Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter games

Neither of my kids has much of a sweet tooth, and every year the practice of gathering Easter basket components feels a little less relevant to me. Yes, they make exclamations of delight when they see their Easter baskets awaiting them at the breakfast table, and we always manage to get some good photos during the ensuing hunt for foil-wrapped Easter eggs hidden around the house, but within three or four days, they’ve eaten their fill of chocolate, and I end up throwing most of the candy away around Memorial Day.

That plus the fact that at the age of 13, Tim spends more time helping me hide candy than searching for it, and at the age of 9, Holly practically deserves an Academy award for her talent at pretending she is convinced of the viability of the Easter bunny made Easter shopping this year a somewhat lackluster experience for me.

But just before leaving the candy aisle, I saw something I couldn’t resist throwing into my cart against my better judgment. It was a game of sorts: each package contained two implements that looked like small plastic baskets on bunny-shaped handles, with a lever that you pull to release a ping-pong ball that the person holding the other implement then tries to catch: an ersatz lacrosse game for beginners who didn’t want to have to do much running.

It was the kind of thing I ordinarily resist the urge to buy. Easter trinkets tend to be fairly one-dimensional and not very engaging to kids, and I try to avoid buying items made solely of molded plastic at any time of year. But for some reason this one looked more fun than the Easter bunny water balloon kits or sidewalk chalk sets or bubble wands. And it was potentially something the kids might do together, which is always a plus. So I bought them a set.

To my surprise, it was an instant hit. Before the kids even started looking for hidden chocolate, they had the plastic toys out of the packaging and were figuring out how to make the ping-pong ball shoot out. They played before breakfast. They brought the toys with us to Rick’s parents’ house to play during the afternoon. Holly practiced some more once we got home,, and then when we went to my parents’ house for a short visit and dessert in the evening, the kids brought the toys again and stayed out in the driveway playing with them until dusk.

In fact, the ping-pong toss game was more popular than any of the candy the kids received this year. It was one of my most successful impulse buys ever. You can’t always tell what’s going to be a hit. I still feel a little guilty about the non-recyclable plastic nature of this particular purchase, and I know that their appeal may not last long. But on a sunny Easter day when both of the kids have pretty much outgrown any excitement in candy, it was a lot of fun to see them excited about a simple game of toss-and-catch. They may get tired of it soon. But it was yet another time that I was pleasantly surprised by what caught their attention, and in this case, it made the holiday all the more memorable.

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