In Praise of Tiny Toys

Kinsley has always adored playing with small parts. Sorting screws, bolts, and other hardware, picking up pebbles when we go for a walk, pouring dried beans, the smaller the pieces the better.

Both my kids love Legos and they play with them very differently. Owen builds vehicles, the wilder the better. I’ve been introduced to planes that fly in air and water, all terrain vehicles with detachable spaceships, and motorcycles that ignore gravity. With the same toy, Kinsley rarely puts together more than a dozen bricks. The individual pieces become characters and props in elaborate stories about family and friends. A cube can be a car, a baby, or a birthday cake.

Small pieces, for Kinsley, are placeholders in her stories. She overflows with ideas and they pour out at playtime. Her toys argue, act stubborn, get into mischief, and sort themselves out again. They throw parties, adopt kittens, and grocery shop. I’ve watched her create a vet’s office, celebrate weddings, teach school, and explore islands with nothing more than a collection of pipe cleaners and tiny wooden blocks.

There are times, looking at her play, that I find myself thinking that I should buy her something more to play with, maybe Playmobil people and animals with their realistic accessories, toys that match the stories she tells. She has a few animals and they get regular play, maybe she needs more variety? Fortunately, I catch myself in time. She clearly doesn’t need more toys. Her small parts are changeable and open ended.

She can tell any story she wants. Why would I limit that?

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