It’s midnight and I am wide awake, rushing around the house with a bin bag, filling it with toys, toys, toys. Since Christmas, we have been drowning in “stuff, ” and it has been stifling.
Since becoming a parent, what I’ve noticed more than anything is that with an increase in toys, there is always a decrease in self motivated imaginative play.
We have a very minimalist approach to toys in our home and most of the year we stick to this, but when you have children Christmas becomes a time for relatives to go a bit crazy. As it happens, most of the things we got were things we were happy to have in the home, toys which we had put a great deal of thought into and had personally suggested to family members.
But even then, what quickly became apparent is that it doesn’t even matter what the toy is. Too much of ANY sort of toy is not conducive to a peaceful serene home and an abundance of imaginary play. It breeds a mentality of consumerism and wanting. It devalues other previously cherished items. It sends messages to our children which I don’t believe are healthy or do them any favours.
My son became obsessed with the idea of buying new things, getting presents, when his birthday and Christmas would be coming next, and so on. Toys were tipped out and trampled over but never really played with or engaged with.
So, I decided to restore the peace.
I went around the house, emptying baskets and shelves, throwing everything which I hadn’t seen him play with into the bag. Some of the items were brand new, lovely wooden toys which he had barely had six weeks. All but one of the stocking fillers went in. Half of his books were put away, ready to be rotated in when he forgets he has them.
And then, I tied a knot in the top, hid the bag in my studio where it wouldn’t spark his curiosity, and spent a while rearranging the things we had left.
I left only the toys I had seen him play with in the past month, and even then, I intended to cut this down by half in the coming weeks after I had chance to see which things continued to get ignored.
We were left with just:
- Natural wooden rectangle bricks (Our most used toy)
- Small colourful wooden bricks in varying shapes (Also very well used)
- A wooden xylophone (Now put away)
- Books (Used daily)
- One wooden figurine with a small wooden horse (Since been put away)
- One guinea pig ceramic ornament (Used daily)
- His climbing arch (Our Christmas gift to him, which is very open ended and used a lot EVERY day)
- Play kitchen (Used regularly)
- Builders bench (Not something I would have ever bought for him, but this was a Christmas gift and he seems to really love it.)
- Art and craft supplies
- Lego and Lego bases (Used every weekend and most evenings with Daddy)
- Magnadoodle (He enjoys practising letters and drawing planets on this frequently)
- Squigs (A Christmas present which was cast aside but which is now being played with since the big tidy!)
- Octonauts gups and one submarine for the bath.
- Wiggly woo. (This weird little thing is one of our most used toys ever. We make up stories with him, he cares for him like a pet and builds structures for him out of bricks)
When I look at that list I still feel like it is a lot of stuff, however, if he uses it and it enhances his play, I am happy for it to be there.
So what happened when Little Cat woke up in the morning and found the majority of his toys missing?
Whole baskets had been removed, but he didn’t even notice. Shows how much he needed it all doesn’t it? And best of all, our home has its serene vibe back once again. He can wander into a room and not be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff staring back at him. Instead, he sees a small selection, looks for a moment, chooses what he wants and sits down to explore it. There is no destructive tipping and trampling. There are no tidy up time battles. Play is blooming and harmony is restored.
He is far happier with less than he ever was with more.
It has now been almost a month since I cleared all the toys away and he has yet to ask for the majority of them. One dinosaur and a red tractor have been requested and are now back in his collection. He is playing and creating and inventing stories and imagining once again. The house is calm and far less cluttered.
Right now I am holding onto it all for him. If he asks for anything in the next month, I will return it to him. If he doesn’t, it will all be sold, donated or kept for the future.
I have a feeling most of it will not make its way back to our shelves.
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