Thursday, January 26, 2017

Toy Curation: Three Reasons to Buy Vintage or Handmade Toys



Vintage toy tea set purchased for Christmas

I'm moving in slow motion these days, or at least my to-do list is. 

We are starting to get into a routine or rhythm, but other than breastfeeding and child management, very little on my to-dos is getting done.  The former is made more complicated by Ingy's quadruple frenectomy (lip, tongue, and two cheek ties) two weeks ago, but she is finally, finally starting to sort out her new mouth.

In any event, all of this means that we have finally sorted through all of the toys and belongings acquired at Christmas and settled them into our home. Our haul this year was rather massive given that it seems no one thought me capable of doing Christmas with a one-week-old (little did they know that I had finished by mid-October...) and lovingly showered us in a deluge of toys and gifts. 

The size of our home and its storage spaces + my OCD-ness for cleanliness (thanks mom!) meant having to get rid of some old toys to make way for new, re-arranging, and contemplating again just what we want to fill this small little home with.  

When we moved into this 1765 home from our London flat just over a year ago, we essentially had to build our belongings from scratch. We determined that we wouldn't bring anything into this home unless it "sparked joy" (see The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up) for one or more of us.  What sparks joy for me are things that are unique - usually antique, vintage, second hand, or handmade items.  

This applies - especially so - to our toy collection. Here are three reasons I carefully curate our toys:

1) Their stories. Second hand, vintage/antique, and handmade toys tell stories - by the hands of other children or in the hands of its creator.  A toy has had a life before being played with by your child, and if they have survived long enough to have a second life, they are likely well-made and can be passed down from one child to the next and possibly even to another generation.  

the vintage candy dispenser acquired at the dump, wooden blocks at John Lewis in London ; antique wooden train set at a local flea market 

Airplane lamp stand found at Savers in Manchester. Rewired and fitted with a new shade.

2) It's good for the planet. Here in the sticks of New England, we are more connected to our trash and have a good sense of how much our homes operate as large garbage processors because we must clean, sort, and transport our trash and recyclables to the dump rather than having it magically disappear in large plastic receptacles. By buying vintage/antique and handmade toys that will last for a while longer, I know I am saving toys from becoming trash (sometimes literally in their last hopes at the dump) and preventing a future contribution to the large pile of plastic toys residing at our dump or a landfill somewhere. 


In London, rather than buying a new London bus for 50 pounds sterling or Noah's ark, I bought them both second hand - one on eBay, the other at my favorite antiques market, Kempton
This doll is one of my new favorite acquisitions - it belonged to my niece and is one of the rare non-scary dolls I have come across, and came complete with a wardrobe! Thanks, Aunt G!
possibly my favorite vintage toys in our collection are these die-cast metal tractor-trailers from Grandpa Toler - we know whose hands played with these 65 years ago!

other Kempton purchases - the Abicus and child's chair.  Desk purchased at an epicycle store here in Concord. I made the bunting out of an old ottoman cover. Vintage apple crates from an antique dealer at Camden Market in London.


3) Tidyness. I have to look at the toys - all the time.  They clutter the house on a consistent basis.  Since I know this, I try to find toys that double as decor and blend in with furniture and adult fixtures.  Much more pleasant on the eye, and helps the house to feel clean even if the toys are everywhere.

The toys below are always left out and in our family/keeping room; I love looking at them.  





And these hand-made toys are kept out on display in the nursery. 




There is a place for plastic toys in our house - the bath or as outside toys. I have big stuff - swings and a basketball hoop as well as a rollercoaster(!) - in the barn playspace, all acquired second hand; big trucks belong on the back porch, mostly acquired from loved ones. New toys given the children have a special grace period before they find their place in one of these three spots.  There are a few exceptions - the vintage dump truck I got at a garage sale, classics like Mr. Potato head (though it resides out of sight), the ever-popular magna-tiles from Grandma Updike, and Gideon's set of five mini construction vehicles he got from a neighbor. 

If we must acquire a toy or play thing and a vintage or handmade version just won't do, I will get non-plasterboard wooden, metal, or cloth toys. The metal and wood gardening set pictured above next to the vintage walker is case in point. Or some die-cast metal cars Gideon loves (don't get me started on matchbox or monster trucks - they somehow proliferate and are the bane of my existence). Or the Schleich animals are pretty enough to make the cut. Melissa and Doug make a few nice wooden things - like the beautiful train set G's grandparents got him last year, some of their educational shape and letter sets, and the kids (and I) are currently in love with their wooden foodstuff - but other, smaller manufacturers consistently make higher quality, more beautiful wooden toys (like Grimm's - especially their building blocks!).  

I have a feeling fighting the good (toy) fight will continue for quite a while. Here's hoping it is a battle I can win!

_____________
Small Wonders 

* G, pensive: "I was thinking we could get my tractor." 
* "Stop teasing Esther." "I wasn't teasing her, I was teasing you." "I don't want to be teased." "I'm just going to tease myself, then."
* Ingy was crying in Lance's arms, and G told him "She wants to eat your booby."
* G asked our new au pair: "Does your mom have bones?"
* "G, go back upstairs and lie down for your nap - it's not over." "We need to talk about that."
* After reading a particularly inspired passage of scripture, I asked Gideon, "Bud, do you feel anything" (thinking he had felt the Spirit) "Yes - green trees and buses."
* listening to our au pair speak to her family, G said, "She's Spanish-ing"
* G is telling stories - long and involved.  They often are connected with "So then what happened is..." He will require you to sit and listen to him. He is also becoming adept in the art of persuasion, and will litter his arguments with things like "The problem is" and "we can't do that," "I dream about [whatever it is]" and his most creative/disturbing line, "I prayed about [ ], and Heavenly Father said [ ]"!
* E has given our au pair, Valeria, a new name, "Ami" - the latter thankfully likes it!
* E comforting Ingy while crying, "Sh-sh-sh." [Patting her] "I'm here." E holding Ingy or coming up to her while not crying will invariably find her feet, tickle her, and say "Tickle tickle!"
* E will indicate she needs individualized attention while I'm feeding or caring for Ingy by saying "Me-me-me!", come hold my hand, or say in her baby voice, "I need some privacy with you!"
* E put a spoon on her nipple during dinnertime and said, "this is my booby pump."
* Ingy is nearly six weeks and started smiling at two, caught on video. She smiles and coos and interacts on a regular basis, and makes it hard to keep her or anyone else on schedule.  She is sleeping 6-8 hours at night and is basically on a schedule. She is certainly our best behaved child at the moment! 

Playing "Zootrain" while getting her hair done has become a morning staple for this little girl.


Helping Esther over the ice from the play ground


Can't believe she's over a month old now!


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