Posts Tagged ‘learning to count’

The Toy Story: To buy or not to buy

August 3, 2010

Helvi Oosterman


Little boys love rummaging in those two-dollar shops that are mushrooming in the poorer parts of our cities and country towns. They are never happier than when you empty your purse or handbag on the table and divide the collection of coins in equal lots. ‘Oh, so much money,’ says the youngest who has not yet developed his monetary skills, and who still thinks that having $ 4, 76 equals being rich.

They find weird things like slime, and ‘stuff’ that you throw at windows or smooth painted doors, and that sticks there if you are lucky, and not if you aren’t. The rubber skeletons made in Taiwan are huge favourites. On the way home the skull usually comes loose and this will cause some grieve.

A quick promise of another one on the next trip, usually dries the tears and allows the welcome sleep to come and sooth the pain. Then there are the little hard balls that bounce and which you usually lose on the street on the way to the car, but thank god your brother or cousin has a six-pack of soft balls, that don’t bounce but allow themselves to be squeezed into any shape by sweaty little hands.

The little boys also always find a game that consists of a tiny plastic box and an even tinier ball that you have to shake through a maze, and finally out of the box. After a few tries, and no success in releasing the box-prisoner out, the game becomes boring and it’s carelessly dropped on the floor at the back of the car.

Gold coloured swords, and hatchets so blunt they that can’t cut butter, let alone hurt a friend, are high on the boys’ shopping lists. The first duel is not even finished when one fighter’s sword breaks in half, and this in turn breaks the dueller’s heart. Luckily you still have your inflatable plastic animals, dragons and dinosaurs to blow up. This kind of hard work is best left to kindly granddads. It takes a while to get them fully shaped, almost painfully slow for the little boy who wants to take his zoo into the swimming pool. It’s not a long walk to get there, long enough to deflate the dragons though, too many prickly things on the way…

When the three year old turns into five year old, the amount divvied up for a shopping trip has to be doubled. A couple years later it has to be enough to buy a Nintendo and so it goes. Finally they are not cute toddlers anymore but have turned into nice ten year olds who come to stay with their musical instruments and laptops under their arms.

They don’t cry so easily anymore over minor breakages; they know more about computers than their grandma, who in her turn still knows a little bit more about spelling and comes in handy when all are  sitting at same desk.

Those endless excursions to dime stores have paid off handsomely; the boys understand maths, and can do adding and subtracting without calculators. They have also learnt about the value of money and are all saving up for their BIG purchases, and they thank Opa for teaching them about frugality, that most wonderful of Dutch virtues!