Fisher Price Psychology

Garry bounced to sleep.

You didn’t need a degree in psychology to see how much Garry loved his plastic duck swing that hung in the doorway. He entertained himself endlessly bouncing up and down as if the floor was a trampoline. As a new mom, this was a game changer. I finally had free time to catch up on cooking and cleaning. I knew other moms who did all that while their baby napped, one even refinished her furniture! Not me. When Garry napped, I napped.

Three years later I hung the swing again when my second son, Tommy, was old enough. I expected the same results, but that didn’t happen. The first time I put Tommy in the swing, he just sat there. This kid was normally so wiggly and energetic, I couldn’t believe he was even capable of being still for 30 seconds. After an eternity, he pressed his feet into the floor, twisted the duck sideways, and backed up to one side of the door frame. He lifted his feet slowly like they were fish caught on a pole. The swing gave in to gravity, made an arc in the air, and banged beak first into the wooden doorway. I heard a squeak and wondered if my parents left behind a dog toy from their last visit.

Tommy likes the squeak

Tommy paused for a moment, reveling in his new accomplishment. Then, he pressed his feet down and repeated his move of backing up and letting go. The second squeak hung in the air as my sleep-deprived brain realized there was no dog toy. To confirm my guess, I reached over for the rubber beak and gave it a firm squeeze. We had that toy for three years and I never knew it had a squeaker in the front. Tommy sat in it for less than a minute and figured it out. He never bounced up and down like Garry did, not once. Back up, swing sideways, and squeak. That’s what he did over and over again.

Kay, my third child, got a wind-up standing swing passed down from her cousins. It was sturdy enough to survive several children before her. The swing supported the baby laying down instead of standing up. So, I could put Kay in it at three months old. The duck required an older, stronger body before use. When you turned the handle to wind up the swing, the noise startled her into flailing her arms like sparrow wings. Then you pushed to start the hypnotic arc back and forth and Kay’s eyes fluttered shut as she fought the lull of the movement. She was content and peaceful in the swing for so many months that I forgot to ever use the duck.

Three kids and the garage

Laurie missing Curly and Moe

The toy that all three kids played with was the Fisher Price Garage. It had a heavy duty plastic ramp to drive cars down and a windup elevator to get cars to the top. For Garry, that garage was a vehicle for vehicles. He used the plastic car that came with the set as the leader of all his other cars. Mostly, he put them at the top one by one and watched them race down the ramp and crash at the bottom. All machines were welcome at his garage, including bulldozers and backhoes. It was all machines, all the time. No surprise, he grew up to be a mechanical engineer.

Just like with the duck, when it was Tommy’s turn, he found a new way to play. Even though both boys became engineers, their psychology was very different. Tommy retrieved the three wooden people that were part of the set. I forgot about them because Gary never played with them. Tommy placed the people in the hole at the top of the car or near the elevator. He gave them jobs as drivers and elevator operator. No surprise either, Tommy is more social than Garry.

Kay, of course, viewed the garage in yet another way. She ignored the cars and just played with the plastic people. One had long blonde hair, another had a bowl cut of dark plastic hair, and the third was bald. She decided these people were more than just their jobs and gave them names. We must have been watching Three Stooges movies back then. I honestly don’t remember. But, how else would she have come up with the names Laurie, Moe, and Curly?

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