There is a cornucopia of toys in our house. A profusion of play things. A smorgasbord of activities. Or, as I usually refer to them, a Whole Heap of Plastic Crap. Okay, not all of them are plastic, we do have some wooden toys. These are the items that gather dust on the shelves, alarmingly staying put where they are meant to be whilst the rest of the detritus masquerading as young children’s entertainment eddies and swirls around the house being slowly obliterated by two boys, who appear to have two modes of play: destruction and destruction10.
Which is why we haven’t really bothered buying many toys for our youngest. There was simply no more room left on the shelves and despite ‘sort toys’ being on the to-do list for approximately the last 18 months, we have just not got round to it. I did walk into the play room about five months ago with every intention of doing it, looked at the cupboard whose door won’t actually shut due to the immense amount of stuff crammed in, surveyed the shelves, (well, I surveyed what was on the shelves, I can’t actually see the shelves, they are totally buried in crap), sighed heavily and walked out again. Opportunities to get rid of toys are remote: firstly, it requires no children – specifically, no four year olds. Otherwise he suddenly develops a born-again fascination with a toy designed for a three month old and clutches it to his chest to protect it from the evil Charity Bag. Once, I did manage to fill a bag with toys to give to charity when he was otherwise diverted, and stupidly left it by the front door. An hour later, all that was left was an empty carrier bag and a trail of toy parts.
B does have some baby toys – a few from us, more from friends and family – but they are small in number and, it appears, in attraction. Why play with a plastic phone that has weak flashing lights and tinny voices coming out of it, when you can chew the helmet off your big brother’s Play Mobil fire man? Why roll a musical ball along the floor when you can trap your small fingers in a pull-back-and-go stunt car?
But even these ridiculously age-inappropriate toys hold only the dullest of allure for my one year old. Whether it was the paltry selection of toys on offer when he first realised that there was more to life than lying on your back, shitting at will and drinking whatever was waved in front of his nose (God, that sounds like Heaven…) or his general obtuseness, I have no idea. But what B really loves are not toys at all. His favourite play things are as follows:
The washing machine. Not only does it have plenty of silver buttons, all of which make loud, annoying beeps, there is a huge turny-knob-thing just crying out to be turned and turned and turned and turned. And if he can just get his leg high enough, there seems to be a fantastic opportunity to play Wall of Death with the shiniest of shiny silver drums.
The dishwasher. Oh my god, the excitement of it all. Just like a washing machine, except more lights. And sometimes, a really fascinating whirring sound.
The radiator knobs. B can sit for ages, turning these. They often come off in his hand, never to be seen again. I dread the next time the heating comes on: we will either freeze or melt, depending on just how far he managed to turn them.
The DVD player. In the “old days” when there were video players, parents would bemoan the fact that kids would post toast into the slot. No more of that malarkey, you pesky kids, we have DVD players now. Hah. But, B thinks, eyeing up the DVD player as I have forgotten to shut the child-locked cabinet door, I am going to get this small piece of Lego into that thin slot even if it kills me.
The bottom drawer. We have a set of drawers in our kitchen. Inevitably, there is therefore, a bottom drawer, otherwise known as the Home for the Lost, Abandoned or Unidentified. It’s like the immigration department for general household shit: stuff comes to my attention that I don’t know where it’s from, or where it should be going to, or if, indeed, it has any rights at all to be in the house, so in the bottom drawer it goes, for processing and sorting at some later, unspecified, probably-never, later date. Chargers that have been separated from the appliance to which they once gave life, a single candle stick, a spare piece of venetian blind, a glass place mat that weighs roughly the same as a breeze block, three egg cosies, and a whole load of other shit reside within. Until, of course, B opens the drawer. In which case, every single item bar the place mat is removed, licked, chewed and thrown over his shoulder, roughly as many times as I care to replace everything back into said bottom drawer. I think I may just be done with it, and give him a bin to put everything in the next time.
The toilet. Just thinking about this makes me gag. That ceramic Mecca calls B from wherever he is in the house, and off he crawls at pace, transfixed by the siren-like call of the bowl. He has a sixth sense on whether the bathroom door has been left open and the moment my back is turned, he heads off to hang out with the loo. What he likes most is grasping the seat and rubbing it with his hands. And more often than not, one of the two other males in the house have left the seat up, so B can really get down and dirty, sliding his hands around the toilet rim. You know, into all those places in which the bacteria have created major conurbations safe in the knowledge that the lazy bint who cleans the loo never really gets the brush to. I cannot even bear to think about the germs that he collects on these little sojourns, and when I consider the times that I probably haven’t caught him and washed his hands, I feel slightly nauseous about how many of those pooey germs were then sucked from his fingers into his mouth. Ugh. You’d think it would make me clean the toilet three times a day, wouldn’t you? You’d think, huh? Instead, I am running him up a pair of cleaning mittens, so that at least his toilet-rubbing sessions are a little more productive.
The cooker. Bloody hell, it’s like an adventure playground, this one. Who needs sodding Thomas Land when you can give yourself an adrenaline rush by swinging from the handle of the grill door with gay abandon? Or make the oven light go on and off like some crazy grease-laden disco? Or turn the knobs on the hob until one falls off? The designers at Fisher Price could labour for years to come up with a toy this diverting, but they would fail. The cooker truly is the king of entertainment and not only that, sometimes, fish fingers even appear out of it. Bloody hell fire.
But I may have come up with a solution. Peel the branding labels from some of his toys, and stick them on to the appliances. Because you can bet your bottom dollar the moment that he sees the cooker was made by Duplo, or the DVD player was manufactured by Brio, he would lose interest right there and go and find a rusty screw and an angry anaconda to play with.