When the toy era ends

I’m so excited about all the awesome toys — and toy-related ideas — we’re spotlighting this month in our annual Toy Issue!

Wait. What?

You don’t want more toys? You don’t like how your carpet/coffee table/entire existence has disappeared under a thick layer of giant playgyms/mats/bouncers/vibrating chairs, noisemakers and Megabloks? Or maybe it’s the $3,000 worth of Thomas/Chuggington train sets, the 257 Hot Wheels cars or the 80,001 stuffed animals/dolls/Barbies/Calico Critters?

If you’re a neat freak or Type A or just, well, human, all the clutter of children’s playthings (no matter how minimalist you might strive to be) can be exhausting, unnerving and — year over year — positively relentless. 

I remember when my son was about 3, his favorite activity during playdates was to take out all his toys, puzzles, games, cars and LEGOs from their proper places only to dump them out into one big HILARIOUS toy salad.

When the playdate would inevitably end with meltdowns all around, we’d have to bulldoze through the shambles just to reach our child’s bed. (So THAT’s why the kids left us grown-ups alone for 20-minute stretches of conversation! We knew it was too good to be true!) 

Today, my son’s playdates go pretty much the same way, even though he’s 8. 

And even our day-to-day existence is a constant cycle of play, pick-up, put-away. 

Repeat.

But these days, I don’t resent it quite so much.

In recent years, my family and friends with older kids (teens and tweens) have shown me something: Their children don’t play with toys. 

They might play sports or jump on a trampoline, or lead the occasional game of Heads Up! on the iPad. 

But when it comes to toys, they’re just too old. They have smartphones and independently developed social lives, too. Duh.

So, while I’m still sick of managing messes, there’s a tiny part of me that knows, one day it will be gone — along with my son’s childlike ways of playing (gulp!) — and I know I’ll truly miss it.