Binging and purging: The never-ending cycle of play

Play doesn't really change. Toys and media may adapt to different platforms, but good toys, good stories and good concepts have the power to bridge generations in any form-digital or outdated.
July 31, 2013

My children have flown the coop.  They graduated college and have moved on to their own apartments and lives.  I’ve begun de-nesting.  Cleaning out decades of accumulated stuff, hoping to enter the next phase of life cleaner and leaner.  So what does this have to do with kids’ media?  Bear with me. As I stripped their rooms down to the walls, I pulled off layers of pop culture: blowups of hunky Abercrombie models who are now surely covering their grey; a decade of Dave Matthews ticket stubs; autographed pillows pledging eternal friendship from never-again-seen classmates; random pieces of LEGO; American Girl paper dolls.

I then attacked the craft closet.  As a former lifestyles editor for two parenting magazines, I’ve always prided myself on having the best collage materials for my kids, as well as every other crafty item they could possibly want.  I patiently sorted through squares of ALEX origami paper, seasons of Mrs. Grossman’s stickers, and never-opened kits for carving pumpkins, tie-dye tee shirts, and needlepoint Santas (Someday, maybe I’ll have grandchildren.). But then I began to purge in earnest. It was truly cathartic tossing out broken crayons by the handful, glitter glue that no longer flowed, and a rainbow of beads, ribbons and pipe cleaners.

The kids’ rooms naked, I moved on to my own files. I never thought of myself as a hoarder. But reality proved me wrong.  My “tickler” files had newspapers that were actually yellowed. I unearthed editorial calendars for magazines that are now defunct.  Do I still need Toy Fair swag from 2002? Q scores from 2001?  A D is for Digital report that’s now accessible digitally? A CES floor plan from the first Sandbox Summit in 2008? Wherever I looked, I found things to discard. Gourmet magazines with recipes I never tried. SAT study guides. Report cards (saved).  Locker combinations (tossed). Every filled garbage bag left me more energized.

Then I hit the really good stuff and my purge reversed to a binge. Holiday Barbie.  Multiple Career Barbies. Transformers. Hot Wheels. My Little Ponies.  Trolls. Furby. Madame Alexander. Colorforms. All still in their boxes.  Visions of eBay and paying off the mortgage flashed through my head as I gently placed these relics in a sealed container. I nostalgically packed up videos of all the Disney stories hoping that “videotape” will not be an archaic word by the time my (imaginary) grandchildren want to play them.

Making room for my newly organized stash amid other sealed containers in a far corner of the attic, I discovered another treasure trove: my own original striped bathing suit Barbie, fuzzy haired Ken, Shirley Temple in her sailor suit, and books—Bartholomew and the Oobleck (BTW: the recipe is now available online), Snow White, The Lonely Doll. I realized that my own mother must have done exactly what I was doing: preserving memories through favorite playthings.

Which brings me back to my point. Play doesn’t really change. Toys and media may adapt to different platforms, but good toys, good stories and good concepts have the power to bridge generations in any form—digital or outdated.

I can’t wait to see the smiles on my (future) grandkids’ faces when they re-discover these riches.

Send me your hoarding stories. I’m saving them at


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