I was so impressed on holiday when my seven-year-old niece was given a kit of interlocking pieces and managed to keep all the bits together – apart from two segments that were duly searched for and located.
Having produced two unruly boys, our toy boxes are a mish-mash of broken pieces, bashed-up trains and planes, crashed cars, severed Lego heads and stray batteries.
I do go through their vast toy collection from time to time and try to sift out the debris, but it’s a losing battle – the pieces seem to breed and I’m forever finding broken axles and airplane parts scattered around the house.
I can’t remember the last time we did a puzzle that had all the pieces. If a toy does happen to be in good condition, it’s probably because it’s ‘too boring’ to play with.
Then there’s the ‘creative’ way they use objects that aren’t toys at all: I’d already mentioned how, on a previous visit to England, oldest son rolled the living room pouffe everywhere pretending it was a boulder. On another visit, he hung mum’s entire silk scarf collection over the stairs, fashionably arranged as make-believe snakes.
Today, he found a novel use for a garden tent and raced around the garden with it on his head in a Dalek-like manner.
All this brings me to something I do enjoy while staying at my parents’. My mum keeps everything, and while I may get frustrated when the drawers are full to the brim, I just love it when she pulls out my old toys.
There’s the antique rocking horse, my old china tea-set, wooden recorder, the Jack-in-the-box (which scared the living daylights out of BB when he was little!), my brother’s wooden train that you pull along by string, original Mr Men books, and my dolls’ house with electric lights (now used by my boys as parking space for the lead-paint-covered veteran matchbox cars that were actually ‘Made in England’).
But the thing train-mad BB loves most at our British abode is my Dad’s model train set, which dates back to the 60s. It now takes up the whole garage and BB can disappear in there for hours. And when he’s had enough in the garage, he comes outside to be the not-so-fat controller of the steam train running on Dad’s garden railway.
I was sure that somewhere in the attic there would be a Girl’s World circa 1982 – the styling head that gave me hours of make-over fun (and one of the most inspiring toys a girl could own back then!) – but I just found out she’s no more because I chopped all her hair off when I was nine. And there was me thinking that little girls always play nicely!