Friday, March 25, 2011

The Art of Improvisation, or a Blank Canvas has More Possibilities

My son's first castle. He was 2 yrs old here.
My son has three (count'em 3!!) play tents, and yet for some reason he still feels the need to erect elaborate fort structures out of toy boxes, chairs, big toys, and blankets every chance he gets. I ask myself, why does the kid not just pull out one of his tents and play in that? The answer: it's so much more fun if you have to improvise.

Have you ever noticed on Christmas morning when your kids open their expensive baby doll that walks, giggles, eats real food, and does your taxes that they toy they end up playing with is the packaging it came in? Or how when you have a large box in the house, it instantly become a space ship or a castle, but if you spend tons of money buying your kid a plastic castle to play with in the backyard it ends up fading in the sunlight, lonely and unused? The answer my friend: a blank canvas has more possibilities.

An elaborate toy with all the bells and whistles can only be one thing, that which is was designed to be. A plastic doll with a giant smile pasted on its face can only do one thing: smile. However, a cloth doll with button eyes and no other features can be joyous, desolate, angry, you name it. Any expression you can imagine can play across that doll's face, therefore that doll has more potential.

It's the same with the cardboard box. That box can be anything you want it to be. When you play in it, you can be in a submarine, exploring the darkest depths of the ocean or in a monster truck, crushing your competition. That cardboard box can be your house in the countryside with the picket fence or a maximum security prison facility designed to house super-villains with strange and wonderful powers. With the tent: you can pretend you are camping. The more elaborate the toy is, the more limited its range. Sure, the flashy lights and catchy musical tune that come on when you press the button are novel, but they have no staying power. Give me good old blocks any day, I'll be content for hours. Oh, and so will my kid.

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