These aren’t toys, they’re educational tools for our grandchildren

Mar 27 2013 - 11:22pm


Charles Trentelman
Charles Trentelman

I'm not a pack rat, I tell people, I'm "keep-stuff-for-my-grandchildren."

This lets me get away with murder. I have wind-up toys all over the desk, gimcracks and gee-gaws cluttering the shelves, video cartoons heaped by the sofa and a dozen toy cars, monkeys, elephants and whirligigs filling entire rooms of my house.

You could say I'm juvenile, a compulsive collector or just weird. You'd be right, but that stuff also proves I'm thinking of Max and Alice and Oliver and (due any day now) Story.

My grandchildren are this nation's future leaders. I want them to grow to be critical thinkers, but the Internet's constant switching from website to website has reduced the juvenile attention span to that of a gnat. Studies have shown that watching TV provides the same mental stimulation as staring at a blank wall.

I must save my grandchildren from such a fate. Their positive mental stimulation is critical. A house full of toys provides that. If I am educated, amused and mentally stimulated in the bargain, so much the better.

Some parents, when their kids move out, clean house. I've seen homes that were neat as pins, bookshelves with everything lined up in order or size, not a toy in sight.

I don't want that. I want my grandchildren to think my wife and I, and our home, are fun.

So we have an Edison wind-up record player, resplendent in mechanical mysteries. Its music is tinny and scratchy, but where else can a child hear what may be the original recorded version of "Yabba dabba dabba"?

Our living room shelves are crowded with books on dinosaurs, the knights of the round table, mysteries of the Far East, Uncle Scrooge and tales of murder and mystery.

Does the child want to travel to Egypt? Learn about Mars? Ponder who killed Miss Marple in Bertram's Hotel with the cracked mirror? We've got it covered.

Juggling balls are always on the piano. Wind-up toys line every shelf. Bags of building blocks live in the breakfront.

So I don't lose touch, I practice at work. As I sit and type this, I can see a Hot Wheels car, an electric train, a Ghostbusters action figure, my Changeable Charlie blocks and a flamingo with a yo-yo.

My wife does this, too. Her home office is so jammed with books and toys for the grands, she calls it the "Office of Grandkiddery." She keeps an emergency bag of books and toys ready for house calls demanding grandchild distraction. Finger puppets live in her purse.

Because of all this stuff, our house does present something of a challenge, organization-wise. It does not help that I'm a slob. I keep piles of books in too many places and never put my own toys away. I'm pretty sure there's an Erector Set under there, somewhere. Maybe even another bicycle. Who knows?

But the ultimate goal, to make our grandchildren happy, is being achieved.

Max came to visit the other day and made a beeline for the bin of toys hidden behind the recliner in the living room, then to the Office of Grandkiddery for a favorite book.

And Alice?

Grandparents everywhere, be prepared to die of envy.

Alice, who is almost 3, and her parents visited one recent weekend. She played with the toys, looked at the books, pounded on the piano and scattered wind-up toys everywhere.

When the evening was over, she heard her parents say the inevitable "It's time to go home."

Alice's response: "I want to stay here!"


The Wasatch Rambler is the opinion of Charles Trentelman. He can be reached at 801-625-4232, or He also blogs at

From Around the Web