"Put Your Toys Away Dear,
Your Boss Is On The Phone"
"OK, folks. we've got a new Toys Anonymous
member tonight, so let's make him feel real
welcome." ( applause )
"Hi, I'm Cousin B"- ("Hi, Cousin B." ) -
'"and I play with toys.' ( applause )
"I guess it all started when I was a kid. Even
then, I had this craving. I always needed another toy.
My parents even condoned this wretched behavior.
They parceled out little toys during the year, using
them as bait to make me clean my room or take out
the trash or some other such nonsense. They always
kept me hoping for that big toy on my birthday. Then
at Christmas, they'd overload me to the point where I
was sure I'd die of sheer ecstacy. No matter how many
I had, it was never enough. I wanted more- no, no, I-,
I wanted them all! AAAAAhahahahahahaha."
But I digress.
Toys are among the silliest paradoxes on Earth.
With our children, we use them as learning tools- the
way animals use play- to spot and develop natural
abilities and to practice necessary habits for
adulthood. We also use toys as an emotion and ego
booster, sometimes to appease an upset child, other
times to simply lift a kid's spirit or show them we
We quite rightly govern the safety of toys
nowadays. A curious mixture of responsibility and
lawsuit-itis has drastically reduced the danger of the
toy itself doing damage out of poor design or negligent
That has nothing to do with how a kid uses a
toy. We blew things up on an almost military
schedule. We looked so innocent, making those balsa
wood boats with the firecrackers built into the hull
and some poor 'little plastic army guy' in the
cockpit-with a parachute.
It came down to the actual toy-a GI JOE to the
little army guy- a Tonka truck or a Hot Wheels car,
Tinkers Toys and Lincoln Logs. Even sports
equipment. These were the things in the world we
created, and the canvas was a sandbox, the basement
stairs, the back porch, family room or bedroom. Or a
A game, though, imposed greater restrictions. It
was more difficult to make up rules. Getting 3 or 4
people to agree is even harder. Just as the game itself
has a theme and rules that keep it focused, so must a
creative diversion. The most fun changing a game is
when everyone likes the change. We'd mix and match
pieces and boards from different games and make up
our plot and rules and go for it. Usually, our theme
was some movie, TV show or sports thing that we were
big on that didn't really have it's own game.
There were always toys or games that worked
just fine like they were and we had fun with them
without changing anything. The majority of the time,
though, from, like, 4 to 11 years old, the imagination
When it comes to kids, we cherish this warm
fuzzy side of childhood. We embrace and encourage it.
We tell them 'dream'. 'Investigate and imagine'. 'Try
everything'. 'Do it your own way.' 'Color outside the
lines.' 'Be yourself.' 'Hold on to your dreams and use
Then we grow up and act as if anyone over 25
that talks like that without a six figure paycheck or a
professorship is a total loser.
Suddenly, as adults, only educators, artisans and
rich entrepeneuers are allowed to act this way without
derision. The average joe looking for a little
relaxation and creative release has few outlets
compared to any child. To have a few toys around the
office is still seen as immature by many in the
workplace, and it's still really the small companies
and annex-divisions of large ones that manage to keep
a little play in the air. Otherwise, anyone below the
top eschelon is still pretty much a 'weirdo' at most
corporations if they act this way. We still treat the
idea of play as something childish- as if 'I'm too old
for that crap.' What it comes down to is, if you still
love to play, daydream and joke with people, then you
remember what was best about it.
Play is still one of the top sources of joy on the
planet. Every human needs it. We all acknowledge
that children require it. But we adults need it, too.
The idea that we outgrow our playfulness is not only
untrue, but dangerous. We all need release from our
stresses and stretching room for our imagination.
There's one little problem though.
We've acquired an uncomfortable and most
undesirably snobby attitude towards toys and games.
'Oh, you never grew up, did you?'
The paradox comes in here. (I bet you thought I
forgot about that whole paradox thing by now. No such
With our ego on the line, and our need for play
crying louder and louder, we scramble to justify some
creative outlet enough to do it without appearing
childish. Even then, we run the risk of limited
approval, so we add a little spin to raise it to the
We call it 'Sports', 'Recreation' or 'Leisure
As kids, we play sports and it's OK. We dream
of playing for the majors someday and that's OK, too.
If we're good enough and we get the chance, we make
it and our play is now our work. If not, we face it, get
on with our lives, and we still watch it, using it to
vicariously exercise our imaginations, or we play it for
the outright fun of it with no pressure. With each
other, with our kids, on a Saturday afternoon just
because it's a great day out- all with peer approval
because, well, 'it's not just a game, there are people
who do it PROFESSIONALLY'.
It is a game. Pro sports are games we like
enough to watch other people play, whether we can
play them ourselves or not. If you don't make a living
with those golf clubs, they're a toy. (Just ask the
IRS.) That guitar? That graphics software? That
baseball bat? That tablesaw? If it's not for profit,
barter or professional credit, it's a toy- like it or not.
Toys are a bridge to our inherent sense of
childsplay and, through 'table' games and sports, are
vital links to our kids- satisfying our own need for
play and adventure as well.
Board games, cards, dice, word games, pinball
and video games all serve as a bridge of common play
between adults and kids. We'll play Tinker Toys with
a toddler, or 'hide and seek' at the family picnic, but
we'll always play Monopoly, Scrabble, cards or a sport
with any age kid that can play it.
We do it for that crucial release that comes
from play. We rationalize that the game is 'designed to
range through adult level', but it's play. We can play
like kids for awhile- even with our kid's- without
losing our 'adult' cool.
Meanwhile, our kid's get to play and act like
kids alot. They like to play with us because it makes
them feel more 'adult'.
Otherwise, do you think they'd follow the rules?