It’s here. Christmas, that wonderful time of year when toy manufacturers find out just how well their advertising dollars were spent, and parents have a chance to put their money where their hearts are.
While the Left complains about our consumer-oriented society, and looks for books to indoctrinate their three-year olds, I have a better idea.
How about buying toys that enrich children’s lives? It can be done. Not only can it be done, but in doing so, I can almost guarantee these items will be around, and still loved by next Christmas.
Over the course of raising three boys and six girls, I have developed a toy philosophy. A philosophy that has kept me from drowning in a sea of plastic with “made in China” stamped on its crest, and has given my children years of memories and are now serving a second generation.
Warning: The following advice, and recommendations contained therein, are politically incorrect—and may be a choking hazard for progressive parents of all ages.
Before we get started let’s set some ground rules, and look at this toy business from a different perspective.
Be careful not to choose toys solely for the “awe” factor. It’s a given that you want nothing more than to light up a child’s eyes Christmas morning. Few things are more fun that early in the morning than a child squealing with sheer delight. But what is more important is whether or not that child will enjoy it the rest of the year. Which brings me to the next point.
This is not about you. Beware of the trap of spoiling a child with items that it makes YOU feel good (or makes you look good) to buy. Items that are age inappropriate, such as the electric train set for the three year old. Or the video game he has been begging for, that every cool person in school has–but him.
Honestly my number 5 should be my number one. I dearly love Brio, the Brio that entertained my boys throughout their childhood, is now mine. I add to it every year, and my grandchildren now enjoy it.
I discovered Brio when my youngest boys were about three and five years old. They are two different types of boys; one loved trains, the other wanted to hammer anything that would hold still long enough for him to hit it.
Enter the world of Brio trains and Brio Mec
Brio, and its evil twin, Thomas Tank Engine have wooden tracks that fit together. Your little guy builds his own railroad. There are endless possibilities. There are bridges, tunnels, and a vast array of trains to choose from. If you stick to the wooden Brio, and steer clear of the Thomas stuff, the pieces become collector’s items over the years.
The trains are simple by today’s standards. You can find some with bells and whistles, lights and batteries, but the mainstay is their simple wooden trains that link together by magnets and are powered by chubby little hands.
Now, before you Google it, I have to warn you. These are not cheap toys- in any sense. It’s not uncommon to pay $20 for a single train, or $35 to $50 for an add-on piece. But, as I mentioned before, they last at least an entire childhood, we’re working on the next generation.
I have had children sneak trains out to the sandbox and get sand in the wheels, or break them. When I called the company and said it was no longer working, I got a sincere apology and was promptly sent a brand new replacement—at no charge.
Brio Mec is also made of Beech and Birch woods. It consists of wooden planks and blocks with holes for “nails” and “screws” for little boys to hammer and twist to their heart’s content.
There were many times my boy would see something on television, jump up and go to his Brio and try to build it. He made some amazing things. Once he even tried to build me a sewing machine with it. Granted a needle-less wooden machine was not very productive- but he did get the basics down with it—I was impressed. Brio Mec kept his wheels turning and his hands busy most of the time.
The bad news is that Brio Mec is now extremely hard to find. I can’t confirm it, but I have heard from two different toy storeowners that several years ago, Brio split its line. Brio Trains and Brio Mec made in Sweden stopped exporting to the U.S. The Thomas Train line, manufactured in China, was shipped to us while the rest now goes to Europe.
The good news is we live in a world of eBay and the Internet. Hunt it down and grab it up. Even the used stuff is well worth the investment. While your little guy is busy building the next greatest metro system, or a contraption for his hamster, you will be building his imagination.
Along the lines of imagination, nothing builds character in young boys like Chivalry. Every young man needs his own castle.