This (past now - this took me a while to write) month as most of you know has been focused on decluttering and simplifying. I know this is an area that can be a challenge for many families with young children. It has been a challenge for us at times too.
I had fun going back to my photo files from 2007 to find pictures for this post. I had fun looking through the pictures from the year (hundreds I would suppose) and these are basically all of the ones that I saw that had toys in them. That tells me something - toys weren't really that important for us to have fun together. There were a lot of outdoor pictures, pictures of us working together, riding bikes together, reading and much more but just not a lot of toys. We never have been truly minimalists when it comes to toys but I know that compared to many others that we are.
- I don't like noisy battery powered ones. We have only had 1 or 2 beyond a few remote controlled cars that I can remember. I didn't get any of them for my children. The remote controlled cars tended to break and the other 1 or 2 I tried to move on out before long.
- We tend to like building toys. But that doesn't mean that we need every type of building toy. Our kids were given wooden train sets that they enjoyed quite a bit and we have kept for when company comes over and for future generations. Legos/Technic have long been a big hit at our house but we didn't keep the duploos around very long at all when we were given them. We have had tinker-toys. My kids have very much enjoyed Lincoln Logs at other homes but we didn't get them for them as they didn't need those too and they were a special treat to play with elsewhere.
- Other creative toys are nice too. Dolls have been much enjoyed by my girls. When they are little they simply play with them, as they get older they sew clothes for them. Dress-up clothes have been very enjoyed at our place as well.
- I personally am not fond of a lot of plastic to I tend to move out plastic toys more quickly.
So, what sort of toys are enjoyed and loved at your place? What would you like to get rid of and not have as part of your lifestyle?
How can we stop the flow of toys that can easily take over your house. Honestly we have never had a huge issue with this but I have many friends that do. Here are a few ideas that I have but I would love to have feedback from others on this issue.
- Don't buy toys for your kids. If they already get oodles of toys from others than you be the first one to stop the flow. We did buy some toys (mostly things like Legos) for our children but we didn't have a huge flow coming in and we knew what would work. We didn't do it very often.
- Not every holiday and definitely not every trip to the store calls for a new toy. Also, do you really want the junky toy that comes in a happy meal?
- Don't host traditional Birthday Parties where a bunch of small children come bearing gifts. When you do this you are just asking for an overload of toys. If you want to have a party maybe you could request no gifts, a book or a consumable gift - I don't know. We just chose never to have that sort of party.
- Visit seriously with the grandparents about your desire to live with less (and thus in my opinion to create more grateful children). We have never had issues with our children's grandparents on the toy issue but I have so many friends that do. If you are a grandparent (or aunt or uncle) that is reading this blog please be super sensitive to the desires of the parents of the child that you are giving things too. An overabundance of toys can make life very overwhelming for children and parents - you don't want to make life harder for your children do you?
- Don't participate in big gift exchanges at Christmas. I know that is easier said than done but I have been very thank-ful that we were able to work things out in that way for our family. We don't do gift exchanges with anybody past our immediate - living in the house- family. And that gift exchange is all required to fit in our stockings. That means you can give very many toys.
Here are just some other random ideas that have helped us in dealing with toys.
- We didn't feel like our kids needing to be "playing" or being entertained all day long. From the time they were very little they were helping me around the house according to their ability. When they are little that is often what they really want to do. Encourage that love of work and it will be a blessing to you (and them) when they are older. My sister recently shared this article and it articulates in a neat way they joy of letting your children help you when they are little. When your children are helping you they don't need as many toys to try to keep them busy all day long.
- Don't have all the toys in one spot. I have found it to be helpful to have a toy basket in the living room (quick and easy to pull out for little ones- whether my own in the past or visitors), then maybe a tub of legos and another for the train-set and cars in the boys room, Then some dolls and dress-up clothes in the girls room. In my opinion having them in different places like that can make it harder to get all dumped and spread out at the same time. And I would try to have them only empty one thing at a time and then pick it up before going to another.
- If you do deal with toys scattered everywhere but are reluctant to actually get rid of items I think the rotating method is a great idea. Box some up for a while (maybe all the ones that didn't get picked up when you told them to pick up) and you can bring them out several months down the road and pack up some different ones.
- Do have your kids pick up their toys after playing. That is just a really good life lesson that you don't want them to miss.
I think the questions "Do they love it, do they use it, do we have space for it and does it fit our lifestyle" are good ones for toys as well. It is easy to get sentimental over toys or feel guilty about getting rid of something that was given to them but I think it is good to just be honest with ourselves about whether it is really used or not and then proceed accordingly.
I hope that possibly these thoughts can be helpful in some way. I started writing this days ago but life gets busy and I had some other deadlines (like preparing for homeschool co-op and sewing costumes for a play that starts next week) that had to be met so blogging took a bit of a back seat again. October is over but I still have some things that I want to share on Simplifying and decluttering so I will probably still be writing on it some.