Just Give ‘Em a Box

Why is it that no matter how much you spend on a toy for a kid when they are little, ultimately, it’s the box they decide to play with?! Sure they love the toy inside, but that has only one use….what it’s intended for. But the box…well, that can be a castle, a spaceship, a great way to torture the cats, a great hiding place, or if it’s big enough, a fantastic way to roll down a flight of stairs and not get hurt. Believe me, I’ve tried it many times. Always to my mom’s tune of “Frannie, don’t do that!”

What is it about that damn box? It sets the imagination free. Yeah, that’s a good explanation if you’re a child therapist. Logically, it would be great for the parents if they didn’t pay so much for the toy. There are no batteries, no instructions, and no “assembly required” that drives parents into a midnight Christmas frenzy as they desperately try to put the children’s toys together. I am convinced the toys are designed by some pretty angry elves with a hatred for grown ups. I can hear the elfin sneers now, “Yeah, tell them to attach D1 to D3 only with a size 4.3 inch screw. Then leave out the screw. Hee Hee.” Not that it matters, because there are always extra parts left over anyway. You have to have a degree in engineering to decipher some of the instructions. But a box…. it’s just there…Kind of mystic, like Yoda.

But kids don’t stick just to boxes. They are attracted to any peripheral item that comes with the actual purchase. The white foam things that come in the box to make sure the item doesn’t break, makes great fake snow and decorates your carpet rather nicely and of course, chokes the vacuum. The bubble wrap meant to protect can be a quick action machine gun, or better yet, a booby trap for an unsuspecting parent walking into a dark bathroom in the middle of the night. All to the child’s mischievous delight.

I remember one time when my son Spencer, was two. We were guests at the taping of the television show “Best Talk in Town.” Al Lewis, “grampa” from the TV series the monsters, was there and took a liking to Spencer, who was dressed to the nines in a baby tuxedo. The producers decided to show the two of them on the air together.

They handed Spencer a bouquet of brightly colored balloons all shapes and sizes. He was amused for about a minute. Then something caught his eye, the tangle of thread holding the balloons in place. Like a teenage kid trying to figure out the Rubric cube, he pulled, tugged, bit, and finally drooled on that string for nearly an hour. To hell with the balloons, they were mere nuisances holding up the strings.

Kids are great, they find amusement in things we discard or just take for granted. It’s like seeing the unicorn in the clouds. Adults look for bigger and better toys. Damnit, I NEED that camcorder that fits inside a thimble, even if my hand held one is perfectly fine.

Age doesn’t seem to change it. Recently, Spencer now ten, and I made a trip rafting in the Grand Canyon. Sure, he thought the helicopter ride was cool, the canyons awesome, the rapids wild and fun. But do you know what two things kept him most amused? Chasing lizards, which they weren’t all too thrilled about and mentally were calling for their big brother Godzilla to get this kid off his back, and playing in the Colorado mud. He looked like a walking tide commercial. He tried to get me to slobber some on my face, claiming it was good for my skin…nice try.

I thought, how cool is this. I spend close to two thousand dollars and all I really needed was a pet store lizard and some wet dirt!!! Maybe throw in a pool size rubber raft and I was set. Anyway, I learned my lesson.

Whatever I decide to buy my kid in the future, will come just as it is. No box, no string, no bubble wrap, no Styrofoam safety things, just the toy. But oh, the disappointment. Can I deprive my child from driving me nuts with the extras? Oh heck, let me save myself the trouble, I’ll keep the toy myself and just give em the box! That’s all he seems to want anyway.