Pack lots of toys on the sleigh!
Burt's Eye View
It happens every year. Just when I finish the 17th addendum to my Christmas list, one of those horrible, awful, terrifying reports flutters onto my desk:
“Scientists say stop giving so many toys to kids.”
I am within full rights to ignore such nonsense. My 18th birthday is so far in my red bicycle’s rearview mirror that it can’t even hear me when I squeeze the ooga horn. Store clerks barely glance at my white beard before automatically ringing me up with the senior discount. I remember when a phone was something you used to talk to people, not to take their pictures.
In short, I haven’t been a kid — technically speaking — for a good four or five years. Or decades.
But I still fill my Christmas wish list with toys.
It’s a delicious habit nurtured in nostalgia. And the hope that the Jolly Ol’ Elf will stop mixing up my order with the socks on some boring guy’s list.
Back in the dark ages before online shopping, the U.S. postal carrier stuffed the Sears Wish Book into our mailbox every August or so. We boys studied that catalog with an intensity we never afforded our social studies and mathematics textbooks.
We burned through a half dozen notebooks writing and refining extensive lists of all the toys we absolutely needed. Plus, we added a few sturdy auxiliary toys in case rough cousin Brutus Bullwhip visited. We could distract him with, say, a Whizzzer to save our more delicate electric football game.
The Wish Book eventually faded away but I still beg for toys for Christmas. It works. Hardly a year goes by that I don’t get a Play-Doh set or a toy car. (I actually asked for a real Corvette, but the cast-metal version with doors that open is nice).
But I still get some boring guy’s socks.
Well, the other day while I sorted through toy fliers in the newspaper, I happened upon a report that researchers at the University of Toledo found that toddlers who were given fewer toys played more creatively and intensely than those plunked down in Santa’s sack.
The researchers placed 36 kids 18 and 30 months old in rooms with either four toys or 16 toys. The playthings varied, but the results were the same — kids with fewer toys played with them 108 percent longer, and their games were more sophisticated and imaginative.
The kids with bundles of joys tended to bounce from one thing to the next without settling into a good action-packed session.
Researchers claimed the results were obvious: Spare the toys and improve the kids.
Bah-humbug. I didn’t want to be improved. I wanted a G.I. Joe “The Shark’s Surprise” Adventure Team play set.
Listen, my dad used to give us pitchforks and shovels for Christmas. It didn’t make us want to spend more time in the barn cleaning out the cows.
But it is amazing the number of things you can build with baling twine, boards that have fallen off the corn crib, wheels from a broken cart, and the mysterious and greasy odds and ends found in the back of a tractor barn. Maybe Santa never brought my G.I. Joe Adventure Team set because the robot gorilla we built from a Farmall engine, a silage shooter and a hay baler with teeth that ate boring guys’ socks freaked out the reindeer.
My little boy research shows that it’s safer to give us kids lots of toys.
— Check Cole’s Christmas list at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.