Imagine that

January 09,2012
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

Have you seen these things yet?

T. got a few in her Christmas stocking, and it was the first time I had ever come across them. Generally speaking, I am leery of tiny collectible toys that are so difficult to keep track of. Fortunately, T. hasn't ever really been interested in Polly Pockets, and the Squinkies thing? She can take it or leave it, she said. But she clearly enjoyed playing with them for a few days, until they disappeared. Our neighbors across the street confirmed that all the Squinkies their girls had received for Hannukah had also mysteriously disappeared. Gone to Squinkie-land, perhaps. There must be some children out there who are so careful with their tiny Squinkies that they put them away as soon as they are done playing with them. But I would venture to say that most kids  probably quickly lose track of them. They are, after all, really, really, really tiny. 

The Squinkies, are cute, I admit. But I hate the way the website immediately separates by gender. Click on the link above and you can then choose Squinkies for girls on the left, or Squinkies for boys on the right. The Squinkies for boys seem super-cool: those tiny little soft plastic Matchbox cars are much neater than the soft plastic princesses and animals. T. thought so, too. Of course girls can buy the Squinkies for boys, and boys can buy the Squinkies for girls, but the message, when toys are marketed that way, comes across loud and clear. For once I'd love to see a popular toy product that's marketed for boys and girls alike--none of this pink, frilly princess business for girls, and superheroes and cars for boys.

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On Saturday T.'s cousins on Scott's side came over to play. The weather was so beautiful and spring-like that we spent hours outdoors, spread out across the front yard. we even brought the guinea pig girls outside to play (we kept them in a wire pen for safety, but they thoroughly enjoyed the feel of their toes in the grass). Our neighbor friends from across the street came over to play, too. We still have piles of acorns scattered everywhere across the front yard, and T. and her friend R. came up with the idea to use the acorns to make doll faces. They attached the acorns to sticks, and used blades of grass to tie the dry leaves around the sticks as dresses. Before long, T.'s cousin B., who is a boy, came over to see what all the fuss was about.  Somehow, an idea was born: take acorns, color on faces with crayons, and make "Acorn Animals."

You can't see the faces too well in the pictures, but T. and B. made acorn lions, hedgehogs, bears, hawks, and even an adorable elephant--made from an acorn that had started sprouting already.

They put the Acorn Animals into baggies, played with them all afternoon, and even took them out to dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant.

"They're like Squinkies!" T. exclaimed. "Only better!"

"Yes," T.'s cousin B. said. "And you don't need money to make Acorn Animals. You only need three things."

"What?" I asked.

He held up one finger. "You only need...

1. Acorns

2. Crayons and

3. YOUR IMAGINATION."