- Posted December 2, 2012 by
Vero Beach, Florida
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Your child's holiday wish list
“The Best Christmas Gifts – A Stick and a Box”
My child’s two favorite toys are a stick and a box. He has the benefit of every 21st Century play set, computer, iPad, and iTouch. The truth is his “go-to’s” are wood and cardboard.
I find it fascinating that my husband, Jim, and I work hard to provide the latest technology in terms of learning devices and creative play. Yet, at the end of a busy school day he looks for a wooden stick he has had since he was a baby. Honestly, I think it was part of a dusting tool designed to clean ceiling fans. Since I put my family and career first - housekeeping falls to last place. Therefore you might be able to understand how it became more of a toy and less of a tool. I do believe that the late Erma Bombeck would have understood – God rest her soul!
Anyways, about the boxes, that is another story. Years ago we were looking for a motivator to help our son comply with a new behavior plan at his school. The team, with our support, identified that our son was obsessed with SpongeBob SquarePant’s Bikini Bottom. For those of you who do not follow the life of this colorful underwater cartoon, SpongeBob is a make believe loofa that lives beneath the ocean floor in an imaginary land. The fact he wears brown pants and has dysfunctional friends is merely a reflection of daily life anywhere.
The team had a keen suggestion. Use Bikini Bottom as a motivator for helping our son comply with his behavior plan. The truth is that there was no affordable play set to be found. So my husband and I, with the support of the team, devised a plan. Each week the goals were met our child would receive a new building for the cardboard play set. Translation = Jim and I were creating buildings out of boxes. My third grade teacher, Mrs. Gauby, would have been proud of how I transferred those Language Arts skills into rewards for my special needs child!
The true beauty of the project was that it cost us nothing. OK, well perhaps my love for shoes was now justified by the boxes we were “repurposing.” But the truth was that we were creating this village as a family out of “stuff” we found in our home. Our child loved it and thought it was the greatest invention. Even now that it is four year later, he plays with those boxes, the Bikini Village, on a weekly basis.
As for the stick – well that “toy” is still a “go to” for calming nerves. Our son carries it when he “stims.” Stimming is a repetitive body movement, such as hand flapping or pacing. The term is shorthand for self-stimulation. It involves repetitive movement and relates to sensory input. For children and adults on the spectrum of Autism Spectrum Disorders is relates to sensory input. For our son, when he becomes overwhelmed or really tired, he will walk back and forth in a repetitive pattern with an object that brings him comfort. Despite the fact he has every action figure, stuffed animal and electronic device - that stick brings his world into focus.
All of this is a great reminder. As I obsess about finding the gifts listed on my son’s holiday list, or worrying about affording his wishes, those boxes and that stick remind me of a simple truth. What most children really want is our attention. Please understand that I am not suggesting that we start a campaign called “Sticks for Kids or Boxes for Babies.” Rather, I only wish to remind parents that sometimes the greatest gift we have to offer is our time and attention. At the end of the day, that new toy or gizmo is short lived. The thing that will endure is our time together.
The chance to dream and imagine is priceless. To simply encourage creative thinking of how we can build new beginnings with simple tools is merely a way of preparing our children to be problem solvers. I believe that creativity, innovation and tenacity will carry a child, even one with exceptionalities, to new destinations.
Tonight, as I watch my son chase my husband through our small house, I marvel at their joy. I watch with wonder as that wooden stick is the basis of many imaginary games. I see them dart through the doorways, explode with laughter and enjoy a moment founded on pure love. Perhaps all a child needs is a stick and a box.