One piece of parenting advice I wish I would follow is to stop buying your kids toys. Cardboard boxes, kitchen utensils, paper towel rolls, and a stapler is all they need. I used to think: nah, this isn’t true. My kids need this or that or wouldn’t this toy be so great?
Guess what? My parents (who are now celebrating as they read this, I’m sure) were correct. Kids don’t need toys. My son has a lot of toys, of course, and there are a select few that he consistently plays with, day after day, year after year, like Duplo blocks. Everything else that occupies his imagination are found objects, raided from cabinets and transformed by the beauty and energy of a 4-year-old’s imagination. One particular favorite of his comes from my mom: a bandana.
My mom has a basket of cloth bandanas that she uses as napkins, and in recent years, now in her role as grandmother, it is a vehicle for many playtime adventures. Many days my son comes home after his afternoon spent with his Omi and he’s a superhero, wearing his cape as he dashes through the house. His cape is a red bandana tied — double knotted per my precise crusader’s strict instructions — at the neck, and if the rescue calls for extra power, he needs two additional bandanas for rocket-powered knee pads. There are some days when he comes home with five bandanas: one around his neck, one around his waist as a sash, two knee pads, and one over his face as his breathing mask. He never tires of the bandanas and what opportunities in space or atop a skyscraper they deliver him.
A simple cloth bandana, reusable, washable, and multifunctional, is all you need. Forget lights or buttons or, obviously, anything that requires batteries or a saw to open its impenetrable plastic packaging. My son is not immune to the desire to buy toys; he is human, after all. It’s just that many of the toys he wants or receives as gifts don’t get used as much as the trusty bandana. Just like the cardboard box or the pots and pans, which see hours of use as opposed to the robot our son got as a gift.
My mom was right and wise, which is why she’s a mom and a grandmother. She doesn’t buy toys; she just knows how to make a bandana magical.
I’ll catch on one of these days. For now, here comes the bandana brigade!
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.
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