Many, many years ago the playroom was much different than it is today. I used to have several large plastic toys – all in one themed activity centres manufactured by various toy companies. Certainly these types of items serve a purpose – many of the ones I had were originally purchased for my own children and they enjoyed using them.
These moulded plastic toys had no sharp edges, were easy to clean, and light enough to be easily moved around – or tipped over. One of the main problems that I had with these toys was that they were bulky and used up a considerable amount of space. I couldn’t have them all out at the same time so, like the bins of small toys, I also rotated the large toys available. Unlike the bins of small toys it was not easy to take one out and replace it with another. Usually changing the big toys required rearranging the whole room – a task that sometimes took nearly as much time as the creating the built-in play space that I have now.
It was the mixture of bright colors of the plastic toys that bothered me most. With several large pieces and many bins of small toys the playroom ‘screamed.’ Using wood and natural products to create built in play equipment has allowed me to use more neutral, calmer colors. Also, much of the space now serves multiple purposes – is open ended – to allow more imaginative play than the themed plastic equipment.
One item that I miss from the ‘old days’ is the storefront. I’m glad the shocking purple, orange and lime green are gone and the shelves were easy to replace but the cash register was another story. I have searched catalogues, toy stores, and thrift shops for something that is or could be a cash register. I’ve found some but they’ve been poorly constructed, too expensive, too large or too small or not appropriate for use by young children.
Now, not having a cash register doesn’t mean the children don’t play games that involve going to the store or shopping but I miss the cash register. I’ve had a solar powered calculator in the play space which has been popular for many uses including a cash register but it is small. The children have decided the large base for one of the old cordless phones is a ‘computer’ – it has a small screen and a keypad and has also been used as a cash register. I rescued an old computer keyboard that my husband was going to throw out, removed the cord and put it in the playroom. This has become the control panel for a space ship, the emergency command centre and — a cash register. Now the children have added a ‘scanner’ (wrench with sound effects) to the cash register too – they scan items others choose to buy.
Sometimes even I forget the power of imagination and symbolic play. No one walks into the playroom and says “Cool, you’ve got a cash register” like they do with the double door refrigerator but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a real working cash register.