper. Then daddy colored doors and handles onto the flaps. Then daddy found an old key and keychain for her to lock and unlock her house. Then daddy got an illuminated light switch for her to take in. Then daddy shingled the roof and added siding. Then a doorbell. Venetian blinds. French doors. An indoor pool. Okay, so maybe not quite all of that, but Eliza does have a miniature playhouse in the living room now.

We can return to the central thesis here; Nana, bless her heart, went out and spent money on a nice play set for her (which, admittedly, she loves) when a stinking box served the same purpose. When everyone makes this joke around the holidays, they say something to the effect of “I don’t know why we get them presents, they like the wrapping paper/box/ribbon/bow more anyway.” Yet none of those people making these observations ceases buying ridiculous presents for imaginative little critters that 1) Forget 97% of all presents and who bought them and 2) Are completely satisfied with the celebration even without presents. I’m not trying to be preachy here, but I come from a family who takes its holidays very seriously. Always a party. Always presents. Always a bitter, cheap, and sarcastic curmudgeon (me) in the corner griping about it all.

We spoil our kids. Our nieces and nephews. Our neighbors’ kids. Our friends’ kids. So on and so on. Yet I write this as my daughter Eliza is on hour #2 spent inside her pink covered ‘house’ that cost about 84 cents to create. She knows that Nana got it for her and that daddy ‘built’ it, but the 84 cent box is on the same plane as the kitchen set. It doesn’t take much to entertain a 2 year old. Perhaps I should rephrase; it doesn’t take much quality to entertain a 2 year old…but quantity does tend to help those shorter attention spans. Regardless, I’m always one for backing down the presents and celebrations and focusing on experiences and just being present with children as much as possible…pat me on the back for my tremendous parental wisdom or smack me in the face for my desperate attempts to justify my cheapskate nature…it’s probably a mixture of both!

2 thoughts on “Cheap Toddler Entertainment

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  1. Kids and boxes definitely go hand in hand and someone could probably make millions just selling boxes to desperate parents. Growing up, I remember getting more boxes than toys, so I think at some point my parents just gave up on getting toys for us. Not to be cheap, but just so there wouldn’t be so many neglected toys lying around. Now, we have plastic storage boxes for our kids’ toys, but, of course, they have to have the boxes, so toys get everywhere. I think I need to rethink things…

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