Genius, I tell you.
When my first child was a toddler, I pored over educational toy catalogs, amassing as many high-quality, wooden, open-ended toys as the budget would permit. Oh, and Thomas the Tank Engine trains. I loved Hearthsong, HABA, Magic Cabin, and the like. I was kind of a toy nerd.
By the time my third child came along, we were living in smaller quarters and on a correspondingly smaller budget (grad school!). The poor child rarely received new toys.
If you know Caroline, you know that she suffered IMMENSELY from this injustice. No imagination. IQ just fair to middling. It's a very sad story.
In her honor, I'd like to continue the GeekDad list (Stick, Box, String, Cardboard Tube, Dirt) with a few of our own kid-tested, mother-approved favorites.
1. Straws. You've heard of Tinker Toys? Granted, those will last longer, but give a child a 99-cent box of drinking straws and you might be surprised at the creations that will result.
2. Bubble Wrap. I personally know of at least two adults who tied a ribbon around a roll of bubble wrap and gave it to a child for Christmas, only to find that all other presents paled in comparison. Want to win the Cool Relative Award? Snap, crackle, pop.
3. Hammer. Nails. Wood. A friend of mine once gave her oldest son a pile of scrap lumber and some tools for Christmas. That's terrific ... but how about this? My neighbor, Emily, stopped by one day to dump a tree stump on our doorstep. "That's for your kids!" she called cheerfully as she drove away. Sure enough, they pounded nails into that thing until they had chain mail. Thanks Emily!
4. Duct Tape. Ian likes to remind me that it's just like The Force: It has a light side and a dark side, and it holds everything together. I can't begin to describe the number of things that have been manufactured at our house with this substance. Bonus: It now comes in fluorescent colors and funky patterns. Check your local craft store.
5. Aluminum Foil. Caroline has made probably hundreds of things from this, from origami objects to multiple pairs of shoes. We usually give her a roll for long car trips, and we've had certain houseguests bring her a roll when they come to stay. Isn't it endearing to have adults in your life who understand how your child ticks?
6. Fire. As in, matches and candles. Blah blah blah parental supervision blah blah blah responsible oversight blah blah blah. Don't send the authorities after me. But seriously, friends. Do you know how long my two girls can sit at a table melting candle wax, watching the shape of candles and flames change before their eyes, sculpting creations from wax, making fake sealing wax for fake letters, etc.? Answer: a very long time. In fact, I had seven girls at this house just yesterday doing this for a solid hour.
And time will fail me if I tell of water, reams of paper, recycled tires, and old silky scarves, the larger the better.
Wealth untold, right at their fingertips.