The Best Money I Never Spent

There are certain toys that, when they first come into your home, seem like they might only be a flash in the pan hit, destined to be 'passed on' or donated to the charity shop within weeks. There is usually a fleeting obsession with them and a bit of squabbling over them, but all too soon they are abandoned to lie forgotten in a corner. Eventually, I get my 'clear-out' hat on and they get culled. I have a *thing* for limiting the amount of 'stuff' we have in the house.

There is one  toy we have that I really thought I wouldn't be looking at for very long - but over a year later it is still in daily use. My cousin bought it, and a much loved play tent last year for the girls, on their third birthday. I suppose it's a timeless toy that I shouldn't have been surprised has lasted the distance, but I honestly can't believe how much joy it has brought to one little person in particular.

Lile ADORES her giant Magna-Doodle. (It's definitely hers at this stage. Poor Sábha sometimes gives it a try but Lile usually swoops in and takes over as soon as she shows an interest in it.) I literally can't even count the amount of hours that child has spent drawing on it. 

Draw. Erase. Draw. Erase. Draw. Erase. Draw. Erase. Draw. Erase. Draw. Erase. All. Day. Long.

She tells the stories of each thing she's drawing as she draws them and then, swipes them away before anyone else gets a chance to have a peep, and is on to the next one. Very occasionally she will be particularly proud of her efforts and show them to us. I'm always extra delighted if I manage to get a picture of her creations, because her hand is always hovering over the eraser - ready to clear the slate and get going on the next picture.

Lile is happiest with pen and endless reams of blank paper in front of her. She is extremely prolific and fills new sketchbooks within hours. She has emptied my home printer of paper countess times. She has gone through an entire mile-long Ikea drawing paper roll. The more paper she has, the more she will use.

That Magna Doodle has saved a lot of trees.

It has also saved our sanity more times than a little. Plonking her in front of the magna doodle is the equivalent of plonking most kids in front of the television. Lile has only a passing interest in TV, but becomes a happy little magna-zombie in front of this great toy.

She draws little girls and family members and princesses and snails and cats and cats and more cats and... anything else that comes into her head. She also practices writing her name over and over and the other day, completely unprompted and unaided and not copying from anything, she did this:

She wrote out numbers 1 to 16 in a grid formation. (I had no idea she even knew what the numbers beyond those that are on the clock looked like!)

One of the best and worst things about this toy is probably the eraser. It is brilliant for encouraging a relaxed attitude to being creative. There is an impermanence to the images made with it. Sometimes blank paper can be a bit intimidating for children. If they aren't confident in their drawing skills the piles of scrunched up paper can just seem like physical evidence of what they perceive they are doing 'wrong'. With this drawing board there is no pressure to 'get it right' first time, one quick swipe and all evidence of your 'mistake' is gone.

The only downside is that some of your child's finest masterpieces are also impermanent! If  you aren't quick off the mark with the camera and your child is as quick on the draw with the eraser as Lile is - you'll mourn many, many adorable doodles.

I think it's probably time Sábha got her own board. Despite a very promising start, she really needs convincing to sit down and draw these days and isn't particularly confident in her skills. I hope I'll soon have another little magna-zombie on my hands!

Thanks cousin Róisín, for the gift that keeps on giving xxx

P.S. Here's where our doodle board came from if you would like one similar.


  1. You are right about this kind of thing giving a relaxed attitude to creativity. We installed a blackboard for the same reason, on our dining room wall. My eldest loved to draw but was never satisfied with his creations and would throw his pencil and scrunch up the paper. The blackboard did it for him. It is always wonderful when they find something that they love to do and are given the time and space to explore it on their own. :)

    1. Yes, a blackboard is wonderful too, and we do have one on a easel - but with two asthmatics in the house - the dust can be a little bit of a problem. I have a mind to set up a more permanent one outdoors somehow. Perhaps over the summer. I'm glad your boy found his stride with drawing. It's such a wonderful tool for expression. Thanks for commenting xx

  2. I love your title. We have two toys we never bought which got so much play. The first was a small cot for a doll. It was solid, which meant as toddlers they could pick it up and drag it. It had a dial on it which played a lullabye. They loved it. It is now over twenty years ago since it came into the house and it is still in perfect condition having been enjoyed by seven girls.
    The second toy was a large dolls house made for me by my Dad for my sixth birthday. As the girls were all into sylvanian families this large house was perfect. It is still upstairs on the landing and the day I put it away will be so so sad.
    Lovely post, and thanks for the trip you inspired down memory lane.

    1. Well - now you've inspired a trip down memory lane for me! I've just remembered a wooden dolls cot that was made for me by an uncle is in my parent's attic - I must dig it out! He also made me a doll house (for my Sylvanian families) which my girls have been playing with and love. I love having it still in use. I'm afraid the toy in the post isn't so well built as to last as long but it's more than earning its keep so far! Thanks for stopping by Tric xx

  3. I love it when a toy surprises you like that and stays the distance... especially one that encourages such creativity! lovely post


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