Socks and Potatoes: Imaginary Toys Have
Come a Long Way
By Kris Decker
"When I was a kid, we didn't have fancy toys," my father declares as my
son Ryan plays with his Lego set. "In fact, I could play
for hours with just a stick and a piece of twine."
Ryan raises one eyebrow, then squints at his grandpa as if he's sprouted
wings and turned into Tinkerbell.
"Okay, Grandpa. Whatever you say," he mumbles.
"C'mon, Dad," I say. "A stick and a piece of twine?"
"That's right," says Dad. "And I was grateful to have them."
We all derive a certain pleasure from romanticizing the past. I entertain
fond memories of playing with my socks. (Yes, my socks, and no, my parents
never got me the help I needed.) Named "Chatta" and "Matta",
I'd spend 20 pre-bedtime minutes every night with my hands shoved inside
those stinky things just like all the other pioneer children. (My kids
think I'm that old.) Yet, had I a choice between polyester knee-highs
and a real Lambchop puppet, the latter would have won--hands down!
Let's face it: Imaginary play is more fun with the right props. As a
kid (when I wasn't playing with hosiery), I spent a fair amount of time
serving java from a toy coffee pot that thrilled me to no end. When I
tipped it, the liquid inside disappeared, though nothing came out the
spout. When I turned it right side up again, the beverage magically reappeared.
Amazing! I never tired of it, dispensing more fantasy cups of joe than
any overworked Starbucks employee.
Easy Bake Blender
Baskin Robbins Ice Cream Maker
Talking Chef Magic Kitchen
When I compare my generations' prehistoric playthings to kids' toys today,
I start to feel a little sorry for us. At age 6, when my brother wanted
to be Batman, he had to gallop around with a bath towel safety-pinned
to the back of his t-shirt. Sadly, he just looked as if he had serious
static cling issues.
Nowadays, authentic Superman, Spiderman and Incredible
Hulk costumes transform normal kids into a race of superhero clones
so realistic they'll make your grandmother's spider sense tingle. And
unlike the musty, droopy bridesmaids dresses my mother bequeathed to me,
little girls today can adorn themselves in couture so chic Courtney Love
looks dowdy by comparison. Even my state-of-the-art play kitchen set (circa
1962) -- constructed of durable, long-lasting pink and gray cardboard
-- couldn't compete with the Easy Bake Blender, Baskin Robbins
Ice Cream Maker and Talking Chef Magic Kitchen owned by my
7-year-old niece. Come to think of it, she has better appliances in her
bedroom than I have in my kitchen!
Maybe we were a little more resourceful 40 years ago, but what choice
did we have? We were the pre-plastics generation who had to make due with
cramming noses and googly eyes into real raw potatoes to create our Mr.
Potato Head. I can't think of a single Baby Boomer who wouldn't
have chucked that spud in an instant in exchange for the real, molded
plastic version that kids have today.
Or maybe I can. I think I just figured out what to give my dad for his
Writer's Bio: Kris Decker endures eternal
Minnesota winters by writing freelance articles, essays and features.
Her two kids (a rich source of poignant, humorous, and most happily, free
material) are the inspiration for much of her work focusing on the topics
of kids, parenting, families, individuality and creativity.