Toys and TV


How do we rewild toys? What toys do/will/would you offer your children? Because after caring for many children, I finally think I’m ready to say “Nothing you would buy at a store.” Seriously. Tell me I’m crazy, but toys seem to indoctrinate our children into the dominant culture, stifle their creativity, leach harmful chemicals into their bodies, pollute their souls (am I going to far for you?). Just look at a Toys R Us catalog and tell me you don’t want to puke all over it. Go ahead!

What do children need beyond sticks, stones, mud, trees, acorns, rocks (to climb!), wildflowers, cordage, all the stuff I/we “play” with every day. Some ideas: child-sized tools, creative “supplies”, oral stories, books (any good ones?), maybe a ball or blocks or a doll, definitely a doll.

And what now about TV? Even the “educational” programs educate them into the culture and they trun into addicted (please, please, now, now, but I HAVE to watch it), zombies (Joey, Joey, JOEY… no response… totally tuning out all his other senses!). Same for computers and movies and modern music? Stop me here, if you like. Some leftists say, “but you need to expose them to TV/etc./commercialism b/c that is their world and they need to know how to deal with it.” Is that true? Really? How to teach them to withstand the giant commercial culture without having them sucked into it? I don’t know.

And, would no “toys” and TV send me right into a child services case in this day and age?

Is there an acceptable level of toys and tv in your household, or as you imagine it for the future?

Is it even possible to keep toys and tv away from children when you live right in the belly of the beast? Or only in a rewilding community?


I have definitely noticed that my son’s toys teach him to push buttons more than they teach him the thing they claim to teach. Makes me think, “Way to go, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates!”

My son is just as happy with a twig or stick or shoe–maybe even happier–than with some $50 piece of high-tech plastic that takes up space in our house.

I like the idea of child-sized tools as a toy. He’s definitely interested in whatever I’m doing, and I know that as he gets older, mimicing adults is going to become even more important. The first coal I ever busted on my bowdrill was done while he was “helping” me saw the bow.


I’m thinking of my favorite toys when I was young. I really liked the brio wooden train sets. We would always try and make the tracks do things they were not supposed to do like make roller coasters. Art supplies like neon poster paints were always a hit. But the best things we did probably were not “toys” at all but physical things. My parents didn’t exactly encourage us or take part so much as let us do whatever we wanted. We had lots of cushions and mats and one of those mini exercise trampolines to do flips off of. The living room was pretty big and we were allowed to do it inside too. Were were also allowed to make giant forts out of the furniture. We had two types. The very elaborate fort and the simple under the table fort where the object was to block out every last ounce of light. Once we made a homemade oujia board to use in the fort and drew a cross on the back in our own blood. Kinda weird.

Outside the sandbox was a great resource and the tire swings and the tree house. We had footraces and played in the sprinkler and limboed under a broomstick and jumped over hurdles. Thinking back I would have really liked a balance beam and a pullup/gymnastics bar. I’d still like a bar to play on to be honest. You should see my “windmills”. I can do at least 100 in a row.

I was up at the neighbor’s house one day babysitting and the kids wanted to play in their sandbox but the sand was wet. I asked them if they were allowed to play when it was wet and sure enough they were not (and too young to lie, I guess). Now of course I would let my kids play in the wet sand but I know how other people think…

As far as wild stuff…If an adult had shown me how to make a debris hut or any kind of decent shelter I would have absolutely loved it. All our stick forts sucked and never really got finished before they fell down. I remember making crappy bows and arrows too. If I had been able to sleep outside more in tents, igloos, under the stars…if we had gone swimming more in rivers and streams and ponds and swamps and in all sorts of weather, eaten more wild plants, I would have loved all that stuff. Kids take naturally to primtive skills, I think. This is funny but whenever we went out on the ol speed boat and landed on the shore the first thing we would do was construct or designate a bathroom. The desire to build things and make a place a home is there. We also always smashed different color rocks up on the beach for paint. You could usually get at least red, yellow, and black. I clearly remember my dad explaining about the sandstone and how you could only smash or scratch a rock with a harder rock. Once in first grade we were pretending we were stranded and I tried to write “help” on a rock in charcoal, but I wrote “hepl”. When my best friend who was in second grade pointed this out I was really embarrassed.

When were were on vacations my sister and I had this game we used to play called orphans. We would be sitting in a McDonald’s eating our happy meals and fantasize that our parents had just abandoned us and we had to figure out where to go, where to sleep and get food. Survival instincts. It’s a natural thing. You know what would be good? A series like the Boxcar Children but more wilderness skills. I know there are some good books out there like the stuff by Jean Craighead George (I just read Julie of the Wolves out loud to Nick!), and Gary Paulsen but an anti-civ Boxcar children, that would be freakin fantastic!

We used to go down to this little pond behind the subdivision and harvest clay to make pots and bring it home in plastic bags. It was sooo messy. I clearly remember sitting at my plastic blue and white smurf picnic table with my best friend Heather and pinching pots. Of course they never got fired so they were always “ashtrays”.

It’s also amazing the folk games kids play and the way they are passed along orally and differ from region to region, school to school, but remain basically the same throughout the states, sometimes the world…the songs, the rhymes, the jokes, the sting games, and hand clapping games. It seems like there is very little folk culture left here in the states but among children it still thrives as far as I know. Anyone else do chinese jumprope? Ghost in the Graveyard?

There is this one song…I learned it my cousin’s cousin and I’ve never met anyone else who knows it. It’s kind of racist. It goes:
I livey up on a teeny weeny house top
I livey up on the thirty first floor
I takey in a very biggey laundry
Ruffles on the petticoats ten cents more, ten cents more
I like a chow wow better than a pow-wow
I like a little boy and he like-a me
One day in Hong Kong the boogey man a come along
and take my little boyfriend away from me
Poor chinese
All alone with the laund-a-ry

Anyone know that one?!

Also I was just thinking the other day what a weird handclapping rhyme this is:
Missus betty crocker
sittining in her rocker
watching the clock go tick tock tick tock four-o-clock
tick tock tick tock four-o-clock
wash these dirty spots off me
Moonshine moonshine now we freeze
(then you freeze with a silly face)

My conclusion. Screw plastic toys. Screw toys all together except maybe for the toddlers. Yeah I liked my barbies and trolls and my fisher price kitchen with its plastic hotdogs but playing outside is way better. Let them do whatever they want. They’ve got the instincts. Better yet, play with them. Yeah teach your kids skills and crafts but also let them teach you. Take them swimming in winter (At my babysitter’s house we were not allowed to go swimming until it reached (“70 degrees on the breezeway”. It was pure agony!) Sleep outside. Build forts. Don’t even tell them it’s useful information and skills. They’ll figure that out when they are older.

As far as books for younger children I really enjoyed the National Geographic Series for Young Explorers when I was a kid. I also have this newer picture book called Places of Power by Michael DeMunn that is very much about native american spirituality and finding a “secret spot” in the woods.


Whilst I don’t have any children yet, I have a plan for dealing with this particular issue.

We are going to give them a minimum of toys, especially the plastic variety. I am mostly gonna go with tools, books, and games. I am going to get them started on Go, the chinese “chess” game, fairly early, 2-3 years old. Then I’ll graduate them up to miniature wargames(Warhammer 40K and such) and chess(which I am not too good at).

Basically, when I read Ish(or My Ish, I forget which one) one of the claims about “kids do what their parents are into”. I verified the claim, so I figure if I divide my time between practicing martial arts and music, reading, building things, primitive skills and permaculture they will follow along.

Kinda like the Mormons, but with more mud and ass kicking.



i’ve seen some of your crazy childhood creations on your myspace page. you definitely have a creative bent.

speaking of Julie of the Wolves, there’s another really good children’s series that i like called Fire-Us. it’s about these children that survive a virus that killed anyone past the age of puberty and how they survive and get together (form their own tribe) after the virus (which they mistakenly call Fire-Us–whenever there’s a word they don’t understand, they use whatever words they do understand to try to make sense of it). it’s a trilogy, and i highly recommend it.

i also stand behind the fact that Watership Down is the best post-apocalyptic literature ever. ever!


Totally with you on Watership Down. That books is “about rabbits,” …but its really about US. :wink:

My mom decided she would never buy me toy guns. Then when I was three, I made one out of legos. Culture can play a bigger part, so that’s what you should modify.


which goes back to dandelion’s original questions.

i think i’m trying to play the middle right now–in my parenting as well as in my rewilding. i know i can’t abolish plastic and tv from my home in the same way that i can’t go live in a debris hut and eat crawdads out of the creek. but i can try to live my currently-over-civilized life and try to season it with primitivism until the recipe calls for all feral and no civ (kind of like that “rock soup” story–did you guys read that in elementary school?). and with my son, i’ll let him have the plastic his mom buys for him, but i’m going to be out in the yard playing with wood and rocks and leaves–i think for the most part, the wood, rocks and leaves will win out. especially if that’s what daddy is doing.


Oooh! Love “Watership Down”, what a kickass book…

i think for the most part, the wood, rocks and leaves will win out. especially if that's what daddy is doing.

yeah, that’s pretty much what i’m discovering…


I suspect most kids do that kind of stuff at some point. Did you ever do levitation? (where a gang of kids lift someone up with only two fingers each)

[quote=“Penny Scout, post:3, topic:154”]Also I was just thinking the other day what a weird handclapping rhyme this is:
Missus betty crocker
sittining in her rocker
watching the clock go tick tock tick tock four-o-clock
tick tock tick tock four-o-clock
wash these dirty spots off me
Moonshine moonshine now we freeze
(then you freeze with a silly face)[/quote]

I know that one! Well, kind of. Here’s the version I learned here in southeast Wales:

Miss Moo, Miss Moo,
Miss Moo from outer space,
Rocking in a rocking chair,
eating candy floss,
Watching the clock go tick tock,
tick tock bananarama,
tick tock, tick tock bananarama
Watching the stars jump out of me,
Moonshine moonshine moonshine freeze!

I suspect your version is the original. :slight_smile: I wonder where they diverged - mine is obviously pretty modern. Does yours have a tune?


betty crocker vs outer space: which one is older? i think of betty crocker emerging post-WWII along with the suburban housewife. humans going into outerspace came a little bit later. maybe it took a decade for the rhyme to jump the pond?

moonshine freeze makes me think of freezing the water out of wine (which has a higher freezing point than alcohol) as an alternative to distilling.

i always wanted to do the levitation trick, but grew up among friends that were too churchified to try it.


About a million years ago (not long after I was learning that rhyme in the mid-80s :wink: ) I read Iona and Peter Opie’s work on children’s culture and how it evolves from place to place. It’s fascinating stuff - for instance, as children become more cityfied, “elecampane, elecampane” becomes “elegant pain, elegant pain”. And people say kids aren’t smart …

I didn’t realise Betty Crocker was that recent - it does put the rhymes in the same timeframe, although the bananarama bit is almost certainly an 80s innovation. And “washing the dirty spots…” and “watching the stars jump…” sound like one is a mishearing of the other.

Like I said, fascinating. :slight_smile:


Wow! That is very neat about the rhyme! I was born in '82 so I learned in the mid-80’s also. I live in a rural area in northern appalachia and I always envisioned an old lady rocking on her porch and wondered if it was an appalachian thing what with the moonshine. It isn’t a big deal up here but just a few hours South down in West Virginia people do still make moonshine and there are secret signs to know if someone is selling it or not. I think one of the signs involves leaving a washtub on the front porch. Hence the “wash these dirty spots of me”. Maybe. I don’t know.


It may well. Your version makes a great deal more sense. I can’t help but compare it to religions and lifestyles being lifted out of place - what might make a lot of sense to a kid in Appalachia can’t help but sound like a nonsense rhyme to a Welsh kid an ocean away, and “moonshine” becomes the hook for modifying the whole song to be about space, so that it makes sense again.

We still clap hands with it, by the way. :slight_smile: