Garbage Toys

Do my kids love to play with "trash"? That's my six-year-old coming out of her hobo box.
Do my kids love to play with “trash”? That’s my six-year-old coming out of her hobo box.

Like millions of American kids, my daughters have more toys than they know what to do with.

And like millions of American parents, my wife and I don’t have nearly as much room as we need to hold all the crayons, stuffed animals, Barbie dolls and Lego pieces that our daughters love, and often brawl over. Because, if you have kids, you know that nothing starts a fight between siblings like one of them suddenly playing with a toy they haven’t thought about for six months, and the other one then deciding she needs that toy or her universe will implode.

So, it’s never surprising to me when I find one of my daughters with a toy in her hand. Even if that “toy” is an old bobby pin. Which is exactly my four-year-old daughter, Little Sis, picked up the other day.

“Picked up” as in “She picked it up off a dirty sidewalk.”

Yeah, that’s right. She was playing with an old, grimy booby pin she found on the street. And never mind thinking about whose hair it might have been in at one time.

But…This didn’t surprise me in the slightest. My kids are always playing with trash. The other day, Little Sis asked me if I could give her this empty jug of lemonade I had just polished off.

“Why do you want that?” I asked her, knowing the answer would be good.


“Uh…A ‘blowhorn’?”

“Yes!”, she replied, as if I were the biggest idiot around. [There is a 96% chance she was correct on that one.] “Come ON!”

I held off on giving her the jug. I figured she and her sister, Maddo, had plenty of other junk to play with. And they do.

–There’s an old popcorn tin from Christmas. Fortunately, it doesn’t have any eight-month-old popcorn in it. If it did, we would have quite the mess every time they turn upside down to use it as a seat.

–They have a mayo jar that currently holds a mix of alphabet cards and random jewelry they’ve made in school. I should be clear that it is empty of mayo.

–Maddo handed me something yesterday that she said was “Most Precious” and to never to be lost…It’s a three-inch piece of a roof shingle.

–Maddo broke her arm five months ago. As often happens in these circumstances, she got many “Get Well” things, including a big mylar balloon. After the balloon lost its helium, she cut out a circle from one area of it and has carried it around like it was a copy of the Magna Carta. Sometimes, she wears it on her head like a shower cap.

–I recently replaced our laundry hamper with a new one because the older one had developed a case of mold all over the bottom. [Lesson learned: Don’t leave wet towels to age on the bottom of the laundry hamper]. When I was breaking the thing down, Maddo practically begged me to let her keep it. I said unless she was planning on using the mold to develop a new version of penicillin, the thing was going in the trash.

–Plastic bags. Little Sis has taken to bringing me Ziplock sandwich and storage bags and having me put a few ounces of water in them for…Exactly what, I don’t know, because I keep finding wet, empty bags all over our deck.

–And the boxes. SO MANY BOXES. I found a shoebox that Little Sis had apparently used as a hostage den for four of her Barbie dolls. Maddo has one that she told me to keep “no matter what” because it’s her “Indiana Jones” box that will somehow be involved in her birthday party in December. With my luck, the thing is full of live snakes. We just bought one of those hipster-old school stovetop popcorn poppers that you use a crank on like no one ever did in grandpa’s days. Of course, it came in a big box that I immediately had to hustle out to the trash or else the girls would have turned it into a hobo camp for their stuffed animals.

Honestly, I’m pretty sure if I left some chicken bones out on the living room floor that my girls would treat them like fine jewelry and then be fighting over them before the night was done. They have hundreds of Legos, dozens of books, and about a million dolls and stuffed animals. But more than anything else, they’d rather play with garbage.

Literal garbage.

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