Lately, I have been really thinking about how many toys our children have. They have so many toys that when they get new ones, they play with them for a day or two and then they get tossed into the toy box with the rest of them. The toys are overwhelming. They would rather be outside, playing with friends, and yet our house is filled with things. My husband and I have four kids: ages 6, 5, 2 and a baby, so we have toys geared towards all ages, which can make them add up quickly.
If you are like me, you are tired of seeing so many toys.
1- Do they play with one toy for more than 15 minutes at a time (instead of switching from activity to activity & toy to toy)?
2- Do they complain about being bored?
3- Do they ask for more things (toys on commercials and toys in stores) more than once a day or every few days?
4- Do they act grateful for what they have? Do they write thank-you notes for their gifts or tell the person thank you without being prompted? Do they take care of what they have?
5- If a toy breaks, do they expect that they (or you) will buy a new one to replace it?
If you answered yes to three or more, I would say that your child probably has more toys than they need.
Getting rid of all toys isn’t something that I want to do or that I would advise you to do. Scaling back is a different story.
Why I want to clear out a LOT Of their toys (& why I encourage you to do the same):
1– Mess: Toys cause a mess. Our kids do a pretty good job at cleaning up after themselves (See my post on teaching a child to keep their room clean).
2– Too many toys limit imagination. If you walked into a room with 1000 necklaces and someone told you to put one on, you would feel overwhelmed. I think it can be the same way with kids. When they walk into a playroom and are told to play with a toy, they feel overwhelmed. I try to keep our toys in ‘areas’ (housekeeping, animals, vehicles), but it can still be a lot to take in when you are a child.
3- Greed: I find that the more that they have, the more that they want. I often think that if our children had less, they may want for less. I feel guilty when we are out and they ask for something. I DO NOT feel guilty saying no, but I feel guilty, as a Mom, that they are asking. To me, that signifies greed (and partly that they are children, after all, but I still don’t want a spoiled child).
They don’t ask often, thankfully, but they do ask. I know some children that will get a toy or something every time that they go out. I want to say “Wait! Stop! Just think about what you are teaching them! How will they ever be able to tell themselves NO when they are adults?” I try to teach our children about money. I want them to be generous adults, share what they have, and not have to rely on things for happiness.
So what do we do about it?
A friend of mine took all of her kid’s toys away for a few months. She did give most of them back, but in the meantime, she said that they MADE toys out of things like paper plates and toilet paper rolls (empty). She loved it and after a week, the kids didn’t even ask for them. It cut back on cleaning, arguments and entitlement.
I took away about 1/2 of our kid’s toys in December, permanently. A friend of mine was collecting toys for refugees and our kids really did a great job giving toys away. At first, the idea didn’t go over well, but I gave them a week to deal with the thought of giving away so many toys before we actually did it. When the time came, they were ready and willing. I went back later and gathered up a lot more. Since then, we have had holidays and birthdays and visits from Grandparents, which all mean that they toy stash has gone back up. (Time to go through them again).
How to handle your excessive amount of toys:
1- Get rid of at least 50% of them. Give your children the opportunity to really PLAY with one toy, instead of going back and forth to each toy, because there are so many! Our middle son will play with a string and a piece of paper for an hour, literally. Today, with our house full of toys, he took a piece of paper and he spent at least 30 minutes decorating it. He then tied a string to it through one of the holes (and then used about 20 staples to secure it!). He had made a ‘kite’. He played with it inside and outside. He experimented with it (walking with it, running with it, getting on his scooter with it). He had a blast!
2- Let your kids donate them. Have your kids go with you to donate their toys. Teach them why you are doing it.
3- Rotate them: Pack them away. If you have room, take a few Rubbermaid containers and pack them with toys. Put it away in an attic, garage, closet or basement. In 6 months, get them back out and re-pack it with different toys. Your kids will be so excited to have these ‘new’ toys again! Or, you could just donate them because chances are that they have forgotten about them.
4- Let your kids sell them. When I sell their toys, we give our kids a few dollars to spend from the earnings (the rest goes into their college fund). I have been trying to teach them to spend their money on doing things (movies, bowling…) instead of on physical things. One of our sons is having a hard time with this and wants to go shopping right away, while the other doesn’t even remember that he has money to spend!
5- Organize what you have. Here is a post that I wrote on how to organize a playroom. Keeping a room organized allows you to see what you have and allows your kids the opportunity to play with them and use them often. If you throw it all into a toy box (we have one, so I am not against them), toys get lost and kids forget that they even have them.
I am not in favor of getting rid of all toys. I was a teacher and I am a play therapist. I understand the importance of toys. Building blocks, legos, housekeeping items, puzzles, dress-up items… these all have a significant place in your child’s life of learning. They teach your child a lot more than you would think. I am just in favor of not having so many toys (or things) that your child can’t even tell you what they have.
I can’t expect them to learn about this on their own. It is up to us, as their parents to teach them by example. When I go through our home with garbage bags, collecting things to donate, they see this. When I gather up clothes that I don’t wear and give them away, they are watching me. We need to lead by example.
Make it a family project. Everyone fills their own bag (our kids actually really like to do this) and then you go out and donate it together. Make it fun! Stop on the way home and get ice cream or go to a park. Make it stand out as a great day in their heart. Giving = happiness.
In the end, I just want our children to be happy with what they have. My favorite quote in high school (& to this day) is “Its not getting what you want, its wanting what you’ve got.”
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