I am all for toys that give my kids opportunities to learn about nature and science and stuff. I really try hard to steer them towards really cool gadgets that will enable them to engage their brains while they play and learn when their first impulse is to spend that Christmas Walmart gift card on more action figures. So I was really excited for Little Man when he got the rock tumbler he asked for at Christmas!
Why was I excited? Because he collects sooooooooo many rocks and sticks and bottle caps and other assorted items that he finds on a daily basis, I thought it would be cool to for him to have something to DO with those rocks - other than put them in his pocket. Waaaay down in his pocket. So far down in those tiny little pockets that my fat fingers don't always reach the bottom to find them. Which means they end up in my washer. You know...the GIANT rock tumbler. So I thought a real rock tumbler would be an easy and fun way to spend time together and to learn about nature. What can I say? I am naive. Why would I say that?
Hmmm...well...Have you ever had a rock tumbler? If you have, you are shaking your head knowingly right now and probably laughing hysterically at my naivete. If you have not had the opportunity to experience a rock tumbler with your child? You should go buy one right now. (Insert Evil laugh) Seriously! Go buy one. They are sooooooo much fun (Second evil laugh)! Go. Get in the car and drive to Toys R Us and pick one up. Get your kids all excited about this awesome piece of kid machinery that you are bringing home. As soon as you get it open, run plug it in. Then call me in like 5 weeks and tell me how your rocks look. Wait, what!?!?!
Yeah. You heard me. 5 weeks. Of rock polishing hell. 5 weeks of Little Man asking me Every. Single. Day. when the rocks would be ready. 35 days of listening to the laborious grumbling and groaning of the polisher motor as it worked to erode the corners and edges off of those "semi-precious" hunks of hardened earth. Night and day, day and night! We even had the foresight to put it outside on our back patio, but the droning noise was inescapable. We endured 5 loooooong, irritating, noisy, loud weeks with this "amazing gift for kids...that enables you to create stunning jewelry with gem-like polished stones" only to end up with some craptastic, barely shiny pieces of rock that only an 8 year-old could appreciate. The same 8 year-old who gave up on the process at day 2, then again at day 4, then again at day 7, again at day 12...you get the idea. Trying to keep him engaged in the process was like trying to teach a cat to dance. He'd let me lead him to the polisher, we'd check the container, he'd notice that the rocks were pretty much the same as the day before, shoot me that "this is really annoying and lame, Mom" look and scamper away to play with his friends, leaving me to stare at the rocks myself and wonder just how freaking long it takes to make a damn rock shiny and smooth! Especially when the rocks that came with the kit had obviously already been through half the process before they ever got to us! Whoo! Can't remember when we've had more fun!
Towards the end, I couldn't figure out who had been eroded more - me or the rocks? But I perservered for Little Man's sake. Because I wanted him to learn that we have to see a project all the way through. Even if it takes a month. Never mind that the noise the thing made night and day. Never mind the fact that the finished product would be shoved into his deepest, smallest pocket so he could show his friends his cool rocks and then accidently leave them somewhere. Never mind the fact that none of the rocks actually fit the jewelry bases that were sent along with the kit, nor did we have the tools we needed to drill tiny holes into the rocks to insert the keychain rings. After 5 weeks of waiting, none of that mattered. What mattered was that we were doing something together (kind of - like every couple of days for 5 minutes) and that he was learning about the effects of nature (kind of - like every couple of days for 5 minutes) and that for awhile his little mind was focused on something other than TV or action figures (kind of, like ...well, you get it). So in the end, despite all of the waiting and the "just okay" outcome, I guess the experience was worth it. We had a few bonding moments and enduring all of the rock polisher drama to get that time with Little Man was worth it.
And now, I get the added bonus of remembering those precious moments everytime I open the game closet and see that freaking rock polisher sitting there. It stares back at me, begging me to let the other set of rocks (yeah, it came with 2 sets! 'Cause 1 go-round with this pain in the crack isn't torture enough!) have a turn at making their debut as "semi-precious" stones. Yeah, umm...rocks? I think it will be a cold day in Hades before you find your way to a crappy wire earring or cheap brooch clip. Blame your slow and tedious bossman, Mr. Tumbler there. 'Til he's figured out how to speed up the process and produce a better looking product, I've had all of the science and nature bonding moments I can take. I'm just sayin.'
(I'll post pics sometime this weekend!)