I was reminded yesterday of one of the many habits of babies that I've known for years, and, yet, somehow always manage to forget: they can turn anything into a toy - and not only turn it into a toy, but turn it into the best toy ever.
Last night, I got a flashlight out of storage. Amazingly, my two year olds had never seen a flashlight. They were intrigued. More than intrigued. In fact, I have rarely seen anything delight and confuse them more. (Thank you, Home Depot, for selling flashlights in a two-pack.)
"Light! Light on! Flash... light. Flashlight! Ball! Ball? Light? Light!"
With each exclamation, they excitedly flicked their wrists and ran toward the light they had been casting on the wall, only the light was no longer there.
Confused, they would stop and look for it. Oh! There it is, on the ceiling. They would start talking about it enthusiastically, waving their arms around for emphasis.
Wait a minute! Where did that light-ball go? It was just here!
We're now on day two of this. It's clear the flashlights are going to provide our family with hours of tantrum free, hilarious, entertainment and all for the price of four D batteries. This is a steal. Christmas has come early.
This is a great lesson to be reminded of at Christmas time. Sure, my kids get enjoyment out of their more expensive toys. A year later, they're still playing with the talking Elmo from time to time. They'll dance along to their music-maker if I point them in that direction. They make sure to pour out all of their blocks on the floor several times a day, although it's been months since they've shown any interest in actually building with them. It's not as if these toys go to waste.
But in this economy, parents might do well to remember that a cardboard box and a cooking spoon can be a drum. Blankets and a flashlight can be a fort. Wiggle a string, and you're taming a snake. The toddler's imagination is the true Christmas coupon. With a little make believe, a $20 Christmas has the potential to be even more fun than a $2,000 Christmas.