Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Santa's prep-shop

My mom’s the kind of prepared person who Christmas shops all year long, picking up items she thinks a family member might like as she happens upon them. I wait until December. This week I got inspired to at least start thinking a little earlier when a friend sent me a link to this newsletter by an organization called TRUCE -- Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment. It includes a thumbs-up list of toys that promote creative play and a thumbs-.down list of toys that glorify sex or violence or “make children depend on screens for play.”

On the thumbs-up list is a doctor’s kit, which I discovered this evening after watching Will play doctor on Owen and I today. Inspired by a morning visit to the dentist and a doctor’s trip to get a flu shot yesterday (yes, we bit the bullet and got Will the shot just this year, for Owen’s sake) – Will decided to take our temperatures using a segment of train track. He then punched little holes in our stomach (which he promised to fill back in immediately) with one of the plastic links that hangs from Owen’s floor mat/gym. So I started thinking about a doctor’s kit as a gift from Santa. But when I looked online at the various plastic boxes full of plastic doctor tools I wondered if I really wanted to welcome another twenty plastic toys into our already overpopulated plastic-toy collection.

So I started musing about how to create a doctor’s kit of my own. I know I could convert a lunch box and add things like band-aids, gauze, cotton balls and nail files. And a repurposed plastic hammer for checking the old knee reflex. The sticking point is the essential stethoscope. I even checked out real stethoscopes on e-bay but they’d probably be long enough to trip Will up. So we’ll have to see if we go with ready-made plastic doctor kit, a yet to be determined doctor kit made by Mama but purportedly sent from the North Pole – or perhaps no doctor’s kit at all. (It’s not like Will was complaining about using his train track thermometer, and when you have to make toys and household objects serve multiple functions there’s a lot more envisioning and imagining going on.)

Still I can’t help but want to play Santa a bit. Big jolly red guy has me trapped in his marketing magic as much as the next mom, but I am going to try to keep things modest this year. Beyond the possible doctor's kit I’m thinking puppets and the makings for a homemade puppet stage and maybe a dress-up item or two (courtesy of a thrift shop if I can swing it). I’d like to make a tradition of putting a little more creativity into my gift giving for my kids at least. (Adult relatives can expect the old lousy stand-bys -- a cd, a shirt, a book, a gift certificate when all else fails. They know the drill.)

And when Will sits on Santa’s lap come early December and asks for a nice big plastic monster truck or some such thing, then we’ll have to start deciding whether to indulge his one request or just let him know that even Santa’s out of stock on some things.

See page 8 of the TRUCE newsletter for some ideas for homemade "Shoe Box Gifts" designed to inspire creative play. By the way, TRUCE is affiliated with a larger organization called Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. Check out their website for plenty of interesting information about kids and consumerism as we head into the most over-commercialized season of the year.

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