I never really worried about how the children would cope without toys. They’ve always had a knack for entertaining themselves, even if it usually means making a hideous mess. We have brought craft stuff with us, and we also have a small handful of little toys that fit into the side pockets of their rucksacks. Three Sylvanians, small prehistoric sea creatures, plastic soldiers, a very meagre amount of Lego and a couple of cars. Most of which, rarely gets played with.
Yet they spend almost all day every day playing, in bus queues and airports, on beaches, in our multifarious bedrooms, so what do they do? I suppose the short answer is, they make stuff up. In Hawaii, after watching a baptism on the beach, they made up their own religion. That kept them occupied for a couple of days and meant that we could wander round The Place of Refuge in peace while they tried out the various temples for size.
They make up gameshows, inspired by their Uncle Harry’s triumph on Total Wipeout, involving any available soft furnishings and plenty of leaping.
They also act out what happens around them, in the way that all children do. In their case, this means strapping the cuddly penguin to the elastic travel washing line and making him bungy jump off the top bunk.
They tend to become obsessed with one thing for a couple of days, before moving on to the next thing. After visiting Te Papa, we became a flax weaving collective. I can’t say we produced much of use, but it was all done very properly and we made sure we thanked the flax plants before cutting them down.
Ned, the child who used to come home from school with armfulls of junk modelling, has carried on pretty much as before. He’s made spoons from sticks and shells, endless boats from sticks and leaves and an uncannily accurate crocodile from snorkel packaging and a cereal box.
Lego is the one toy apart from teddies which gets played with consistently. We’ve only got a little, which the children were given for Christmas, but it gets made into something new on a daily basis. The minifigs are currently living in very well appointed surroundings, with furniture made from cereal boxes (them again) and a lift to carry them from our ground floor front door to our first floor flat. It’s amazing what you can do with a ball of string and some sellotape.
Of course they also watch plenty of TV, they are my children after all. Their favourite programme in New Zealand was America’s Funniest Home Videos. Their new ambition is to appear on said programme, so they practise regularly. This is not at all annoying.
Half the time I’ve no idea what they’re up to, even though we’re in the same room, because it’s utterly random and involves unusual kitchen implements. But do you know what? In three months, I’ve only heard them say the words “I’m bored” once. Just once. That’s not bad is it?