Sometimes as your little love looks up at you, it is tempting to give them whatever they want. ‘A new toy car? Sure!’ ‘A new all singing, all dancing play-kitchen? Oh, my kid would just love that.’
Hey, I love to see my child happy as much as the next mum but I have found an alternative route to this joy which involves not having all the toys. Here are my top reasons why:
- Not owning all the toys she loves, means my daughter gets super excited when she finds one of her fave play things at a friend’s house or a play area. The look on her face is priceless and she really enjoys the novelty of playing with a toy she doesn’t have at home. If I were to buy one of everything that is recommended for her age or all things she likes playing with, some of this joy of finding something new and exciting when you are out would be diminished, I would guess – wouldn’t you?
- Less toys means less clutter in my small apartment. I love the sense of calm that comes from a tidy environment. Both me and my hubby are messy by nature, so we can use every help we can get in keeping our space neat. Less toys, less toddler debris, as I call it.
- Buying fewer toys is good for the environment (especially cutting down on those plastic toys). Of course toy exchanges and buying second hand are good for this, too, but the first commitment of living green is to ‘reduce’ consumption and buying less toys is one step in that direction.
- It saves money.
- There is something to be said for leaving some toys at the toy store. It feels like there is something important about that moment when a child asks for something and you say ‘no’, not out of meanness or even because you are trying to ‘teach them a lesson about life’ but just because you look inside yourself and you are confident this toy is not needed. You feel strong in your decision that this is a time to walk away from this. And your kid – while they appreciate the fun they had with it in the store – say bye-bye, knowing they have enough. We have enough. Our life is abundant and complete with or without that piece of tat – just sayin’…
- Not having every toy means you have to fill the gaps with your own imagination. My baby is only one and a half and I already see that is true for her as it was for me, growing up. She has turned the mini-basketball hoop into a swing for her toy koala bear and she pretends her rainbow toy is a phone. If you have a dolls’ house your dollies can live in that… but if you don’t, then, well, you have to build your own doll’s house. I remember using mikado sticks to delineate rooms for my ‘barbies’ when I was a kid, books made great beds. To this day I do really well on ‘how many things could you turn this paper plate into’ type tests (at interviews and the like) so I do believe it builds a lasting creativity. Plus not having all the toys means you have EVERYTHING you need. Need a castle? you build it (not buy it); want a kitchen? make one up out of a box and use some old pans (you don’t need special multi-coloured ones ‘just for kids’). The examples are countless – you get the gist.
- Fewer toys translates to more time and focus on each toy. I had read this but now I have really seen it. If there is a box of toys Anya’s tendency is to pull them all out and treat it like a “take ’em out and throw ’em on the floor” game. The more toys there are in a room, the more likely that she will run between them spending little or no quality time with any of them. When things are tidy and organised and each toy is clearly showcased, she seems to be invited into its world and to want to really project a ‘life’ onto that one toy. She will spend ages with it. I achieve this partly through toy-rotation (keeping some of her toys and books, say a third, in play at each time, and the other two thirds out-of-sight and out-of-reach for a month or so till she seems to be growing bored of the current selection and then swapping them up, over night, as a surprise). But part of it comes from just keeping it simple and having a few quality toys that she really plays with, rather a mountain of neglected things.
- Not only does buying less encourage your child to develop their own imagination, it can also push you to find new ways to connect and be creative as a family. Not buying everything leaves a lot more empty space to fill with crafty projects that you come up with together. Sometimes you may lead the way and offer inspiration to your child for fun arts-based play ideas, other times you may be a sounding board for your kid as they think of creative ways of solving ‘problems’ they encounter in playing the games they want to play without having all the store-bought apparatuses and accessories.