This weekend we ventured to the famous toy store, Toys R Us, and all I felt was regret.
Like many shops these days, it’s closing down and everything is reduced. Friends told us they’d got some amazing deals, so as we were passing Jay was eager to snap up a bargain for Nova. We don’t really buy him toys, so it was going to be a special treat.
As we walked up and down the aisles I felt a pang of nostalgia. When I was little I’d spend ages flipping through the Christmas brochure circling everything I liked. And for the ultimate treat I was taken to the huge store. I’d run around giddy with excitement, oohing and ahhing at all the toys, unaware of the price tags and just keen to get my hands on the toys I’d seen on TV.
This week I almost felt sad this part of my childhood would no longer exist, but then I tried to rack my brains about what those toys were and I could not remember. I know my parents spent tonnes of money on toys, but all I could muster was a vague recollection of a peg doll craft kit.
Like I used to, Nova ran up and down the aisles excitedly darting from toy to toy. Every now and then he’d pick one up and carry it with him, implying we would be taking it home. But then he’d get to a bigger toy or a shinier one and he’d drop the toy he’d been carrying in an instant. It was forgotten and no longer important to him.
By the time we got to the till he was only carrying one thing – a small, cheap plastic dinosaur. Despite Jay offering to buy one of the other ‘bigger and better’ half price toys Nova had grabbed at some point he wasn’t interested and politely said ‘no thank you’. The checkout girl couldn’t find a tag on the dinosaur and told us it had fallen out of a bigger set. She looked at Nova’s big smile and kindly told him he could keep the dinosaur for free.
And so Mr T-Rex (who is actually a triceratops) came home with us. He’s been played with for a grand total of about two minutes.
Once out of the shop he was handed to me as soon as Nova clocked the giant puddles. He wanted to go ‘splish, splash, splosh’ and then despite me offering Mr T-Rex to him he chose instead to play jumping and balancing on a small wall. In the car the snacks won his attention and back home he wanted to play dinosaurs, but where he was the big dinosaur chasing mummy and daddy dinosaur.
Travel Trumps Toys
And so that is why travel will always trump toys in our house. It’s so easy to get distracted by the adverts and what we’re told our kids like, but toys just aren’t that important to us. Nova has a small collection, mostly which have been brought for him and don’t get me wrong, he still plays with them. However, I seriously doubt that his childhood memories are going to be about toys.
I’m not a mean mama. He has access to loads of toys at nursery and soft play centres. I quite like that when we go to other people’s houses he’s excited about the toys. Previously I’ve made the mistake of thinking that he really loves his friend’s toy, buying him his own, for him to then not really bother with it. I think it’s all about the novelty. When it’s new it’s exciting, so seeing a toy when he goes somewhere else works for us. There’s no point spending money on our own one, especially as kids grow out of phases so quickly.
When we go away I pack a few toys, but they’re usually shunned in favour of playing with airplane seat flaps, racing the luggage carousel, jumping on the bed, pressing lift buttons and so on. Kit is more interested in eating my slippers, playing with wrapping paper and trying to stand up than all of the hand-me down toys I spread out on the floor. You get the idea.
When I look back on my childhood I remember splashing in the pool on holiday, collecting conkers and playing in the park. My favourite memories aren’t about things, but about happy, smiley moments. Parent or no parent, I’d rather spend my money on experiences; creating memories to last a lifetime. If Nova and Kit’s favourite memories are going to be similar to mine, then I’m going to do what makes me smile; travel.
Sure, travelling with my kids when they’re so young is perhaps more for me at the moment but I hope they’ll look back at the photos and videos with a fuzzy memory of happiness. I’ve seen more of Nova’s smiles and heard more of his laughs and funny questions during holidays. Whether we’re at home or away he prefers to run about, jump off everything, poke bugs and generally soak up life. I’m all for the moment, so I’m not really a saver so if I’m not going to spend my hard earned money on toys, you bet I’m going to spend it on adventures with my mini-explorers.
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