What makes a great toy?

Sure, a swing set has value in what it is. It has value because of the swings, the slides, and the climbers. But is that all the value a swing set brings? Does it have value in what it can be?

As I level up in parenting, I am beginning to realize that the best toys can be more than one thing. A toy sword, for example, tends to only be a toy sword. Its design has locked it visually into one thing. Many of the cheap, plastic toys that surround our children can only be one thing or function in one way without breaking or losing pieces.

The best toys are toys that can do many different things. For an obviously over-the-top example, a plain old stick is a fantastic toy. It can be a sword, and it can be a tent pole, it can be a magic wand, it can be a paddle; it can be so many things. It is pliable to your child’s imagination.

The more a child can bend the toy to their imagination instead of their imagination being locked in by the toy, the better the toy is.

(These thoughts are not original to me. Try the book Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross. It is fascinating, eye-opening, and, dare I say, freeing.)

How does a swing set fit into this discussion?

A swing set can be very pliable to your child’s imagination. The slides can rockets, the play deck, a castle, and the slides escape pods. It can be a medieval fort for one play session, a rocket ship the next, and finally, a fairy hall. 

With sheets and silks, your children can fasten sails for their “boat” or, with a little spare cardboard and tape, can create a dungeon under the tower. Let it be their space. Give them blue tape (which peels off easily) to hang up their decorations or additions to the playset. Provide plastic clips and clamps so they can stretch strings across the tower and then fold a blanket over the string to make a tent. The ideas go on and on.

The tower of the swing set, in particular, is the perfect canvas for imaginative play. I believe that is why the Sea King is one of our surprising standard best sellers. The spacious 6×8 play deck provides so much space for those budding imaginations. 

A swing set has value in what it is, for sure, but I believe its lasting value is what it can be in your child’s imagination.