It happens as soon as you have a baby—you’re inundated with toys. Even if you have never bought your child a toy, you probably have more than you need. They litter your living room or play area. As your child gets older, she delights in pulling out every toy you own. Of course, she doesn’t like to pick them up, so you’re either stuck picking them all up yourself, badgering your child to pick them up, or accepting defeat and just leaving the room a littered toy mess.
Now, think back to when you were a child. Did you have so many toys? Or did you have a manageable amount of well-loved toys? I was definitely in the latter category, and it made life easier. Who wants to pick up a big mess every day? Not your toddler or you.
Although you may feel defeated by the toy mess, there are ways to rein in the toy chaos, which will make you and your toddler happier.
Rotate Toys Available for Play
The first strategy is to separate all of the toys into two to five piles, depending on how many toys your child has. Keep out one of the groupings of toys, and put the other groupings away. Maybe put those at the top of your toddler’s closet shelf. Then, every few weeks, put away the toys that are currently in use and bring out the next set of toys. Your toddler will appreciate the novelty of these “new” toys, and you’ll always appreciate that there’s less mess to clean up.
If you worry that your child will be deprived if you limit toys, don’t be.
“Psychologist Oliver James, author of the parenting book Love Bombing, believes children don’t ‘need’ a vast panoply of toys. ‘Most children need a transition object,’ said James, ‘their first teddy bear that they take everywhere. But everything else is a socially generated want’” (BBC).
Consider Renting Toys
You can choose to get a Sparkbox package once a month (containing 4 educational toys) and pay $34.99 per month or every 8 weeks and pay $19.99 a month. The toys are suitable for ages 0-4.
Pley offers Lego sets which have a suitable age range from 2 to 12+ years, depending on the set chosen. You can pay $19.99 per month or $49.99 per month for Pley, depending on your child’s needs and how big of a selection of sets you’d like.
Obviously, the biggest benefit of this type of service is that you won’t have clutter. Your child uses the toys, and then you send them back and get new ones. Another benefit is that you can save money, especially if you routinely buy your child many toys. (Lego sets can get pricey!)
Use a Toy Library
Some libraries offer toys that you can check out just like you check out books. Your child can get new to him educational toys every week or two, depending on how often you go to the library. This link is a good place to start looking for toy libraries in your area.
Ask Grandparents for Experience Gifts
If you have grandparents and aunts and uncles who love to buy your children toys, you might gently suggest that the children will instead benefit from experiences. Of course, this is a delicate topic, and you know your relatives best. However, you might say something like, “Mom, Jo loves spending time with you. Rather than a toy for her birthday this year, maybe you could give her an experience like taking her to the zoo or to the hands-on museum.”
While you can suggest this, be careful with your request so that it doesn’t seem like a demand. In the end, the gift giver is ultimately free to express her love to your child any way she wishes, even if it’s with a toy that you don’t feel your child needs.
If, when you’re rotating your children’s toys, you notice that there is one particular toy or set of toys that your child just doesn’t play with, set it aside. You can donate it to a place like Goodwill or to a play group that you might attend. There’s nothing wrong with getting rid of a toy that your child just doesn’t cherish.
Although you may feel like Scrooge when you start weeding out your children’s toys, realize that you’re actually exhibiting good parenting skills. Natural Child Magazine argues, “Many of today’s children do not value their toys because they have so many of them. They go from toy to toy without spending time on any one of them. . .Many parents do not realize this but, when it comes to toys, less is more.”
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