What A $10 Tub of Playmobil Taught Me About Spoiling My Kids

What A $10 Tub of Playmobil Taught Me About Spoiling My Kids

Alison Gerber
Sep 8, 2015
(Image credit: Alison Gerber)

Ever since Ralph had encountered it at a friend's place, all he's wanted for Christmas, for anything, was Playmobil. So of course, when I found an unbelievably giant tub of it marked just $10 at a local yard sale, I thought, "This is the greatest thing I have ever found, ever. Ralph is going to flip out!" Except... it didn't work out exactly as I'd expected.

When I brought the thing home, there was initial excitement, sure: sifting through the tub, tipping it out, separating out horses and kings, police officers and cowboys. There was so much of it. I put it the tub on the floor by the door of Ralph's room, ready to be played with whenever he liked.

And then it just sat there. Unused. A nothing. After months of wishful list-making, suddenly no interest in playing with Playmobil whatsoever. What happened?

I started thinking about how I was as a kid when I really enjoyed a toy. Part of its preciousness was the waiting: waiting for my birthday or Christmas to come around. Then there was the getting. I'm sure that for every single "best toy ever" that I owned, I could tell you when I got it and from whom. And last, there was the singularity of the thing. It was those toys that I owned only one or a few of that were the best. They seemed more rare, more precious somehow.

So here's the truth: when I bought that huge tub of Playmobil for Ralph, I spoiled it. Not in the sense that I made him a brat about owning things, but I spoiled that slow pleasure we get out of acquiring things one-by-one, the fun of infusing each object with the memory of how we got it and when. I spoiled the chance he might have had to enjoy each set fully, of truly exploring its imaginative possibilities before the next one came along.

In my naive-but-well-intentioned desire to give him a lot, all at once, I instantly made Playmobil just not as much fun.

We want, as parents, to give a lot to our kids. But whenever I look at that huge tub of Playmobil, it reminds me that sometimes giving them everything I possibly can isn't always the best thing. Sometimes it's actually more fun for a kid to get less. Or to acquire things slowly. Or to be forced to save up, and to get it all on your own.

If it happened again? Well, who can resist a $10 tub of Playmobil, seriously. And I love to treat this kid! But maybe, with the desire to love him well, I'd tuck it away in storage, and give it to him slowly, just one set at a time.

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