Back in January, to help you save time sorting through all the reviews and gift ideas, I wrote about the 5 Best Toys of All Time. (If you haven’t read it yet, go ahead. I’ll wait. The rest of this post won’t make as much sense otherwise.)
Since then, I’ve had a lot of people chime in about what should have been on the list, or what else I should add if the list got longer, and I had various reasons for narrowing it down to the five I picked.
Some of the contenders:
Bubble Wrap was actually in the running — I had even picked out a photo to use — but I ended up leaving it out. The biggest problem with Bubble Wrap (which, don’t get me wrong, is perhaps still up there in the top 10 or so) is that it’s a single-use item. Once it’s popped, it loses most of its charm.
Rock has been suggested, and is also a terrific toy, but can also do quite a bit more damage than most of the others I ended up keeping. As a parent, I have to admit that Stick and String both have safety issues, but Rock isn’t something to be taken, er, lightly.
Ball, which is related to Rock, also had quite a few fans … but it just wasn’t really in keeping with the rest of the list. You’ll notice that none of the items on the list are actually things that are packaged and sold as toys. That’s the whole point. Sure, Ball is a quintessential toy, but I was really looking for things your kids turn into toys rather than things that start off as toys. You can make a Ball out of String, but you can’t really make a String out of Ball. So I dropped it.
One item came up again and again in the comments: Tape. I have to admit, I should have thought of it. My kids love playing with tape so much that I got them their own tape dispenser (though they still take mine). It’s certainly another toy that has many uses, and comes in small (Scotch) or large (duct) versions. My kids are pretty attached to it. Still, compared to the other items on the list, tape isn’t cheap, and is generally non-recyclable.
But after pondering it for a while over the past week, I think I’ve made my decision about #6 on the list of Best Toys of All Time…
That’s right. Water is another classic. Heck, it’s older than Dirt, by some accounts, and I mentioned already that combining the two gives you Mud, another great toy. It’s a necessary accessory for many other toys, like water guns, swimming pools, and sprinklers (yes, that’s a toy, too). Parents usually like to treat it as an outdoor toy, though the indoor version can be fun with the optional Tub. And though it’s often thought of as a summer toy, there are winter versions available, too: Snow and Ice (may not be available in all locations).
Of course, just as with screen time, you need to carefully manage your child’s exposure to Water: they’ll literally die without it, but too much of it can be deadly as well. It may seem odd that I’m recommending a toy that has such inherent dangers, but chances are you already have Water and (I hope) have been instructed in its uses.
Wired: Need some fun? Just add — you guessed it — Water.
Tired: Ironically, you use it to clean, but it needs to be cleaned up.
But here’s one more thing about Water, and this is where I get serious. Sure, we love to play in it. We have entire theme parks built around it, and we think of it as free or cheap because, hey, we can turn on a tap and there it is. But all around the world, there are people who are literally dying of thirst, people who simply can’t imagine why we would put out a sprinkler and spray water on the ground so that our kids can run around in it. We can’t solve all of the world’s problems, but it turns out that drilling wells and providing safe, clean water for people around the world doesn’t take as much money as you might think — as much money as, say, we First-Worlders spend during the holidays every year.
I love the fact that you’re here, reading GeekDad, and that hopefully you got some laughs from my 5 Best Toys list. It’s nice when you click on my Amazon links and buy stuff and I get a bit of commission. But when I thought about what I could do with all these people who found my article (aside from marketing my own pre-packaged, GeekDad-approved line of Sticks and String), this is what I came up with: buy one less toy/gizmo/gadget this year and substitute one of my 5 Best Toys. And then spend the money you saved to buy the 6th Best Toy of All Time … you know, for kids!
There are a bunch of organizations to choose from, so here’s a short list:
- Charity: Water
- Living Water International
- Healing Waters
- The H2O Project
- Water for People
- Water Charity
- Lifewater International
- Engineers Without Borders