The world, they say, is divided into two types of people -- those who like to divide the world into two types of people and those who don't. I guess I fall mostly in the former group. Though I will readily confess that many people don't fit clearly in one type or the other, I find the "two types" mindset a useful way of intellectualizing differences and similarities. I suppose if I were to describe my preference accurately, I'd say that I like to think in terms of two-dimensional spectrums. I'm a person who likes the conceptual simplicity of opposite poles.
With young children I often think of their natural play preferences as being either in the storytelling or the engineering camp. Story-tellers prefer toys like Playmobil where they can play with characters who develop personalities and have long, involved adventures. Engineers prefer toys like Lego, where the challenge is in assembling constructions and experimenting with different designs. Of course there's plenty of overlap. You can tell stories with Lego characters, and you can build and rebuild unique arrays of Playmobil, but overall the focus of the toys is more in one camp or the other.
Erin, Noah and Sophie spent years as committed storytellers. The Lego that we once owned was so little used that it was eventually given away. They once spent a glorious hour and a have engaged in story-based paly with only a small strip of green paper and an unsharpened pencil. During one snowbound family retreat weekend in a cramped cabin they created an incredible imaginary world out of six balloons and a spiral staircase. Yes, they pulled the hair, beards and attire off the Playmobil guys, reassembling them in crazy ways, but there were always stories that accompanied the reassembly. There was some strange reason why the queen was now practically naked, carrying a sword and wearing monk's sandals.
Our toy collection is reasonably scanty for being almost 14 years into the child-wrangling racket with children who learn at home too. We have Brio train stuff (rarely used), Elenco SnapCircuits (occasionally used), loads of Playmobil (used extensively for many years, but not so much any more), K'nex (used in spurts, though less than Playmobil) and not much else. A few stuffed animals, some dress-up stuff, and a bunch of board games and math manipulatives, including the pattern blocks shown above. Noah bought himself a remote control car a couple of years ago. But other than the Playmobil and K'nex, my kids are not really very toy-oriented. They put far more energy into their imaginary world (Euwy World, which required no toys at all) than they ever did into toy play. They were very much storytellers, so much so that a couple of years ago we were able to put together an entire radio show on the topic (27 MB and non-streaming, I'm afraid, so be patient).
Eventually, though, my kids will begin to outgrow Euwy World. These days I see very clearly where Erin's storytelling predilections have moved -- into her writing and her musical expressiveness. It's harder to see where Noah is moving, and I suppose only time will tell how my younger storytellers will grow.